Cloudy, yellowed or corroded headlights can be dangerous on the road; Reduced visibility at night and in bad weather often leads to fatal accidents.
Keep in mind that headlights on modern cars are plastic, as opposed to glass. Usually, plastic is more susceptible to damage from the elements and standard wear and tear.
If your headlights are blurry, cloudy or damaged, you have two options: You can either replace the headlights or clean them with an inexpensive headlight restoration kit.
The Best Headlight Restoration Kits
1. SYLVANIA Headlight Restoration Kit
Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit is a market leader and one of the most trusted brands in this category. It’s a favorite among car owners because it’s easy to use, affordable and long-lasting. If you are looking for a headlight restoration kit that guarantees results, then this kit is for you.
The Sylvania kit includes everything you’ll need to breathe new life into your dying headlights. You get the Surface Activator, Clarifying Compound, UV Block Clear Coat, waterproof sandpaper, and even a pair of vinyl gloves. What’s more, the kit comes with a lifetime warranty!
In general, the entire cleaning process can take up to 30 minutes If you are only cleaning your headlights.
To fully remove haze and corrosion, you have to follow three easy steps. First, apply the Activator to soften the plastic. After that, sand off the damage with the three different types of sandpaper. Lastly, apply the UV block to protect your headlights from future sun damage — that’s it!
If you want to clean your tail lights as well, you can. Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit will work on any plastic surface.
2. 3M Headlight Restoration Kit
This heavy-duty headlight cleaner will remove even the toughest signs of oxidation and discoloration. Thus, many satisfied customers say that the 3M Lens Restoration System is of the better options.
To use this kit, you will need a power drill. This particular model requires it, but there are variations of the product that don’t require any additional tools. In general, you have to follow just four easy steps to remove dirt, hazing, or yellowing from the plastic lenses of your headlights.
Because you'll be sanding your headlights with a power drill, be sure to protect the surrounding painted surfaces with some masking tape. However, keep in mind that not all variations of this kit come with it.
Then, sand away the dirt and damage with the different grits of sandpaper included in the kit. Once you’re done, apply the 3M Synthetic Wax Protectant; This will give your headlights a shiny, crystal-clear, and like-new look.
Above all, you will have to use some elbow grease with this kit to get the best results. It takes about half an hour to sand and clean one plastic lens.
3. Meguiar's Headlight Restoration Kit
In a nutshell, Meguiar's cleaning kit will restore optical clarity to cloudy and oxidized headlights quickly and easily.
Even though the manufacturer claims that it takes only one step to clean the headlights, it actually takes two. This product also requires a power drill.
First, you have to sand off the dirt and damage with the provided sanding and finishing pads. Then, you have to use their signature Easy Buff wool pad with the PlastX cleaning solution to polish the lens.
You will need a drill only for the polishing phase. The drill provides the speed required to remove yellowness, cloudiness, and oxidation. So, be sure to use masking tape to protect your car’s paint job.
It’s recommended that you apply Meguiar’s Headlight Protectant after you polish the plastic. However, that solution is not included in the kit — it’s sold separately.
All in all, this is a versatile product that will give you superb results. Additionally, you don’t have to use it only on your headlights or brake lights. Meguiar's kit can clean motorcycle helmet visors and windscreens, boat windows, and other clear plastic surfaces.
Depending on the extent of the damage, it will take you about five or six minutes to clean one plastic lens.
4. Rain-X Headlight Restoration Kit
Rain-X is a powerful all-in-one restoration kit that will improve your visibility and safety on the road. This product has been on the market for about 40 years and is on this list because of its ease of use. Moreover, Rain-X has many loyal customers because its multi-step cleaning process is more effective than single-step kits.
Before you start, be sure to read the instructions carefully. The trick is to use sanding pads when instructed to do so. It’s important not to mix up the order of the pads.
First, you have to clean the headlights with soap and water. Remember to dry them well with a cloth. Then, spray the provided lubricant and polish the lens with the first pad. You will notice Rain-X removing the oxidation covering the lens.
After that, continue with another spray of the lubricant, but this time, use the second pad. At this point, you are removing the cloudy white film. Spray again and use the third pad to polish away the cloudiness.
