8 Ways To Restore Headlights

Tired of looking at those those ugly, cloudy headlight lenses on your car or truck? Over time the headlight lenses become cloudy because of sunlight exposure, dirt/grime that builds up on them, and scratches from daily driving. Leaving them like that not only looks bad it decreases the brightness of the light leaving your headlights, thus making it more difficult for other drivers to see your car on the road during the day and night.

This is your chance to learn how to restore headlights on your car and transform the front of your car into something that looks a lot better without spending a lot of money. Forget about buying a new headlight housing assembly or lenses, that could cost you way to much money. Whether you decide to purchase a headlight restoration kit or use some household items you won’t be spending a lot of money.

Luckily, you do have options for getting those headlights clean again. Let me know which headlight restoration method you choose and how well it worked. Also, I’m trying to make this list as comprehensive as possible so if you know a way to restore headlights let me know.

Headlight Restoration Methods

1. Headlight Restoration Kit (semi-long term solution)

Let’s start with a semi-long term method for restoring headlights. If you plan on keeping your car or have a show car you should buy a headlight restoration kit or go down to #8 for another long term solution. These kits come with everything you need to sand and polish your headlights to like new condition. Also, Popular Mechanics tested and rated several headlight restoration kits to see which one delivers the best shine. Link to their test results here.

Here are a few headlight restoration kits that are reasonably priced and have good reviews  :

Here is a video demonstrating how to use the headlight restoration kit. This is for a Meguiars kit but all brands generally have similar directions.

2. Clear Plastic Cleaner and Headlight Polish

Using a clear plastic cleaner and headlight polish will cost you less than a headlight restoration kit, but not much less. If you do go this route make sure you read, and follow, the directions of the cleaner and polish. Using a cleaner and polish is also a temporary fix, don’t count on the lenses being clear for as long as they would using a restoration kit. The positive though is that you will get more polish than you would in a kit which can be used for more faded clear plastic on your car. Meguirs and 3M are a couple of the cleaners and polishes you might consider. Prices vary but are usually between $5.00 and $14.00. McKee’s All In One Headlight Restoring Polish comes highly recommended.

3. Insect Repellent (with DEET)

That’s right, insect repellent to clean headlights. Apparently for this to clean foggy headlights the insect spray has to have DEET in it. Warning: This is an easy way to clean auto headlight lenses but you should never spray the insect repellent directly onto the headlight lenses and avoid having the insect repellent drip onto your paint. Be sure to first spray the repellent onto a towel or rag first and then rub it onto the lenses.

This is an excellent video by Chris Fix demonstrating the correct way to clean headlights with insect spray.


4. Toothpaste (paste, not gel)

Another option to restore clouded headlights is to use toothpaste, but be sure that it is a paste and not a gel. Apparently the paste is more abrasive and does a much better job at cleaning the headlight lenses. Also, if your headlights are particularly cloudy you might need to apply the toothpaste more than one time and rub it in a little harder.

Check out the video below by Chris Fix demonstrating how to clean your headlight lenses with toothpaste.

5. WD-40

Pretty simple, add WD-40 to a rag or cloth and rub it into the headlight lenses. Seems like a temporary fix though, once the WD-40 washes off it’s back to the clouded lenses. Might be ok if you are cleaning up your car before selling it though.


6.Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste

More of a long term solution to clear up foggy headlights due to the minor abrasiveness of the baking soda. Won’t be as effective as using sand paper but will get you better results than WD40 or vinegar.

Bonus: In this video a woman in a bikini demonstrates how to clean a headlight with a vinegar and baking soda paste. The most entertaining part of the video is at 5:10.

7. Denatured Alcohol

Wash your headlight lenses and apply some denatured alcohol for a quick fix. Put some of the denatured alcohol on a rag and rub it in until the headlights are clear again.  Probably not a long term solution but will make the faded headlights look much better with little effort.


8. Sandpaper and Gloss Clear (long term solution)

Using sandpaper and Gloss Clear is a long term solution for cloudy headlights. This is the right way to restore faded headlight lenses. The sandpaper basically removes a layer of plastic from the lenses and then you spray on the Gloss Clear which is non-yellowing and UV resistant. This means those clear headlights will stay clear for a long time.

The video below, by Chris Fix, demonstrates the process correctly.

Here is the Gloss Clear spray that he used in the video

Let me know which method you used to restore your car headlights or let us know about another method that you have tried.

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