Thursday, October 2, 2014 6:21am CST

DIY Headlight Restoration

August 2 2013 by Kerry Kobashi

Headlamps
Got hazy or foggy headlights? Here's a tip that will save you hundreds of dollars by doing it yourself.

The past few weeks I had been driving around in my SUV at night around town and noticing that my headlights were very dim. Even down a dark patch of road in the neighborhood it was difficult to see at night.

So I naturally looked at my headlights and noticed that the plastic covers were very hazy as if oxidized by the sun. I couldn't tell if it was from the inside of the cover or from the outside. I figured I would have to replace the plastic covers and dreaded the thought. You see, for my Mercedes SUV, those freaking pieces of plastic run $300 each, not including labor!

I called up my trusty auto mechanic and he left me a message that he doesn't do headlight polishing and that I can go to an auto detailer for the work. So that got me thinking, if its auto detailing work, I could do it myself at a huge discount.

I searched around on the Internet and got lucky. I found some Youtube videos on headlight restoration. Turns out you can do all this work yourself in just 30 minutes. What I did was go to my local O'Reilly automotive store and asked them if they had a headlight restoration kit. A gentleman pointed me out to a few ranging from $10 to $30. I chose the Meguiar Heavy Duty kit which was $30 and the best available in the store. I figured $30 is nothing compared to the $750 it would cost me for headlight cover replacement.

Meguiar headlight kit

And boy am I happy I did.

The kit comes with the following:

Meguiar headlight kit contents

  • Instructions
  • 1000 and 3000 grit wet sandpaper
  • Hand applicator
  • PlastX plastic cleaner and polish
  • UV protectant
  • Microfiber towel
  • Drill attachment buffer pad

Now here is what my headlight cover on my Mercedes ML 430 looked like before application. Notice it looks oxidized and very cloudy. This build up took several shades of light off my night time driving.

A cloudy headlight cover

Fortunately for me, the build up was on the outside of the plastic headlight cover. If this is on the inside, you will have to remove the cover (a pain in the ass) and work from the inside. Depending on make and model, you may have to take your vehicle into your auto mechanic to remove the covers (German vehicles are a real pain in this regard).

Steps To Headlight Restoration

  • Wash the headlight covers and then use Windex to clean and wipe
  • Get some masking tape and cover up the edges to avoid removing your nice paint job
  • Take the hand applicator and apply the 3000 grit wet sandpaper
  • Dip the sandpaper into water and move from left to right, sanding gently
  • You should see a buildup of froth. Do this for a few minutes and then wipe off with the microfiber towel
  • Remove the 3000 grit and apply the 1000 grit sandpaper
  • Dip into water and then gently move up and down the headlight cover. Do this for a few minutes.
  • Again, wipe with the microfiber towel. At this point you should start seeing the difference.
  • Attach the buffer pad to a drill and squirt some PlastX onto the pad.
  • Work the PlastX into the cover by swirling left to right. Wipe and then do again.
  • Take a clean cloth and apply a dab of the UV protectant and work it into the cover. Wipe cleanly.

If everything worked out fine, you should see the results. Here's mine:

An uncloudy headlight cover

Summary

Don't spend hundreds of dollars letting your auto mechanic replace the full headlight assembly.

For less than $30 you can save yourself a ton of money by taking less than 30 minutes of your time doing your own headlight restoration.

About Kerry Kobashi

Kerry Kobashi picture

Kerry is the founder of KerryOnWorld. He lives in Silicon Valley.