Written By Corrinna Murdoch
Published May. 28, 2021

Ever driven at night, mentally cursing your dim headlights that limit your visibility on the road? The specific amount of particulate matter in the air depends on where you live. Rural zones have gravel and dirt road kickbacks, while urban areas contend with pollution from industry. In either case, exposure to this dust, paired with the ambient humidity and ultraviolet radiation, takes a toll on your headlights. However, a good headlight restoration kit can restore that function. 

Of course, no two restoration kits are made alike. Each is designed to address a specific type of damage, ranging from sunlight to scratches and debris. The key is to identify the best headlight restoration kit for your driving style and circumstances. We’ve gone ahead and tracked down the best headlight restoration kits on the market, along with some tips and tricks on using them.

The Best Headlight Restoration Kits

The number one choice by newbies and auto enthusiasts from around the globe, 3M throws everything you need in one convenient package. This unit includes an easy three-step process, which is properly outlined in the instructions within the packaging. You get 3M abrasive technology with a polishing compound to restore headlights to their original state.

You get sanding discs (which are great, but sandpaper is not as well as a pad to apply the polishing compound with. You can save a great deal by purchasing in bulk up to four units, shaving about 10 percent off of your final price. For more information on how long headlight restoration kits should last and how often you’re able to go between uses, see the buying guide below.

Key Features
  • Voted top headlight restoration kit by users
  • Usable on other plastic surfaces of your car
  • Works for the headlights and tail lights up to 2X
Specification
  • Brand 3M
  • Model 39008
  • Weight 7.8 ounces

Turtle Wax is surprisingly versatile with most of their products. Used on building exteriors and the fiberglass chassis of just about any vehicle, this headlight restorer kit comes in at a fairly inexpensive price and works absolute wonders. You get three restoration pads with different grits, allowing you to add precision to your restoration game, as well as spray lubricant (4oz container, though larger ones are available for additional purchase) and lens sealing wipes.

Your restoration pads come in three stages. This kit promises to clarify your lenses, and protect them for longer. If you’re in the market for the ultimate maintenance for your headlights, you’ve just come across the holy grail. These came close to our number one spot with excellent all-weather protection.

Key Features
  • Lasts longer throughout the year
  • Comes with sealing wipes for extra protection
  • Inexpensive to get started
Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model T-240KT
  • Weight 12 ounces

This three-step kit provides some of the best UV protection against yellowing and general discoloring on your lenses. Perhaps the greatest feature, besides the excellent shine and clarity it gives you, is the lifetime warranty—if you own the car, your warranty is still valid no matter when. You’ll get better light output from your headlights, which is optimal for safety reasons.

Get rid of the haze with this simple kit. You can add additional UV blocking protection via an altered kit, but the standard comes with more than enough to protect your headlights and lenses from immense sun damage. If you live in dry, hot climates such as Western America, you may benefit from this kit even more than our top pick.

Key Features
  • Superior UV protection
  • Restores your lights to a clear, visible output
  • Three-step set that makes it easy; five minutes, tops.
Specification
  • Brand Sylvania
  • Model HRK.BX
  • Weight 0.96 ounces

With the Rust-Oleum Headlight Restoration Kit, you can avoid the hassle of nuanced applications. It comes with a wipe-it pack, a polishing pad, microfiber cloth, and a set of gloves to keep your hands clean. This company owns a patent on a seed-based diluent blended with hydroxyl-reactive groups: this lends the filler, gloss, and protection needed to restore headlights. Although there are many proprietary creations out there, this formula is unique in its efficiency. The process takes only two steps: you wipe it on and smooth it out. The result is ceramic protection helping slow the yellowing of your headlights. It leaves behind a smooth, clear surface that makes your headlights as good as new.

While this material is high-grade, it also has organic bases. The unique star shape of the molecular structure gives it a functional edge, but the soy-based roots remain, so if you’re allergic to soy, steer clear of this restoration kit.

Key Features
  • Simple, two-step application process
  • Stays intact for 100 car washes
  • Protects against yellowing and hazing
Specification
  • Brand Rust-Oleum
  • Model HDLCAL
  • Weight 7 ounces

If you live in an extreme weather area, your headlights are all the more likely to get scratched, hazy, and discolored. The Rain X Premium Headlight Restoration Kit is crafted specifically for this purpose. Ideal for DIY approaches and first-timers, it works quickly to eliminate discoloration, get rid of that hazy layer, and let your headlights shine through unencumbered. Standing out from the rest of the candidates is its sealant abilities: this formula is equipped with a seriously durable barrier that seals out damage. Long-lasting and great for rainy weather, this kit is worthy of a shoutout on this list.

