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Best Headlight Restoration Kit (DIY Method)!

This IS the best DIY headlight restoration kit that you can buy! This method works every single time, even if your lights are rough. You can save money, and be done in an hour – restore your headlights with this simple DIY.

Headlight-Restoration-Kit-Before-and-After

I get it – headlight restoration is boring. But it’s a necessary evil, if you’re wanting to sell your car or just want your ride to look nice. Many people think if their headlights become cloudy – they need new headlights (which can be a fortune!).

That is absolutely NOT true and you can clean your headlights yourself using this method.

Restoring Headlights

Searching for options for headlight cleaning is time consuming, so we found the best headlight restoration kit based on the advice of a professional car detailer we know and our online research. I learned so much about the process. I’m sharing my knowledge below!

Why Are My Headlights Cloudy?

Your headlights oxidized, but what happened? Well, the US government only requires auto manufacturers to produce lenses that don’t fog for three years. Beyond that, it’s up to you to clean off the accumulated oil, road grime, and other airborne contaminants!

The heat from your headlights bakes that grime into the lens, and eventually that build-up will start to degrade the UV coating on the light. You’ll see that yellowish color which means you’re likely going to have to invest in headlight restoration of some sort.

Cleaning vs Restoring

Headlight cleaner can work (have you seen the toothpaste hack?), but honestly if your headlights are even close to what ours look like above, you’re going to have to use a headlight restoration kit.

You can try a headlight cleaner first. It depends on what you are looking to spend. When we get to this stage of grime, we typically forgo the headlight cleaner and go right to the headlight restoration kit. We know it’s going to work!

Professional Cost vs DIY

After a little investigating we discovered that headlight restoration is about $100 – $150, but a headlight restoration DIY kit is about $15 – $20, and it typically does 2 – 3 (even 4!) cars.

We have five cars, so multiply that first number and you see that we’re going to do a DIY headlight restoration every single time.

Best Headlight Restoration Kit

3M headlight restoration kit

If you’re wondering how to clean your headlights, we found the best headlight restoration kit that money can buy. And I think if you check out the results above (the before and after), you’ll see that this kit achieves perfect results! Forget all the other products out there . . . this is it.

We added the water step and the ultra fine wet sandpaper to get the headlights looking as crystal clear as possible. Are you ready to learn about the best headlight restoration kit (and our modifications)? Keep reading!

Gather These Supplies

  • 3M Headlight Restoration Kit – includes all the sanding discs referred to below
  • Drill
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape (it comes in the kit but we used our own)
  • 2500 – 3000 grit wet sandpaper (extra step which we’ll explain)
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Cleaning solution/rubbing alcohol
Car before headlight cleaner

Here’s the before photo. Purchasing new headlights can cost anywhere from $150 – $1,500 PER headlight depending on the car. No reason to do that!

3M headlight restoration kit, Bestine Solvent and thinner, Hitachi drill, wet/dry sandpaper, painter's tape, and a spray bottle

Gather Your Supplies

Here are the materials. For this 3M Headlight Restoration Kit you’re going to need a drill for the sanding. The drill is key to buffing the headlights out more than just headlight cleaner alone could do. This is why it’s the best headlight restoration kit!

Cleaning a headlight with Bestine solvent and thinner

Prepare the Headlights

Clean the headlight. I used a solvent and thinner solution, but rubbing alcohol would work as well.

Headlight-taped-off-with-blue-painters-tape

The kit comes with tape – however, we needed a wider tape due to the chrome rim around these particular headlights. So we used a wider painter’s tape that we already had. Do this on both lights.

First Sanding

Putting a velcro buffing pad on a drill

Put the foam velcro buffing pad from your kit in the drill, then place the 500-grit sanding disc on the pad.

Spraying-water-on-a-taped-off-headlight-with-a-spray-bottle

Then spray water on the headlight and on your sanding disc. This will keep everything lubricated so it can flow and prevent scratching.

