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Headlight Restoration Guide

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Once the factory UV coating has worn off the plastic lenses of your headlights, they'll start to haze over and yellow. Store bought headlight restoration kits provide means to remove the oxidation, but nothing to protect the lenses from UV after you're done... this is why the results don't last and you have to keep buying more kits. The method outlined in this thread will restore the lenses and then provide long lasting protection from UV, years of clarity as opposed to a few months.


Supplies and tools:

400 through 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper

Bucket o' water

Meguiars M105 compound (or equivalent)

Meguiars M205 polish (or equivalent)

Foam pads, one light cutting and one polishing

Microfiber towels

Isopropyl alcohol

Mineral spirits

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, clear gloss

Heat gun (optional, faster cure time)





I removed some 5+ year old rockblocker film. It left a thick adhesive residue behind, which required removal with a plastic razor and 3M adhesive remover on a rag. This photo was taken after cleaning it up.




500 grit wetsand

I soaked all my sandpaper in a bucket of soapy water and started wetsanding. Remove any scratches, pitting, and remaining factory UV coating in this step.




800, 1000. 1500, and 2000 grit wetsand

Pretty self explanatory. Work the headlight progressing through finer and finer grits, until you hit a minimum of 1500 grit. M105 can handle removal of 1500 grit scratches, but I prefer to hit it with 2000 grit for a better finish.




M105 and a light cutting pad

In this step, I used a Lake Country light cutting pad with Meguiars M105 compound. This removes the scratches from wetsanding and gives the light clarity again. M105 leaves its own swirls and haze, so follow it up with a less aggressive polish and pad.




M205 and a polishing pad

This step removes the haze left behind by the M105, leaving a glass-like surface. After this step, wipe the headlight with isopropyl alcohol to remove any contaminants or oils left on the surface. The lens is now ready for coating.




Mix Helmsman Spar Urethane and mineral spirits 50/50

You don't need much, I could do two sets of headlights with 30ml.




Urethane mixture applied

Fold a clean dry microfiber OR blue shop towel so you have a 1 inch square. Dip it in the mixture and apply the coating using overlapping vertical strokes, then overlapping horizontal strokes. The coating will self level, but watch for air bubbles, runs, and contaminants. If you mess up, mineral spirits are your friend. You can use a heat gun to speed up cure time, and apply as many coats as you like.




Finished headlights



Another before/after example



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wow that looks great. I've used 800 grit sandpaper and polishing compound and thought it came out good, but yours look 10 times better. I'll try again and also use your coating method.

This is perfect timing; I was just about to start on my daughters Bronco headlights.

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I've seen a lot of posts lately where people are using headlight kits, so I figured I'd share my method.


This spar urethane is as good as it gets without making a large investment into UV cured coatings, you can generally get 2 years out of it. Do at least three coats, any less and the longevity drops off.


I'm very excited about a new product from Optimum Polymer Technologies. They're releasing a new coating for plastic headlight lenses, similar to opticoat but with UV inhibitors and acrylic for added flexibility to account for temperature changes. 3-5 minute cure time, easier application. If it's as good as Opticoat, it will be my new coating for lights.

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Good write up. Professionally here they use car clear coat from a spray gun. They do 400, 800 and then two coats of clear. No buffing as the buffing makes the surface too smooth for the clear to adhere. It comes out crystal clear with UV protection. I have done it a few times myself.



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Glad you guys are getting some use out of this. I cringe every time I go past a subaru with messed up headlights. The rest of the car could be beyond perfect, and the headlights would still ruin it for me. :p


Ideally I'd be using one of the pro coatings that is cured by UV lamps, since they meet/exceed OEM UV coating specs... that's a larger investment in the lamps and the product though. $50+ per can and anywhere from 150-250 for the UV lamp. This method is great for guys like us who want relatively long lasting results, easy application, quick cure time, and low cost.


If you guys are looking for an accurate way to measure the urethane and MS, grab a 10cc syringe from a drug store. Much better than eyeballing it or trying to use a measuring cup. I had a bunch lying around for measuring film developer, came in handy for this.

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I recently did my fogs and headlights. The HL were actually in good shape no yellowing just a little bit of hazing on the right HLs top. The fogs were more beat up. I tried the Urethane on the fogs first to get used to coating them and I couldn't get the Urethane to not create air bubbles. After a few times trying and retrying I left the last coat and didn't apply urethane to my HL. Since they weren't bad and I wax my car a lot I should be ok. I have a buddy that does auto body and if it turns for the worst ill have him clear coat them. I used the 3M kit and they are so clear now I want some HIDs. LOL.
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You might have been wiping it on too fast if you were getting air bubbles. Slow down the movement, no pressure...just drag it across the surface. One horizontal stroke on a light the size of a 1 piece Legacy headlight takes me a little over two seconds... can't rush.
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I've just started this Process on my Gen4 Headlights, Will post results. I've just finsihed wetsanding 800grit. already looking better. Mine were fading hard. Australian Sun is harsh !!
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my new GT has an additional problem. the lenses are pretty clear, but someone before put on some lexan looking shields. they are peeling off on the edges so it looks like crap, and im betting there will be a ton of adhesive residue left. im hoping i can even clean these suckers to do a restore on them.
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