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How to Restore a Headlight Reflector

Updated February 21, 2017

The headlight reflectors inside your vehicle headlight assembly amplify the brightness of your headlight bulbs. If foggy and dull, however, the headlight reflectors will not function properly. Although the best restoration method is to have a professional replate the reflectors, you can partially restore the reflectors at home with an imitation polish. The results will be less bright than a full restoration, but will significantly improve the performance. Expect a do-it-yourself restoration for both headlight assemblies to take you a full afternoon.

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  1. Turn off your vehicle. Prop open the bonnet.

  2. Unplug the two wiring harnesses on the rear of the headlight assembly. Pull off the rubber shroud from the rear of the headlight assembly.

  3. Put on latex gloves. Disengage the metal retaining clips, securing the headlight bulbs, by pressing the clips inward. Pull out the low and high beam headlight bulbs.

  4. Remove the headlight assembly from the front end of your vehicle. The exact process for removing the headlight assembly varies by make and model of the vehicle, but the procedure requires removing any visible bolts from the headlight assembly with your socket wrench set. Lift the headlight assembly off the mounting bracket. If it does not come off, remove the turn-signal assembly, the grille and the bumper. Remove any additional bolts you discover that continue to secure the headlight assembly to the bracket.

  5. Set the headlight assembly on your work bench or another flat area. Remove any retaining clips, securing the headlight lens to the headlight assembly. Insert the flat end of a flathead screwdriver between the mating surfaces of the headlight lens and the headlight assembly. Pry the headlight lens off the headlight assembly.

  6. Gently wash the reflector with a soap and water solution from your spray bottle. Pat the surface dry with your towel. Hold the heat gun a few inches away from the surface, and quickly dry the area to ensure there is not leftover moisture.

  7. Apply a small amount of silverplate restoration polish to the terry-cloth towel. Rub the polish onto the headlight reflector, until the entire surface is coated in the restoration polish. Let the surface cure for a few minutes. Rinse it with water, and repeat the drying process.

  8. Apply a bead of silicone caulking to the headlight lens mating surface on the headlight assembly. Press the headlight lens to the mating surface, and tighten the two pieces together with your clamps. Allow the caulk to dry as long as the instructions on the product packaging suggest. Reinstall the headlight assembly with the restored reflectors into the front end of your vehicle, by following the steps of removing the headlight in reverse.

  9. Repeat these steps for the reflectors in the headlight assembly on the other side of the front end of your vehicle.

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Things You'll Need

  • Silverplate restoration polish
  • Terry-cloth towel
  • Socket wrench set
  • Screwdriver
  • Heat gun
  • Silicone caulking
  • Caulking gun
  • Latex gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Towel
  • Spring-loaded clamps

About the Author

Matt Scheer

Matt Scheer began writing professionally in 2005. His work has appeared in "The Daily Texan" and "The New York Tribune." Scheer holds a B.A. in English and a B.A. in history, both from the University of Texas. He is also a certified Yoga teacher and Web designer.

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