Headlight restoration



Hey board,

The headlights on my car seem to be fading. I actually have to place them on bright just to get enough light at night. While getting my oil changed this weekend, I saw a promotion for headlight restoration. It claimed to be cheaper than actually getting new headlights all together. Does anyone know about this process? Is there a nationally recognized company that I can go to and get my lights restored?


Dec 22, 2004
Ontario, CA
The principle behind headlight restoration is that the front of "aero" headlights gets sandblasted by dust and stuff at highway speed, and that some plastics get yellowed by ultraviolet light from the sun. The first thing to do is look at your headlights - is the outer surface of the lens frosted? If so, you're a pretty good candidate for restoration.

Save your money - don't buy the commercial kits. For really bad "frosting", start with automotive rubbing compound (if 2 grades are offered, buy the fine grade). Apply using non-woven manufactured rags (available at your local auto supply or building supply store). Takes a bit of "elbow grease", but you'll eventually get the pitted surface polished off, leaving smooth plastic behind.

For light "frosting", or to finish up after the rubbing compound, use Novus 2 plastic polish (don't know about your area, but around here it's available at Harley Davidson dealerships, roughly $7 for an 8 ounce bottle), again applied using a non-woven manufactured rag.

I've used Novus 2 successfully to take out light scratches on CDs, and a couple co-workers who volunteered as "guinea pigs" were able to clear up headlights on late-model Volvo 780s and Freightliner Columbias.


Flashlight Enthusiast
Mar 9, 2011
I bought some plastic polish and polished mine for a total cost of about $8.00. That was over a year ago and they are still clear. People have asked me how I got them so clear! If they get cloudy again, I'll polish them again. Cheap & easy. YouTube has some how-to-do-it videos.


Newly Enlightened
Sep 7, 2011
some good info here, for most people that will be sufficient. Just wanted to add my 2cents.

For heavy yellowing/oxidation, you will want to take the headlights off the car. You will need 1200-3000 grit sandpaper, some sort of power buffer, (like those that go on 4 in grinding wheels), some rubbing compound, and a spray can of clear coat.

Sand the headlights in stages. Start with 1200 grit sand paper and work your way up to 3000 grit sandpaper in at least 3 stages.

After you do this, you will see a lot of fine scratches. The yellow will be gone as well as the oxidation etc, but it will still look somewhat hazy. Not to worry, this is when the buffer comes in handy. Using some rubbing compound buff the headlights at high speed while appplying only very light pressure.

The next step is optional but will make your work last for several years. Buy a can of spray-on clear coat, the uv resistant kind is the best. Spray evenly and in low humidity. Then buff again using your compound. They will look brand new and no need to do this again for atleast 3-4 years.

Mike S

Newly Enlightened
Apr 29, 2011
I've always dry sanded with 300 or 400. Then wet sand with 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000. Then buff with polishing compound and finally, apply a coat of Meguiar's PlastX.

Lots of people apply clear or UV coatings afterwards, but I just reapply PlastX after the weekly carwash.

It still looks good after 3 years.

Edit: Here's my sister-in-laws car for reference.

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Newly Enlightened
Sep 10, 2011
Thank you for this information!

I've been researching brughter bulbs for my "new" 2004 Kia Optima, and was resigned to possibly buying replacement headlight & highbeam housings...yeah, four total.

Doesn't make sense to install top notch bulbs & have crappy lenses! I don't trust my skills, but will be careful and take my time.