Cleaning your Headlights – Part 2

From hazy to clear

In the first part of this article, we discussed the problem of haze-covered plastic headlights. That article contains a list of items you will need to restore your headlights properly. So now that you have everything together let’s dive right in.

Mask off the Area

First, mask off the area around the headlight. This will protect the finish on the vehicle since you will be doing a lot of wet sanding and I’m pretty sure you do not want to wreck the paint on your vehicle.

Fill your bucket with warm tap water and put your 1500 and 2500 grit sandpaper in the water to soak.

Clean the Headlights

Next, use your spray bottle that contains soapy water and spray down the headlight. Wipe it dry with a paper towel. You are now ready for the scary part; sanding. Yes, sanding.

My greatest hesitation in doing this project was thinking about sanding plastic. It seems like it would just make matters worse. But, it is amazing. It works.

Wet Sand – 600 Grit

Sand Horizontally

Begin using the 600 grit sandpaper foam block. I like to dip it in the bucket to wet sand even during the first sanding, but you do not have to. Sand horizontally (NOT in circles!) back and forth with medium pressure. When the plastic is fairly cloudy, you are done. The plastic will look ruined, and this is when you might get nervous.  Have no fear. Clean the headlight again with the soapy water.

Wet Sand – 1500 Grit

Sand Vertically

Next, move to the 1500 grit wet sanding paper that you have soaking in the bucket. Wrap the 1500 grit sandpaper around the 600 grit foam block (or a sponge) to use it as a sanding block. This time, wet sand it firms up and down (vertical) strokes. What you are doing is cross-cutting against the first horizontal sanding to even out the microscopic “peaks” in the plastic.


Make sure there are NO horizontal lines left

Wash the headlight again with soapy water. Once dry, look for horizontal lines. It is easiest if you turn on the headlights. If you see any horizontal lines, continue wet sanding with the 1500 grit until only vertical lines are visible.

Wet Sand 2500 Grit

Clean the headlight with soapy water. Go back to using HORIZONTAL strokes. Sand with the 2500 grit wet sandpaper wrapped around a sponge. Sand until you only see horizontal lines (all vertical lines are gone).

Polish and Buff

After cleaning the lens with soapy water again, you should notice that the headlight is beginning to clear up a bit. Now for the magic. Use the Meguiar’s M105 liquid compound. Follow the instructions on the bottle. Shake the bottle and apply some to a clean microfiber towel.  Begin working the compound into the headlight in circular motions with firm pressure. You can use a small buffer, but I have more control when I just apply it manually. Continue using firm pressure and apply more compound as needed.

Using the other clean microfiber cloth, buff the headlight in circular motions until all of the M105 compound is removed.  Buff the headlight thoroughly.

Protect the Headlight from UV Rays

Meguiar’s G17804 Keep Clear Headlight Coating

The headlight should now look clean and clear. But you are not quite done. You need to coat and protect the headlight from UV rays. This is the part most people miss.

Clean the headlight with the isopropyl alcohol and paper towels to make sure all sandpaper, compound, and grit are removed.

Finally, apply the Meguiar’s G17804 Keep Clear Headlight Coating to the clean, dry headlight, following the manufacturer’s directions. Usually, this requires two coats.

When you are done, make sure you give it at least 5 minutes to dry and do not touch it for 24 hours so it can cure.

Admire your Work

And there you have it–crystal clear headlights that should stay clear for about a year!

Written by Gary Pradel