The kit isn’t perfect, though. For starters, it’s crafted for somewhere that is more prone to rain than sunshine. Because of this, less focus is placed on ultraviolet resistance rather than scratch and haze prevention. The takeaway: consider the weather when getting this restoration kit.

Key Features
  • Powerful protection against water stains
  • Simple application process for beginners
  • Includes drill attachment for easier buffing
Specification
  • Brand Rain-X
  • Model 610153
  • Weight 0.44 pounds

If what you’re after is a restoring chemical, then Blue Magic Products Headlight Restorer is right up your alley. Free of all the bells and whistles, it comes in an eight-ounce bottle (easily enough for head and tail lights). Effective on any plastic headlight, it works to efficiently remove particulates, fill minor scratches, and protect further wear. Featuring kerosene, aluminum oxide, polyethylene-propylene glycol, and ammonium hydroxide, it works to clean, polish, and restore headlights. Each ingredient is balanced to ensure a stable formula that leaves effective results. Provided you follow the instructions for application, this is a terrific way to cut costs while also restoring your headlights to their former glory.

While kerosene is not entirely uncommon for this purpose, it is prone to quick evaporation (particularly in warm environments). This isn’t a functional issue for the headlight restorer, but if you’re using this formula, be sure the area is ventilated and as cool as possible.

Key Features
  • Minimalist approach to headlight restoration
  • Effective and affordable cleaner
  • Compatible with plastic headlights
  • Leaves behind a reliable, lasting seal
Specification
  • Brand Blue Magic Products
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 8 fluid ounces

Attractively priced and homegrown in the United States, this killer kit comes with everything you need to transform your dull lights. Your friends will be asking where you went for replacement, and you’ll just laugh. This kit is designated to last for 2-3 years after application and guarantees that your headlights will pass inspection, even in states with a rigorous inspection program.

This kit is super simple to apply, and will only take about 5-7 minutes of your time for a dramatically improved effect. This product’s residue lasts through tough winters, car washes, and anything else that’s thrown at your headlights.

Key Features
  • Lasts for 2-3 years
  • Guaranteed to ensure your headlights pass inspection
  • Made in the USA
Specification
  • Brand Wipe New
  • Model HDL6PCMTRRT
  • Weight 3.2 ounces

Yellowing is the biggest problem our headlights face, and this kit ensures you’ll see nothing but clarity when you stare straight into the headlights. Hairline scratches that oxidize and add insult to injury are gone in seconds after application. You also get an all-inclusive PowerPlastic 4Lights polish that adds momentum to your headlight restoration—it makes an enormous impact.

You also get a three-inch backing plate, restoration discs, and 8oz of polish (and you won’t believe how inexpensive this kit is for all that you get). Designed to last for years, made to work in just seconds of application. This is also available in a six pack if you have multiple cars, you’re the guy that your buddies always go to, or you just want to bulk up and save some cash.

Key Features
  • Added PowerBall 4Lights tool for maximum crystal clarity
  • Designed to last for years after one application
  • Works in seconds after application
Specification
  • Brand Mothers
  • Model 07251
  • Weight 1.04 pounds

You’re not the average chap, so you don’t have the average problems. Meguiar’s G1900K kit comes in six different solutions, to give you exactly what you need no matter what your circumstance is. These turn your headlights to a “like-new” state, while also buffing out scratches and other imperfections that may have occurred as a result of damage to your headlights.

You get a 4oz bottle of Plast-X Clear cleaner plus polish, giving you crystal clarity in 10-15 seconds after application. Plug in your drill to use the buffing pad to restore these headlights in 1-2 minutes, removing all visible damages, divots, and scratches. Our favorite part about this kit is the versatility—use it on tail lights, boat windows, even the helmet visor of your motorcycle—it’s all ready to go and improve your headlight output in no time.

Key Features
  • Versatile to use on multiple objects/items
  • Lasts for 2-3 years after application
  • Comes with drill-operated buffing pad for maximum restoration
Specification
  • Brand Meguiar’s
  • Model FBA_G1900K
  • Weight 8.3 ounces

Three easy stages, maximum power, and a finish that everyone can agree on. CLT removes damages incurred by UV damage, as well as minor scrapes and hairline scratches. You don’t need any tools; just open up the kit and get to work. You get visibly clearer headlights in about 2-3 minutes after a touch of elbow grease is applied.

Last for eighteen months on average, giving you ultimate protection against UV rays, chemicals, exhaust, and airborne chemicals (insecticides, etc.)—just clean, dry, and apply the coating and you’re all done. You’ll be able to stretch this kit to handle your headlights, taillights and go around for a second time when the 18 months are over.

