How to Buff Out Scratches on Car Headlights

Written by kevin ann reinhart
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How to Buff Out Scratches on Car Headlights
Scratched headlights can be easily restored. (car headlights image by Kho Guan Ann from

Car headlights used to be built with glass and were easily broken. Since 1990, most headlights have been built with a clear, resilient plastic called polycarbonate. This material resists impact but can scratch due to sand and grit abrasion. Replacement headlights can be costly, as many are available only in full assembly kits rather than in individual parts. Fortunately, there is an easy, cost-effective way to restore scratched headlights rather than replacing them. Polishing kits are available from your local auto parts store.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Safety glasses
  • Portable drill
  • Masking tape
  • Scratch remover
  • Spray plastic cleaner and protectant
  • Cutting foam pad
  • Finishing foam pad
  • Microfiber wiping cloth
  • Hook and loop plate with drill shank

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  1. 1

    Cover the area surrounding the headlight with masking tape. This will prevent paint damage when using the buffing equipment.

    How to Buff Out Scratches on Car Headlights
    Masking tape will protect the paint job of your car during the buffing process. (blue painters tape image by Jim Mills from
  2. 2

    Put on safety glasses. Attach the hook and loop backing plate to your drill and tighten the chuck. Attach the foam cutting pad to the backing plate. Apply the creamy scratch remover to the foam cutting pad. Turn on your drill and press the pad against the lens. Polish left to right and up and down using the edge of the pad to get into the edges and corners of the lens. Polish for thirty seconds. Turn off the drill.

    How to Buff Out Scratches on Car Headlights
    A polishing hook and loop backing plate is available for attachment to your electric drill. (Powerful electric drill on a white background image by terex from
  3. 3

    Wipe the lens with the microfiber cloth. If the scratch remains, repeat the polishing process.

  4. 4

    Apply the spray plastic cleaner and protectant to the lens. Allow to dry. This will help to protect your car's headlights against future scratching. For best results, avoid getting your headlights wet for 24 hours.

Tips and warnings

  • Drills have variable speeds. The optimum speed for polishing is 1500 to 2000rpm. For a cordless drill, use the highest speed; for an electric drill, use the lowest speed.
  • Work in a well-lit, well-ventilated area protected from the wind.

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