How to Polish the Headlights of Your Car in 5 Steps

Do you need to polish the headlights of your car? On many occasions when we talk about the headlights of our car, the safety aspect rarely comes up. They are responsible for our lighting, and with lighting we say see and be seen. Its deterioration questions the safety of our car and we will know how to polish the headlights of our car in 5 simple steps.

But first we have to analyze why our headlights can deteriorate over time , what is the reason and what are the solutions. We must never forget that lighting is one of the pillars of the safety of our vehicle and that, in addition to reducing visibility, can have negative consequences when it comes to, for example, passing the ITV . Therefore, we teach you what the headlight polishing consists of and how the operation is done.

Why do our headlights deteriorate?

To understand what happens to our headlights we must first analyze why they deteriorate. With deterioration we are not referring to glass breakage, but to its loss of transparency that results in loss of efficiency. It may not be so problematic at present, but when the crystals became completely transparent protectors, many ended up whitish or yellowish.

Polish Headlights

Although we still call them crystals, they are currently made of polycarbonate, a lighter and, a priori, more resistant material. The problem with this material is that its continuous exposure to the weather can make a dent, such as exposure to the sun , which ends up burning the exterior surface of the lighthouse, or the erosion that appears with its use. Even using too powerful light bulbs can spoil this polycarbonate, although in this way it will do so mainly inside.

What symptoms are there?

There are three ways to detect that our headlights are damaged . For the most clueless, it is probably in the ITV when the shift operator indicates that our headlights have a problem. And the problem will bounce right into our wallet, because defective lighting is a fault.

Symptoms of headlights

Precisely lighting is another symptom that will indicate that something is not going well. It is somewhat ambiguous because those who do not use the car in low light conditions or at night will not notice the difference, but those who do will see how their headlights no longer shine properly because the light that passes through the plastic cover is insufficient.

Finally, the easiest and fastest way to detect symptoms is to look at our headlights and see that they no longer look like new. They have lost transparency and we will probably see a whitish or yellowish layer . Further, if we touch the headlights, we can notice a rough surface that can even stain our fingers with small fragments of material.

What consequences does it have?

The consequences of deteriorated glass are, without going any further, a loss of lighting efficiency. As we mentioned before, it can be a problem when passing the ITV , but it can also be a penalty if the deterioration is excessive.

how to clean headlights

Beyond the economic repercussion that it can suppose, it is a danger for ourselves, because our poor lighting will not illuminate the road or the signaling correctly. In addition, the headlights serve to see and be seen, so other road users, whether cars or pedestrians and cyclists, may not see us and cause some kind of accident .

How to solve it?

In the same way that there are different ways of detecting the problem, there are other ways to solve it. The first one is the fastest and most effective, but also the most expensive: change the headlight. In this way we will have a new optics but it will mean disbursing the price of a new headlight , which is not cheap, but the workforce if we do not do it. Moreover, it may not be enough to replace a lighthouse, so the price and labor of another lighthouse will have to be added.

Polish car headlights

The other way is to polish the headlights of our car . It is a more rudimentary and not so effective task, but it will get us out of trouble and leave our headlights in a position to safely circulate again and pass the ITV without problems. This way is also cheaper since we can entrust the task to a specialist or even do it ourselves, which is what we will try next.

other ways to polish headlights

What materials to use to polish headlights?

On the market there are different headlight polishing kits

Polishing headlights kit

To polish our headlights we can choose to buy a specific kit that some stores sell and that arrives with the materials and instructions. Or do it on our own making us with the following material:

  1. Masking tape
  2. 400, 1,000 and 2,000 grit sandpaper
  3. Variable speed drill
  4. Rag that does not leave lint
  5. Wool discs
  6. Liquid polish with silicones
  7. Water

Polish the headlights in 5 steps

Step 1: Clean the headlights and mask

The first step to polish the headlights of our car is to clean the surface to eliminate waste . For this we will use a rag and a bucket with water and some soap in which we will submerge the rag from time to time while we pass it through the lighthouse. It is important to make sure that we remove traces of dirt, such as bird droppings, mud or grease.

