The Best Headlight Restoration Kits
Amazon.com prices as of 2018-11-20 at 00:23 UTC Details
Dirty, yellow, oxidised headlights are one of my pet peeves. Not only do they reduce your visibility at night, but they just look awful. So, if your headlights need a bit of TLC, then go check out the best headlight restoration kit that I think you can buy today, the 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System
What are the Benefits Of using A Headlight Restoration Kit?
A headlight restoration kit includes everything that you need to safely and easily restore your headlights to factory condition. These kits include specially selected sanding pads, polishes and sealants that won't cause any major damage to the plastic on your headlights.
So what do you need to restore a headlight then? Usually, you'll need to sand away the damaged surface. Then you'll need to polish away any imperfections left by the sanding process and restore the smooth natural shine of the plastic.It's also important to seal the headlight surface to help protect it from the elements.
To do all of this you're going to need the right grade sandpaper, the right grade cutting polish (and pad) and then a plastic sealant to protect the new surface.
If you don't have a garage full of detailing gear, then it's much more convenient to lay down the cash for a kit that has everything in it.
- Save money on materials for the job. You will also save money by not paying a professional to do the restoration for you.
- Restoring your headlights is much cheaper than replacing them.
- Increase the effectiveness of your headlights. Cloudy, yellow headlights block a lot of the light from the bulbs. Resurfacing them fixes this and allows for a longer, brighter headlight beam.
- Brighter, cleaner headlights make it easier to see when driving at night.
- Clean headlights can also increase the re-sale value of your car. After all, nobody wants to buy a secondhand car with old yellow headlights!
5 Tips for getting the best results
When you buy a headlight restoration kit, you usually get everything in the box that you need to get the job done quickly and effectively. After-all, that's why you bought the kit and didn't just use some toothpaste and a rag!
To help you get the best results, here are five tips to keep in mind, before you start the job.
- Take Your Time - You've probably read elsewhere that these kits save you time, and they do, but that doesn't mean you should rush the job. If it takes a day to complete, then take a day! Complete all of the steps in sequence and don't rush the sanding part, this is the key to the quality of the final results.
- Use Masking Tape - If you are using a power drill or polisher, it's going to get messy. Make sure to tape off surrounding rubber and plastic trim. These can easily be damaged by the heat from a polishing pad. Not all kits come with masking tape, so if you are buying some make sure to use a good quality tape like the 3M Performance Masking Tape
- Start Rough and move to fine sanding discs (sandpaper) - The hard work is removing the oxidation and any other lens damage. To do this effectively, and to end up with a smooth finish you'll need to work through a few grades of sandpaper. In my experience, you'll need to go as low as 500 grit to get rid of heavy oxidation. Then gradually work your way up to 2,500-3,000 grit for a fine finish.
- Use Plenty of Lubricant - If you have any experience using a car polisher, then you'll know that excessive heat is what causes damage. One of the most important things to remember is to use plenty of lubricant when sanding ( water will do). Apply a few squirts from a spray bottle between each pass to be safe. The water acts as a lubricant, keeping the sanding disc moist and it also helps to carry away any grit from the surface of the headlight.
- Apply Sealant - Once the job is done, the best way to protect the headlights from future damage is to apply a UV sealant.
Best headlight Restoration Kit Reviews
1. 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System
Best Headlight Restoration Kit
This 3M headlight restoration kit is one of the most capable kits for restoring your headlights to factory condition. Within this range from 3M, there are a few options to choose from. This particular one, is the cheapest of the range, but still contains most of what you'll need to get the job done.
In the box, you'll find sanding discs, a foam polishing pad, some 3M headlight polish and a backing plate that fits most drills. It can take a couple of hours to complete the restoration, so it's a good idea to use a corded power drill. Most cordless drills won't provide enough power to sand both lights. If you have one, you could also use a car polisher for the job.
To use this kit, you'll also need to have some masking tape and a spray bottle of clean water. It's important that you mask off the paint and rubber seals around the lights so they don't get damaged when sanding. The water is used to keep the sanding discs moist and clean so they don't burn the plastic surface.
There are three grades of sanding discs included in this kit, 500, 800 and 3000 grit. I found that these are capable of sanding away fairly heavy yellowing and oxidation. Just be prepared to take your time, start with the 500 grit and use plenty of water between each pass. I found that I had to do a couple of passes on each light before I could see white dust on the sanding disc (white dust means you are sanding clean plastic). I think a lower grit disc to start with would have helped a lot. Something like a 220 grit.
After sanding, you then use the polishing pad and polish to buff up each light. The polish is applied using the foam polishing pad. I can't fault the quality of the pad or polish.
