Any vehicle manufactured before the early 1990s used glass for the headlight lenses, but then automakers switched to polycarbonate plastic construction instead. While there are numerous advantages to the newer design, they also tend to get yellow and foggy. That’s why it’s imperative that everyone knows how to find the best headlight restoration kit and how to use it.
While it might seem like a pain to worry about cleaning your headlights, using the plastic is far better than the older glass variety. First of all, they’re more durable. On top of that, they keep the cost of the vehicle down.
Thankfully, using a headlight restoration kit is an easy solution and much cheaper than replacing your headlights. It’s so simple; even a beginner can handle it.
What is a Headlight Restoration Kit?
Inside one of the best headlight restoration kits, you’ll find everything you need to transform your lights back to the visible, effective, and clear beams they once were. A complete kit includes a polishing pad, sandpaper, polishing agent, lens sealing wipes, and a protectant as well. Some also come with the protective gear you need as well. While there are a few DIY methods out there, using a high quality car care kit saves a lot of time and the results are far better than what you can do on your own. In fact, one package generally works on about three car washes worth, so it’s well worth the money in the long run, and produces a brand new looking result.
Why are My Headlights Discolored?
It’s inevitable that your headlights will turn yellow; it’s just part of oxidation. The UV rays shining on your lights damage the casing, causing yellowed headlights. Thankfully, a headlight restoration kit goes beyond cleaning the cover, but actually reapplies a UV protected coating which slows down the oxidation process in the future.
Aside from the UV rays, you might also live in a location that deals with rock salt and snow. This eats away the headlight casing as well. Rock salt and road debris are infamous for scratching the headlight cover and creating crevices. If this goes untreated, you might end up needing new headlights completely.
The final reason your headlights might be discolored is because of chemicals used around the vehicle. Insecticides and other chemicals stain and damage the lights. You want to be aware of this when you spray for bugs in your yard. To prevent issues or cloudy headlights, all you need to do is put a tarp over the car before applying anything. You’ll also want to cover it when you run the weed eater or lawn mower. That debris and the airborne particles do a number to your headlights and your paint job.
Can Your Fail State Inspection Because of the Headlights?
Absolutely, but it isn’t common. Many inspectors let you go as long as they meet the requirements. Even if they allow you to pass, your headlights might still be a public safety concern, so you need to consider that.
When the light output diminishes enough that you aren’t easily seen by other drivers, wildlife, and pedestrians, then it’s time to restore your headlights. It’s not worth getting into an accident over, especially when headlight restoration kits are so affordable, easy to use, and offer great results. The cost you’ll pay when you wreck your car is far more than an investment in one of these kits.
Cleaning the Headlight Lens by Other Means
If you plan to purchase the best headlight restoration kit, simply follow the directions from the manufacturer. If you still choose not to, despite the low price, there are some other options to consider.
Sandpaper – Many people turn to this option first. While they do provide good results, there’s a risk involved. If you’re careful, you’ll remove some discoloration. Otherwise, you might remove a layer to the lenses. That’s why we can’t recommend trying this. That doesn’t mean you won’t try it – just be careful what grit paper you use.
Vinegar – Another cheap option to consider. People go this route because vinegar is an all-natural disinfectant. Consumers that want to go green often have this sitting around the house for their normal chores. It does work, and provide meager results as a headlight restorer, but you should be prepared to put a lot of elbow grease into it.
Polish – This falls into the same category with vinegar. You’ll have to work hard to make it work, and you might end up with some glare when you’re done. Depending on how severe your discoloration is, you might need to remove the headlight to perform your task properly.
Insect Repellent – While this might sound a little strange, many people swear by it. Simply spray some on with a clean cloth and then wipe it off. This takes less labor than the other options, but it might require you removing your lens again.
How Often Do I Need to Use a Headlight Restoration Kit?
This is a common question when it comes to restoring your headlights. The honest answer is – it all depends on your vehicle. If you live near a gravel pathway, heavily salted roads, or your vehicle sits outside in the elements; you’ll probably find yourself doing it more often. If you aren’t subjecting your vehicle to anything beyond mild conditions, it’s best to use a kit once a year for maintenance purposes.
To get the best results, make sure you do it on a dry, warm day. Don’t try to clean your headlights in the middle of a cold winter or humid day. If you keep up with it yearly, there’s really no reason that you should need to replace your headlights. Considering your only putting out a few bucks a year to keep them clean, it’s well worth the investment and the small amount of time you need to put in.
Advantages of Using a Headlight Restoration Kit
There are numerous reasons why you should consider choosing one of the headlight kit outfits we review. The plastic absorbs things from the environment. Therefore, there’s no possible way to prevent buildup on your headlights over time; it’s going to happen. Here are some things your investment gets you.
Improved Safety – the headlights are essential to your safety on the road. If you don’t see what’s in front of you clearly, you can’t protect yourself. Furthermore, if other people can’t see you, then they are in danger as well. Don’t ignore their need to remain clean so you can drive safely.
Resale Value – If you’ve thought about trading in your car in the future, then you know it must be in optimal shape to get top dollar. Showing up with dirty, spotty headlights just isn’t going to help you seal the deal. Sure, you could wait until you’re ready to sell to attempt cleaning them, but it might be too late. Your best bet is to maintain them, just like you do every other part of your vehicle.
Save Yourself Some Money – If you need new headlights in the future, it’s possible you’re going to have to shell out some serious dough. Utilizing a restoration kit means putting out pocket change in comparison. As with any aspect of your automobile, doing the preventative work is far better than paying for repairs.
Steps for Using a Headlight Restoration Kit
You’ll want to follow all the instructions on the kit you buy, but most of them follow this process.
1 – Prepare your area. You might need to put on some safety gear. Then, prepare the car. Make sure you tape around the headlights to protect the paint.
2 – Do a pre-wash. Clean the headlight to remove stains, debris, and dirt. If you don’t, you might make scratches when you sand. Most of the time, some soap and water is all you need to get the job done. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry completely. Clean headlights make the job much easier.
3 – Sand. This removes scratches that won’t come off with washing or polishing. If you’re dealing with heavily damaged headlights, you’ll want to work with 800-grit sandpaper. Make sure you sand side-to-side while applying even pressure. Also, don’t concentrate on one area for too long. Make sure you wet down the sandpaper so you don’t leave behind heat burns. Wet sanding is essential! When you’re done, use fine sandpaper to get any leftover scratches. Make sure you blow away any dust that’s left behind.
4 – Polish. Use the included compound on the lens. Use a microfiber cloth and apply in a circular motion. This should take about ten minutes per lens. If you have a power tool, the process takes less time. A good sand and polish goes a long, long way.
5 – Finish. There may be a few discoloration spots, bumps, or scratches at this point. You might need to soak a 1000-grit piece of sandpaper to lightly sand out those areas. Once they’re gone, you should be done and ready to apply your protectant.
6 – Clean up. Remove your masking tape and give the headlight once last wipe.
Top 10 Headlight Restoration Kits Reviewed
We’ve found the top ten headlight restoration kits on the market right now. Invest in one of these and you can’t go wrong.