How to clear up hazed headlights

Written by james rutter
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How to clear up hazed headlights
Use products made to clean the headlights without damaging the lens. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Most cars made after 1990 use plastic headlight lenses instead of glass, which manufacturers phased out in the previous decade. Plastic lenses provide cost and replacement advantages, however, unlike glass, they tend to corrode and haze over. Even if you garage your car, exposure to ultraviolet light, salt and pollution can cause the plastic to fog up and even yellow. Hazed headlights restrict the amount of light transmitted by your headlamps at night and during inclement weather, and can lead to reduced visibility.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 600 grain sandpaper
  • Glass cleaner
  • Polishing compound
  • Sander with buffer attachment, OR
  • Drill with buffer attachment
  • Cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Paste car wax

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  1. 1

    Outline your entire headlight with masking tape by cutting the tape into strips and laying it along the edges of the headlight, though not on the plastic headlight itself. This step will prevent you from accidentally sanding the paint off your car or getting the lens cleaner onto your bonnet or bumper.

  2. 2

    Soak your 1200-grain sandpaper in water. Spray the headlight with glass cleaner.

  3. 3

    Remove the outer layer of corrosion and dead plastic on the headlight by applying the sandpaper to the surface of the headlight in a circular motion. Continue spraying glass cleaner on the headlight as you scrape away the corroded outer layer of the headlamp. Repeat this process until the headlight looks clearer but still opaque.

  4. 4

    Affix the buffer attachment to your drill or sander. Squirt some polish onto the headlamp and rub it across the entire surface with the cloth.

  5. 5

    Remove the corrosion with the buffer. Keep the buffer wheel at a 90-degree angle to the headlight. Put your drill or buffer on a lower speed if possible; if not, spin the drill at staggered speeds so that it doesn't generate heat that would melt the plastic headlight cover.

  6. 6

    Repeat Step 5 if necessary to remove any remaining grime or corrosion. Wipe away any remaining polishing compound with a clean cloth.

  7. 7

    Apply paste car wax to the headlight cover. Rub it into the plastic headlight cover evenly. The wax will provide a layer of protection against acid rain, corrosion and dirt.

  8. 8

    Remove the masking tape from around your headlight. Repeat this entire process for your other headlamp.

Tips and warnings

  • Use car or metal detailing polishes, such as Autosol, 3M Rubbing compound or Jewelers Rouge polishing compound.

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