Steps on how to clean or restore your foggy headlights.
Updated: Apr 15, 2018
Here are the easy to follow step to make those dirty headlights look new again.
Most headlights are made from plastic. This plastic over time can become hazy or dirty due to oxidation and other road debris such as stone, sand, chemicals and so on. The biggest factor that causes this oxidation is the UV rays. These UV rays will degree the hard-outer layer if the headlight lens. In some cased if the headlights are untreated or not repaired it can crack from the inside. I would recommend you preform the headlight restoration before you wash the vehicle because it will dirty your vehicle. You will have some milking white liquid that would need to be cleaned. It would benefit you to restore your headlights because it will increase your night time visibility and make the vehicle look better.
Here are the list of items you would need. Water Microfiber cloths Painters tape 1000 or 1500 grit sandpaper 2000 or 2500 grit sandpaper Rubbing compound Sealant (wax, clear coat paint or ceramic coating)
You would need to clean the headlights and the surrounding area. Use soap and water with a microfiber cloth to clean it. You can even use just water. Make sure the surrounding areas are clean and dry. It very important for step 2.
Using the painters tape, you need to mask off the headlight. Tape off the surrounding areas but do not put tape on the headlight itself. Make sure the tape is tucked under the headlight and the painted surfaces are protected. You can even pop the hood to make your tape job easier. Double check your tape work because the sanding process and scratch the paint.
Wet the headlight and 1000 or 1500 grit sandpaper. Fold the sandpaper in half. Make sure the keep the headlight wet always. Start at the top of the headlight and with an East to West motion sand the headlight. At the edges of the headlight you can go North and South but most of the motion should be East and West. You should start to see a milky white substance running down the headlight. That is all the oxidation other contaminants that was covering the headlights. Continue to the sanding process while keeping the headlight wet until the milky white liquid turns clear. Once it starts the looks clearer wash off the remaining grime from the headlights.
Inspect the tape and make sure it has not come off. If you need to add more tape or replace the tape do so now. You should have a headlight that is still hazy but now not that yellow. If it’s still very yellow repeat step 3. The headlight is now filled with scratches. You need to use the 2000 or 2500 grit sandpaper to make the scratches smaller. As you did in step 3, wet the headlight, sandpaper and start the sanding process. Start and the top of the headlight and go East and West. This time the sanding should not take as long. You should see a little yellowing liquid but not that much. The liquid should be more clear and white. Wash the headlight and sandpaper. Inspect the tape once more to ensure you still have good protection on the paint surfaces and surrounding areas.
Use a liquid compound to remove the scratches. At this point the compound could be a heavy one. Headlights are way harder than paint and are more forgiving if you make a mistake. Use the compound on a microfiber cloth and by hand start to run out the scratches. You will have to be patient as this will take some time. The preferred method is to use a Dual Action polisher (DA) with a 4-inch cutting pad. Apply 4 to 5 pea sizes drops on the cutting pad and spread it over the headlight. With a medium to fast speed setting go over the headlight 4 to 5 times with overlapping passes. The headlight will start to look clearer. Once done use another microfiber cloth and remove and residue from the headlight.
Inspect the headlight and make sure you did not miss any spots. If so repeat the steps above on the spot you missed. If everything looks good, remove the tape and clean the surrounding area. Don’t forget the bumper under the headlight as you will see where the milky liquid ran down. At this point you can apply wax. If you going to add a ceramic coating then you need to prep the headlight based on the instructions of the manufacture. If you are going to use clear coat paint then you would need to mask off the headlight again and cover the entire surrounding with paper or plastic. Spray the clear coat paint. Do about two coats let it completely dry in-between application. If it feels rough then you can polish it with your DA and a polishing compound.
Fresh Eco Steam Cleaning, LLC. preform these exact steps on client’s vehicles. We are an auto detailing company that comes to you and provide all kinds of detailing services. We are based in Orlando FL and travel to surround city. If you would like to watch the video instead here is the link.