Oxidized headlamps are not only unsightly; they’re dangerous, too. After years of sunlight and acid rain these plastic headlights turn a pasty yellow hue and slowly begin to lose their transparency, thus reducing their ability to shed light on the road ahead. The fix is much easier than we all might think.
3M’s Headlight Restoration Kit involves a technique similar to that used by autobody paint shops, called color sanding. With multiple stages of wet sanding the headlight, getting finer and finer as you go and finishing it up with a bit of polishing compound, the end result is a near new headlamp. Nighttime vision is increased and you get a better-looking front end from about an hour of work.
01. 3M’s Headlight Restoration Kit includes four sanding pads with different grits, an applicator, and a rubbing compound. It’s plenty of product to do at least two headlights.
02. Start by cleaning the headlight with soap and water, then tape off any areas not to be polished. The sanding process requires the use of water for lubrication, so make sure to have a small tub filled with clean H2O and use it frequently. Using removable sanding pads with a Velcro backing, the applicator is made of a sponge-like material that holds extra water to ensure proper lubrication.
03. The first sanding step is with an aggressive 500-grit pad. The idea is to use this to sand through the layer of oxidation down to a clean layer of plastic. After this step the polishing process uses three progressively finer sanding pads. After each step we cleaned the lamp off to remove any large clumps of sanded headlight material that could potentially scratch the newly polished surface. Once we were done sanding with the final 3,000-grit pad we flipped the applicator over and hit the headlight with a little rubbing compound.