If you notice a marked decline in the performance of your vehicle’s headlights, a hazy film over the lenses is likely to blame. Even the highest performance bulbs cannot penetrate the seemingly permanent fog that spreads across modern polycarbonate headlight lenses. Once this yellow fogginess develops, you must either refinish or replace your headlights to resolve the issue. Otherwise, poor visibility could detract from your ability to safely pilot your vehicle around town. To help you out with this project, here is a comprehensive guide on effectively restoring and protecting your headlights.
What Causes Headlights to Glaze Over?
To resolve breakage and weight issues, vehicle manufacturers switched from glass headlight lenses to ones made from polycarbonate plastic. The change improved the durability of automotive headlight lenses, with one small problem – haziness caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Car manufacturers try to prevent this issue by applying a high-quality clearcoat at the factory, but it tends to quickly wear away. This is especially true for vehicles that are stored outside, directly exposed to the elements.
Furthermore, the porous nature of polycarbonate often works against its durability by allowing chemicals on the roadway to penetrate its surface. These harsh substances can rapidly accelerate the yellowing of your vehicle’s headlight lenses. Thankfully, despite its deep opaque appearance, the yellow haze only tends to affect the first few layers on the surface of the plastic lenses. Therefore, you can easily buff the surface of your headlight lenses to restore their clear appearance once again.
How to Reverse Hazy Headlight Fog
- Dry and Touch-Up Buffing
- Prep for Clearcoat with Tape
- Apply Clearcoat
What You Need to Reverse Hazy Headlights
Before you can remove the hazy fog on your headlight lenses, you must thoroughly wash and dry your vehicle to remove road grime and debris. You will also need to gather the following materials:
- Automotive low-tack masking tape
- Ultra-fine 400 and 2,000 grit sandpaper
- 90 percent rubbing alcohol
Step 1: Buff
Once your vehicle is fully dry, tape off around each headlight using the automotive low-tack masking tape. Cut a 3×3” square of 400 grit sandpaper and wet it thoroughly with water. You will need to hand buff the headlight evenly to remove the yellow surface material. You will also notice that your buffing efforts help remove pits and scratches that can impact the performance of your headlights. Once you are satisfied with the initial results, wet the 2,000 grit sandpaper and use it to fully smooth out the lens surface.
Step 2: Dry and Touch Up Buffing
Take your time to confirm that your sanding efforts are creating an even finish on the surface of the lenses. You may need to dry off your lenses and stand to the side to see the surface clearly. Reapply water to your sandpaper before returning to the sanding process and always end with the finest grit you have on hand.
Step 3: Prep for Clearcoat with Tape
At this point, your headlight should look practically brand new, but it will not stay that way without a couple new layers of clearcoat. You will need to prep the body of your vehicle a little bit more to keep from getting clearcoat on your paint. Tape newspaper over the edges of the tape around the headlight and secure to create about two feet of coverage on every side.
Step 4: Apply Clearcoat
Wipe down the headlight with 90 percent rubbing alcohol poured on a dry rag. Wait about ten minutes, and then spray a thin layer of clearcoat over the lenses. Wait 10 more minutes and reapply the clearcoat one last time. Once you are finished, you will need to immediately unmask your vehicle to keep the tape from adhering to the paint.
Eventually Replacement is Your Only Option
You can reverse headlight haziness just once or twice before you must replace the plastic lenses altogether. Sanding away too much material over time can leave your lenses brittle and prone to breakage. Therefore, you should use this technique sparingly to keep your headlight lenses clear and functional.
If you notice your headlight lenses yellowing far quicker than normal, talk to your auto body professional about applying a layer of vinyl to protect the lenses. Not all vehicles are eligible for this service, as the vinyl can trap heat in certain housings.
If you have already completed the restoration process in the past, however, your headlights may just need to be replaced by an auto body professional. You can also talk with your auto body repair expert about maintenance tasks that can keep headlight yellowing at bay for the long term. Prevention is key in keeping headlight lenses from developing hazy surface layers.
Headlight Fade and Haze Prevention
If you act before haziness starts to develop on the surface of your headlights, it is possible to slow or prevent this issue altogether. For starters, you can use protective products to help retain the factory clearcoat on your lenses for much longer than normal. You simply apply the protective coating to your lenses on a monthly basis to reduce damage caused by UV exposure. Ask for product recommendations from your auto body professional to find one that performs the best.
Acquire Assistance from Your Trusted Auto Body Experts
If you would prefer to leave these important tasks to the pros, partner with our team of auto body experts at Badell’s Collision. We will help you keep your vehicle in excellent condition by performing key auto body maintenance and repair services. When you come to us, you can trust that you will always receive the best quality of service and support from our team.
With locations in Aston and Malvern, we’re prepared to provide you with exceptional service no matter what kind of damage your car has endured. Stop by one of our shops or use our simple online estimate form.