If you own an EV, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to keep it for many years. That means eventually oxidation will cause your headlights to look cloudy or even yellow and that’s just an eyesore. More importantly, faded headlights can affect your nighttime visibility and ultimately your safety on the road. According to a 2018 study by AAA, “clouded or yellowed headlights generate only 20% of the amount of light that new headlights do.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of aftermarket companies that manufacture headlight restoration kits, and with a little elbow grease you can get your headlights looking like new. Shopping for a headlight restoration kit is no easy task however, as many of them look similar and you might be wondering, is there really a difference between all of them? The short answer is yes, and you will likely see better results with some kits than others. That being said, it’s also dependent on how damaged your headlights are. For some, buying new headlights might be their only course of action.
That being said, headlight restoration kits are pretty affordable and are worth trying before spending hundreds of dollars on new headlights. Below you’ll find our top picks for the best headlight restoration kits, and although they are ranked, each one of them is a quality product and you’ll get good results no matter which one you choose, assuming your headlights aren’t too terribly damaged.
1. Top pick: 3M Headlight Restoration System
Our top pick comes from 3M, a very reputable brand that provides the automotive industry with many of its parts and accessories. While we do recommend the standard headlight restoration system 3M has to offer, there is also an Ultra version that requires a drill. If you have access to a drill, we highly recommend getting the Ultra kit, especially since it’ll be a lot less manual labor for you to restore your headlights.
As for the standard kit, you’ll get the following items to get your headlights looking like new again: a disc pad holder, 3M Gold sanding discs (500 grit), 3M White finishing discs (800 grit), 3M Trizact refining disc, and 3M rubbing compound.
We have this kit at the top of our list because I’ve personally had great results using it. It comes complete with everything you need, good instructions, and 3M quality is tough to beat.
2. Runner-up: CERAKOTE Ceramic Headlight Restoration Kit
Ceramic detailing products have grown increasingly popular over the last few years, and now there are ceramic headlight restoration kits. CERAKOTE is a well-known brand in the world of coatings and while we haven’t had a chance to use its kit, we have heard some great things about it from others who have used it. Developed in house, CERAKOTE is so confident in this product that it offers a limited lifetime warranty that lasts as long as you own your vehicle, or the company will cover the next kit for free.
No power tools are required with this kit and it’s a three-step process to get your headlights looking like new. You start off by removing the surface oxidation with oxidation remover wipes, before using the surface prep pad and discs to get rid of deep oxidation and even light scratches. Afterwards, you’ll use CERAKOTE’s proprietary ceramic coating to protect all of your hard work.
3. SYLVANIA Headlight Restoration Kit
If you’ve ever shopped for replacement bulbs for your car, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a product from SYLVANIA. Although the company is mainly known for its bulbs, it also has a quality headlight restoration kit. The complete kit is what we recommend for a full restoration job, and the process is similar to other products we recommend.
You’ll start by applying a surface activator, which is a proprietary surface corrosion softener from SYLVANIA. Next, you’ll do some wet sanding using the included sandpaper of various grits to remove the corrosion from your headlights. During that process, you’ll also use clarifying compound to further restore your headlights before applying a UV block clearcoat. SYLVANIA says the UV block clearcoat is a specially formulated polymer coating that features active and passive UV blockers to help protect your headlights for years to come.
4. Meguiar’s Headlight Restoration Kit
Our next recommendation comes from a brand that is very popular in the car care industry, Meguiar’s. If your garage is already full of Meguiar’s car cleaning supplies, feel free to grab yourself its headlight restoration kit as well. There is also a “heavy duty headlight kit” for those who have a drill handy. But we’ll be talking about its standard, more affordable kit that doesn’t require a drill.
This kit is a two-step process, which involves using the cleaning solution and then the headlight coating. Basically, you spray the solution on the provided cleaning pads, and then clean the headlights using those pads. Throughout the process you’ll want to wipe with a clean towel, making sure it’s working effecftively. Once you’re satisfied with how the headlights look, you’ll want to apply the coating to keep it protected.
We wouldn’t recommend this kit if your headlights are especially tarnished since there is really no sanding process and relies solely on solutions. It’s also worth noting that Meguiar’s only guarantees protection for up to 12 months after use.
5. Mothers NuLens Headlight Renewal Kit
Our final recommendation also comes from another reputable company in the car care industry, Mothers. Its NuLens headlight renewal kit does require a cordless drill, as you’ll need to attach the PowerBall 4Lights polishing tool. With it, you’ll use the included liquid polish to get your lens as clean and clear as possible. Restoration discs are also included if your headlights are especially dirty. Once you’re done and satisfied with the results, the PowerBall 4Lights can be washed and reused. Don’t forget to apply the liquid polish, which can maintain and protect your headlights. Mothers recommends doing so on a regular basis so you don’t have to go through the task of restoring your headlights as often.
Naturally, a drill is not included with this kit, but it’s also worth noting that neither is painter’s tape. So budget that accordingly if you’re choosing to get this kit from Mothers.
Do headlight restoration kits really work?
Yes they do! As we mentioned before, just how effective a headlight restoration kit is largely depends on just how damaged your headlights are. But for most headlights that have oxidation buildup or a cloudy appearance, the kits we’ve recommended will all work and you might even be surprised by the results. The best kits use a wet sanding process or a rubbing compound to get rid of all that buildup on the lenses. How good your results are will also depend on how much effort you put into restoring your headlights, as the process can be pretty labor intensive if you’re not using a drill.
Can I damage my headlights with a headlight restoration kit?
Yes you can! Before you run out and get yourself a headlight restoration kit, take a really close look at your headlights and make sure they do have a layer of oxidation on them. If your headlights actually look clear, do not use a restoration kit as they are abrasive and can damage the lenses. Always take care when using a restoration kit to make sure you aren’t sanding away at the clear surface of your lens.
How do I avoid needing to use a headlight restoration kit?
This might sound obvious, but you can ensure your headlights stay clean for many years to come with just basic care. Regularly clean your headlight lenses with typical glass cleaner, or my personal favorite, Invisible Glass. This will help keep buildup from occurring, although there’s only so much you can do against oxidation. You can also add coatings to protect your headlights, like what’s included in some of these kits.
How long do my restored headlights stay clear?
This is a tough question to answer, because it’s largely dependent on your conditions. Factors that affect your headlights include the environment, lens material, lens design, surface coating, whether it’s parked indoors or outdoors, and what you’re using to wash your car (avoid harsh chemicals). According to 3M, headlights can begin to oxidize again as early as 10 months or up to two or more years depending on the conditions. It’s difficult to give an accurate answer to this question, since there are so many variables involved.
Why do headlights get yellow or hazy?
There are several reasons why headlight lenses get damaged over time. The main ones are exposure to sunlight and harmful UV rays, road debris, and general age. What you typically see when your headlights get yellow or hazy is the degraded surface of the polycarbonate, or degraded UV coating. When you use a headlight restoration kit, you’re removing that damaged material from the headlight lens.