Four Things to Know About Headlight Restoration

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.

Four Things to Know About Headlight Restoration - Image of a restored headlight

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.

Image of a headlight being restored

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…

Image of a restored Chrysler 300 headlight

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.

Image of a man restoring a headlight with a buffing tool

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.

Photos of a Chevy Colorado with it's headlights restored

Top Five Reasons To Pay for Professional Auto Detailing

Top Five Reasons To Pay for Professional Auto Detailing

Everyone loves the look and smell of a new car, but we often forget that we can reclaim that feeling with professional auto detailing. A professional auto detailing team doesn’t just wash, wax and vacuum; they use specialized tools, products and processes to bring your vehicle as close to like-new condition as it can get.

But is it worth the money, compared to doing it yourself? Although you should certainly maintain your vehicle’s appearance if you like driving a nice vehicle, people are frequently amazed when they see the results of professional detailing. So, yeah, if you want to feel really good about your ride, you should have this done professionally from time to time. Here are the top five reasons so many drivers choose to invest the money and make their rides look truly awesome.

Top Five Reasons To Pay for Professional Auto Detailing - Image of a Chevy Colorado

1. Your Car Gets the Best Treatment Technology Can Offer

With the best tools, chemicals and techniques available—and a professional crew—your car gets more than a clean-up; it’s more like the royal treatment. And some of the things the pros do, you simply can’t do at home without investing in specialized equipment. A professional auto detail job includes the removal of odors, stains and chemicals that build up in the interior and on your paint over time—and even minor mars in the paint job. Detailers go over everything, inside and out, from roof to tires.

2. No Grain of Dirt is Left Unturned

If you’ve put on your “detailing hat” on a Saturday and decided to go over your vehicle with a fine-tooth comb, you know how big the job can get. If you don’t practice these skills a lot (as the pros do), a two-hour job can easily turn into a five- or six-hour job, and you may still be dissatisfied with the results. The fact is: vehicles collect dirt, a LOT of dirt, in the most inconvenient places, inside and out.

2017 Chrysler 300 Interior Auto Detailing

Life happens, and dogs, kids, activities, traveling and everything in between can leave their marks. With professional interior detailing, you can expect to see old stains vanish from the carpet, floor mats and upholstery, and it’s more than “skin-deep.” Pros can also remove odors caused by tobacco, food, mildew, gunk, spills, and even pet waste. They’ll use special tools to deep-dust your vents, console, dashboard and compartments, then apply protective coatings to all, hard interior surfaces, which helps maintain the value of the vehicle.

For soft surfaces, detailers apply a waterproof polymer shield that protects seats, mats and carpets from future stains. So the next time someone spills a drink, this chemical shield will make it easy to wipe up and move on, so that “new-car feeling” stays intact for a long time to come. If you have leather interior, different chemicals are used, but they achieve the same results.

2017 Chrysler 300 Exterior Auto Detailing

On the exterior of the vehicle, professional crews will remove spots, water deposits and chemical buildup that are difficult to treat at home. Trace amounts of harmful chemicals and pollutants embed themselves in auto paint over time, and professional treatment can lift these chemicals from the microscopic grain of the finish. Many people are not aware that professional detailers can even remove small dings and scratches in the paint, a treatment that’s hard to equal when you do the job yourself.

Wheels and tires are deep-cleaned and coated with a protective shield, as well. You can choose a matte or gloss finish for the tires.

Detailers can also clean your engine, which makes it easier to track fluid leaks. The final step is to wash and wax the vehicle to keep it looking great for weeks or months to come.

Newer Ford Explorer getting detailed

3. It’s Convenient and Affordable

Timing is usually pretty reliable when you schedule your car in for detailing because the pros do this all the time, and they know how long the processes take. If you’re scheduled from 1-2:30 p.m., you can typically plan the rest of your schedule around that slot.