Key Features
  • Three-step system only takes 2-3 minutes
  • Additional protection against UV rays
  • In total, kit is good for 3 years for headlights + tail lights
Specification
  • Brand Clear Lights Tech
  • Model RH1
  • Weight 0.8 ounces

Headlight Restoration Kit Buying Guide & FAQ

Finding the best headlight restoration kit is about more than just finding something to shine up your headlights — it’s about finding a compatible formula that works for the type of headlight and the damage it’s faced. Without proper headlight setups, safe driving is next to impossible. To find the top kit, the most important thing is to keep your key objective in mind: get as much light on the road as you can.

Headlights average 700 to 1,200 lumens, with the latter on high beam. This is designed for the safety of everyone on the road, giving you visibility without blinding the other drivers. The opacity of your headlights impacts the ability of light to move properly. Light moves easier through a transparent surface, worse as it grows increasingly translucent and won’t penetrate an opaque surface. A headlight restoration kit effectively turns back time, returning the headlights to transparent or translucent.

To get this done, you’re going to need a few supplies. First, you need a buffer, sanding agent, and probably a drill to make lighter work of the project. The drill connects to specifically designed scrubbers that smooth out the headlight, in conjunction with the chemical formula that evens it out and adds a protective layer. When you buy your kit, make sure it has all the parts you need to get the job done and that the formula matches the damage type. 

Once done, there’s an easy test for success. When it’s dark, face your car towards the driveway. Turn on the high beams (assuming it’s safe) and check how far you can see. Repeat this process once your high beams are clean. Provided you got the suitable kit and used it correctly, the difference will be crystal clear.

A headlight restoration kit can help make your car look pristine.

What is a Headlight Restoration Kit?

A headlight restoration kit is made to bring your headlights back to their former glory. Wear and tear are natural, and you can’t expect your lights to work forever. However, just because something is flawed doesn’t necessarily mean you must replace it. Looking at PartsGeek, you can easily expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars to replace headlights. Instead, the average price point of a restoration kit is around $20 to $30.

A restoration kit works by buffing away imperfections and coating the exterior with a blend of hydrophobic chemicals. These repel water, prevent dust build-up and degradation from ultraviolet radiation exposure. Based on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), each manufacturer uses a slightly different formula. However, some things remain true: all of them include a clarifying agent, a polymer chemical that creates a battier, and an additive to molecularly optimize the other ingredients. 

What Makes Headlights Discolored?

Ever spent a day out hiking, finding your arms sunburnt and your skin covered in a layer of dust? Well, your car’s headlights experience that every day. Restoration kits are excellent for repairs, but they also work as a protective layer (similar to sunscreen). The specifics of how headlights get discolored depend on whether it’s glass or plastic. While glass wears down more slowly, it scratches more easily.

The first enemy of your headlight is ultraviolet radiation, both type A and B. Waves at this frequency cause damage to your headlight lens and even to the backing component. Sunlight exposure from oxidation results in yellowing. Though wear and tear is an eventuality, you can use a restoration chemical as a sunscreen-like coating for your headlights. 

Another form of damage is from dust and debris. Eventually, everything from small acid particles in precipitation to the dust in the air will wear down your headlights. You can manage the decline, however, by picking the best headlight restoration kit for your environment.

Which Headlight Restorer is Best?

Picking out the best headlight restorer is more individualized than you may think. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, your headlight treatment needs to reflect your environment. The vast majority of headlights are made out of polymer. By identifying your biggest risk factors and types of damage, you can make the right choice more easily. 

  • Ultraviolet radiation: Ultraviolet light lies just on the edge of human perception on the electromagnetic spectrum, ringing in around 380 nanometers. But just because it’s invisible to the human eye doesn’t make it any kinder on your headlights. The best way to handle light is to reflect it. The polished sheen and lasting ceramic treatment is a good approach to UV damage. For this, consider the CLT Headlight Restoration Kit since it reflects sunlight and slows the damage. 
  • Dust and debris: When you live in a rural area, full of particulates in the air from fields, dirt roads, and everything in between, your headlights are going to take a beating. Paired with the moisture in the air, the dust will slowly wear away at the structure of the headlight. It causes the lightbulbs to disperse light incorrectly. To address this and refocus the lumens, the Rain X Premium Headlight Restoration Kit
  • Scratches and dings: It happens to the best of us — drivers pass by on the road, kick up rocks, and leave the dents behind. Even if it’s just small bits, over time, your headlights can take a beating. To best this circumstance, find a headlight restorer kit that works as a filler and a sealant. In the best cases, provided you buff using a drill, you can bring them back to new-looking (and performing. Try the Blue Magic Products Headlight Restorer to get the job done. 
  • Pollution and acid: The sulphuric acid and nitrogen oxides in acid rain react with all the surfaces they touch. For people, it’s less of a concern (you’re in the car, after all). But your headlights take the brunt of the damage. Eventually, it shows, and your headlights don’t pack the punch they once did. To address this, consider Turtle Wax T-240KT Headlight Restorer Kit for its tough performance and lasting effects. 

