Introduction: Headlight Restoration in 30 Sec Flat!!!

Picture of Headlight Restoration in 30 Sec Flat!!!

I discovered this by accident as I was cleaning the fender area by the headlight for painting.
I ran a microfiber cloth, wet with lacquer thinner, across the area I was prepping for paint and I accidentally went over the old, foggy, looking like crap headlight. To my total amazement the opaque layer of the headlight came right out and was left behind was a crystal clear lense !!!
I made a quick pass over the rest of the headlight and I was astounded by the result. A second quick pass, (quick is the trick!), and the results are what you see on the photos!
I immediately did the same on the rest of my cars and 2 years later the headlights still  look this good.
I would recommend trying a small corner of your headlight before doing the whole headlight.

What seems to ensure success is:
1. Use lint free cloth,(I prefer microfiber cloth),
2. Use enough Lacquer thinner,
3. Use a light continuous motion and don't go over the surface again, until the solvent evaporates and the lense "hardens" again  
    (about 30sec).
4. Please, use proper hand protection, ie: Nitrile gloves, when using solvents of any kind. The long term effects of exposing your bare
    skin to solvents is nasty and irreversible!

Give it a try and have a great success with your project!:o)

PS: As an experiment to potentially improve on the original process, about a year ago, I applied a coat of clear lacquer varnish on an old headlight. I sprayed  the coat of varnish on the headlight immediately after I wiped the lense with the lacquer thinner, while the lense was still in the "green" state. A year later, with the headlight seating outside,exposed to the elements, there is no sign of deterioration, pealing or yellowing. I don't think this step is necessary but I add it here as an informative bit. :o)


sean.finch.92 (author)2017-06-11

I worked with thinners, and acedtone ,in fibreglass, for cleaning rollers and bruises, I broped my watch in a bucket of acedtone watch melted.

sean.finch.92 (author)2017-06-11

I use rubbing compound dos help, and elbow grease ???

RobertM20 (author)2015-04-11

My headlights had scratches, pitting, oxidisation including yellow hazy discolouration.

I tried DIY kits, and they failed.

I friend tried the lacquer thinner techique and made a deep chemical burn across the headlight lens, which made me think this is too risky.

I had my headlights professionally restored over 3 years ago and they still look like near new!

The company I went to had several years of experience and a 100%
success rate in restoring such headlight lenses. In fact, they have successfully
restored headlights that have had chemical burns as a result of an owners experimenting with paint thinners to undertake a DIY headlight restoration.

My headlights were returned to a very high lustre and had an
OEM approved UV hardcoat applied to the lenses to protect them from UV light
the elements. This replicated how the headlights were originally manufactured.

I can recommend

They have a great deal of material about headlight restorations, youtube videos and a lot of material about headlight lamp upgrades, etc.

ivanbakas (author)RobertM202015-04-11

I'm sure there is someone out there that can mess up the simplest instructable. I have restored over a dozen cars since I published the inctructable with great results and no chemical burns, by following these same instructions.

Testing a small spot can easily show if the headlight material is compatible with this method.

Professional restoration has always been an option but that's not what the instructables community is all about. It's for people that like to experiment, learn new skills or improve existing skills and have fun accomplishing a task without the use of professional services.

Always "play" safe and follow the instructions!:o)

JaneS38 (author)ivanbakas2015-10-05

I tried this technique, however, as soon as i wiped it on, its clear for a second, and then gets cloudy again. I thought maybe it was too cold outside so I tried it on a 70 degree day. Same result.
Any suggestions?

ivanbakas (author)JaneS382016-09-12

It sounds like your headlights might be too degraded or different plastic. Try another product and see if you have better success.

ivanbakas (author)ivanbakas2016-09-12

Also you might try spraying a clear coat spray, with UV protection, immediately after you wipe it with lacquer thinner. Like:

dave.fulton.33 (author)2014-11-06

idealy you need to apply a uv protection coat which is why they have faded in the first place i do it for a living with a uv protection coat there good for 5 years min

Ruble (author)2014-10-09

hi , txs for your sharing the idea , this is same thinner which v get from hardware shops

ivanbakas (author)Ruble2014-10-09

Yes. Lacquer thinner.

I was told that some brands of headlights respond better to acetone. I have not tried it myself but if for some reason lacquer thinner does not work for you, try acetone on a small corner of the headlight.

etcmn (author)2014-01-03

Thanks for the idea. Need to do this on my van.

onemoroni1 (author)2012-05-22

Another great idea! I use soft scrub and paste wax, but doesn't last. I'll have to give this a try. The best ideas are discovered by accident.

ivanbakas (author)onemoroni12012-05-22

True that !:o)

onemoroni1 (author)ivanbakas2012-05-22

Hay I just did this today in fact. Amazing! I followed up with toothpaste and paste wax, look like new. Thanks for the instructable.

ilovejdmtoy (author)2012-03-19

this does work. I have purchase one for my car but I have to do this regularly to make the headlight lens shiny.

halo projector headlights

Foxtrot70 (author)2012-01-25

I purchased one of those headlight restoration kits and it did an ok job but, within 30 days the lens re-clouded on the outside. Fortunately I have an other set of headlights to play with and experience the process. Hopefully I can get them to clear up like yours have.

ivanbakas (author)Foxtrot702012-01-25

Yea. Like I said it's been two years without any deterioration on the headlights of the first car I used this technique. I also keep monitoring the condition of the headlights I sprayed with clear lacguer varnish and they look great too, with no signs of peeling or discoloration. When I use this technique again, I will make the clear lacguer varnish part of my initial treatment, as "silverwindro" confirmed in the comment below.
Good luck with yours.

silverwindro (author)2012-01-09

That step is necessary, i mean the thin clear lacquer varnish, because in first operation you just cleaned the old laquer thin layer which come from factory.
So if you remove the layer or just clean it a bit, is a good idea to apply a thin layer of lacquer again over the old one to prevent fog.

I do a lot of headlight restoration, in fact, i advice people to dont waste moneys on buying a new one only if the reflective side, if needed, should be replaced, if it become matte.

Good job with this instructable.

ivanbakas (author)silverwindro2012-01-09

Good point! Thank you.

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