In this article we take a look at a subject affects nearly all cars owners at some point in time – that of Clear Plastic Headlight Restoration. One of our regular customers recently pulled up outside our premises and asked me to take a look at his headlights which had become extremely clouded and dull over time from a combination of fine scratches and the effects of UV on the clear plastic.
Afraid that they were going to fail his upcoming MOT and not being able to afford a new set of headlights he wanted to know how he could restore the clarity back to his headlights.
I advised there are a number of different products available on the market which enable you to polish away light scratches, scuffs, haziness and surface marks from your headlights to leave them looking like new.
These range from single stage polishes, two step cleaning and polishing compounds to multi-step headlight restoration and protection kits.
Single Step Clear Plastic Headlight Restoration
Products such as Meguiars PlastRx are single step products that are best used on fine scratches and haziness. The tend to contain a blend of micro-abrasives and oils to restore the clarity together with water-resistant polymers for added protection.
Whilst simple to apply, needing only a foam or microfibre applicator, they can however require a fair amount of “elbow grease” to get that like new finish. As some of our own customers reviews testify:
“Excellent Product I had a Ford Focus Mark 1 with foggy headlights, which would have not passed the next MOT. After one application the headlights were clear and bright – made night time driving a lot clearer. I saved at least £200 over a replacement set of headlights. A second application made them look like new. Kevin – Essex“
However being around the £10 and under mark they are very good value for money.
Two Step Clear Plastic Headlight Restoration
If you are looking at potentially the next level in your clear plastic headlight restoration a two step method may be the system to look at. This generally involves a separate clear plastic cleaner and clear plastic polish – another popular system, again from Meguiars, is the Mirror Glaze M10 (M-1008) and M17 (M-1017).
Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Clear Plastic Cleaner is a non-abrasive, alcohol-free Plastic Cleaner which aggressively cleans and removes hairline scratches without harming the surface. Whilst the Clear Plastic Polish provides the second step to protect the previously cleaned headlight and leaving behind an anti-static coating that helps repel damaging dust and dirt.
Headlight Restoration Kits
Your final choice in DIY headlight restoration is a multi step kit. These are very effective systems combining extremely fine abrasives and polishes to remove the scratches and dullness from your headlights and followed up a separate sealant and protectant.
Whether using a kit or supplies from your local auto store the following steps will help to restore that like new clarity to your plastic headlights:
- First clean the headlights using your usual car wash shampoo to ensure all the dirt and bug splatter etc is removed
- Using a very fine 2000 grit wet and dry paper, work is over the surface of the headlight, keeping it moving so as not to concentrate in one area for any length of time
- Fill a spray bottle with clean water
- Fix a 2″ (approx 5cm) backing plate to your electric drill (ensuring it is one that does not operate above 2000-2500 rpm)
- To the backing plate fit a felt polishing pad
- Apply a suitable clear plastic polishing compound to the centre of the pad, place the face of the pad to the headlight and start the drill. Again ensure to keep the pad moving across the surface of the headlight. Do not keep the pad in contact with any one area of the headlight for more than 15-20 seconds
- As the polish drys out, stop the drill and using the clean water in your spray bottle, wet the pad and continue polishing until the haziness disappears
- Buff off any remaining polish with a clean microfibre cloth
- Next using a clean section or another clean microfibre apply one or more coats of a plastic protectant, allowing it to dry in between coats.
You will have then finished your clear plastic headlight restoration and will now have very clear and bright headlights that not only look much better but also allow the light to shine through brighter during nighttime driving.
Meguiars Headlight Restoration Kit
On the back of their already successful plastic polish and cleaner products a couple of years ago Meguiar’s introduced a complete headlight restoration kit.
It is not surprising that this also become an extremely popular product. The kit is based around the Plast-Rx plastic polish and also includes:
- – Woolen drill bit attachment buffing pad
- – Sanding pad
- – Finishing pad
It retails in the region of £17-£25 ($18-$30) depending on where you purchase from, with some of the better deals being found online.
3M Headlight Restoration Kit
For many years a number of specialist suppliers would combine a number of 3M plastic restoration products and compounds to create their own individual kits.
Seeing the success of these products 3M then launched their own headlight restoration system.
This kit has gone on to become one of the best selling headlight restoration kits available.
It’s sucess is not only down to the quality of the products but also their attention to detail, even including the required masking tape within the kit.
Many other kit manufacturers leave this to the user to supply.
The 3M plastic headlight restoration kit also comes with a drill bit attachment as well as the abrasives pads and polish.
This kit retails around the £15-£20 ($13-$16) mark.
Below is a short video of the 3M kit in action – just see the difference it can make to your headlights.
Quixx Headlight Restoration Kit
Unlike the Meguiars and 3M kits the Quixx kit is not based on using a household drill. Instead in comes with a supply of sanding blocks and differing grades of fine sanding papers to use by hand.
In all the kit contains:
– 50g of Plastic Polish,
– a sanding and polishing block
– 12 sanding papers in a range of three different grades
– 2 polishing cloths
– a headlight lens sealer 30ml and
– 2 application cloths.
The headlight lens sealer included within the kit provides a hard and long lasting weather-proof gloss protection and a smooth dirt repelling surface keeps to keep your lenses cleaner for longer.
Not having to include a separate drill bit attachment this kit retails at a lower price point than the previous two at around £11-£14 ($11-$19).
Specialist Headlight Kits
One particular manufacturer produces specialist kits based on the level of restoration required, not only for clear plastic, but also for glass. They have two headlight restoration products in kit form; one for deep scratches and also one for haziness, dull, faded or discoloured headlights.
Depending on the level of restoration required dictates the contents of the kits.
Their kits are based around a 3″ drill bit attachment together with the appropriate pads, abrasives, polish and sealant.
Over To You
Have you tried any of the products or kits available? How successful have they been? Do you have any other tips for headlight restoration you can share with fellow readers? We would love to hear the details. Please share using the comments box below.