Overall this is a great kit that can deal with heavily clouded lights easily .My two criticisms are that the masking tape is not included, and the bottle of polish is ridiculously small. If you are handy with a car polisher, you may have some finishing polish lying around, and this will do the job too.
There are more expensive versions of this kit available, that include tape and a protectant sealant, but I don't think they are worth the extra expense and it's cheaper to buy them separately.
2. Meguiar's G3000 Heavy Duty Headlight Restoration Kit
Amazon.com prices as of 2018-11-19 at 18:43 UTC Details
Runner Up Headlight Restoration Kit
I'm a big fan of Meguiar's detailing products. Whether it's a polish or a trim cleaner you're after, they will always have an option to choose from. This Meguiar's headlight restoration kit features a simple three step system for bringing old, worn out looking headlights back to life.
When it comes to restoring headlights, you need to be careful. You can damage the clear plastic fairly easily if you just go at it with the wrong polishing disc, or too much gusto with an electric drill or polisher.
I've done lots of sets of headlights over the years, and in most cases I've needed to combine a few grades of sand paper, with the power of a drill polisher to see good results.
. You start off with a 1000 grit sanding disc that will remove oxidation and ground in dirt. Then a 3000 grit disc will remove any remaining dirt, and will even out any marks left behind.
Once you're done sanding, you can then go at it with the polishing pad and the Plast X polish. I found that this step also removes light scratches and buffs up the light. You can use the Plast X with a microfibre towel and some elbow grease if you want. However, in my experience, unless you are removing some very light clouding, you are not going to be able to achieve 'like new' results without using some sort of drill or car polisher. I found the wool buffing pad is a lot coarser than a standard foam polishing pad. This means it's easier to heat up and damage the surface. So make sure you use plenty of water and don't hold the drill in one spot for too long.
The last step of the process involves adding the headlight protectant to protect the surface of the light from UV oxidation. Not all kits include this protectant, and to be honest I'm not sure if it's worth the extra expense. I find that even treated headlights become cloudy again after a year or so. Since it's included, there's no harm in applying it anyway.
The protectant is applied using the microfibre cloth included with the kit. This is the easiest part of the process. Just pour a small amount onto the cloth and apply it to the headlight in a straight up and down motion until the light is completely covered. You need to let this stuff dry, so keep you car off the road for a few hours afterwards.
You can also use this kit on other clear plastics in the car such as rear tail lights and instrument clusters. I've heard of guys using this kit on motorcycle windscreens too. It took me about 50 minutes to complete the sanding part of the job and there is easily enough polish to do 2 to 3 sets of headlights.
Overall it's a great kit, with only a few negatives. I think Meguiar's could do with including a few more grades of wet and dry sandpaper. I've often gone as low as 220 grit with headlights that are really bad. I struggled a bit here with the 1000 grit. I had to spend a lot longer on this step than if I had used a 500 or 220 grit sandpaper. The other downside is that you'll also need some automotive masking tape to protect the paint and rubber surrounding the headlights.
Apart from these two things, I think if you are a fan of Meguiar's products then you won't be disappointed with this headlight restoration kit.
3. Mothers 07251 NuLens Headlight Renewal Kit
Best Professional Kit
The Mothers headlight renewal kit is another quality restoration kit from another popular name in car detailing. Mothers are very popular among car detailing enthusiasts because of their huge range of innovative polishing products. I'm a big fan of their Powerball and PowerCone metal polishing products. They're great for polishing chrome wheels and trim.
This kit is similar to the others available. In the box you'll find a 3 inch backing plate, sanding discs, a specially designed power ball polisher for lights and some polish. Again, you'll need to supply the power drill, masking tape and water.
The process is the same as with other kits. Included are two 800 grit, two 1500 grit and one 3000 grit sanding discs. Just like the other kits out there, I think a lower grit disc should be included for really bad lights. In my case, the 800 grit was fine and it took about an hour to complete the sanding with all three grades.
The part of this kit that I really like is the Powerball polishing pad. It works the same as any other foam polishing pad. The difference here is that it is shaped like a cone, and made up of lots of foam fingers. This gives you more foam surface to work with, and it won't clog up as easily as a regular foam pad. Once you start polishing the headlight surface with this pad, you'll see the difference straight away. It only takes a few minutes to clear away the cloudiness and bring up a really deep shine.
Overall, there isn't much between this kit and the two from 3M and Meguiar's. I really like the polishing pad design, and it will give you the same results as other more expensive kits.
4. SYLVANIA Headlight Restoration Kit
Amazon.com prices as of 2018-11-20 at 00:23 UTC Details
Most Highly Rated Kit
This kit is a little different form the others here. Sylvania is not known for it's car detailing products. The reason I decided to take a look at this kit is because of the huge number of positive reviews it receives.
