How to Restore Your Headlight Lenses

Headlights are critical components of any automobile, and while they hold up well, they do require upkeep like any other elements of your car. The lenses for your headlights are typically made out of polycarbonate plastic. The dense and durable surface of this material is ideal for handling the varying conditions and debris that you regularly experience on your daily commute. However, while the material is quite robust, it does not hold up well against the continued abuse of the sun's rays. Most vehicle manufacturers combat this particular dilemma by sealing the outer surface of the lenses with a UV protective film. Unfortunately, even that film wears over time, allowing the plastic underneath to oxidize. As a result, you might be wondering how to clean headlight lenses, or if they can even be restored.

Thankfully, most damage to your headlight lenses can be reversed, especially if you catch it early. You can tell if the oxidation process has begun by the hazing or yellowing of the lens. When this hazing occurs, it likely means that the protective film is damaged or nonexistent, in which case, you can follow the steps below to restore your headlight lenses with little hassle, expense or headache.

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Get Your Supplies

When preparing to restore your headlight lenses, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a headlight restoration kit, which should have everything you need to perform the job, or you can buy the elements of those kits separately. Buying the kit removes most of the guesswork when purchasing supplies. However, purchasing a kit might also be wasteful if you already have some of the elements. Therefore, if you decide to buy everything separately, you will need at least the following six things on your shopping list.

  • Different grits of wet/dry sandpaper (1000, 2000 and 3000)
  • Blue painters tape
  • Polishing compound
  • Paste wax
  • UV sealant
  • Microfiber towels

How to Clean Headlights with Toothpaste

Let’s say you need your headlights clean, but you don’t want to buy a cleaning kit, or you are unable to. If so, you can do a pretty good job with a toothbrush, some toothpase, a spray bottle full of water, and a cloth. Ideally, the toothpaste should feature baking soda for maximum efficiency. Here’s how to restore headlights with toothpaste:

  • Rub toothpaste into the headlight lens with the toothbrush (You can use a rotary buffer for a deeper clean)
  • Keep rubbing to scrub the lens housing clean
  • Spray warm water onto the headlight and wipe away the toothpaste using the cloth

It might seem simple, but if you follow those steps, you should have cleaner headlights. That said, this is an easy fix, so you may want to use a true headlight restoration kit for a better clean. Headlight restoration kits feature cleaning solutions that are designed to clean headlight housings, rather than teeth.

Now that you know how to restore headlights, you should give it a try. Head on down to your local AutoZone and check out the headlights aisle. You should be able to find everything you need to restore your headlight lenses to like-new condition. You can get the parts you need at your local AutoZone Store. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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