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Engine & Transmission Tips • Issue 18

Restore Hazy Headlights

Like A Pro

You Can Restore And Protect Your Hazy Headlights Yourself

uth headlights b a 1Here is a DIY (do it yourself) project that is very satisfying and will save you a ton of money over having a bodyshop do the same work.

First, understand that all plastic headlights will eventually lose their shine, turning hazy, foggy, and even yellowing.

When a car rolls off the assembly line, the headlights are sprayed with a UV protectant coating. Unfortunately, that coating will eventually break down, usually at the five-year mark.

This degradation is caused by the sun’s UV rays. It’s also happening the car’s paint and other plastic surfaces.

But headlights are a poly carbonate plastic. It is very hard, but unprotected, it with etch from the elements leaving that unsightly hazy appearance. Worse, that haze greatly impedes the functionality of headlights changing the refraction of the beams, diffusing and dimming their performance.

Luckily restoring the brand-new shine to headlights is a satisfying DIY project that can take as few as ten minutes to about two hours.

uth headlight handAs there are varying degrees of headlight plastic breakdown, there are varying restoration processes.

The short list goes like this:

If the headlight is just starting to get hazy, you can hand-rub an all-in-one headlight restorer product like Rain-X Headlight Restorer, to bring the headlight back to a passable shine. This is a short-term fix, but looks great for that first date.

If the headlight is moderately foggy, using an automotive compound with a drill and polishing pad with achieve the same results as hand rubbing, but faster, and more aggressively. Applying a headlight UV protectant is highly recommended to prolong the headlight shine.

uth headlight drillA really bad headlight should be sanded, compound polished, and have a UV protectant applied in the following process:

  1. Clean the headlight surface removing obvious debris like road dirt and bug splatter.
  2. Tape off the perimeter of the headlight lens to protect the car’s adjacent paint and plastics.
  3. Wet sand the headlight repeatedly with progressively finer grits of sand paper: 800, 1500, 3000.
  4. Polish the headlight with a liquid compound.
  5. Apply a UV protectant coating.

Many headlight restoration kits containing all the tools you need to bring your headlights back to like-new condition are available in auto-part stores and online.

Fraser Engine Company has done significant research and can confidently recommend the following:

uth headlight splitFor really light fogging – Rain-X Headlight Restorer is a simple, ten-minute, elbow-grease product that yields passable results that will last a few months.

For more problematic headlights – There are two products that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest: 3M’s Ultra Headlight Restoration Kit for $16.00, makes excellent use of any drill; and TurtleWax’ Headlight Lens Restorer kit, for $18.00, which is entirely applied by-hand.

3M’s kit includes masking tape, gloves, sanding and polishing discs, a drill-attachment, and headlight clear coat.

TurtleWax’s kit includes a special spray and compound used in conjunction with sanding and polishing pads, as well as a two-step lens base-coat wipe and sealing wipe.

In a “money-is-no-object” world, we would use the drill attachment and discs from the 3M kit, and the spray and compound from the TurtleWax kit.

But more importantly, we would use a separate UV protectant called Cerakote Ceramic Nanoglass Coating on the headlights. As, space-aged as it sounds, while the coatings in the kits above may give you a year before the headlight plastic is vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays again, this $20 ceramic coating is guaranteed by the manufacturer for as long as you own your car!

On a side note, PLEASE do not use WD-40, which is basically a coating of oil; or toothpaste, which is just a terrible polishing compound alternative; or any other household products to restore your headlights. Stick with the professional tools and products and you’ll get professional results at a fraction of paying someone else to do it.


Fraser Engine Rebuilders specializes in remanufactured engines. Any diagnostic computers in your car will operate exactly the same with our products. Visit our home page to find the right engine, if yours is ready to retire. They’re less expensive than you might think and come in different options and warranties!

Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!