This is my first instructable, so I hope all goes well.

Headlights begin to fade over time, and there's no way around it. As your headlights fade, the amount of light that makes it out of the headlight becomes less, and before you know it, driving at night becomes difficult, but more importantly, dangerous. This is due to oxidation on the lens. Once oxidation begins to take place, it quickly degrades the headlight lens, because polycarbonate is a porous material.  Wet sanding (what we will be doing) helps to remove this oxidation and restore your headlights to a safer condition.

I have been restoring headlights now (mine and a few friends and family) for quite some time, and I feel that the knowledge should be passed to others. So without further adieu, let's get started.

What you will need:

-Shop Towels
-Sand Paper with values: 800, 1000, and 2000 grit.
-A Small Towel, Rag, or Microfiber Cloth
-3M Rubbing Compund
-Automotive Masking tape
-A Drill (corded or cordless)
-Compound Pad (Wool pad works as well), with drill adapter
-A Spray Bottle with Water
-Rubbing Alcohol
-A Small Measuring Cup (one you don't use for food)
-Minwax's Helmsman Spar Urethane : Clear Gloss.You need this specific kind.
-Odorless Mineral Spirits
-2 to 3 Hours put aside (depending on your attention to detail)

Step 1:

First step is preparation. We want to get everything ready. Remember, this will take some time, so you might wanna get some music out and a couple of speakers to help pass the time. This is also the time you need to take to fill your spray bottle with water. Hint: you can add a little soap to the water. This helps keep the headlight lubricated while using less water, but you don't need any more than a few drops.

Now, we need to tape up the area around the headlights. This is the first and most important step of the whole process. You want to make sure to tape up any and all paint surrounding the headlights. You will be spending quite some time on your headlights. After all your hard work work is done, you don't want to have to fix the paint as well!

Next, after all the taping has finished, we can begin the fun.

-Cut your sand paper sheets into fourths (I found mine at Walmart for about $3 and change per pack. Each pack contains 5 sheets.)

-Get out your 1/4 sheet of 800 grit sandpaper, and spray it with the water bottle. Place the sand paper on the headlight (it will stick by itself) and continue to spray the whole headlight until the whole headlight is wet.

-Slowly start sanding the headlight making sure to spray water while you sand. Water isn't needed, but helps to make the paper last longer and make it easier.  Make sure to sand all the edges and all the corners. Do this for both headlights, making sure not to reuse the sandpaper from the opposite headlight. 1-1/4 piece of sandpaper per headlight. 

Helpful Tip: Sand in one direction. This makes it easier for you to check and see that your lines are consistent and that you have sanded the headlight evenly. It also helps to see anything you might have missed.

-Continue sanding until you can see a uniform surface of 800 grit scratches (where sanding in one direction helps). Wiping the surface with a towel or shop towel helps to check. When you have removed all the oxidation, and there is a uniform finish, continue on to the next step.
<p>Great Idea! You may also suggest to use wipe new headlight restoration kit! This product not only cleans the headlight but also protect the surface from future oxidation. For more info, visit at <a href="https://www.truworthhomes.com/rust-oleum-wipe-new-headlight-restore.html" rel="nofollow">https://www.truworthhomes.com/rust-oleum-wipe-new-headlight-restore.html</a></p>
<p>is that first picture of a caprice?</p>
<p>great tips! www.banisters.com</p>
<p>gmatta, thank you for this article . .I followed your instructions and my '08 Altima headlights now look tip top . . . . </p>
Can I use steel wool instead of a compound pad? If so what grade?
Or do you mean a 100% wool buffing pad?
<p>Continued; I also adjust speed to 1000 RPM (easy to burn plastic), after polish I scuff with 2000 grit wet sand paper, clean with fresh water, wipe with alcohol I use CLEAN brown paper towel (no lint)!! I mix 30% mineral spirits and use only Marine varnish (I use McColskey's) last for 3 years or more. I also buy the cheap foam brush home depot $.50. and paint w/ brush starting at top too bottom, be careful to get 1 solid coat, you will see slight lines but after complete turn headlights on and paint will smooth out. Using marine varnish (harder varnish), leaving scuff marks, and paint w/ brush I believe will give a heavier coat, going 30% spirits also heavier coating but drawback is takes longer to dry. The trick in the varnish it has UV properties, gives it a very slight tinge, creates a better look. when I get time I may try adding color to paint to see effects. Blue Red etc I'll post if I get a chance to try one. I pick up a used ones at local junkyard to test, and display in shop.</p>
<p>I have been dong tis commercially for 10 years, 2 or 3 items to try, Only sand if necessary, (headlights turned brown) I just tape off and use dupont #7 plastic compound, I also use high speed buffer (most may not have but drill works) with wool pad</p>
<p>How to restore headlights the easy way, One product, one easy step, very low cost. see for yourself. Lenzclear.com</p>
how to headlight restora
I'm gonna let you guys in on a little secret. <br>The secret is called Silvo or Brasso. They are both metal polishes and come in small inexpensive containers. Rub it on and buff it off by hand, time spent... maybe 2 minutes.
To be honest, I never thought of that. The van I showed was actually a neighbor's car. The husband tried to fix it himself so there were a lot of scratches I had to correct. But to get rid of just oxidation, that's a genius idea. I'll have to try that out. And thanks for checking out my first i'ble
<p>Hi gmatta, I tried to clean mine over the weekend because my wife mentioned that my headlights weren't working very well. I went to the auto parts place and the guy suggested some 800 sandpaper and water to lubricate should clear it up. With only that instruction I went at it. Today I noticed that they are cloudier than they were before, I didn't know to do single directions when sanding, or about the 3M or anything. If I use this process will it correct what I've done?</p>
<p>Hey Will T7, that's not an issue, everything is fixable. This method, while not guaranteed to work (I mean techinically nothing really is), should help you out quite a bit. Because we are using high count grit sand paper, we only ever remove a small amount of plastic at a time, even 800 doesn't take off much. If you still have some sand paper leftover, go ahead and just re-do what you have done, but in one direction. Then buy go ahead and go up paper grade the instructable says, and I would suggest alternating patterns like someone suggested earlier. So 800 left to right, then 1000 up and down, then 2000 left to right and so on. Then while you are at the auto parts store, look at getting some headlight sealer, I couldn't find any so I used urethane made for wood, and while it lasted a good bit, I found a more permanent solution using automotive clear coat paint, but legit headlight sealer would work just the same (if not better). Most autoparts stores should have a polisher kit that attaches to your drill, but if you can't find one, I will update the instrucatble with some links to things I use personally to do this. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask, and I hope this helps</p>
what is the difference between automotive tape and painters tape?
<p>In all honesty I'm not quite sure. I am no chemical engineer or anything, but I think I have a small understanding, someone feel free to correct me. Painter's tape has a low tack adhesive, and is used to keep paint from bleeding through under the tape and ruining an area that you don't want. I believe that automotive tape has a stickier adhesive, and therefore may stand up better to water sanding that I did in this instrucable. Both are made for clean release, meaning they won't leave sticky residue and would work fine, the auto tape probably working better than painter's tape, but with how cheap I find painter's tape, I tend to use it more as it's good enough. Whatever tape you decide to use, make sure that you use enough and you replace any that doesn't want to stick while wet sanding. This will go a long way.</p>
Why not use a spray spar urethane instead? More uniform coating and easier application.
<p>By all means, you can use what suits you better, in fact I have recently moved to spraying automotive clear coat (theoretically it should last longer, but I only just recently made the switch). With spraying clear of any sort though (especially with rattle cans), you must be mindful of overspray. Overspray has a way to get on any and everything that you don't mask, so when you spray (if you so choose), you will also need to spend more time masking and taping. I do not expect my instructions to be taken verbatim, but I would like to think of them more as a guide. I hope that you found this instructable at least somewhat helpful, and I do thank you for taking a look at it :))</p>
I'd suggest editing the instructable to include the use of spray clearcoat, and what type/brand you used. <br><br>Also: most new automotive headlights are actually pretty easy to remove (mine, for instance, have just two pull tabs that release the whole housing), so removing them and repairing them away from the car is easy and recommended, especially to control overspray. ;-)
<p>I realize this is an old comment, but I wanted to comment for everyone to see.</p><p>I agree with you, but there are a lot more steps, so I would either add steps for spray and make a seperate instructable for spraying clearcoat to reference, or I would have to do a seperate instructable altogether. That being said, the one I did spray has lasted something like a year or two without any touch up, so when I get the time I will try my best. Let me know if anyone is interested.</p>
I have seen in some kits for this that they recommend sanding in the same direction for one grit size and then sanding perpendicular to the previous direction in the next. Is this how you sanded these headlights or did you go the same direction for all three grits of sandpaper?
<p>speaking for myself, I did alternate directions. I did spend extra time and effort on the sanding.</p>
<p>It is best to alternate directions when sanding. If you don't you won't remove the previous grti scratches very well</p>
To be honest, it doesn't really matter which way you do it. From my understanding, going perpendicular each following step only helps to make sure you got rid of the scratches in the previous step. So if I were on the 1000 grit step, when I finish I should see all the scratches going on one direction. If there are any scratches going perpendicular from the direction I just did, I missed a spot. For me though, I just go in one direction. Its really up to you. Its a bit hard to explain, but I hope this answers your question.
This is great, my only question is: does any dust or any particles get stuck on the clear coat while it dries? Thank you
<p>jamoreno84, it did not for me, I was in a closed garage and had no troubles.</p>
Is there a specific 3m rubbing compound. There is plastic auto compound and The Perfect way compound. Who used what?
The polishes can work but if you're losing the factory clear coat, you'll see it yellowing, then the polish just buys months. This seems like the best way for my issue.
<p>At the Motor Dealership we have restored over 200 cars and tried all the kits from 3m to Sylvania and they didn't provide enough materials to complete a single job, left scratches and pitting marks or the resealer they provide (if at all) was only a short term fix, some lasting less than 30 days and turned yellow.</p><p>We tried thinners for removing just yellow discolouration and in many cases you could see it melt the surface...so you had to be extremely careful or not use it on some plastics. One set of lights proved ok with a small spot test and appeared ok...but several hours later they turned milkly. $2800 mistake on a BMW.</p><p>The tips in this instructable are quite good yet what we found was there was so much skill and art in the techniques as there is with the materials used. It requires someone who has done a lot of them to get it right.</p><p>We can't get the Spar Urethane floor sealer here and tried something similar and experimented with thinning mixes to get the right mix but at least 1/4 of these jobs had hardcoats turn yellow over a period of time. Clearly a floor sealer for timber has its limitations in constant exposure to the sun.</p><p>We concluded that is some cases you don't use wet and dry as you only need to light resurface with componds. However, in the highly oxidised state with scratches it is necessary to use specialised wet &amp; dry paper and the right rubbing techique, along with the right compounds, drill pads and finally a suitable urethane or acrylic hardcoat for plastics.</p>
<p>This works great. I thought I would be able to just buff these out, but in the end did the wet sanding and they turned out just like glass. Thanks a lot for the instructable!</p>
<p>WOW, that looks awesome. I am more than happy to help, and thanks for posting your results.</p>
Also you can use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. (not the gel type). Lather on toothpaste, and brush in circular motions. Wipe off with clean towel. I just did my headlights. Worked great and they smell minty too!
<p>The toothpaste works on headlamps that are not very bad. But if they are bad you could use a case of toothpast and not help the ;amp at all.</p>
Thank you for posting. I've got a headlight that is gonna get it!
Awesome. I'm glad you have decided to take the plunge. Make sure you tale before and after photos so you can show all your friends how it came out, or you can just post them here in the comments to show how your's turn out, that way we have another example other than my own, haha. Thanks for checking out my instructable, and keep us updated on how it goes.
I tried this and it seems to work better than the ones you purchase.
Cool. Hey, Thanks for checking out my first instructable. I am glad that I have been able to help.
There is a kit by 3M which has all this stuff in it. The sand paper goes on the rotary drill arbor. The first one might take you 20 minutes to learn how to do it. The second one will take 10-15. After that you'll knock them out in 5 minutes from the time you put the tape on until you peel the tape off.
That's the first kit I used before learning how to do it by hand. Its great, but I do this to make money on the side (being a full time student with a part time job. It helps pay for gas). It Turns out to be cheaper if I do it this way it would be if I bought a kit. To do one pair of headlights though, the 3M kit is the best, hands down. Thanks for checking out my first I'ble.
Also, one thing to note (knowing that others might read this comment), I wasn't happy with the jump in grits from 800 to 3000 grit sandpaper. If you do find yourself using the 3M kit, I recommend taking extra time on the 3000 grit step. Just like the steps above, the more time you spend sanding, especially on the last step, the better your results.
Your results look wonderful...How much should I have to pay someone to do this? It's a tactile thing, I really don't want to have to touch sandpaper.
I know that this is a little overdue, but there really is no price that is set. It really comes down to the person doing the job to set a price. While I wouldn't say that it will be outragiously expensive, it does take some time, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone charged $40+
Great tip and you saved me $$$!!! Thanks for not only your efforts but putting it all down in an understandable way in the Instrucable's site.
Very glad that you found my instructable informative and helpful. And many thanks for checking it out!! :)
You might try taping newspaper around the headlights to catch any drips of urethane from landing on the car paint or remove the entire headlight housing.
Great instructable! Can't wait to try this on my 11-year-old vehicle with hazy headlights.
I'll do this next time I have to polish a headlight lens. Lots cheaper than buying a kit each time! <br>

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