For this kit, you don't need a drill and Sylvania include some masking off tape in the box. The tape itself isn't the best quality, so I'd still recommend buying a good quality tape like the 3M automotive performance tape
Before you begin the process of sanding, there is a surface activator liquid that you need to apply to each headlight. This helps to remove the factory surface coating on most headlights, and makes them easier to sand by hand. Yes that's right, you need to sand by hand with this kit. I'm not a fan of sanding by hand, it's wet, messy and hard work. You do get a pair of disposable gloves with this kit and a 400 grit sandpaper to start with.
The sanding process is the same as with other kits. Work your way up through the three grits, using plenty of water and occasionally wiping down the headlight with paper towel. The sanding part takes a lot longer than if you were using a drill. You also need to be careful that you don't create too many swirl marks with the lower grit sandpaper, otherwise you'll spend half the day trying to sand them out.
Once you're done sanding, you then apply what Sylvania call a clarifying compound. It's actually a white polish with bits of grit in it, like a coarse polish. This is used to remove the any clouding left behind from polishing. Again, I'd prefer to use a polishing disc and pad for this step.
The final step with this kit is to apply the UV protector. The instructions state that it takes 4 to 6 hours to cure, so no driving your car for the rest of the day!
Overall, this kit does a good job at restoring old headlights and it gets plenty of great reviews online. I prefer the other kits on the market that make use of a drill and proper polishing pads and compounds. Maybe I'm lazy, but I don't want to spend my day sanding headlights. It's not the cheapest kit out there either, but it does provide everything you'll need to get the job done. I think it would be well suited to people that don't normally clean or polish their car as it includes everything you need with great instructions too.
5. Turtle Wax 50764 Drill-Based Headlight Restorer Kit
Amazon.com prices as of 2018-11-20 at 00:23 UTC Details
Best Budget Kit
Turtle Wax are very popular and make some great car cleaning products and waxes. I'm a big fan of their Power Out range of interior cleaners.
Their headlight restoration kit is in my opinion, a fairly good kit. It utilises a drill powered sanding system combined with a polish and protectant that are applied by hand. They also make a "no drill" version of the kit that is half the price of most kits out there. The downside is you have to use some elbow grease. I prefer this version of the kit as I'm not a fan of breaking a sweat!
In the drill-based headlight restorer kit you get a drill adapter for the sanding discs that are 1500, 2400 and 3600 grit. There's no polishing pad but they do include a small bottle of clarifying compound. They also include four wet wipes, two base coat wipes and two finishing coat wipes.
The restoration process follows similar steps to other kits. Once again, you'll need to supply the masking tape. A lubricating compound is included, but it's only a small bottle, and in my opinion water will do a better job. At 1500 grit, the lowest grit sanding disc isn't very coarse. You'll need to spend longer rubbing away at more oxidized headlights, and use plenty of lubrication. I really don't understand why they can't include a 400 or even 800 grit sanding disc, for really bad headlights.
After sanding, the clarifying compound is used to remove the surface clouding left by the sanding discs. You'll need to apply a fair bit of pressure to get good results. I think a polishing pad and drill would make this step a lot easier.Once the headlight is looking a bit shinier, the wet wipes are used. These apply a base coat to the sanded headlight and a protective coat to keep it looking new.
I think this kit is more suited to lightly damaged or yellowed headlights. The sanding discs just aren't up to the job of removing heavy scratches or pitting. The clarifying compound is applied by hand, and again this isn't going to remove any heavy scratches or pitting.
All in all, this kit isn't the worst out there. It's not going to be the best at restoring really cloudy or damaged headlights. I'd be more inclined to recommend it for newer cars, where you would use it to maintain headlights that are in alright condition.
What Causes Headlight Oxidation?
Headlights are made from a porous polycarbonate plastic and are coated with a UV protective finish. The protective coating can wear away over time or can be damaged by road debris, leaving the plastic exposed and susceptible to contaminants.
One of the main causes of oxidation is exposure to UV light. The plastic reacts with the UV radiation, causing it to turn yellow and cloudy in appearance.
Another source of oxidation is exposure to chemicals from the road and the atmosphere. Contaminants on the roads include salt and other de-icing chemicals, tar residue, fuel, rubber particles from tyres and exhaust particles, especially diesel exhaust particles.
Exposed headlights are also vulnerable to the effects of chemicals in rain and snow. Acid rain can have a detrimental effect on the plastic headlight coating, causing it to turn yellow and opaque.
How Do You Use A Headlight Restoration Kit?