The polycarbonate plastic headlight lens on your car or truck will degrade as soon as it leaves the factory. Air pollution, airborne particles, and ultraviolet light strip away the glare and then discolor the lens. After only a few short years, a haze develops through it. Fortunately, lens renewers (boxed kits made up of abrasives that remove the yellowing layer and smooth out scratches) are quick and easy to use. Some also contain a UV resistant coating that you wipe off or spray on.
How we tested
We performed two tests. One test looked at cars that showed moderate lens degradation, but we also visited our favorite auto recycling yard, Scarpati’s in Trenton, NJ, and asked to choose three sets of severely degraded headlights. They thought we were crazy, until we explained to them what we were working on. Our tests have shown that lens restorations quickly restore a dull, yellowed and scratched lens. They cannot handle dust, condensation, or sunlight degradation inside the lens or on the reflector. And we cannot make any estimate of the duration of the improvement. It depends on the region the car is in, the sunlight it sees, the extent of air pollution and dusty driving conditions.
As for the details of the procedure we used, it was pretty straightforward. All lenses were cleaned first with water or a household spray cleaner to remove dirt. Then we applied the products strictly according to the instructions. Of course, no two headlight lenses were the same. If you look closely, you may even notice some differences on the same car. Nonetheless, we think we have a clear idea of how these products work and what they have to offer. We called the results as we saw them after rigorous testing and analysis.
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Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit
This kit left the test headlight brighter and newer than all the others. Be warned: this was also the longest process. All you need is a clean towel and a hose for it, everything else is provided in the box for you. The light tested showed a huge improvement over cloudiness early on with the only downside being a long wait period of over four hours for UV protection to take effect. Sylvania offers a lifetime warranty that your lights will stay bright for the life of the car with her kit.
Rust-Oleum Wipe New Lighthouse Restore
Rust-Oleum’s kit is easy to use. Open the box and you will find a small block of foam, 1¾ inch on each side. One side of the block is green, the other is gray. Dip the block in a cup of water and use the green side first. After carefully abrading the surface of the headlight, switch to the gray side. When you’re done, wipe down the headlight and put on the included pair of nitrile gloves – you’ll need them. Then tear off the attached foil pouch and use the Wipe-It cloth inside, a microfiber cloth saturated with the proprietary Wipe-It sealant. The product’s MSDS indicates that it contains 1-chloro-4- (trifluoromethyl) benzene, a powerful solvent with various chemical manufacturing functions, including for making coatings. All we can say is that it has a strong, unpleasant odor, something like ammonia mixed with hydrocarbon solvents. We recommend that you use it outdoors or put on a cartridge respirator. Wiping the surface with the wipe converts it from slightly hazy to shiny and clear.
The easiest to use
Rain-X Headlight Restoration Kit
Rain-X was a snap. The instructions were clearly printed and included graphic instructions. The kit did a decent job of clearing up the test headlight, but didn’t impress as much as the Sylvania. Sanding squares are also easier to grip than traditional sandpaper. You get a good product here at a low price.
3M Headlight Restoration Kit
The 3M Headlight Restoration Kit is compact and well designed; even after your headlights are finished, you can keep it to redo or touch up if necessary. It contains tape, gloves, clear coat, and a foam block that you mount sanding discs on. Protect the area around the lenses with the tape provided, clean them, then abrade them using the abrasive pads that attach to the block with a hook-and-loop closure. Wipe off the lens and apply the clear coat. It requires a fair amount of work; experience in the use of abrasives, whether in woodworking or metalworking, is also an advantage. Since the abrasives cut the lens surface so well, the process is quite dusty. We recommend that you wear a dust mask.
Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restoration Kit
The Turtle Wax Kit is complete and a good buy as it has everything you need for any level of headlight lens degradation. Each lens restoration kit includes abrasive pads, abrasive liquid compound, clearcoat, sealant, and abrasive lubricant. This can repair lenses from the harshest to those that don’t require much more than a spray and a wipe. The only thing it doesn’t include is a microfiber cloth. The instructions are such as to help you determine the level of maintenance your headlights need.
less elbow fat
Mothers NuLens Headlight Renewal Kit
The mother’s headlight restorer is the only one who forced us to use attachments for a drill. Although the process required much less elbow grease, it did not leave our lighthouse in a better condition than the others. You’re paying for the sturdy accessories in this kit, and if that’s the kind of thing you like, then it might be worth it. If you’re sure you’re using a drill, this is the easiest kit to get solid results, even if those results don’t quite match the top performers.
Meguiar’s Two-Stage Headlight Restoration Kit
We’re pretty sure anyone could use this kit and come out with some great headlights. Our test headlight had a separate oxidized plastic strip running across its top half that was easily removed by the abrasive cleaning solution applied with the plastic abrasive pad that came with the kit (it comes with two). The solution is a lightly gelled material almost the consistency of yogurt. Place a ball on the pad and rub back and forth straight on the lens. Wipe down with a paper towel every now and then to check your progress. You are done when the headlight looks evenly fogged up. Then make two passes over the light with the included spray lens coating. The second pass overlaps the first. Repeat after the coating has dried in about five minutes. Our result was a clear, shiny lens.
Blue Magic headlight lens restorer
Sure, Blue Magic lens restorer is the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. If you were to wet sand the lenses like all of the other kits had us do, that would probably be just as good. However, we have tested the product exactly as it arrived and according to the instructions. The lens was better than it initially was, but the improvement was so modest that we think it makes sense to spend the extra money on a more complete kit. We would probably reserve this for use only when the headlight lens is not in terrible condition.
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