What is the best way to clean cloudy headlights?

Cloudy headlights mean the surface of the polymer has been damaged. Regardless of the nature of the damage, two key steps will make or break the results: first, you’re going to want a buffing agent. This gritty material is used (often in conjunction with the added efficiency of a drill) to strip away damage and leave a smooth exterior. The idea is to neither over nor underdo it. Too much grit risks extra damage, while too little risks poor results. Aim for slow and steady so that you can stop at the perfect time. 

The next step is to take a polishing agent. Applying this with a microfiber cloth, you evenly spread it over the buffed headlight. While you put it on the headlights, it restores sheen and evens out any imperfections. The idea is to get it on evenly so that you get a proper layer of protection when it dries, slowing the wear process of your headlights. 

How long do headlight restoration kits last?

Nothing is permanent, and headlight restoration kits are no exception to this rule. Eventually, the layer of protection you pop over the headlights will wane in effectiveness. It suffers the same wear and tear as the headlights, after all. The duration of the effects will depend on your environment, driving habits, and whether you got a high-quality restoration kit. Finding a restoration kit for your headlights that matches your situation can improve performance for a couple of years. 

What household items can I use to restore headlights?

If you could get away with using household materials to replace automobile treatments, the entire vehicle fluid industry wouldn’t exist. Unless you have a fully equipped chem lab, balancing that formula will be tricky. Plus, the risk of spills and fumes far outweighs the benefits. It costs more to get the combined materials for a headlight restoration kit than just buying one outright. 

Related Post: How To Protect Your Car Paint From The Sun

How do I permanently restore my headlights?

The short answer: you can’t. You can (just shy of) completely restore your headlights, but it won’t fix them entirely. That said, there are formulas you can choose that extend the lifespan of the headlight restorer. What you’re looking for is a sealant — these come in varying intensities, but the goal is to remain as see-through as possible while also staying durable. The polysulfides are stable, but they are rigid and thus more vulnerable to scratch damage. Polyurethanes and silicones, on the other hand, are more versatile. Formulas heavy in these chemicals will last longer. When you’re discussing permanency, it’s less of a matter of infinity and more a factor of longevity. The higher the silicon content and the more elastic the polyurethane is, the better able it will be to weather the slings and arrows of everyday life on the road. 

Can Your Car Fail Inspection for Cloudy Lights?

Technically, anything that makes your car unfit to drive on the road will cause it to fail an inspection. Sure, not having a window in the backseat doesn’t mean you can’t drive, but it does mean the state is within its rights not to register the vehicle. Your headlight quality follows that same logic. It’s easy enough to fix, but if you go into a mechanic asking them to get it up to code, you could end up paying professional costs for an easy at-home task. Worst case, you get charged for a complete headlight replacement—best case, you’re out-of-pocket shop time. Instead of running the risk, take a quick half-hour and bring your headlights up to snuff. 

Your headlights need proper TLC, too.

You Need Advanced UV Protection if You Live in the Desert

The desert isn’t the only place to get ultraviolet radiation. Yes, it gets a lot of thermal radiation, and yes, the UV index is likely higher, but just because you live outside of the desert doesn’t eliminate the need for UV protection. Don’t just consider the nature of your climate, but more importantly, the UV index in your region. This will give you a better picture of what to look for in UV protection for headlights. The key to this feature is reflection—you don’t want to have the chemicals in the polycarbonate plastic interacting with that radiation. Look for a material that bounces it back, such as a ceramic protective agent that reflects those rays back outward.

Related Post: How To Clean Headlights

How Do You Clean Your Headlight Lens?

