December 30, 2020 3 min read

Restore Auto Headlights

Being made of polycarbonate plastic, the lenses on your auto headlights are designed to thrive in the harshest road conditions. However, they’re not so durable when it comes to the sun, which is why manufacturers coat them with a UV protective film. Over time, this film deteriorates from exposure to UV rays, causing the plastic to oxidize and become hazy.

When your auto headlights cloud up like this, it reduces their brightness and gives the vehicle an impression of being poorly maintained. Fortunately, it’s rarely a problem that high-quality abrasives can’t clear up permanently. In this blog, we’ll go over the steps you can take to restore your headlights’ former luster.

Step One: Clean and Dry the Headlight Lenses

Using warm, soapy water, wash the cloudy headlight lense. Rinse several times, until all soap is removed, and let it dry. Then carefully mask the area around the light itself using tape and a garbage bag so that you don’t accidentally scratch the paint while sanding.

Step Two: Soak the Sandpaper

You’ll want to use waterproof sanding sheets, because you’ll be working with water. Soak your sanding sheets in water. If your headlights have a lot of build-up, use 400-grit as a sanding starter. If the cloudiness isn’t too severe, you can use 600-grit instead. Soak the 400-grit (if needed), 600-grit, and an ultrafine 2000-grit abrasive. 

Step Three: Start With the Coarsest Grit

Once the sandpaper is wet and pliable, start with the 400 or 600-grit sheet depending on the condition of the surface. Apply water to the headlight lense to act as a lubricant before lightly sanding in a circular motion. While you sand, keep spraying the surface with water for continuous lubrication.

Once done, sand horizontally. If you started out with 400-grit sandpaper, repeat the process of circular and horizontal sanding using a 600-grit abrasive. Upon completion, use water and a paper towel to wipe away any sanded-off plastic sticking to the surface.

Step Four: Apply the Finest Grit

Spray water lightly over the headlight lense again. Then apply the 2000-grit sandpaper in a swirling and then horizontal motion. This finer abrasive makes the surface even smoother, priming it for cleaning and UV coating. Wash the lights once more, dry them with a paper towel, and use a piece to gently apply rubbing alcohol onto the surface. This step will clear away any oil residue.

Step Five: Apply Clear Coating

You’ll ultimately want to apply three coats of UV coating to your headlight lenses. After applying the first coat, let it dry for at least five minutes before applying a second and third coat. Make sure that each application is both light and even. Then let your headlight lenses dry for 24 hours. 

Once your headlights are restored, keep them in good shape by washing them often with mild detergent, a lot of water, and a sponge. Wash away all soap and dry. Never use any cleaner or chemical that’s not formulated for use in cleaning headlights.

Contact an Abrasive Specialist

At Red Label Abrasives, we sell sanding sanding sheets and pads designed for use in wet applications like auto headlight restoration. We are a family-owned company and an American manufacturer that takes great pride in offering unrivaled service and support. So, when you have questions or need a recommendation, our team can give you the help and support you’re looking for. To learn more about our abrasives for the automotive industry, please call 844-824-1956 or contact us online.