How to fix yellow or cloudy headlights for less than $20
In the past, car manufacturers used glass to make headlight lenses, and everything was fine. But over time, as car designs become more and more complex, glass is no longer suitable because its shape cannot match the lines of the vehicle. To solve this problem, automakers began to use plastic or polycarbonate to make headlights, which would conform to the correct shape, and were cheaper and lighter than old glass lamps.
The downside to using plastic lenses is that over time, they turn yellow and cloudy from oxidation, UV rays, salt, road debris, and other factors. Most people assume that the problem is on the inside of the lens (and in some cases it is,) but what they don’t know is that most of the time you can take out the yellow and cloudy from the lens in under 5 minutes with a simple solution...
As you can see in the image above, the surface of the headlight becomes chipped, rough, and yellow from wear and tear over the years. All you need to do to restore the look and clarity is remove that layer. This not only helps make the overall appearance of the car look much better, but now that more light can pass through your lenses, safer at night as well.
Note: some headlights have accumulated moisture on the inside of the lens, and this method will not work to restore them. Look closely at the lens to determine if there is built-up moisture inside before proceeding.
To restore our headlights for cheap, we used Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer Kit available at Amazon.com for only $10-$20. This kit includes the Lens Clarifying compound which might be all you need to fix the lenses, and for more serious clouding, a sandpaper kit and spray lubricant.
To start, just use some masking tape to protect the paint around the lens, then apply the lens compound to the headlight with a cotton cloth, making sure to push firmly. Let it dry for a minute, then use a clean terry cloth to remove the compound and viola! Most yellowed headlights are done.
If your lenses are still cloudy, you’ll need to take the spray lubricant and sandpaper pads out. The pads are numbered 1-4 based on grit level, with 1 being the roughest. Spray the lubricant on the lens and pad #1, then begin scrubbing ONLY the part of the lens that’s still cloudy. Work down to pad #4, then use the lens clarifying compound again. You should see significant improvement and clarity in the lens.
As you can tell, using a restoration kit is much cheaper than replacing the headlight, which costs hundreds of dollars. On some occasions, the lenses will be more damaged than a basic kit like this will be able to repair. In this case, you can use a more comprehensive (and more expensive) kit like the Symtech Headlight Resurfacing Kit or Headlight Magic Restoration Kit. If it’s even worse, you can contact a local headlight restoration company.
Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer Kit worked very well for us, I recommended it to others (actually I ended up selling at least one kit to passers-by when I used it outside.) About One thing to keep in mind with this solution is that the headlight needs UV protection to help prevent it from being further damaged by the sun. This solution does not contain UV inhibitors, so you should use waxes such as Turtle Wax Ice Spray Wax to ensure that your headlights are kept clean. This wax is also very suitable for other parts of the car.
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