How to polish car headlights without mistakes at home

Polishing car headlights has several purposes at once. First, such work significantly updates the appearance of the car and makes it look more like new. Such a car with shiny headlights can even try to sell more expensive. Secondly, it is a great opportunity to improve the light permeability of the headlights, providing yourself with a wider viewing angle in the dark time of day.

Preparatory work

Car headlights lose their former transparency over the years, and their glossy sheen eventually turns into a matte surface, discouraging potential buyers of a used car.

There are two ways to restore the shine of your headlights – buy new ones, which for some cars is prohibitively expensive, or polish the old ones. In this case, the procedure can be done by your own forces, saving on a trip to the service a few thousand rubles.

So, for polishing you will need a number of preparations, as well as a few things that you can find in your garage or in the nearest store:

  • paper tape;
  • sandpaper of grit 500, 1500, 2000 and 3000;
  • microfiber cloth;
  • any polishing paste;
  • a container in the form of a bottle with a spray gun;
  • glass cleaner;
  • clean water.

The first step will be to prepare the headlights for polishing, and it is not so much about the lights themselves as about protecting the body. First, you should thoroughly wash the headlight from any contaminants with a lint-free rag and detergent – it must be perfectly clean.

If you can quickly and easily remove the headlight, it is best to do it immediately. If this process is difficult, you can glue the body part of the car along the contour of the headlight close to the element to be polished, after which you should assess its condition. Deep scratches will require the use of sandpaper with a coarse abrasive, less noticeable – with medium or less than medium abrasive.


Usually during manual polishing all the above mentioned types of sandpaper are used, starting with the coarsest grit and finishing with the smallest, hardly visible grit.

Polishing begins with the removal of a thin layer from the plane of the headlight, containing scratches that give the glass a matte finish. You should evenly spray the surface to be treated with water from a spray gun and make smooth hand movements over the entire surface of the headlamp with abrasive paper 500.

At least 5 minutes of time should be given to each type of abrasive, and it is not recommended to rub the sandpaper too hard into the body of the headlight, and provide enough water flow so that the paper slides over the surface, but does not chafe, causing unpleasant noises.

The procedure usually takes no more than 20 minutes, after which you can safely proceed to the polishing itself. To do this, you need to apply a little polishing paste to the headlight and rub it with a soft, lint-free microfiber. The work must be repeated at least three times, with each cycle should be given at least two minutes of time, thoroughly rubbing the polish into the glass.

In order not to make a mistake with a single dosage of paste, it is recommended to apply a thin, no more than three millimeters strip from one edge of the headlight to the other. No matter how long your headlights are, this amount of paste is quite enough to effectively polish them to a mirror finish.

Mistakes when polishing headlights

The above described method of polishing is suitable for both glass and plastic headlights. However, if for glass headlights at the stage of application of polishing paste you can stop, then with plastic headlights car owners usually make one gross mistake.

After polishing, plastic headlights are left alone with particles of dust, small stones and dirt from the environment. And while they have a harder surface from the factory, it becomes noticeably softer after polishing. So the first mistake would be to leave your plastic headlights after polishing without any protection at all.

The most effective way to protect a plastic headlight from rapid abrasion is to apply colorless automotive varnish to it. It is easiest to use can varnish, and you should apply at least two layers of protection so that the varnish will keep on the headlight for two to three years. If this is not done, within a couple of months the headlight will get the original cloudy look.

Tip! You can buy ready-made kits for manual headlight polishing in any Chinese marketplace, which will already contain all the necessary materials for processing, polishing and protecting your headlight from rubbing off.

Another mistake car owners make is to finish the initial treatment of headlights with sandpaper with a grain size of 2000, and some with a grain size of 1500. In order to make a headlight look like a new product, it is important to stop exactly at 3000 grit sandpaper, otherwise the cloudy shade will not go anywhere and the headlight will get the original look much faster.

But when choosing a paste it is important not to buy the composition with large abrasive elements – they are needed for machine polishing of metal elements of the body. For headlights, especially with the plastic body, the lightweight polish Hb Body Super Cut 805 will work perfectly.

When working in the hot sun beginners also make a mistake – the scorching sun rays cause sticking of compound to the headlights and loss of its factory qualities. Careless movements may burn the headlamp to a hole, if you work in conditions of high temperatures, so choose morning or evening hours for polishing, or work in a well-ventilated garage.

It is strongly not recommended to use toothpaste for polishing, because the granularity of each individual paste bought in the store may differ significantly from each other, and the presence of other, unnecessary for polishing substances can lead to the burnout of the headlamp so that after a couple of months its condition will be many times worse than it was before polishing.

And finally. It is a big mistake for beginners – to take the tool without solid experience in the polishing of car body elements. The slightest wrong move can result in burn of plastic headlight, which you won’t be able to fix with polishing. So if you decided to polish the headlights at home by yourselves – use only the technology of manual polishing, and how to do it correctly, you already know.

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