How to Repair Gouged & Chipped Polycarbonate Headlight Lenses

Written by steve bradley
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How to Repair Gouged & Chipped Polycarbonate Headlight Lenses
Fix scratches and small chips in headlights with elbow grease and time. (headlight image by Tammy Mobley from

One of the most important safety features on any type of automobile are the headlights. They allow the driver to see in dark or foggy conditions while at the same time allowing oncoming traffic to see the automobile. There are a number of things to check regularly in terms of headlight operation. Are the bulbs working and at full strength? Are the headlights properly aligned? And the often overlooked lens quality. Over time the polycarbonate plastic lenses can become scratched, chipped and gouged. While restoring them to pristine condition may be impossible, they can be improved considerably with just elbow grease and sandpaper.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wet/dry high grit sandpaper
  • Dish washing soap
  • Cotton towels
  • Car wax

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  1. 1

    Remove the lens. First, locate the screws holding the lens onto the headlight assembly. Use the appropriate tool to remove them, usually a Phillips head screwdriver or socket wrench. Place all screws, rubber washers and gaskets in a bucket so that they do not get lost during lens restoration.

  2. 2

    Place the lens on a plastic tarp. Use a strong dish soap and wash the lens vigorously. Once all of the dirt and grime are removed you can begin repairing any surface damage.

  3. 3

    Sand the lens. Start with a 320-grit wet sandpaper. Dip the paper in water and then sand the lens using small circular motions. Be sure to keep the paper wet as you continue to sand focusing on deep scratches or chips. Slowly move up in grits through 800, 1000 and 1500-grit wet sandpaper to refine the plastic creating a smooth finish.

  4. 4

    Rub a layer of thick car wax onto both the inside and outside of the lens with a clean cotton towel. Let wax dry about three minutes and then buff out with a second clean towel. Repeat this process two more times for best results.

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