Old, cloudy headlights can make your car look dated and poorly maintained. It can also be a safety hazard, since you won't be getting as much light through the lenses, which leads to decreased visibility. Before purchasing new headlights, try cleaning up your old ones. The following guide can help.


  • Headlight restoration kit

  • Electrical tape

  • Latex gloves, or latex-free equivalent

  • Rags

Headlight restoration kits can be found at auto part and accessory stores. They contain all the compounds necessary to clean the headlight.

Step 1: Tape off the lights

You will need to tape off the edges of the lights with the electrical tape so that the restoration compounds do not get on the paint. These compounds can damage paint, so this is a very important step. Electrical tape works well because it stays in place, but the adhesive also comes off the car easily and without paint damage.

Step 2: Apply the sanding compound

Depending on the kit, you will either be provided with an abrasive compound and a pad to apply it, or with a sanding pad that you wet down before use. Rub the compound on the pad and then onto the headlight in a back and forth motion. This will remove the pitting and discoloration that is present on the surface of the headlight lens. Most kits provide several pads that go from coarse to fine, so make sure you are starting with the right pad per the kit's instructions. Repeat for both headlights and then rinse off the compound.

Step 3: Use the lubricant and pad

Some kits contain a lubricant, which is applied after the sanding compound. Coat the lens completely with the lubricant and then use the mildly abrasive pad in the kit or a rag to rub it into the lens cover. This step removes some of the remaining pits and discoloration, while forcing the clear lubricant into deeper pits to effectively fill them in.

Step 4: Add the clear coat

Most kits come with a final coat that is designed to seal the headlights so they don't suffer sun discoloration as quickly. It also protects them against dirt. Application methods vary. You may either need to spray it on or rub it on with a rag. Once this is done, you can remove the electrical tape and enjoy the look of the new headlights.

If a restoration kit didn't make your lens covers like new, it may be time to purchase new headlights. Contact an auto parts store like Parts Max to find the lights that fit your make and model of vehicle.