Finally, it’s time to shine. Use the Headlight Restorer solution to remove the fogginess. After that, wash the plastic lens with water and dry it off. Then, apply the Sealant, and you are ready to hit the road.
5. Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer Kit
This kit is cheap and simple to use — it will take you about five minutes to clean one lens with mild damage. You don’t need a drill or any additional tools to remove light hazing and discoloration. However, if the damage is severe, this kit might not be the right fit for your headlights. Generally, it’s more of a quick fix.
The Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer Kit relies on the concept of wet sanding. That's what sets it apart from other similar products. In particular, this kit comes with three 2400 to 8000 grit restoration pads, a spray lubricant and a lens clarifying compound. For an added layer of protection from future oxidation, you get lens sealing wipes too.
In general, the application process is straightforward. First, you have to clean off the dirt and apply masking tape to protect surrounding painted surfaces. Then, use the Lens Clarifying Compound to remove hazing and yellowness. The Restoration Pads, in combination with the spray lube, will help you remove more persistent stains. Finally, use the Lens Sealing Wipes to add another layer of protection. It’s that simple.
However, keep in mind that you will have to put your back into it if the staining on your headlights is severe. This kit is not regarded as the best because it’s more of a temporary fix. Many customers complain about the kit's ineffectiveness in providing long-lasting results. Still, this is one of the cheapest options available and will work for mild oxidation.
Things to Look for in a Headlight Restoration Kit
Clear and clean headlights are vital for safe driving at night or in wet weather conditions. Headlights are your eyes on the road. If they are blurry, cloudy, or damaged from oxidation, your vision will be impaired, and other drivers will have a hard time seeing you.
Usually, plastic headlights get damaged fairly quickly if you live in an area with a hot and dry climate. Sun damage and road debris are the most common causes of hazy and cloudy headlights.
You can take your car to a car shop and completely replace the damaged headlights. But, why spend hundreds of dollars on replacements when there is a cheaper alternative?
Headlight restoration kits are a great answer to this problem. They are inexpensive and provide long-lasting results. What’s more, they can get you back on the road with headlights that are as good as new within a couple of hours.
How Significant is the Damage on Your Headlights
First, you have to assess the damage on your headlights:
Is the lens completely hazed and foggy that you can’t see the bulbs?
Is the oxidation pretty rough? If so, the best solution for you would be a restoration kit that requires a drill. As a result, you will save yourself the trouble of sanding for an hour.
However, if the damage on your headlights is mild, try some of the less intensive restoration kits. That would actually be a smart move. Be safety-conscious and diligent — don’t let your headlights become severely oxidized.
Restoration kits for mild damage are great for regular maintenance. On top of that, they tend to be cheaper than heavy-duty kits.
What Are the Tool Requirements?
Do your research and read the specifications of each restoration kit carefully. Not every kit is an out-of-the-box product.
In general, all kits come with the essential components for restoring the clarity of the headlights. But, some kits require additional tools such as a drill.
Also, make sure that the kit you choose can handle the job. It’s not uncommon for car owners to complain that they quickly run out of cleaning material. Depending on the extent of the damage, sandpaper pad longevity seems to be the biggest issue.
If you buy a kit that is more on the heavy-duty side, you likely won't have to worry. They are designed to tackle even the toughest stains, and the results are usually long-lasting. Depending on the climate, you’ll be all set for about a year or so.
Which Option is Best for Specific Use Cases?
You always have the option of taking your car to a car shop to clean your headlights. But, if you are willing to tackle the headlight problem yourself, here are some suggestions to point you in the right direction.
1. If you live in a hot and dry climate, you will most definitely need a heavy-duty solution — a kit that requires a drill. The 3M kit is among the favorites for climate related oxidation issues.
2. If you don’t own a drill, but still want that heavy-duty option, try the Sylvania kit. It’s one of the most popular kits on the market.
3. If the damage on your headlights isn't as severe then Turtle Wax kit and the Rain-X kits will get the job done quickly without costing you an arm and a leg.
These two kits don’t require drills and are user-friendly. However, be prepared to use some elbow grease.