How to Restore Your Vehicle’s Headlights

Can a car or truck ever be considered totally shiny and clean if its headlights look dull? At Searles, we don’t think so!

Dull-looking headlights might sound like an oxymoron, but they exist. Headlights appear to look dull when the polycarbonate plastic components of most headlights degrade over time, usually due to general oxidation and powerful UV rays—yes, we do get enough sunshine in Victoria to do considerable damage to headlights. Other things that can degrade the look of your headlights include dirt, salt, pollution, water vapour and road damage. This breakdown in plastic creates a cloudy-looking fog or haze over the light’s casing.

If the issue isn’t addressed, your car not only looks bad, but the discolouration and dings and scratches can reduce the effectiveness of your headlights, forcing you to drive with your bright lights on. How annoying! Fortunately, many types of headlight casings can be cleaned and buffed up, making them look brand new again and working as good as they should.


Restore Your Headlights - Before & After


How to Restore Your Headlights in a Few Easy Steps:

  1. Access the Damage: Like a lot of car maintenance projects, restoring your headlights begins with answering the question, how bad is it? If your headlights are cracked and layers of plastic film are starting to peel back, save yourself some trouble! These lights have passed the point of no return and need to be replaced by a professional auto mechanic.
  2. Wash the Lights: Remove surface dirt and debris from the lights using regular car soap and warm water. This will clear the way for the harsher punishment you are about to unleash on your car’s headlights. With any luck, this step will take away a lot of the trouble spots you were looking at earlier.
  3. Prep the Area: Since you don’t want to risk scratching your car’s paint job, consider using painter’s tape or some other shield to secure the outside perimeter of the lights. It’s a bit more work upfront, but isn’t it true that scratched paint is a lot more noticeable than clean headlights? Don’t risk it!
  4. Get Sanding: Wet sand paper is the best way to restore foggy headlights. Have two types on hand, starting with a coarse grit (1500 grade) and smoothing out with a finer grit (2000 grade). Apply lots of water during this process. A simple spray bottle is enough to keep things going.
  5. Get Buffing: At this point, the finish of the headlights will still look dull. The sand paper treatment now needs buffing out. This is where things can go south, especially if you opt to use toothpaste, which many DIY websites recommend. Toothpaste will buff your stuff, no doubt, but today’s fancy versions contain tons of additives and often do more bad than good. We prefer to use aluminum polishing compounds designed for plastics during this step, which are commonly used for cleaning bathroom fixtures like tub surrounds. Just as cheap and readily available as toothpaste, right?
  6. Proceed with Protection: You know how well that screen protector is working out for your phone? Similar solutions exist for headlights, which will basically prevent you from having to restore your headlights in the future. Protecting your car’s headlights is an affordable process that involves using a combination of a plastic adhesion promotor and a few applications of clear coat. This is a job best left to an auto mechanic who specializes in body work, especially if you are looking to maintain your newer car’s existing warranty.

That’s it! You’ve successfully restored your vehicle’s hazy headlights! Of course if you prefer, we would be happy to restore your headlight for you here at Searles. Just drop by or give us a call at 250.475.2000 to book your appointment, or book online here now!

Keep in mind, though, that many classic cars and older vehicles have glass headlights—not plastic—so this process isn’t going to work for their restoration. Glass headlights can definitely pass their prime as well, and if you find this is the situation with your car, it is best to have an auto mechanic/body technician examine the situation.

Or, if your vehicle’s headlights are worn out and appear to be beyond repair, allow us here at Searles to source you some new ones the next time you come to see us!
Restore Your Headlights

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