How To: Best Headlight Restoration Method – Chemical Guys Car Care

How To: Best Headlight Restoration Method – Chemical Guys Car Care

Hey guys! Today I’m going to show you how to polish headlights. Earlier I polished the driver’s side headlight using V36 and an orange cutting pad without wet sanding it. It looked pretty great! But on this side I’m going to show you the best way to get the most clarity. So I’m going to wet sand it and then I’m going to polish it. But first I’m going to tape off the area I’m going to be working on just like I did the driver’s side. So again I left the hood up just so I don’t have to tape off the lip of the hood and it’s also going to make it a lot easier for me to get to the top of the headlight. Especially when I’m wet sanding and won’t get any of those marks on the hood. So I’m going to start by taking my sanding block and a sheet of 2500 grit sand paper. It’s got an adhesive back here, it makes it stick to this face of this pad. So this sanding block has a pretty dense foam handle. It makes it easy to grip and hang onto. The pad itself is made out of a thinner foam, more flexible which is going to be easier to flex over the headlight. And then the reason you’re starting off with a 2500 grit sand paper is so that you can get off most of that dead plastic and then I’m going to go ahead refine it with the 3500 sandpaper. So first I’m going to spray the surface of the headlight with plenty of water, then I’m going to spray this block. The water acts as a lubricate. It’s also cleaning away the dead plastic. So first I’m going to start by sanding in one direction. Already I’m pulling off a lot of this dead plastic. That’s what that milky dead brown liquid is. So as I can see, the surface is nice and smooth. I’ve taken off a lot of the dead plastic. I’m going to go ahead and sand it one more time just so I can get as much clarity from these headlights as I can. So the reason why I’m going to sand it again is because the more effort and the more plastic I can get off at the beginning, the better your results are going to be at the end. So now that I finished sanding with the 2500 grit, I’m going to switch over to the 3500. These sheets are reusable. They have more than 1 one time use. You can get yourself a second block and make one dedicated to a 2500 grit and the other to a 3500 grit. But in this case I’m going to take the sheet off and replace it with the 3500 grit. So same procedure as before, I’m going to go ahead wet the surface. I’m going to start by sanding off as much of the dead plastic as I can. It’s also going to refine the fine scratches that the 2500 made and it’s going to make it a lot clearer. So now it’s time to polish these headlights. I’m going to grab my drill here. A lot of people use a rotary or even a dual-action. I chose to go with a drill just because it’s a lot easier to hold and handle around these headlights. I have my backing plate with an orange cutting pad on it. Then I’m going to apply V34 which is a mild abrasive compound. So first I’m going to spread the compound over the headlight. One thing you need to be aware of, if you;re using a drill like this, it doesn’t have a speed setting. So it’s either all or nothing. If you are using a rotary or a dual-action, where you have different speeds, just be sure to keep it moving also. But this is an extra precaution just to keep moving just so you won’t burn the plastic. Even from just the first pass with the first compound. This headlight looks a lot better than the one-step polish headlight over there. Because anything you do in steps is going to have more clarity and result. So now it’s time to put on a white pad with our V36. So same process as before, I’m going to go ahead and work this compound in until it goes clear. It’s going to take off all the scratches that the 34 and sanding marks made. It’s going to give it nice clarity and let’s get to it! So this headlight looks amazing! Like brand new! Compared to the headlight over there where it had some clarity, anything you do in steps, is going to give you a better finish. With the wet sand you can see that this headlight has a lot more clarity. So the final step is to protect these headlights to keep them from oxidation or anything like that. I’m going to go ahead and put a sealant on it. So this is JetSeal, which is 12 months of protection. It’s going to lock in all the work I’ve done here. Give it a good gloss a lot of protection. You simply spread it over the surface. I’m going to let this sit for about 15 minutes. It will haze up and I will wipe it off. Wow this headlight looks amazing. Like brand new. I’m going to go ahead and jump on that other headlight, because although, the single stage polish did work, it took off a lot of dead plastic and gave it more clarity. It’s not 100% clear like this one will be. So I’m going to go ahead, wetsand it, polish it again to get those great results.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. when headlights are really bad, i just take 1000 grit first sand it down athen i take 2500 grit sand it smooth then i take a foam buffer pad and buff it out with extra cut compound and apply thin coat of wax turns out great!!

  2. You guys don't paint the light with UV protection clear coat, and then wax them with car wax?

    I do like your 2 buffing stages after the wet sanding.

  3. Do you find a 1000 grit 1st stage too abrasive? I use 1000, 2000, then 3000 trizact, followed by the 2 stage V34/36 as you did. I also use your jetseal. Turns out perfect every time and lasts!

  4. This works well but what about the small pits? Just keep sanding? I did two sets yesterday and they looked great but the pits were still there. Suggestions?

  5. Great video, straight to the point, great result! I'm now looking to get my headlights done, this has made everything a lot less complicated now I know what I should be doing

  6. nice I am about to do this just I only have a small orange pad and no other colors so I have to work with it I guess and used 36 and 38 to finish it.

  7. Is there a way to fix rock/stone chips on plastic headlights? Would it require heavy cutting? I haven't been able to find any reliable sources to figure this out!

  8. did you put a butter wet wax for protection after polishing? and even if no, will wax work after polishing ?

  9. I wetsanded my headlights and then sprayed a clearcoat on them, the clearcoat looks like shit. What do I do? Do i rewet sand and recoat or should I use a low grit to get rid of the new shitty clearcoat and then recoat again? I really need some help hear ASAP.

  10. what size pads did you use and where can I acquire the backing plate & drill attachments for the drill..

  11. That drill is spinning way too fast. Try a lower setting if you have one or just squeeze it half way… drills allow for slower rpms if you squeeze gently.. also, a 1,000 grit would help even more to begin with

  12. @chemical guys I have a car with only 30,000 miles the headlights aren't fogged but they are pitted from highway driving, also one has what looks to be a hazy looking burnish ring about 5" diameter that has formed on what looks like on the inside on one headlight lens you can only see when its on, so i'd probably have to take apart the headlight assembly to correct it, would i need to put UV protectant on the inside after too?

  13. Everyone has an opinion, but no one has done any real testing. Clear coat paint is said to crack or go bad and a bad idea as clear is for metal painted surfaces and not clear plastic. Others say the only way to fix is to sand with multiple grits of sand paper. Yet others claim simple solutions from bug spray to tooth paste to baking soda and WD-40. Someone should get like 20 headlights (all aged the same with the same hazing) and restore each in a particular way and then allow them to sit in the sunlight for 6 months to see which method A.) Did the best job restoring B.) held up the best. THEN I will believe a particular method works.

  14. Hello, thank you for the video. Where can i buy the sanding block and the sheet of sans paper for this sanding block?
    Thank you.

  15. I followed this method and it worked as expected and looked fantastic. After applying the sealant, and buffed, one of the lights (passenger – 2nd light I did) now has a couple of hazy spots in the corners. Should I re-do the process on that lamp, or just do the compounding / polishing / sealing steps? Thanks!

  16. @chemicalguys
    I dry sanded my headlights. Bad idea, I know. They look hazy. You think I can still save my headlights clearity following your process?

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