How to Restore Headlights

April 13th, 2016 by

2016-Mazda-CX-3 Soul Red Exterior close up frontHave you noticed that your headlights seem dimmer or fainter? As your car gets older, oxidation can occur and build up on the lens of your headlamp, causing the displayed light to appear hazy. Removing that oxidation is important so your headlamp lens doesn’t degrade over time. Wet sanding is one technique for removing oxidation and restoring your headlights that you can do at home, on your own.

What You Need

Allow yourself two to three hours and make sure you have the following items before you get started:

  1. Drill
  2. Compound Pad with Drill Adapter and Hookit Pad or Wool Buffing Pad
  3. Minwax’s Helmsman Spar Urethane: Clear Gloss
  4. Odorless Mineral Spirits
  5. 3M Rubbing Compound
  6. Rubbing Alcohol
  7. Spray Bottle of Water
  8. 800, 1000, and 2000 Grit Sandpaper (one sheet of each, cut into quarters)
  9. Automotive Masking Tape
  10. Clean Shop Towels
  11. Clean Towel, Rag, or Microfiber Cloth
  12. Measuring Cup for Industrial Products
  13. Stirring stick

The Wet Sanding Process

  1. First, you need to prep the area around the headlights, just as if you were painting. Use the automotive masking tape to cover all the paint around each headlight. This is a critical step, so work slowly and precisely.
  2. Spray the first quarter-sheet of 800 grit sandpaper with water. It should be wet enough to stick onto the headlight. Spray the headlight with water until it is wet.
  3. Slowly begin sanding the headlight, going in only one direction so you can check the lines to see that you’ve sanded evenly. Continue spraying water as you sand, and make sure to sand every edge and corner. Keep the headlight well lubricated.
  4. Wipe the headlight surface with a shop towel or rag to check the sanding lines. Once you see a uniform finish of scratches, this step is complete.
  5. Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 for the other headlight, using a new quarter-sheet of 800-grit sandpaper.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5, first with the 1000 grit sandpaper, and then with the 2000 grit sandpaper.
  7. Now, attach the hookit pad and compound pad to the drill. Shake the rubbing compound well and apply a generous amount directly onto the headlight. Rub in without turning on the drill. Then, turn on the drill at a slow speed and polish the headlamp. Once the compound is spread evenly, turn the drill on high speed and continue spreading the compound all over the headlight. Apply more rubbing compound if necessary. If you do not have a drill, use a wool buffing pad for this step.
  8. Use rubbing alcohol and a shop towel to wipe the rubbing compound off the headlights.
  9. Next, create a 1:1 clear coat mixture of mineral spirits and urethane, beginning with 1 ounce of each. Stir well.
  10. Dip a clean shop towel folded into a small square into the clear coat mixture. Squeeze out excess mixture so that it is not dripping wet. Quickly apply the clear coat mixture horizontally, from top to bottom, following all the way through onto the tape. The coat should be thin with no drips. The mixture will thicken quickly. If you need to start over, simply remove the coat with mineral spirits and start again.
  11. For best results, let the clear coat mixture dry overnight. Do not touch the headlight for at least four hours, and wait at least three days to wash your car.

Biggers Mazda is Here For You

We’ve shown you how to restore headlights, and Biggers Mazda can help you with all kinds of routine maintenance. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Posted in Car Repairs