After having cleaned the headlights (first finish the work in one lighthouse and then continue with the other), we have to mask them to protect all adjoining surfaces such as the body or bumpers of sandpaper and polish. For this, bodybuilder tape is used, which we will carefully apply to the parts that we will not damage. Additionally you can use some protective paper that increases the surface that we are not going to treat.

Step 2: Sanding with different grains

This step involves removing the damaged material from the headlamp. That is, we will remove the outer surface of the worn thermoplastic that favors the opacity of the headlamp. Although it is strange we will wear more plastic to eliminate the bad part, and therefore we will use several sandpaper of different grain . The first thing is to see how damaged the headlight is, since the most abrasive sandpaper of 400 may not be necessary.

But we will start from a truly damaged lighthouse. We will use a variable speed drill and focus on a low speed (we can do it by hand but it will be more tired). We will place the 400 sandpaper in the drill and start sanding. There are two important details before starting. The first is that it is advisable to gently wet the surface while sanding. The second is that we must avoid sudden movements , tighten too much or focus on a single point. We can finally spoil the lighthouse.

Therefore, our movements should be smooth and constant, sliding the sandpaper across the surface. Once we finish we will clean again and, if all is well, the plastic should be white , as if it were frozen. There should be no shiny surfaces, and if so, we will repeat the process.

Product for car headlight polishing

When we are finished with sandpaper 400, which we should not abuse, it is very abrasive, we have to repeat the process with the sandpaper of 1,000 first and 2,000 last . These are less abrasive and will eliminate scratches to make the glass more transparent. The process is the same, getting wet little by little, for example with a sprayer, smooth movements and without keeping the machine in the same place and clean when finished.

Step 3: Headlight Polishing

In this step we have to be sure that the lighthouse has become homogeneous, without damaged or shiny surfaces and that we have taken care to clean, again with water, the surface of the lighthouse. It must also be dried so that the polish works well. It is important to take care of the drying of the adjoining parts and recesses so that no drops fall during the process.

How to appy polish to your car headlight

We have to use the liquid polish with silicones that we have in our list, a material that we will find in large DIY surfaces. Its use is simple. In the drill we will now place the wool disk on which we will apply a small amount of polish. On the lighthouse we will also add polish and spread it throughout the surface.

It is time to polish with the drill, again at low or medium speed, and without insisting on the same place. We will be polishing the entire surface little by little without tightening too much and we will see how our lighthouse begins to recover the transparency that we wanted so much. If we see that we have not obtained the desired result, it is worth repeating the process.

Step 4: Cleaning

When we have finished and agree with the result, it will be time to clean all our work and faithfully contemplate our results. It is now when, with a completely clean headlamp, we can see if we have done the job well seeing if the surface is now transparent and if touching it is smooth. If not, we can repeat the polishing process.

To clean the headlamp we will have to repeat step number 1, passing a rag soaked with soap to remove all the remains that may have accumulated throughout the work. It is also convenient to dry the headlight to visualize a more realistic result: with water the plastic will always be brighter.

Step 5: Varnishing or sealing

Although this last step is optional, at least it should be taken into account. Polishing the headlights is not entirely effective, because we remove the protective varnish to the plastic and eventually it will be just as damaged. Therefore, a protective varnishing or sealing is an option to take into account if we want a result, more than optimal, lasting.

Generally these varnish kits are sold by specialists for this function. Its application is detailed in the instructions but it consists of applying the varnish layer and letting it dry . That is why it will take us a little longer, because we will not be able to use the car and it must be protected from any external agent that could spoil the finish. We can go to a specialist for this step.

How long does headlight polishing last?