Prices vary depending on which services you need, but complete interior detailing usually runs around $100, and same for exterior detailing. You may save money when you opt for both (at APR, complete auto detail service runs $185 for interior plus exterior). No, it’s not a drop in the bucket for most of us, but when you consider that your vehicle will look great for a long time, it’s a good investment. It also helps preserve the value of your car or truck by protecting interior and exterior surfaces from spills, spots, UV radiation and chemical corrosion.

While many types of minor blemishes in your paint job can be quickly “polished” away during the exterior detailing process, others may require more significant measures, like paintless dent repair or even minor collision repair. Be sure to ask shop staff which ones fall under the detailing category when you take the vehicle in, so you’ll know what to expect.

Newer Ford Explorer detailed up close polished view

Headlight detailing is usually considered an optional service, but it puts the final polish on your car and makes an even more dramatic overall difference.

4. Pros Have the Process Down

Every vehicle is different, and each model has its own collection of tight nooks and crannies that are difficult to clean. A professional auto detail service means the technicians will find spots you didn’t even know needed cleaning—or simply don’t have the tools or techniques to reach effectively.

This is where experience and knowledge come in, especially with unusual vehicle models. Pros know how to take on tinted windows, as well as custom interior materials and layouts. You may not know best product to use on colored leather or what spray and towel to use on your tinted windows, but they do.

Exterior detailing processes are intricate, when professionals do the job. For example, they’ll monitor precise drying times of various protectants to maximize their effectiveness. They’ll use a clay bar to lift harsh chemicals that build up in paint at the microscopic level—without harming the finish. They’ll even use a special water storage system to keep wash water clean, so no old dirt abrades the paint.

Cadillac auto detailed up close polished view

Even the exterior drying process is important; professional crews use proven methods to make sure there are no water spots on the vehicle after washing it.

5. You’ll Get That “New-Car Feeling” Back

For most people, the biggest reason to let the pros do it is that the results are often eye-popping. Most drivers get used to the build-up of dust, stains and odors over time because they happen so gradually, and you forget how great it felt the first time you got into the vehicle. A professional detailing shop can take you back to that magic moment—or at least as close to it as possible.

Cadillac auto detailed full polished view

How Much Should Auto Body Repair Cost?

How Much Should Auto Body Repair Cost?

It’s a very bad feeling when your car is damaged. Whether it’s a frightening collision, a fender bender or a windshield ding, it can make you a little queasy to see your ride less beautiful. And then there’s the oh-my-God moment of panic when you think, “How much is this going to cost?” Body repair can be expensive. Sometimes it can be surprisingly cheap. Sometimes it makes sense to file an insurance claim, while other times you may come out ahead by paying out of pocket to keep your monthly insurance payments down. While you’re biting your nails waiting for an estimate, here’s an overview of the types of damage you may have, and what to expect for an auto body repair cost.

Windshield damage

Windshield repair vs. replacement costs

Windshield damage comes in two varieties: very inexpensive and moderately expensive. Small windshield cracks and chips may cost as little as $50. More widespread damage requires windshield replacement, which averages $150 – $200 for most common vehicle models, but the price can go up to several hundred dollars for rare and expensive models.

Only small, minor windshield damage can be repaired, while anything else has to be replaced. Here’s a breakdown of the types that can be repaired, as long as the damage isn’t in the driver’s direct line of sight:

  • Small diameter chips, dings and pits
  • Bulls eyes
  • Star cracks
  • Rock chips an inch in diameter or less
  • Cracks up to 12″ long
Photos of various types of minor windshield cracks

Anything worse than these types of damage—or even small damage near the edge of the glass, and you may need a replacement windshield. But when windshield repair is an option, it’s the way to go.

Alloy wheel damage cost

Alloy wheels add style and distinction to your vehicle’s appearance. They look beautiful until you brush up against a curb; then they really show the damage. But are alloy wheels worth repairing? Yes. An average allow wheel cost is $50 to $150, so it’s well worth it, compared to the average price tag for a wheel replacement.

There are different ways to go about wheel repair, including do-it-yourself options. It’s usually best to steer clear of do-it-yourself wheel repair kits. They are nothing like the equipment and techniques used by professionals. If you want it to look new again, it’s worth the extra money to take it to an alloy wheel repair shop. The craft of wheel repair requires training and practice, and a good technician also understands paints, coatings and finish textures—essential skills for a like-new result. A good alloy wheel repair shop uses precision tools and quality control systems that can’t be matched with a DIY kit.

Not all shops are created equal, for that matter, in terms of both equipment and expertise. Check reviews for alloy wheel repair shops in Wichita before you commit to a shop. Visit a couple and see how their equipment compares. Ask to look at some of their current work. Can they answer all your questions? Do they seem customer-service driven? If they’re not friendly and responsive now, there is no reason to expect that they will be if you have a problem with the work later.

Bumper and panel damage

If your auto body damage is limited to a bumper or single panel, you may get off pretty light. Average cost is $250, not a drop in the bucket, but still in a cost range that may justify paying out of pocket when compared to a monthly insurance premium increase.

Minor dings and dents

The key word here is “minor,” which means your damage includes no creased metal or significant paint damage. In these cases, paintless dent repair and paint touch-ups offer excellent low-cost options.

Paintless dent repair (PDR)

PDR is a great, low-cost option for minor damage in which there are no breaks in the paint and no creased metal. PDR technicians don’t need the expensive equipment used for more serious collision repair. They have a sort of car “sculpture kit,” filled with tools that gently remove minor dents without damaging paint. On the average, PDR work costs $50 to $120 per dent, depending on size. This technique is often effective for hail damage, but can be prohibitively expensive with too many dents.

Paintless dent repair is almost always preferable to other repair methods when it’s an option. Because PDR doesn’t damage paint, your original finish is left intact, which means you won’t run the risk of uneven paint fades over time.

Auto paint shop prices

Large-scale paint jobs can be expensive, but small areas that just need “touching up” can be very affordable, ranging from $65 to $200 – $300.

The big paint jobs can get more expensive, depending on the extent of the damage. A single stage paint job to freshen your vehicle’s look can cost between $600 and $2,000 for full vehicle coverage, depending on paint color and vehicle type. For more severe paint damage, the same job may range from $800 to $4,000. A total, multi-stage re-paint for an average vehicle may run as high as $5,000. Any body work needed will add to these costs.

Minor collision repair

If you have damage to the vehicle’s engine or frame, move on to the next section Engine and frame damage. This section covers minor collision repair, which is far more affordable. Here’s what you should expect to pay:

  • Fenders – $75
  • Mirrors – $100
  • Hood – $150
  • Bumper – $325

Many people choose to pay minor collision repairs out of pocket. As mentioned before, if your insurance premiums go up as a result of a claim, you may end up spending more than the repair cost over the next year or two.

Engine and frame damage

These are the bad accidents, when the vehicle looks mangled, fluids are leaking out onto the ground, and hopefully everyone is okay. They are not cheap, and it usually makes sense to file an insurance claim, as the repairs may run into the thousands of dollars. If the repair cost plus the salvage value of the car exceeds 75 percent (in Kansas; 60 percent in Oklahoma) of the vehicle’s actual cash value, your insurance adjustor will declare the car totaled. You’ll receive a cash payout, but the vehicle will be sent to salvage.

How Much Should Auto Body Repair Cost?

Insurance will usually pay for the majority of your repair costs, but it doesn’t always make sense to go through the insurance company. Minor dings, dents and paint chips can be repaired for as little as $65. If you have a $100 or $200 deductible, there’s no point in running it through insurance; it will only drive up your rates. The same is true of moderate repair costs. As a theoretical example: if your insurance company pays $300 for a repair, but increases your rates over the next three years, you may end up paying more than $300 in the long run. It depends on the circumstances that caused the damage, your driving record, and your particular coverage.

Some shops specialize in out-of-pocket repairs, working efficiently to keep costs very low. To learn more, call APR at (316) 262-8888.