Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

what to put on the plastic on a headlight to clean it up

Why do Headlights go Yellow and Fade?

The dulling of your headlights is something which happens over time, and these crazed or discoloured headlights not only look unattractive but have substantially reduced light output – with obvious implications for safety. This is caused by the UV light from the sun discolouring the outer layer of the plastic when there isn’t a protecting layer on the plastic.

How do you Fix Yellow Headlights?

Basically, to restore your yellow headlight lens you need to remove that old oxidised layer of yellow plastic from the lens using sand paper and compound. Starting with a low grit sand papaer and stepping up to higher grit grades to a smooth finish. Then you need to polish the surface to a glass like finish, then seal it with UV protection to prolong it happening again.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Will Coke clean headlights? How about toothpaste?

Coke, toothpaste, silicone lube, bleach, craft beer and all sorts of products maybe help with cleaning your headlights for a cheap and labour intensive solution. We have exellent solutions by using elbow grease or using your drill to do the work for you to get the job done right, first time and quickly.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Tips and Warnings:

  • If you don’t have a Headlight restoration kit handy, multiple high grade wet and dry sand papers can do the job along with some soapy water. 800, 1200, 1600, 2000 grits.
  • Always wear protective gloves and eye protection.
  • Don’t use low grit/harsh abrasives to avoid causing permenant damage.
  • Remove the headlights from the vehicle to avoid damaging the surrounding area.
  • Use an LED light to find imperfections in the lens.
  • This guide is to suit plastic lens headlights only.

Before You Start

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

If you want to avoid potential damage to the area surrounding the headlight, you can first remove the headlight from the vehicle and relocate it to a work bench.

Then wash the headlight lens to remove surface dirt as it may cause further damage if not removed.

If you’re working next to painted surfaces, use masking tape surrounding the headlight to protect the paintwork of the vehicle.

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Step 1 – Apply Clarifying Compound

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Apply the lens clarifying compound to a clean cloth. Rub the compound over the entire lens using firm pressure, then buff with a clean terry cloth.

If the lens doesn’t clean up with Lens Clarifying Compound: proceed to Step 2.

NOTE: Restore only one lens at a time.

Step 2 – Restoration

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Start by applying the spray lube (soapy water) to the Level 1 pad (low grit sandpaper) – the green one – and then to the lens.

NOTE: Use pads only on those areas requiring restoration, no need to do the surrounding areas if they are clear.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Using firm finger pressure, move the pad a back and forth motion to remove a decent layer of oxidised plastic from the lens, continuing until much of the oxidation is removed.

Use additional spray lube or soapy water as necessary to keep the lens and pad wet to ensure the pad/sand paper doesn’t gum up with old plastic.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

You’ll start to notice the oxidisation coming away and your lens becoming hazy. Switch to the Level 2 pad (next step higher wet and dry sand paper) – the brown one – to start leveling out this new layer of plastic.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Rub back and forth at 90 degrees to the way you rubbed the Level 1 pad for about 1 minute, keeping the pad and lens surface wet using the Spray Lube.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Next we need to step it up to a finer grit. Switch to the Level 3 (high grit sand paper) side of the final pad – the purple side – and repeat the process for 1 minute.

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Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Flip to the Level 4 (highest grit sand paper) side of the final pad – the blue surface – and repeat the process for 1 minute.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Dry the lens with a clean cloth or towel. If oxidisation is still visble, repeat this whole process till satisfactory.

Step 3 – Finish Restoration

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Apply lens clarifying compound or plastic polish and rub it thoroughly back and forth until the lens clarifies to a glass like finish.

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Let the compound dry to a haze and buff with a clean cloth.

NOTE: Lens clarifying compound can also be applied by machine with a foam pad at 1500 RPMs.

Step 4 – Seal and Protect the Lens

Restoring Faded or Yellowed Headlights

Lastly, apply the sealing product provided in the kit to protect the lens from future oxidisation. If a sealing kit is not provided, a high quality vehicle wax is suitable to seal the lens, or go down the process of painting a high-quality, high-gloss arcylic clear coat onto the lens for a longer lasting finish.

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