We may have the best headlights but if the lenses are unclean, they would offer resistance to the beam that your headlights put out. Headlight cleaning isn’t rocket science. You can even clean them with toothpaste. Rub toothpaste into the cover using a toothbrush. Keep rubbing until you feel and see the lens getting cleaner. Spray warm water onto the lens and wipe away the toothpaste with a cloth. For a deeper clean use a rotary buffer to apply the toothpaste. This simple and basic method is great for cleaning superficial dirt but if the surface itself is affected, there are more effective methods to increase your lens clarity.
Most headlight lenses are made of polycarbonate plastic, a strong compound ideal for taking on the hostile driving conditions without cracking. Nevertheless, direct sunlight over time causes oxidation in plastics. For initial protection, manufacturers coat the lenses with a UV protective film however, over time this film wears out exposing the plastic to oxidize.
If you observe a haze or your lenses have become yellowish, it’s a clear indication that the oxidation has started. A headlight restoration kit is all you need. It includes different grits of wet/dry sandpaper (1000, 2000, and 3000 grit are typically safe bets), polishing compound, paste wax, and a UV sealant. A spool of blue painter’s tape and microfiber towels form a part of your kit.
To get your LED headlights clean first wash of the lenses and the surrounding areas thoroughly with car soap and water. This way the tape will adhere securely during the following step. Tape off the headlights exposing only the lenses. This way you sand polish only the lenses and not the surrounding paint or trim. Use the painter’s tape to completely mask the headlight and protect the rest of the car. If your hand accidentally slips and you would run rough sandpaper over the painter’s tape. The underlying surface remains protected.
Sand polishing is the pivotal step in lens resurfacing. The process remains the same whether you purchase a kit or just loose materials. Start with the most abrasive sandpaper grit you have. If you have 1000, 2000, and 3000, pick the 1000 grit. In sand paper, the lower the number means more abrasive the paper. Wet the sandpaper and the lens. Sand the lens in straight, unidirectional and horizontal strokes. Make sure that the surface remains wet throughout this operation otherwise you could badly scratch the lens due to grit particle buildup. Your final result would depend upon how long and well you perform this task.
Repeat the same process using the less abrasive sandpapers. Move on to the 2000 and then finally the 3000 grit. The only difference this time would be the direction of the strokes. Since you have used the horizontal direction for the 1000 grit polishing, sand diagonally across the headlight for the 2000 grit polishing. Finally, for the 3000 grit polishing, your strokes should be in the opposite diagonal motion of that of the 2000 grit. That is the one you have done previously. Take your time and make sure that the paper and lens remain wet with water throughout the process. Once done you would observe a marked difference in appearance and performance. Using these simple tips you can make your headlights look new!