How to restore your car's headlights to their former glory

How to restore your car's headlights to their former glory

Keeping your headlights crystal clear is both an often under appreciated aspect of maintaining a sleek appearance, and an important safety aspect. 

Over time your headlights can become yellowed and foggy, which is a result of relentless exposure to UV rays from the sun, dirt and road grime. This can significantly undermine the brightness of your lights and the look of your vehicle.

The Chemical Guys product range includes specialist headlight cleaning products and everything you need to restore your headlights. 

Understanding headlight oxidation and discoloration

As with all exterior surfaces on your car your headlights are constantly exposed to the elements. Specifically in the case of headlights, the primary reason why they begin yellowing and fogging is due to oxidation. This is natural process that is accelerated by exposure to UV light from the sun. 

Over time the protective hard coat on your headlight lenses breaks down which allows oxygen and moisture to get direct access to the plastic. This results in a dull yellow appearance which not only undermines your effectiveness of your headlights, it does nothing for the appearance.

In addition to oxidation, exposure to road salts, dirt, gravel and other road debris also contributes to discoloration and scratching of headlight surfaces. 

Understanding these issues is the first step towards restoration. With the right products and approach you can reverse these effects.

Gather essential products and tools for your headlight restoration

Before you begin a detailing session we always recommend gathering the necessary cleaning products together. This way you have everything you need on hand and make the whole process a lot smoother.

In the case of headlight restoration, the Chemical Guys range has everything you need to get started. 

Headlight Restorer & Protectant

The key product in our range for removing oxidation and sealing headlights against future yellowing is Headlight Restorer & Protectant. This product works by gently polishing the headlights surface without damaging the underlying material. It also leaves behind a protective layer that shields the headlights from the sun.

Hex Logic Applicator Pads

These applicator pads are perfect for applying the headlight restorer. Using them you'll easily achieve an even application across the surface to both boost the effectiveness and ensure you don't miss any spots.

VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover

In the event that your headlights have deeper scratches that headlight restorer won't deal with, then scratch and swirl remover will at least help to reduce their appearance. It's designed to work on minor scratches and swirl marks to further boost your headlights clarity. 

Microfibre towels

You'll need at least a couple of microfibre towels for both buffing after products have been applied, or wiping off excess.

Again, like most detailing jobs we'd also advise you avoid cleaning your headlights in direct sunlight. This is to avoid your products drying out too quickly and potentially causing reflections that reduces your visibility.

How to restore your headlights

Firstly, it's important your headlights are clean. If you've just cleaned your car you could go a step further and use a car glass cleaner to fully prepare the surface for restoration. 

Here's to how effectively use the headlight restorer to bring back clarity to your headlights:

1. Apply headlight restorer

Shake the bottle well and apply a small amount to your applicator pad. Glide the applicator across the surface ensuring complete coverage. Work on one headlight and a time so you stay in control of the drying process.

2. Buff the surface

Using a little more pressure, buff the product into the surface using a circular motion. Give specific focus to the worst areas where you should see the fine abrasives within the product gently polish the yellowed layer away.

3. Allow to dry

Leave the product to rest on the surface for a few minutes. This time is crucial for the added protection as it allows the protective elements to bond with the plastic surface. 

4. Wipe and inspect

Using a clean microfibre towel to gently wipe away the remaining product. If there are still areas of oxidation you may want to repeat the application process. If you're satisfied then give the surface a final buff to enhance the shine.

Common headlight restoration questions

1. What causes headlights to become foggy or yellowed?

Car headlights become foggy or yellow due to oxidation caused by constant exposure to UV rays from the sun, along with the build up of dirt from the road.

2. How often should you use headlight restorer?

The amount you use it very much depends on the condition of your headlights. Unless you drive in a particularly harsh or sunny environment (i.e. not the UK) then applying once or twice per year should be sufficient.

3. Do I need special tools for headlight restoration?

No special tools are required, although you do need some basic items such as applicator pads and microfibre towels. You may also choose to wear gloves for added protection.

4. What if my restoration doesn't remove all the scratches or oxidation?

This is where a deeper polish is required with VSS Scratch & Swirl Remove. If you team this product up with a polishing machine, you'll achieve professional grade results.


Back to blog