Headlight Restoration Kit Tutorial

 

“How can I clean the haze off my headlights?” If your car is more than two years old, this is likely a question you’ve asked yourself. Headlights can turn yellow and hazy in just a few years, requiring a complete housing replacement or a thorough cleaning. A headlight restoration kit can make the cleaning process easier, more thorough, and longer-lasting. Here is a before and after photo for our headlight restoration using 3M’s kit. Stay tuned for a full review including product reviews and restoration tips.

Before beginning the restoration, it’s necessary to gather all the necessary tools. You’ll need the following:

  1. A handheld drill. Personally I use a DEWALT 18V Cordless drill, but you’re welcome to use any drill you might have. If you don’t already have one, Amazon has a great deal on the one I used in this tutorial.
  2. In addition to a drill, you’re going to need a 3M headlight restoration kit. Amazon also sells them, and has the cheapest price of anyone on the web. Buy one through the link below.
  3. Painters Tape-this is one of the most important tools, If you do not have this, you will ruin your car.
  4. A spray bottle filled with tap water.

Now you’re ready to begin refinishing your headlights. Follow the steps below for a flawless refinish.

Step 1: Prep your headlights

Clean your headlights thoroughly, preferably giving your vehicle a complete car wash. This will offer you the best results of a complete headlight restoration. After ensuring that you have all the necessary tools, carefully tape all surfaces surrounding your headlights using your painters tape. Do not leave any area uncovered, as it will get scratched in the restoration process. We recommend applying multiple layers, as the top layer frequently comes off while sanding.

 

 

Step 2: Sand headlight housings using P500 Grit sanding disc

Your kit comes with several yellow P500 grit sanding discs. These discs are used to remove the outermost layer of dull and yellow plastic from your housing. It is important to remove this layer completely, as any remaining residue will be present on your finished headlights. We used all of the P500 discs in our restoration, changing them as often as needed to keep the disc from getting clogged. Be sure to constantly move the drill around the headlight housing to prevent spotting and burning. The goal in this step is to leave your headlights looking opaque and evenly sanded. Use the photos below for reference.

 

This is how each headlight should look once the initial sanding is complete. Notice the headlight is evenly sanded and opaque. Dont freak out at this point, as the finished product will not look like this.

Step 3: Sand both headlights using the P800 grit sanding disc.

Once the yellow layer has been removed, and both headlights have a somewhat even opaque look, it’s time to change sanding discs. Your kit comes with several white P800 grit sanding discs. These discs are finer than the P500 discs you used in the first round of sanding, and will help remove some of the thick scratches left on the headlight housings by the first step. You should sand the headlight with medium/light pressure, moving the drill constantly to avoid burning/discoloration. It might feel like this step is somewhat redundant, as you’ve just spent considerable time sanding both headlights; however, if you skip this step, your headlights will remain hazy once the process is “complete”. So, make sure you sand both headlights completely with this disc before moving onto the next step. Visually, there’s not much of a difference between the look of the headlights after the first and second rounds of sanding, but the headlights will now be smoother to the touch.

Make certain that the headlight looks evenly sanded after this step, avoiding spotting or unsanded spots. By so doing, the next step will be much easier.

Step 4: Sand both headlights, while moist with water, with the P3000 Trizact foam sanding disc

Think of this step as giving the headlights one final bath before polishing them. You’re going to use the P3000 Trizact foam sanding disc to sand the seadlights down so that only the finest scratches remain. You should pass the drill 10-12 times across each headlight. Before beginning to sand, spray the foam disc with water to moisten the disc. In addition, spray the headlight with water as you sand. We found it most efficient to completely moisten the headlight prior to sanding, begin sanding, and then periodically stop sanding in order to moisten the headlight as it began to dry. It’s important to keep them wet whenever you are sanding.

Here’s how the headlights should look once you’ve finished this last sanding step. When water is pouring over the lens, it should appear clear and smooth. Once the water has dried the lens will have a light haze to it.

Step 5: Polish your headlights using the included 3M headlight lens polish and the orange foam disc

This last step is very similar to waxing a car. After attaching the orange foam disk, you’ll apply a dime-sized amount of polish to the pad, and polish each headlight. Be sure to not leave any spots unpolished, as these spots will remain hazy while the rest of the headlight is shiny. You may need to reapply polish to the applicator if it starts to get dry.

Foam Applicator for Headlight Polish

Once you’ve applied polish to the entirety of both headlights, let it sit for about 30 seconds, or enough to dry. Then wipe with a microfiber cloth.

Headlight Restoration

You’re finished! The finished product should look like this:

Headlight Restoration

You can see that the top of the headlight, which was very hazy and slightly yellow, is now crystal clear and smooth.

Now, enjoy your restored headlights!

 

If you want to restore your headlights like we did, you can order them through the link below:

Comments

  1. Jason says

    I used 3Ms kit on my Silverado. Never used any other brand but no reason to…the 3M more than did the trick. Great stuff.

  2. Kelly says

    How long did the full headlight restoration take you? Can’t decide if I should just buy new headlights or restore my current ones. Was it difficult?

    • Scott says

      It took a little over an hour from start to finish, but I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. It’s really not that hards to do. I would consider restoring your current headlights before you spend that much buying completely new ones.

      Thanks for visiting!

    • says

      All of those sandpaper kits will ruin your heliadghts, no matter what they cost, that may be why they are foggy now.Sanding and buffing a transparent lens is risky and time consuming.It destroys the Ultra Violet membrane and will cause the headlight to turn yellow. That stuff in that silver bag won’t help in fact it will only make it worse. For plastic lens stay away from anything that uses abrasives.You need a liquid acrylic deoxidizer.It won’t scratch or cause you lens to turn foggy.

      • Scott says

        That’s exactly what we thought the first time we used one of them. When we made a first pass on the headlights, we never thought they would look the same. However, after trying out several kits, we’ve noticed that the kits that come with a clear coat solution actually restore the headlights to almost new.

        Another important thing to remember is to cover all painted surfaces (really any surface other than the headlight surfaces) with painters tape before you sand. If you don’t, you’ll ruin your paint. But, as long as you cover those painted surfaces and finish off the process with clear coat, you’ll be very pleased with the end result.

      • Scott says

        Actually, we thought the same thing. It’s been a good two years since we refinished our 4Runner headlights using the 3M restoration kit. The headlights are still looking great! Do they look brand new? No, but whose headlights look brand new after 8 years. They look like the headlights on a 2 year old car vs an 8 year old car.

        Thanks for visiting!

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