Here are the easy-to-follow steps to make those dirty headlights look new again. We are a mobile auto detailing company that comes to you. We specialize in steam cleaning. This is the process we follow when we restore the headlights.
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. This contamination will make it hard for nighttime driving. We recommend a headlight restoration before a carwash because the headlight restoration process will dirty your vehicle. You will have some white liquid that would need to be cleaned after. It would benefit you to restore your headlights because it will make the vehicle look better.
Here is the list of items you would need. Water Microfiber cloths Painters tape
600 or 800-grit sandpaper
1000 or 1500 grit sandpaper
2000 or 2500 grit sandpaper
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 is very important for step 2.
Using the painter's 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 the tape work because of 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 and other contaminants that were covering the headlights. Continue 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 2000 or 2500-grit sandpaper to make the scratches smaller. As you did in step 3, wet the headlight, and 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 start to run out the scratches by hand. 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 drop 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 any 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 manufacturer. 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 and let it completely dry in-between applications. If it feels rough, you can polish it with your DA and a polishing compound.
Fresh Eco Steam Cleaning, LLC. perform these exact steps on clients’ 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 the surrounding cities. If you would like to watch the video instead here is the link.