Using a headlight restoration kit is intuitive by design. No one wants a maintenance project to also be a riddle. That’s what makes restoration kits so valuable. They come with everything you need, plus specialized formulas to address your headlights. There are a few basic steps:

  • Find the Best Headlight Restoration Kit for your Car: First, figure out the root of the issue with your headlights. Are you contending with yellowing and UV damage? Is it small scratches from debris due to moisture? Pick a restorative chemical that will address your specific concerns — and hopefully keep them from coming back any time soon. 
  • Show some grit and sand away the imperfections: Once you have the kit in hand, the process is clear cut. First, you want to get rid of all the imperfections from the surface. You’re likely to take a good layer of the plastic off with it (not noticeable, really, but it will have sanded away). If you’re okay with using elbow grease, go for it. Otherwise, attach it to a drill and set it to low. Use the evenness of the attachment to smooth out the results.
  • Apply the wax sealing fluid to the surface: Next, you’ll want to put the sealant in place. This will take the dull appearance of the buffered surface and turn it into a bright, even headlight. The added sheen will control the refraction from your lightbulbs. This is usually applied with a microfiber cloth. It can’t be overemphasized: be even in your application. It might take a few extra minutes, but precision goes a long way. 
  • Control the drying process: The last thing that you want is for your newly buffed and beautiful headlights to take on a bunch of dust or get wet. Aim to do this in a controlled environment. It will give you better results since the chemical goes on more evenly and has the proper opportunity to fill the small gaps in the polycarbonate plastic. 
  • Test it out: It’s easy to see if it worked with a quick before and after. How far away can you see on a dark road at night beforehand? Count it in seconds at a set speed, using a distant sign or landmark as your parameter. When you’ve applied the restoration kit, run the experiment once more. Turn on your lights on an evening road and check how far you can see. If everything goes according to plan, you should get a longer count with your new headlights.

The final results of a headlight restoration kit should be clearer night vision, added road safety, and a striking new look for your ride.

Related Post: Best Car Buffers 

How Often Should I Use a Headlight Restoration Kit?

Finding the right maintenance schedule can be sort of tricky. It varies based on how much you drive and how the environment impacts your vehicle. From cold weather and salt on the road to heavy UV damage, there are all sorts of criteria. Chances are that if you notice visual damage to the lenses, it’s time. Be sure to pick a dry day to do the upkeep. If you don’t really see any clear damage, then once a year should be enough. 

It’s also better to wait until the warm seasons if you plan to take on the work yourself. Choose a day with the lowest possible humidity (and no precipitation). Warmer days lend themselves to making headlight restoration easier and make sure it lasts longer, so it is definitely worth the wait. 

Benefits of Using a Headlight Restoration Kit

The vast majority of headlights are manufactured using polycarbonate plastic. There are many advantages to this type of material (namely that it doesn’t shatter like glass). But there are some drawbacks, too. UV fading, scratches, and discoloration compromise function. However, with a quick application of a headlight restoration kit, you can return your headlights to their off-the-line glory. It’s about more than sheen, though. There’s a host of advantages to gain from using these kits. 

  • Improved visibility: The first benefit is the most obvious. If more lumens can escape the headlight cover, then you will get brighter results. The clearer your headlights, the further you see. It makes you more visible to fellow drivers and can assist in reaction time to obstructions on the road. There’s a huge difference in braking opportunities between seeing a deer the full 150 feet away than spotting it at only 50 feet away. Clearer headlights make you safer on the road overall.
  • Increased car value: Technically, when buying a car, you’ll look more at the engine, mileage, transmission, etc. However, those minor dings and scrapes make it a whole lot less appealing to a potential buyer. Fixing dents and restoring your headlights are a few low-cost approaches you can take to making your car stand out from the crowd.
  • Saves you money: When you need to repair your headlights, you’re going to be dropping three figures. It costs at least a hundred dollars to get new headlight kits. On the other hand, restoring them lets you get away with all the benefits for less than $30 in most cases. You can find some serious budget options that give you all the advantages without the expense.
  • Rejuvenates your ride: It’s estimated that the average person spends over 100 minutes in their car every day. Your vehicle becomes an extension of the self, both in performance and appearance. So, having properly working headlights that look and work well gives you (and your car) a well-deserved edge. 
  • Less risk of damage to the car: While everything would probably go well if you were to replace your headlights, there is a lot more room for error. You’re dealing with hardware, wires, and plenty of potential issues. Conversely, buffing and polishing your headlights is a non-invasive way to get the job done.

Our Top Picks for the Best Headlight Restoration Kit

After careful consideration, we think the 3M Brand 39008 Headlight Restoration Kit is the best overall headlight restoration kit on the market. Not only is it powerful and reliable, but it also has impressively long-lasting effects. It works on all types of headlights and consistently leaves behind smooth, clear surfaces. Addressing the flaws in the plastic or glass casing and filling them with an appropriate resin gives a smooth look. Ultraviolet protection lends to longevity, while the effective chemical formula offers you unencumbered light when driving in the dark.

Sources:

  1. Incredible Benefits to Headlight RestorationDelta Kits

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