How to clean plastic headlights

How to clean plastic headlights

How to restore plastic headlight covers

Plastic headlight covers will become yellow over time due to sun exposure. They will also endure some scratches due to debris assaulting them during normal driving conditions. The plastic lenses are there to protect the bulb and they do so effectively. The problem with taking all this road abuse is that, over time, the yellowing of the plastic covers will prevent the light from the bulbs to diffuse properly when you need them the most. Night time driving can be a nightmare if your headlights are not illuminating the road ahead of you properly. For safety reasons and driving comfort, there are two options that can be employed to restore the headlights to their proper state. One is to buy expensive replacement covers, and the other is to clean the covers with a restoration kit. The second option is economical and works well for most people.


Step 1

Determine the problem

Do the easiest thing first, which also happens to be free, and determine if soil and debris has made its way inside the cover. It that is the case, simply remove the cover and wash them with Dawn dishwashing liquid. It is a degreaser and won’t scratch your covers any further. If the yellowing and scratches are determined to be on the outside, go to the next step.

Step 2

Get a restoration kit (Plastix)

If you have already tried using Windex on the outside of the covers and they are still discolored but clean, you want to get a cleaning kit that comes with a buffing wheel that attaches to your regular power drill. You could also buy the liquid bottle separately but the amount of elbow grease you are going to have to put into the job may not be worth your time and effort since the full kit is fairly inexpensive. Meguiar’s G1900K Headlight and Clear Plastic Restoration Kit include all you need to buff and polish the plastic. Some people prefer the 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System. The fact is that both systems cost less than $20.00 and the replacement covers run in the hundreds of dollars. Polishing the lenses is a much more affordable alternative. A more expensive product (video shown below) is Diamondite Plastic Headlight Lens Restoration System, it costs around $60.00. The video shown at the end of the steps is a great tutorial regardless of the product you choose to purchase.

Step 3

Prepare the surface

Tape around your headlights and make sure that surrounding painted areas are covered. If you go over the tape boundaries you won’t damage your paint job. Make sure you cover the rubberized portions in between the body of the car and the lens cover. This step is crucial to protect the surrounding areas and have a final product you can be proud of.

Step 4

Just do it!

Make sure the car is not in the sun while you do this job. Sun is your enemy in this case. Ideally, you can work inside a garage or in a shaded area. Follow the instructions on whatever product you decided to buy. Be patient and methodical. Do a small portion at a time and watch the lenses become clearer as your drill buffs away the yellow discoloration and fills some small surface scratches. Once you are done with the wheel, use the included microfiber towel to buff and shine the lenses. Most products will restore the lenses between 80-90% clarity

3M™ Headlight Lens Restoration System

Plastic lenses can yellow with age, reducing headlight brightness, and new lenses can be expensive. The 3M™ Headlight Lens Restoration System lets you shine and restore plastic lenses, including headlights, taillights, fog and directional lights. Now you can produce professional results with the 3M™ Headlight Lens Restoration System and a household drill (1200-1600 rpm). Buy Direct from 3M at: Or also available at your local Autozone retail location.

You will Need
• A drill (preferably cordless and fully charged)
• Masking tape or painter’s tape
• A lens cover restoration kit
• A shaded place to work
• Time
• Patience

Tips & Warnings
• Do not work in direct sunlight
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely
• Work in small sections and pay special attention to «staying within the lines». This is the boundary you created with tape.
• Depending on the product, you may have to re-apply anywhere between six weeks to six months
• Remember that visibility increases your safety and the safety of others.


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