Four Things to Know About Headlight Restoration
Headlight lenses get dull over time, which makes your vehicle less attractive, but more importantly, it jeopardizes your safety by decreasing visibility when you drive at night. Headlights take a lot of wear and tear from dust, debris, atmospheric chemicals and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, so they require maintenance at least once every few years, depending on driving conditions. Some types of damage, like cracks and chips, may necessitate replacement of the headlight assembly, but most foggy headlights can be returned to like-new condition with professional headlight restoration.
Maybe you’re considering a do-it-yourself restoration and wondering how the results will compare to a professional job. Before you buy that kit or spray that insect repellent, here are four things you should know:
1. Pro Headlight Restoration Improves Driving Safety
We tend to take our headlights for granted, as long as light keeps coming out of them. Even for those of us who faithfully check the fluids, top off the tires, and wash and wax the body, headlights require so little maintenance that we tend to forget about them altogether. But headlight lenses are engineered to give you the best possible view of potential hazards when you drive at night, and any dullness in the finish changes the amount—and dispersion—of light on the road, making it harder to see pedestrians, animals, vehicles and other objects. Because foggy lenses reduce light transmission, your vehicle is also less visible to oncoming traffic at a distance.
Headlights are made of high-tech plastics that last for years and are safer than glass, overall, but plastic is subject to cloudiness and discoloration from radiation, chemicals and abrasives in the atmosphere, so it requires special care. Professional restorers use polishes and cleaners specifically designed for these materials, achieving optimal results without harming the lens or surrounding materials.
2. Headlight Restoration is Inexpensive
We tend to associate big price tags with auto repair, and too often, it’s true. Headlight restoration doesn’t fall into that category. It costs about $40 for each lens. Compare that to a replacement cost of $250 to $700 for a single headlight assembly, and restoration becomes a no-brainer.
While it can be tempting to cut corners and do the job yourself, professionals use custom-designed tools and professional grade products, providing a better looking, longer lasting result for only a few dollars more than the cost of a do-it-yourself kit. Which brings us to…
3. It Should Be Done Professionally
Sometimes the best tools and techniques make all the difference, and this is one of those times. You may have read about “home remedies” for headlight polishing, but some of these chemicals harm paint, gaskets and trim components around the headlight. Many people use insect repellent to restore headlights without realizing that they are damaging the surface of the lens. Unlike polishes, this method chemically melts the headlight lens so that when you polish it with a cloth or paper towel, you’re actually rubbing the molten plastic into a smoother finish—very bad. And because the surface of the headlights is chemically softened, it will attract even more particles and impurities, which usually make the finish look dull again within a few days. Toothpaste polishing is another popular do-it-yourself method, but this type of abrasive is not specified for lens material (which is much softer than tooth enamel), and it can prematurely wear down the surface, shortening lens life.
Professional restoration products and methods polish the plastic with micro-fine abrasives designed to bring the lenses back to a glass-like finish without unnecessary wear or chemical degradation to the plastic.
4. Professional Restoration Lasts Longer
Professional restorers finish the job by applying a UV-resistant clear coat on the polished lens that keeps harmful ultraviolet rays from discoloring the plastic, like sunscreen for headlights. And by using the right products and methods, professional restorers avoid damage to seals, chrome and the lens itself.
As with a complete auto detail service, headlight restoration can make a dramatic difference in the appearance (and functionality) of your headlights. At $40, it’s some of the best money you’ll ever spend on your vehicle investment.