How to restore cloudy car headlights
A cheap and effective way to get your lamps gleaming
MOST modern headlights have a polycarbonate plastic cover rather than glass to protect the delicate bulbs and lenses inside. They’re easier and cheaper to shape, lighter and tougher.
Unfortunately, over time the plastic deteriorates – and when it becomes opaque, it can cause a car to fail its MoT.
In such a scenario, replacing a headlight would be a drastic solution. Take my old family car, a Honda Accord Tourer from 2006. A replacement headlight assembly from Honda costs more than £410. Turn to an aftermarket seller such as Euro Car Parts and the light is still nearly £200.
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What’s more, the plastic on the two headlights is unlikely to fade at different rates, so a pair would be needed – giving a £400 bill for generic parts, or more than £800 for the genuine items.
Another possibility is a car valeter, and we found companies offering to do the job for £80-£90 for a pair of lamps.
You can avoid such costs by doing the job yourself, using a headlamp restoration kit.
DIY kits are made by Autoglym, Meguiar’s, Philips, Turtle Wax and T-Cut, among others. Prices start from less than £10 and go not far past £20, so it’s an affordable approach. But do such kits work, and are they easy to use? We put a Philips headlight restoration kit to the test.
Philips headlight restoration kit reviewed
- Rating: ★★★★☆
- Price: £23.29
- Buy one at:Amazon
- More info:Philips
What you get
The Philips headlight restoration kit consists of three small (29ml) bottles, containing cleaning fluid, polish and sealant, all necessary application paper, three types of sandpaper (600, 1500 and 2000-grit) and a pair of latex gloves. It’s enough to clean two headlights.
Is it easy to do?
Anyone can do this, in less than an hour. All you need is some masking tape for cars, to ensure that when sanding the plastic covers, you don’t scratch the paintwork of the bonnet, bumper or wing.
First, you clean the plastic covers with the cleaning fluid and paper provided. Then you rub the cover with 600 sandpaper, if the surface is very pitted, followed by the 1,500 and then the 2,000-grit paper.
Then you clean it and apply a water-based treatment, and finally you apply a shine restorer fluid, which helps protect the plastic from sunlight.
As you can see, the headlight covers were turning opaque, with a haze that was obscuring the light beam.
The plastic is almost like new. However, the sealant left very fine swirl marks.
We found using a DIY headlight restoration kit such as this Philips package is an easy way to bring headlamps back to life, giving optimum performance and ensuring they don’t make a car fail its MoT.