One the most discussed topics of auto detailing forums and video social media sites today are headlight restorations. Headlight Restoration is such a hot topic these days because dull, faded and cloudy headlights affect all makes and models of cars including luxury, economy, both foreign and domestics alike.
How do headlights become cloudy?
Modern headlight covers are made of hard plastics called polycarbonate plastic. While polycarbonate plastics are very strong, they are also naturally porous. Car manufacturers cover headlights with a protective film but given the fact it is exposed to heat from the bulb, UV rays from constant exposure to the sun and harsh chemicals that come up off the road, the film eventually fades and becomes oxidized, which gives the headlights the foggy look.
You have foggy headlights, so what are your options?
Since the cost of replacing your headlights can be cost prohibitive we'll leave that box unchecked. What about restoring your headlights? Performing a Headlight Restoration is a much more economical solution. If you were to do a quick Internet search on Headlight Restorations you'd find a lot of information and/or products from many different companies as well as tips and tricks from shade tree enthusiasts to professional detailers on the best way to achieve headlight clarity. Some of that information may be useful and a lot of it is simply garbage. For the sake of this discussion we'll skip over all the home-remedy restoration gimmicks such as toothpaste, bug spray and other miracle creams and focus on the professional & DIY level headlight restoration kits available.
Which headlight restoration kit should I choose?
Choosing the right headlight restoration kit depends on you a few factors:
- How severe the damage is to the headlights.
- Your skill level and how comfortable you are will general tools.
- How you plan to maintain your car after you the headlight restoration is performed.
How cloudy are your headlights? The best way to determine the level of damage to your headlights is to pull your car into a garage, close the garage door and turn off your car. While in the dark turn on you headlights and check for their brightness on the wall. If a majority of the wall is lit then the damage is considered light to moderate. If minimal light is projected onto the wall the damage is considered severe.
Light to moderately cloudy headlights are often easily restored by a do-it-yourself-er with the use of a quality headlight restoration kit. Most "light duty" headlight restoration kits contain light abrasives to "level" the lens defects (oxidation, pitting, scratches) and restore clarity as well as a resin epoxy sealer to "fill-in" microscopic scratches and protect the lens cover from UV-rays, chemicals and heat damage. Some of these DIY kits only require basic knowledge of how to use a common power drill, while others require no special tools at all.
Heavily oxidized and pitted lens may require a lot more elbow grease and technical knowledge to properly refinish back to factory finish. DIY'ers should be well versed in techniques of multi-stage "wet-sanding" and use of a machine polisher and compounds & polish before tackling a project like this. Due to chances of increasing damage to headlights we recommend seeking a certified & trained professional to handle heavily damaged lens.
Thinking about restoring your headlights yourself? Check out these pictures of a 2005 Toyota 4-Runner with cloudy headlights in which we used the EZ-1 Headlight Kit to restore in only a few steps:
Here's the 2005 Toyota 4-Runner, the headlights were moderately hazed. The hazy headlights really degraded he appearance from the otherwise good condition vehicle.
Step 1: We cracked open the EZ1 Headlight Restoration Kit and found that it had ALL the necessary instructions and tools needed to perform the job. The kit comes with a great 1-year Warranty that guarantees the restored headlights will not re-haze or fog up. again.
The kit is a "tools free" application process meaning that it includes everything needed to get the job done. Here's a pic of the two primary items needed to "remove" the lens damage. The bottle contains EZ1 "Diamond Dust" which is the patented compound abrasive used to remove all the oxidation and level the lens surface. We used the green applicator pad to "scrub" the Diamond Dust onto the lens surface.
Step 2: The directions called for applying a liberal amount of the EZ1 Headlight Diamond Dust to EACH headlight at the same time. As you can see we NEARLY added the hole bottle to the headlights. Be sure to keep a small of product just in case reapplication is needed. Although the excess product rolled onto the painted surface of the bumper, the directions ensured us that it was totally safe on the OEM paint, it cleaned off nicely with a water-dampened microfiber towel. That's why we didn't bother taping up the surrounding areas of the headlights. This saved us a lot of time and expense!
Step 3: Using the included Green Scrubbing Applicator Tool and a fair amount of pressure, we worked the EZ1 Diamond Dust onto the lens until the all the product was evenly coated over the surface. Be sure to thoroughly work the product over the most damaged areas. There were several "hot spots" on the 4-Runners headlights that we gave extra attention to ensure all the damage was removed.
Here's what the headlight lenses looked like after EZ1 Diamond Dust was applied. As per the instructions, we allowed the EZ1 Diamond Dust to dry on the surface of one of the headlights while we applied it to the other headlight.
Step 4: After the Diamond Dust cured on the surface we used the supplied alcohol style wipes to remove all the EZ1 Diamond Dust from the lens covers and surrounding trim. This is an important step as the entire surface has to be squeaky clean prior the final clear coating application step. This is also the time where close inspection must be done to fully insure that all the oxidation and other defects have been removed. Because the final clear coat application is semi-permanent, you DO NOT want proceed to the final step until both lenses are satisfactorily corrected. If there still problem areas use the remaining EZ1 Diamond Dust to re-do steps 2 & 3 on the hot spots.
Step 5: After removing the EZ1 Diamond Dust residue with the alcohol wipe cloths and double checking to make sure the headlights were as defect free as possible we proceeded onto the final step of restoring clarity and protecting the lenses from future damage. Step 5 is quite simply the most crucial and rewarding part of the EZ1 Headlight Restoration Kit. We followed the directions and opened the small bottle of lens clear coating protectant and poured it into the supplied plastic cup. We then dipped the supplied clear coat applicator sponge into the cup of clear coat product. We applied the clear coat to the lens using smooth uninterrupted stokes following the lateral contouring of the lenses with just enough pressure to keep the sponge in contact with the lens surface.
It was important to double check our results of the first headlights we coated before we moved onto the second headlight. This gave us the opportunity to learn from the first application process and to get a feeling of how to better apply the remaining product to the last headlight. The directions recommended allowing the product to completely dry for 30 minutes before touching and 24 hrs before getting them wet. The instructions also cautioned about trying tor re-correct any mistakes after the product has cured as it will cause the coating to streak or become thick in spots. Luckily we have some experience with applying coatings and headed that caution to the fullest extent!
The Reveal: After the headlights were restored using the EZ1 Headlight Restoration Kit, years suddenly vanished away from the 4-Runners appearance. It took us just under 1-hour to complete this job and we probably take a novice only a few minutes longer. The owner was quite astounded by the results and love the fact that it was fully warrantied for 1-year. We have to give the EZ1 Headlight Restoration Kit the Official DRIVE Auto Appearance Seal of Approval for its ease of application and its "clearly brilliant" results.
After your lens are properly restored it's always best to perform proper routine maintenance to care for them to ensure that oxidation and damage doesn't return. Here's how you do it:
- Avoid automatic car washes!
- Use only shampoos and cleaners designed for cars and avoid using harsh degreasers and abrasive cleaners on headlight lens.
- Always thoroughly dry your car off with a soft microfiber towel after washing it.
- Avoid washing your car (and headlights) in the heat of the day or with headlights on.
- Remove bugs and bird poop stains on headlights in a timely manner.
CLICK HERE to purchase the EZ1 Headlight Restoration Kit and fix your foggy headlights fast!