Sanding-a-headlight-with-a-drill-and-sanding-pad

Using a slow to medium speed on your drill, apply medium pressure and keep the pad flat on the headlight. Begin sanding, moving back and forth over the surface until you see the yellow UV damage and oxidation start to come off the surface. Reapply water as needed so that you are always sanding on a wet surface.

Sanding-disc-with-dirt-on-the-pad

The sanding disc may occasionally load up with material; use your spray bottle to clean off the disc. It will look like you’re applying paste but that is just headlight grunge!! :0

Headlight in the process of removing the oxidation

This is what the headlight will look like as you are working with it. Make three or four complete passes with your drill and sanding pad, adding water as needed.

Headlight sprayed with water after initial dirt removal

Spray water on the light and wipe off with a clean rag and this is how the headlight will appear. It will look worse before it gets better!

Second Sanding

800-grit sanding disc

Now apply the 800-grit sanding disc from the kit and repeat the steps you used with the 500-grit disc (so yes, use the water again).

Torn painter's tape on the edge of the light

If you damage the tape while sanding, repair the tape before continuing so you don’t sand the trim around the light.

haze on the headlight

Spray and wipe off the light again. This is how the light will appear after making three to four complete passes over the light with the 800-grit disc. Looking just a bit better now, no?

Third Sanding

2500 grit wet sanding paper sanding the headlight

We added this step outside of the kit to increase the crystal-clearity (yes I made that up) even further. Use your 2500 grit wet sanding paper – spray water on the headlight and directly on the sandpaper, then start sanding the light by hand. Use circular motion.

Remember to reapply water as it dries so you will always be working with a wet surface (as you did with the sanding discs). The 2500 grit sandpaper will reduce the size of the scratching on the headlights to very fine.

Sanded headlight with painter's tape around the edge

When finished hand sanding, wipe the light dry and you will see that you are getting closer to the desired effect.

Final Foam Sanding

3M 3000 grit Trizact foam sanding disc

Now you are going to apply the “magic disc” to the foam pad on the drill. This is the 3M 3000 grit Trizact foam sanding disc. This disc truly has magic properties!

Clean headlight after restoration

Use this disc as you did the other discs: keep your surface wet as you make 3 to 5 passes over the headlight. You will see the haze begin to disappear.

Keep applying water and passing over the headlight until you get the desired amount of clearing. Then wipe off the light with a clean rag until dry. This is how the light should appear. Looking much better now!

Foam Polishing

Foam polishing disc with synthetic wax protectant

Using the foam polishing disc provided in the kit, apply a quarter sized dab of the Synthetic Wax Protectant (also provided in the kit) to the pad and smear on the light without the drill on.

This will keep the wax from slinging everywhere. Then you begin polishing by turning the drill on. As you make more passes the light will become completely clear.

Wiping a headlight with a clean rag

When you are happy with the result, wipe clean with a clean rag.

Removing painter's tape from the DIY headlight restoration

Then remove the tape and you are finished!

Finished headlight after restoration

What do you think? Sparkling clean and much better than before! Just as good as when in came from the dealership from where I sit.

Mini Cooper with a DIY headlight restoration

What do you think of our DIY headlight restoration? Do you think we found the best headlight restoration kit? We definitely think so!

Yield: 2 clean headlights

Headlight Restoration

Finished headlight after restoration

Use a headlight restoration kit to turn your head lights from drab to sparkly! Headlight cleaning is easier to do than you think, and it's inexpensive as well.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $15

Materials

  • 3M Headlight Restoration Kit - includes all the sanding discs referred to below
  • Painter’s tape (it comes in the kit but we used our own)
  • 2500 - 3000 grit wet sandpaper (extra step which we'll explain)
  • Cleaning solution/rubbing alcohol

