If your car has plastic headlights and you do any type of constant long distance commute in a year, chances are, your headlights will become hazed and foggy. This occur because the headlights are being blasted against the atmosphere as the car travels at high speed, oxidizing and fading the surface layer of the headlights’s plastic covers. You can pay a detailer $60+ to de-haze your headlights, or you can do it yourself with regular household materials and about half an hour to an hour of your time.
A little backstory. From 2012-2015, my daily commute was a mere 10 miles, so during those time, my headlights remained in crystal clear condition. From 2015 to 2017, my daily commute jumped to 100 miles a day and the consequences on the headlights are clear (or foggy, rather).
Here’s a little before (2015) and after (2018) comparison.
One night I was polishing our stainless steel cookware and restored them to nice and shiny condition and figured I could do the same with my faded headlights using the same technique and material.
This method is a quick fix and works for moderately hazed headlights on vehicles that generally put an average of 10,000 miles a year or less.
If your headlights are heavily hazed, you may need to start off by wet-sanding the oxidation off with fine grit sand paper, followed by the steps outlined in this guide and then finishing off with a rotary polisher or a polishing pad attached to a power drill (see final steps).
If your headlights are severely hazed to the point where the lens are yellow and you can barely see the bulbs, I recommend skipping this quick fix guide and check out the more involved long term headlight de-hazing DIY guide.
Tools and Materials
- Bar Keeper’s Friend
- Polishing pad or Terry cloth
- Painter’s masking tape
- Meguiar’s G18116 Clear Coat Safe Polishing Compound – 16 oz.
- Meguiar’s G17804 Keep Clear Headlight Coating, 4 oz.
- Bucket of clean water or garden hose
Give your headlights a nice rinse with clean water. You do this to get rid of top level grime and grits that can cause serious gouge marks if you fail to remove them prior to polishing your headlights.
Dry off any water that got onto the front bumper and fenders. Apply painter’s masking tape to protect the paint work around the headlights.
Moisten your polishing pad or Terry cloth with water and add a sprinkle of Bar Keeper’s Friend.
Begin polishing your headlight with the Bar Keeper’s Friend and polishing pad (or Terry cloth). Apply pressure as you polish and work in a circular motion. Work on a small area at a time. Moisten and add more Bar Keeper’s Friend as necessary. Bar Keeper’s Friend is a micro abrasive, similar to super fine sand paper, and is necessary to get the tough outer haze out of your headlights.
Once you’ve polished the entire headlight with Bar Keeper’s Friend, rinse with clean water. If your headlights are badly hazed, like mines, you may need to polish, rinse and repeat up to three times to get the headlights back to brand new looking condition.
You may find that your headlights are still slightly hazy and not crystal clear after all the polishing due to years of neglect (like my driver side head light).
In that case, to get that super shiny, new-headlight shine, you’ll need to invest in a buffing wheel that you can attach to a power drill, such as a Drixet 7 Piece Buffing Kit.
This is what my driver side head light look like after polishing with just Bar Keeper’s Friend and Maguiar’s polishing compound, 3 passes:
This is what it looks like after buffing it for 10 minutes with a buffing wheel attached to my power drill:
I decided to buff the passenger head light as well:
After final polish, I sprayed the headlights with Meguiar’s Keep Clear Headlight Coating, completely coating them and wiping off excess with a terry cloth.
The lights are actually bright and clear again: