How to Restore Acrylic Headlight Lenses

Written by hugh patterson
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How to Restore Acrylic Headlight Lenses
Headlights are most effective when their acrylic cover is clean and clear. (headlights image by jimcox40 from

One of the most vulnerable areas on a car or motorcycle is the front end, and the front end contains one of the most important safety features on all vehicles: the headlights. The bulb inside the headlight is protected by a clear plastic cover, usually made from acrylic. Acrylic is strong but susceptible to scratching. Every time you drive, small pieces of road debris hit the acrylic lenses. Over time, the lenses lose their clarity due to this scratching. With a few simple tools, you can return them to their original clarity.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Acrylic buffing compound
  • Cotton cloth
  • 2000 grit sandpaper
  • Flashlight
  • Paste wax

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  1. 1

    Remove the headlight lens and examine it with a flashlight. If the acrylic looks foggy, the damage may extend all the way through the plastic. If this is the case, the fogging cannot be buffed out. If the surface is clear except for scratching, the acrylic can be buffed.

    How to Restore Acrylic Headlight Lenses
    An acrylic lens can be easily restored. (sports car headlight image by MAXFX from
  2. 2

    Run your fingernail over the scratches to determine their depth. If the scratches are deep enough to catch a fingernail on, sand them down with 2000 grit sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Squeeze a small amount of buffing compound on a 100-percent cotton rag. Work the polishing compound into the scratch and around it. Working the polishing compound only along the scratch will create a divot that will distort light shining through the lens. Most acrylic buffing compounds will remove the scratch without dulling the surface finish. Once the scratches are buffed out, lightly polish the entire surface of the headlight cover to even out the finish.

  4. 4

    Finish the treatment by polishing the acrylic with a paste wax. This will add an extra layer of protection that will keep tiny particles of road debris from damaging the surface. Replace the cover and the job is done.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to remove the headlight lens before beginning work to avoid damaging the area around it. Acrylic polishing compounds contain an abrasive that can easily remove lacquer and paint. You can use a cotton washcloth or T-shirt, or a microfiber cloth, in place of a polishing cloth. Add water to the sandpaper to lubricate it and increase its effectiveness while sanding.
  • Be careful to avoid getting buffing compound in your eyes. Do not use chemicals such as acetone or alcohol on acrylic--both can cause permanent damage. Do not use sandpaper under 2000 grit because it will remove too much material when sanding out the scratches.

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