Restoring headlights | Autoblog Details | Complete detail bonus

Headlights are like the eyes of your car and when they're hazy, yellow, and foggy, seeing well at night can be an issue. Find out how to restore their clarity today on Autoblog Details.

Watch all of our Autoblog Details videos for more tips on car cleaning and maintenance by professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other video series on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars, Autoblog Wrenched!
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[00:00:00] Headlights are like the eyes of your car and when they're hazy, yellow, and foggy seeing well at night can be an issue. And during the day, the look like this. Find out how to restore their clarity today on Autoblog Details. This vehicle was detailed from start to finish in 10 episodes. Visit to see the entire detailing transformation. For step one, open the hood or tape off the surrounding areas to avoid paint damage.

[00:00:30] Masking tape is perfect for this application. Wash the headlight with water and a microfiber towel to clean off any heavy debris that may interfere with the sanding disks. Place 1000 grit sandpaper on a foam block and move from side-to-side, no circles, no up-and-down, and no water during this phase of the process. This is called dry sanding. As you'll notice, the dead headlight's skin is flaking away leaving behind a white residue. This is normal, so don't panic.

[00:01:00] Once the headlight is evenly sanded from side-to-side, wipe or blow the dust off the surface of the headlight. Any remaining dust may contaminate the next process causing deeper scratches or haze that may be a challenge to finish out so it's important to work clean. Place 1500 grit on a foam block and spray the sandpaper with water before applying it to the light. Just a few quick squirts is sufficient. This is called damp sanding. Now move the paper in up-and-down motions and not side-to-side as we did for step one.

[00:01:30] This is done to counteract the first sandpaper marks in the opposite direction. Once completed, spray water on the headlight and wipe again to ensure no particles are remaining for the next step. Next switch to 3000 grit paper and repeat the same process but in side-to-side motions once again to counteract the 1500 grit sanding marks created in the previous step. This is your final hand-sanding which will the headlight to a point of refinement that can be easily restored with a machine.

[00:02:00] The polisher will get the very fine marks out of the headlight with more consistency than by hand. So gradually refining by hand until you can use a machine is the safest way to complete this project. Next compound the 3000 grit sanding marks in the headlight with a microfiber cutting pad or a wool pad and your favorite compound. This can be done with a home drill or a three inch detailing machine. I've chosen to use a three inch pneumatic because I have access to compressed air. After just a few passes with compound the headlight lens should look much clearer.

[00:02:30] After a thorough compound, quickly polish the plastic with a foam pad and your favorite polish to remove any super fine scratches left behind after the compounding step. Use a detailing light to check your work or simply turn on the headlights themselves to get a better look at the lens. If everything looks good, wipe the headlight clean with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or polish residue in preparation for the final protective coating. A UV protective coating should be immediately applied to the lens after the process is complete.

[00:03:00] Clearly the original UV coating applied at the factory has faded and anything that remained would have been removed from the previous abrasive steps. So applying a new UV layer is vital to avoid a hazy or yellow lens within weeks, or even days, if left untreated. Before applying any UV protection, be sure to read the directions of your particular coating. Finally, apply the UV coating four to six inches away from the lens with medium arm speed. Allow to dry for three to five minutes and then apply a second coat.

[00:03:30] Don't remove the masking tape for at least 15 to 20 minutes and avoid getting the lens wet for at least two hours to allow the coating to cure properly. Keep in mind, at first the coating doesn't look very smooth but once it dries, it levels out and you can't even tell it's there. This repair was performed during the restoration of the entire vehicle which was shown over 10 consecutive episodes from start to finish. You can see the entire process on Lastly, restoring your headlights is not just a cosmetic fix. It can increase the light output by 20-30% to help you see the road and get home safely.

[00:04:00] If you found this video helpful, please share and keep up with all the latest detail videos by liking or subscribing to the autoblog page. I'm Larry Kosilla from Thanks for watching.

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