Not only do hazy & oxidized headlights look bad, they also decrease the value of your car. So if you're dealing with some hazy headlights, this article is for you.
There are many solutions out there for headlight restoration, and some are more effective than others. What most methods fail to consider is the fact that they are impermanent solutions. This guide includes a step that will make your headlight restoration permanent.
Products You'll Need To Restore Headlights Permanently
A garbage bag
Sandpaper - 400 grit, 600 grit, and 2,000 grit
Spray bottle or hose
Clear coat spray for plastic (non-yellowing & UV resistant)
Preparing Your Headlights For Restoration
Now that you have all the materials necessary, you'll have a couple options for how to approach this DIY job.
Option 1) Remove your headlights
If you can easily remove your headlights, we highly recommend doing so as you will reduce the risk of scratching the paint around your headlights significantly.
With this method, you'll use your masking tape to cover the plastic components to avoid unwanted damage to the headlight seals.
Option 2) Keep your headlights on
If it's too hard to remove your headlights from the frame, simply tape off all edges to ensure you have a clear area while working. You'll need garbage bags to ensure you don't overspray clear coat onto your paint.
Use Sandpaper To Buff Out Oxidization
If your headlights are extremely oxidized, you'll need to start off with 400 grit sandpaper. Otherwise, starting with 600 grit will be fine.
Begin by using your water spray bottle or hose to lubricate the headlight surface, following up with the sandpaper.
You want to constantly re-apply the water while scrubbing to ensure you don't make deep scratches. You only want light scratches to take out the oxidization.
Use circular motions and don't press too hard, you'll notice your headlight begin to look milky after using the 400 grit sandpaper for a while. Once they do, use horizontal motions to create scratches that will better hold your clear coat spray.
Switch to 600 grit wet sanding
Now it's time to use your 600 grit sandpaper, ensure your headlight is soaking wet once again. With the 600 grit you can press a little bit harder using circular motions for the first half of your sanding process, and finish off with horizontal sanding.
By now, your headlight lens should look very smooth most of the oxidization is gone.
Next, you'll use your paper towels to wipe off all the plastic residue to ensure you don't clog up your ultra-fine 2,000 grit sandpaper.
Finish with 2,000 grit wet sanding
After all the plastic residue is removed, begin wet sanding with the 2,000 grit. This final sand will help you get an incredible finish with your clear coat.
You'll want to just skim the surface, not pressing too hard. After enough swirling motions, use horizontal motions as a final touch.
The headlights will still be a little hazy, which is what you want. Dry it with a paper towel and prepare your 70% isopropyl solution.
Prep Your Headlights For A New Layer Of Clear Coat
Using your 70% isopropyl solution and a microfibre towel, clean the surface of your headlight. This will remove any grease that your hands transferred to the surface, ensuring an ideal bond between your headlight surface and clear coat spray.
Take a garbage bag and tear it open, spread it right over the headlight and cover a substantial portion of your front end. You're doing this to ensure you don't overspray clear coat.
Once you tape your garbage bag over the headlight, use your scissors to cut the garbage bag around the edge of your headlight. Give yourself enough room to tape the garbage bag to the existing tape on the edges of your headlight.
Permanent Headlight Restoration
After performing one final wipe down using your 70% isopropyl, it's time to apply a new layer of clear coat to fill all those micro-abrasions and leave a smooth finish.
Ensure you're not spraying too much clear coat at once and follow the instructions on the bottle. You don't want clear coat running down the headlight, so you'll use several light sprays to build the layer up.
After applying your first coat, wait five minutes and repeat. You'll repeat this step for a total of 3 layers of clear coat.
Wait 24 hours to see the results!
By now, your headlights are looking a lot better than before, with little to no yellow oxidization left. However, the headlights will still be a little hazy as the layers of clear coat need to properly bond and cure with the headlight's plastic surface.
After 24 hours, you're done! The result is a headlight that looks like new, and on top of that you have a layer of protective clear coat to prevent such oxidization from building up again in the future.