How to Clean And Restore Headlight Lenses?

Since clear headlights are a critical requirement for your safety, making sure the lenses of your vehicle’s headlamp are clean is a necessity! Usually, polycarbonate plastic is used to make most types of lenses and covers for headlights, and they can often get scratches, become yellowish or blurry.

Fortunately, if you regularly perform the cleaning of your lenses, you need to put in less effort to ensure the effectiveness of your headlight. However, you may need to spend more time and resources on cleaning if the lenses face damage from bad weather, accidents, or not being taken care of for a long time!

To keep yourself safe from any tickets while driving with a broken headlight cover, you need to ensure the lens is in decent condition. In this in-depth article, we describe every possible technique on how to restore headlight lenses. You can also check out an in-depth explanation for some of them on our site!

How to Clean And Restore Headlight Lenses

How to Restore Headlight Lenses At Home

Depending on whether your headlight lenses are broken or dull, there are a few different ways you can restore them at home without spending too much. There are headlight restoration kits available on the market that have everything you need for the repair process. You can either purchase such kits or get each component or tool separately. Here is how you clean a headlight lens:

Get Your Supplies:

You will need the following items for the repair process:

  • Sandpapers
  • Tape
  • Wax for polishing
  • Towel
  • UV sealant

Step 1: Cleaning

Use car soap to clean your headlights first. Make sure no dirt and debris is remaining so that you can continue with the next steps. Make sure the surrounding area of the lamps is also clean for taping.

Step 2: Using the Tape

While using sandpaper, it is possible to damage the surrounding area of the lens. That’s why you should use painter’s tape to protect the sides of the headlight. It will make sure that the paint job isn’t affected by the sanding.

Step 3: Sanding

This is the most important process. You need three different types of wet and dry sandpaper of 1000, 2000, and 3000 grit. Firstly, wet the cover and the 1000 grit sandpaper and do straight horizontal strokes. Use more water if needed. With the first sandpaper, you need to spend around seven minutes sanding.

Now it’s time for doing the same process with the 2000 grit paper but diagonally and continue with the 3000 grit paper in the opposite diagonal position. Use the same amount of time for each paper and make sure to keep them wet.

Step 4: Finishing Up

Use a microfiber towel to clean up the lens. When the lens is completely dry, use another towel to apply the polisher and rub the lens with the towel for a few minutes. Now, you can use wax on the lens the same way you do it for other parts of your vehicle.

Next up, using a UV sealant is recommended to give the lens a layer of protection. We recommend using a wet paper towel for this task. Only put a single layer of the sealant unless you have different instructions.

How to Restore Headlight Lenses with Toothpaste

Toothpaste is the cheapest cleaning component for your headlight’s lens and it does work! You can use toothpaste for cleaning headlights whether it is the usual fogginess or oxidization. However, the simplest cleaning process using toothpaste can be done by the following steps:

  • Use a used toothbrush or a rotary buffer to apply the toothbrush.
  • Polish the lens with the toothbrush and cover the entire surface of the headlight with paste.
  • Wait around three minutes before you clean it.
  • Use a microfiber towel to clean up the paste then wash the headlight properly.

Using toothpaste can save up your budget on cleaning and since toothpaste is environmentally friendly and does not contain harmful chemicals, you will be getting a clean lens easily. If the lens has oxidization, you can try out this method but if it doesn’t work, try out sandpapers.

How to Polish Headlight Lenses

Polishing your lenses gives them a new look and keeps them clean for a long time. Moreover, it will make sure your headlights don’t get foggy too frequently.

You can polish your headlight lenses with only a few components. The supplies you need for this process are:

Or,

  • A polishing solution
  • A polishing tool or a microfiber towel

As you can see, the first set of supplies can be a bit more expensive due to the drill but they provide the best result. If you do not want to spend too much, go for the second supply list. Now, for the polishing part, follow these steps:

Step 1: Prepare

The first step is cleaning before you start with the polishing work. You can use slightly hot water and car soap to clean the headlight. After that, use a microfiber towel to dry the lens up. We recommend applying painter’s tape to the sides to keep the paintwork safe.

For the first set of supplies, make your cordless drill ready and attach the polishing kit to it. Put a bit of polishing solution on the kit.

If you don’t have the kit, get your towel and a polishing solution ready.

Step 2: Polish

Use the drill or the towel to start polishing. Keep polishing for about a few minutes until you are satisfied with the result. The drill will make the polishing process faster but you can still get a good result from a paper towel or a microfiber cloth.

Step 3: Finish Up

Now use a dry towel to clean it up. We recommend also using wax and a UV sealant to give it a proper finishing.