Talking about how long our sanitized headlights will last is very complicated. Polishing the headlights of our car is not 100% effective, and they may not look like new. But in a way that is safe again to circulate with them while improving the image of our car to, for example, sell it.

How long does headlight polish last

The duration of polishing is limited , and if it has happened before, it is most likely to deteriorate again. The sun, the inclemency and the use result in the headlights ending again not offering their best appearance and conditioning their effectiveness. Therefore, it will never be such a sharp solution as changing the headlight or, if possible, just the cover. Now, it will always be cheaper to polish.

Considerations when polishing headlights

We must take into account a series of considerations when polishing our headlights. The first of these, and in relation to duration, is that it is not a solution to constantly abuse . That is, sanding what we do is remove material, so it gradually wears out. The recommendation is to not do this work for more than 2 or 3 times because the plastic will end up being very thin and weak. It always depends on how abrasive our sanding is and the initial state.

Important things when polishing headlights

Another consideration is to do the work in the two headlights . This is important because, unless one is completely new and the other deteriorated, we will not improve the lighting or take away the problems with the ITV if we decide to only repair one of them. Never forget it, both optical groups work together. Maintenance is essential , and it will be enough to clean them periodically, avoid roller washing tunnels, strong cleaners that can damage them or, as a better prevention, store the car in a garage to minimize the weathering factor.

Finally, and as a safety advice, if the ITV does not indicate that your headlights are damaged and, however, you deduce that their lighting or appearance is not adequate, do not hesitate to polish them. Sometimes it can be a detail left in oblivion but, we finish as we begin, they are responsible for us to see and be seen.

We hope that with all the information that we have given you in this article you will already have more clear how to polish the headlights of your car so that they return to illuminate as when they were new.


Do not forget the rear lights of your car . Do not take care of them only for an aesthetic issue, the more damaged they are, the more luminosity they will lose. Something not highly recommended if you want to maintain the visibility of your car in low light.

Tips to polish the headlights well

Machine polishing is the one that gives the best results. It would be worth it with a drill with an adapter.

Liquid polishes work very well. Either Kitautos or Visbella style will work, because the most important thing is to apply them correctly. There are several types, but we recommend those that come with several increasingly fine polishes .

polish car headlights

When you put the liquid on the sponge, do not turn on the machine until it is in contact with the headlight . Otherwise the centrifugal force will cause the polish to come out in all directions.

If you use a drill with adapter do not go over speed . Regulate the speed between low and medium if you have the option. If you do not have it, do not leave the trigger pressed continuously so that it does not reach its maximum speed. Go giving small touches of a couple of seconds.

How to control the polisher or drill is something more difficult, do not fall short with the protection of the other elements of the car. If you can, put double the bodybuilder tape to have more margin for error.

If polish falls on the paint of your car, do not remove it with a cloth . To do it well pour plenty of water and it falls on its own. If you have a pressurized water gun it will be easier for you. 

There is also the option of using a specific polish to use by hand instead of by machine. Although the results are quite good, it requires a lot of work to achieve a polishing-like finish. In addition they are usually much more expensive than the trick of toothpaste or bicarbonate.

Toothpaste in the headlights?

The ingredients by which the toothpaste acts as a polish is that it contains some abrasive particles . For example: silica, titanium dioxide or sodium bicarbonate. These compounds serve to keep our teeth clean while leaving the headlight plastic as new . To make sure you choose the right one, forget about the transparent gel pastes. Buy one of the lifelong dense and opaque cream, which will normally be white .

Toothpaste in headlights

How to use:

  1. Wash the headlights with glass cleaner to remove dust and other dirt.
  2. Put a good stream of toothpaste on a towel or microfiber cloth.
  3. Scrub it over the entire surface of the lighthouse by making small circles. The longer the better, but with 5 or 6 minutes will be enough.
  4. Add more paste as the one on the lighthouse goes dry.
  5. Rinse with plenty of water and clean it again with the glass cleaner.

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