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How to Clean Your Car Headlights

Polycarbonate headlights become cloudy and scratched with age, creating a safety hazard. Here's how to polish them up like new.


  • Step 1: Wash and dry Wash and dry your car to remove all traces of dirt and grit. Then, place blue masking tape around your headlights to protect the surrounding body and grill.
  • Step 2: Polish the surface Thoroughly clean the headlight surface with the headlight polish and cloth, rubbing it in a circular motion.
  • TIP: Each lens can take up to 10 minutes of polishing before you see a difference, so be patient.
  • Step 3: Sand Soak the 1,000-grit sandpaper in cold water for 10 minutes. Spray the headlights with water. Sand carefully in one direction, keeping the headlights wet as you work.
  • TIP: Be careful not to damage the paint or chrome. Replace masking tape that begins to peel.
  • Step 4: Wipe clean Spray the headlights with window cleaner and wipe them with the rag.
  • Step 5: Repeat Repeat the procedure with the 1,500- and 2,000- grit sandpaper. Soak the paper first and keep the headlights wet; then sand at a 90-degree angle to the previous direction you used. Always sand in one direction. Use the window cleaner and wipe the lights clean after each sanding.
  • TIP: Sand carefully to remove pits and scratches, and periodically dry the surface with a towel to make sure your sanding is even.
  • Step 6: Polish again Polish the lights with the polishing compound once more.
  • Step 7: Remove the tape Remove the tape and wipe the lights and surrounding area a final time.
  • FACT: Automobile headlights in the early 1900s were powered by acetylene gas.

You Will Need

  • Blue masking tape
  • Headlight lens polish
  • 1
  • 000-
  • 1
  • 500-
  • and 2
  • 000-grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • A flannel or microfiber cloth
  • Water
  • Window cleaner
  • Clean rag

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