How Much Does It Cost To Restore Headlight Lenses

There is not a clear budget when it comes to restoring headlight lenses. Depending on whether you are doing the process yourself or taking the help of a professional, the cost of the restoration will change. Below, we cover both DIY and professional repair cost:

DIY Restoration

DIY restoration can be done without spending anything! For example, cleaning your headlights with toothpaste just requires a used toothbrush and toothpaste. However, if you are willing to spend a little bit, we recommend getting a cordless drill like the Black+Decker one, and a headlight restoration kit like the 3M 39008. Together, they may cost around $120. In addition, for removing oxidization, you can get sandpaper set for $20.

Professional Restoration

Most auto dealers will charge you anything from $85 to $150 for restoring both of your headlights. Now, doing this process yourself will save you a lot but if there is a lot of oxidization, you may need the expertise of a professional.

How to Restore Cloudy Headlight Lenses on Your Car

Cloudy or foggy headlights result from long UV exposure. Cloudy lenses make it harder to see while driving at night and can cause potential trouble. You can easily notice when your headlight lenses get cloudy as the visibility gets low and you can see fogginess on the plastic.

Since polycarbonate lenses are being used nowadays over glass ones, they are prone to get cloudy from UV exposure. Now, how to fix this? Fortunately, you can restore cloudy headlight lenses at home without spending money on an auto repair shop. Here is the restoration process:

Required Supplies:

  • Cleaning solution or baking soda or toothpaste
  • Microfiber towels
  • Used toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Cleanser or car soap

Step 1: Cleaning the Surface

Before starting the restoration, cleaning the surface of your headlight is necessary. Use mild cleansers or car soap for the process and clean all debris and dirt that may be on the lens. After that, use a towel to remove all moisture.

Step 2: Applying the Cleaning Solution

No matter whether you are using a cleaning solution out of the restoration kit you purchased or baking soda, apply the solution on the lenses. Make sure a thick layer of the solution is on the lens. Let it dry for a bit by keeping the paste untouched for a few minutes.

Step 2: Remove the Cleaning Solution

Firstly, use a brush in light motion to remove the solution from the headlight. Make sure not to apply too much pressure. After that, get a microfiber towel to get the rest of the solution off. Now, your lens should be cleared from all the cloudiness.

How to Restore Faded Headlight Lens

A faded or yellow lens is a result of UV exposure. Not only it makes your headlights look old and dirty, but also it lowers the visibility and performance of the headlights, causing potential danger while driving.

Whenever it comes to faded headlight lenses, most people who have restored their headlight before will recommend the cleaning solution by Turtle Wax. It’s cheap and fast to repair faded lenses without a lot of trouble.

Here is how you can restore a faded headlight lens using Turtle Wax:

  • Get a Turtle Wax kit like this one. 
  • Use a clean cloth or the pad in the kit to apply the solution.
  • Buff the lens with a clean cloth or towel.

This should work most of the time but if your headlight has been under too much UV exposure, you may need to use sandpapers. Make sure to cover the sides of the lenses with tape then use 1000, 2000, and 3000 grid wet dry sandpaper respectively for getting a clear lens.  

How to Restore Foggy Headlight Lens

Flying debris, oxidation, dirt, water, etc., could be the reason your headlight is foggy. Now, there are DIY methods of easily fixing the foggy lenses of your headlights without purchasing any cleaning solution from the shop. For example:

Toothpaste

Use a used toothbrush to apply toothpaste to your headlight lens. Cover it entirely with a layer of paste, and then wait a few minutes for the paste to dry up a bit. Now, use a microfiber towel to rub the paste off then clean the headlights with water for the result.

Baking Soda

Baking soda works pretty well in restoring foggy lenses. For this process, make a paste out of baking soda and water. Make sure it is thick enough to stay on top of the lens. Use a sponge to apply the paste onto the lenses and use the same sponge for polishing. After polishing the lenses for about five minutes, rinse them.

Vinegar

You can get excellent results when you clean headlight lenses with vinegar. Since vinegar has acidic properties, it can clean headlights and remove some oxidization. As a result, the fogginess goes away, leaving you with clear lenses.

Soaking the lenses in white vinegar provides the best results. However, you need to soak them in for an hour. You can also make a solution with water and vinegar and apply it with a cloth for cleaning the lenses. If the fogginess is still there, consider using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda of 2:1 ratio.

How to Restore Glass Headlight Lenses

If you have a car of older models, it is possible that the headlight lenses are made of glass. Usually, you want to take a different approach to restore glass headlight lenses compared to polycarbonate lenses. As glass lenses are not really affected by UV rays as much as plastic headlights, they require a different treatment.

