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How To Resurface Headlights

Last time we covered some important tips for driving at night. Having clear and working headlights is essential in any low-light situation; one cannot rely on a car navigation system with an in dash navigation screen alone. Most modern headlights are made out of polycarbonate, which is great because it is durable and will not break easily in a minor fender-bender. The downside to polycarbonate is it oxidizes over time and turns cloudy and yellow. Hazy, yellowed headlights do not provide proper visibility – good news is you can easily resurface your existing headlights instead of having to replace them. Here is a quick guide for restoring your headlights.

There are many kits out there for restoring your headlights, but they all have the same basic tools you can get from anywhere you like. The main choice you have is whether you want to polish them by hand, or use an electric drill. Using an electric drill makes the job go quicker and easier, but some people do not have this tool so it can be done by hand.

Start by masking off the area around your headlight. Use two layers of thick masking tape around the headlight itself. Then thoroughly scrub and clean your headlights, making sure they are free from dirt or caked on tar and bugs. After they are scrubbed and dried, get them extra clean by wiping the surface with rubbing alcohol.

Most kits include several different grits of sandpaper or buffing wheels. They polish the surface of your headlight using polishing discs and compounds. You can also polish your headlights without a kit by wet-sanding. We will cover the wet-sanding method first.

Buy wet/dry sandpaper in 1000, 1500, 2000, and 3000 grit increments. Soak the sandpaper in cold water for 10 minutes or so before you begin. Spray the surface of the headlight with water, and begin with the lowest grit sandpaper first, sanding in one direction back and forth over the surface of the headlight. Make sure the surface remains wet – if it starts to get dry, spray it down again.

Next once the headlight sheds the yellow color but is cloudy from the sandpaper, switch to the next grit of sandpaper, working in the exact opposite direction of the first grit and keeping the surface wet. Do this again with every grit, switching the direction, until you get a nice, polished surface. The last step with 3000 grit sandpaper will probably take quite a while without a buffing wheel, but will make your headlight look like new.

After resurfacing your headlight, wash them off thoroughly and wipe them dry. Then apply a UV Plastic sealant to the headlights so they don’t oxidize so quickly in the future. This should keep them looking nice and bright for years to come.

Using a kit with an electric drill is much the same as sandpaper, just a bit quicker. One main difference is that you often do not need to wet the surface, and instead will use a polishing compound. Each kit has specific instructions so make sure to read them carefully to get the best results. Work with the drill on a low setting and use light to medium pressure – if you press too hard, you can heat the plastic and cause it to warp. After you have finished with the last and finest polisher, your headlights should look like new. Make sure to clean the surface well, dry thoroughly, and apply a UV Sealant the same as you would if using sandpaper by hand.

The end result should be a shiny, brand new-looking headlight that is protected from UV and thus further oxidization. You can clean and re-apply the sealant at the intervals suggested on the product to retain your headlight’s clarity and shine. With clean and clear headlights, you’re free to enjoy night driving as much as you like.

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