Tools

  • Drill
  • Spray bottle filled with water

Instructions

  1. Clean the headlight using a solvent or rubbing alcohol.
  2. Tape off the headlights using painter's tape.
  3. Put the foam velcro buffing pad from the kit in the drill, then place the 500-grit sanding disc on the pad.
  4. Spray water on the headlight and on the sanding disc.
  5. Using a slow to medium speed on the drill, apply medium pressure and keep the pad flat on the headlight. Begin sanding, moving back and forth over the surface until you see the yellow UV damage and oxidation start to come off the surface. Reapply water as needed so that you are always sanding on a wet surface.
  6. Make three or four complete passes with your drill and sanding pad, adding water as needed.
  7. Spray water on the light and wipe off with a clean rag.
  8. Apply the 800-grit sanding disc from the kit and repeat the steps used with the 500-grit disc.
  9. Spray and wipe off the light again.
  10. Use the 2500 grit wet sanding paper - spray water on the headlight and directly on the sandpaper, then start sanding the light by hand. Use circular motion.
  11. When finished hand sanding, wipe the light dry.
  12. Add on the 3M 3000 grit Trizact foam sanding disc. Use this disc as you did the other discs: keep the surface wet as you make 3 to 5 passes over the headlight.
  13. Keep applying water and passing over the headlight until you get the desired amount of clearing. Wipe off the light with a clean rag until dry.
  14. Using the foam polishing disc provided in the kit, apply a quarter sized dab of the Synthetic Wax Protectant (also provided in the kit) to the pad and smear on the light without the drill on.
  15. Begin polishing by turning the drill on. As you make more passes the light will become completely clear.
  16. When you are happy with the result, wipe clean with a clean rag.
  17. Remove the tape to finish.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a rating or share a photo on Pinterest!


Ready to clean other stuff around your home? We’ve got lots of cleaning posts here on the blog, and here are some of my favorites:

nutjob1

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I believe there's a better way to restore headlight lenses. Just one mod after all the steps of sanding off any factory uv protectant. Skip the final polish and go straight to vapor deposition of acetone, synthetic gauze soaked in acetone to wipe on or airbrush acetone. Applying a soaked gauze pad and wiping once can be tricky as acetone reacts immediately to polycarbonate lenses, melting if lingering or wiping twice over the same area. One gauze pad per lens. Vapor deposition is best while airbrushing may be just as effective. I've used off the shelf products twice and clear coated but lenses yellow after a year or so. Over sanding left score lines but after careful sanding on my third try in several years, acetone appears to be best at immediate restoration of clear lenses. I did not clear coat them this time as I want to see how well they hold up. Since acetone dissolves polycarbonates readily, it seems to be the ideal way to paint on a clear lens that mends all the scratches involved in sanding. Vapor deposition or airbrushing may be the best two ways of applying acetone in a controlled manner but does depend on proper lens preparation before its applied.

Amy

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Hi there! I'm not sure what any of this means to be honest but I'm happy to add this comment in case it makes sense to others!

herbert fellows

Sunday 27th of December 2020

Sorry, I have used this and it's the same as all the other kits I tried. It makes them look like new for about a month, then right back to crappy.

Amy

Monday 28th of December 2020

Herbert I'm so sorry! That's a bummer. Mine lasts for years . . . perhaps at a certain point you just need new lenses :/

Jake

Friday 16th of August 2019

I have cleaned several autos but instead of wax, I used nano coating H-9 with two coats it Looks great and lasts about 2 yrs on my 2001 GMC Yukon

Sophie Flax

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Can’t wait to try this... It’s going to be SO gratifying for this ocd diy-er! Glad I didn’t try to toothpaste hack yet. Can you suggest some brands of wax to use after resto? Something on the budget friendly side would be awesome. Thank you for this post ✌️♥️

Me

Sunday 26th of May 2019

I have a 15 year old Toyota need to clean, can't drive at night because I don't get much light on the road. I have had them cleaned professionally and they last a couple of months. Please give further information as to how to order kit. Thank you, me

Amy

Sunday 2nd of June 2019

Hi there! Here's the kit on Amazon: https://fave.co/3cwqbsv Looks like it's available at auto parts stores, Walmart, and other places too!

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