For such a cleaning procedure, you need a glass cleaning compound like this Chemical Guys kit that can polish the lens properly. Follow these steps:

  • Use a sponge to apply the compound onto the glass lenses.
  • Swirl the sponge in a circular motion for a few minutes to get the best results.
  • Use water to rinse away the compound from the glass.
  • Get a dry towel to remove moisture.

Fortunately, glass headlights do not usually get foggy like plastic ones. However, they are more prone to scratches and damages. So, make sure to frequently clean and polish the lenses.

How to Restore Pitted Headlight Lenses

Pitted lenses can happen on glass headlights. In order to restore such issues, you can either use a regular glass cleaning compound or Cerium powder. Here, we will discuss the use of Cerium Oxide that is recommended by many professionals:

Step 1: Make a Cerium Paste

Use warm water and Cerium powder to create a thick paste that will be applied onto the headlight lens. Make sure to use gloves or cloth if you are using your hand. The water and cerium oxide ratio should be 1:2.

Step 2: Clean the Lens First

Before applying the paste, clean the headlight first to get rid of the first layer of dirt and debris. You can do this by using car soap and water. After washing, rinse and dry properly.

Step 3: Apply the Paste

The use of a rotary tool is recommended for applying the Cerium paste. However, you can use a sponge as an alternative.

Step 4: Finish It Up

Rinse the paste off then use a dry microfiber towel to remove the moisture.

How to Restore Oxidized Headlight Lens

Since the 80s, cars switched to polycarbonate lenses that are more durable and long-lasting compared to glass lenses. However, it brought oxidization issues that happens naturally. Oxidization reduces visibility greatly and that’s why it is important to restore the lenses properly. Here’s a detailed guide on restoring oxidized headlight lenses:

What You Need:

Step 1: Clean Using Soap

Use car soap or shampoo and water to clean the headlights before you start the entire process. Use a sponge to remove all the dirt from the surface. You should then let it air dry before starting the other steps.

Step 2: Use Masking Tape

To protect the surrounding of the lens, use masking tape to cover the area up.

Step 3: Apply Toothpaste

Use a cloth to apply toothpaste and rub the cloth in a circular motion to clean the lens. It should take around five minutes for each headlight.

Step 4: Rinse and Wax

After being done with the rubbing, rinse it with water and wait for it to dry. Now, it is time to apply car wax. Make sure to use a clean cloth for this process. Rinse when waxing is done.

That’s it! Getting rid of oxidization is super easy and you don’t even have to spend too much!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to clean a cloudy headlight lens?

You should use a headlamp cleaner or lens cleaning solution to clean your headlight lens. This will remove any dust particles that are stuck to the glass, which in turn helps to improve the quality of light produced by the lens. You can also use a cloth soaked in solvent to wipe off the dirt from the lens.

How do you recondition a headlight lens?

Reconditioning a headlight lens requires a lot of patience, and it can easily ruin the lens if not done correctly. It is best left to professionals, and only they can do it right without causing any damage.

How do you restore plastic headlight lenses?

To restore plastic headlight lenses, you must first remove the lens cover, and then clean it thoroughly with acetone. After this, you must soak it in warm soapy water for about 2 minutes.

You can use a toothbrush to scrub the plastic, or a soft cloth, depending on the model you have. Then you can apply a coat of clear sealant to prevent any scratches or damage to the plastic.

Does rubbing compound restore headlights?

Rubbing compound is a solution used to clean and restore headlights. It’s made up of silicone, alcohol, and mineral spirits, and is usually applied to the glass after cleaning to prevent scratches from occurring. However, this can be damaging to your headlight if applied incorrectly. 

You should use a soft cloth or cotton balls to apply the compound, and then let it dry completely before driving.

Can I clear coat headlights?

Yes, you can clear coat headlights. This will make your headlights look shiny and new, and will improve their longevity. The first step to clear coating headlights is to remove the old coating. You can do this by spraying the headlights with a degreaser and then letting them soak in warm water. After this, you can wipe off the old coating with a rag or paper towel. 

Next, you need to clean the headlights. You can do this by filling them with a glass cleaner, wiping it off with a rag, and then spraying them with an automotive paint sealant. This will ensure that the clear coat stays protected and will not be affected by the elements.

Final Note

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to restore headlight lenses when something as simple as a toothbrush can help! We also recommend getting a restoration kit if you want the same look from the cleaning as you can get from a professional repair shop.

Remember, driving with blurry and foggy headlights can be troublesome, especially during nighttime when you need proper vision. Cleaning your headlights every two to three months will save you a lot of trouble and keep the lens new for a long time!

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