Best Headlight Restoration Kits: Make Your Lights Look Brand New
Make your view clear again with these headlight restoration kits
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON April 23, 2019
Faded headlights can seriously reduce your vision when driving at night, making it critical to keep this car part in tip-top shape. If your headlights are starting to look cloudy and yellow, it’s probably time to restore them. Luckily, headlight restorer kits make this an easy DIY task. Read on for everything you need to know to find the perfect kit for your car.
- Best Overall3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration SystemSummarySummaryIf you’re looking for impressive results without power tools, this is the kit for you. A little elbow grease goes a long way.ProsProsIncludes a number of sanding discs and polishing pads to really dig into any discoloration; rubbing compound helps resurface headlights; all-around safe to use on various lights.ConsConsThe kit doesn’t come with a clear sealing coat, which means you’ll have to buy your own if you want your results to last.
- Best ValueTurtle Wax T-240KT Headlight Lens Restorer KitSummarySummaryOne of the most complete kits on the market, providing you with everything you need to get great results at a budget price.ProsProsLots of features: three types of sandpaper, spray lubricant, clarifying compound, and sealing wipe; safe to use on all car lights.ConsConsThe included sandpaper is on the smaller side, making restoring larger headlights a bit more difficult.
- Honorable MentionMeguiar’s G2000 Perfect Clarity Two Step Headlight Restoration KitSummarySummaryA high-quality product from a name you can trust in an easy-to-use two-step kit. Perfect for quick restores on minimally damaged headlights.ProsProsA proprietary formula that prevents re-oxidation for up to a year; easy to apply by hand; no tools needed; great shelf-life allows for lots of re-uses.ConsConsIt doesn’t come with an abrasive, making it better suited to fixing minor headlight clarity problems.
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Why Buy a Headlight Restoration Kit?
- Safety first. You’re eliminating a potential safety hazard by restoring your headlights to optimal clarity. Cloudy or yellowed headlights often greatly reduce the amount of light able to shine through the lens, leaving you with poor visibility. Don’t ignore your headlights when they look like they need a touch-up.
- Money Saver. Headlights, like most major parts of a car, are pretty expensive. By keeping yours in great condition with routine maintenance, you’re less likely to have to buy a replacement set, saving you lots in the process.
- Resale value. If you think you might want to sell your car at some point in the future, properly maintaining it can make all the difference in its value. Yellow, spotty lights aren’t exactly a feature people look for when purchasing a used car, so do yours a service and keep the headlights squeaky clean.
- Aesthetics. Even if your headlights aren’t cloudy enough to reduce light emission, they still make a difference in terms of the overall look of your car. By keeping your headlights in great shape, you’re ensuring that your otherwise spotless car always looks its best.
- DIY repair. A lens restoration kit lets you take matters into your own hands by giving you the tools to repair your lights without needing a professional. That saves you time and money in the long run, plus it’s super convenient.
Based in Maplewood, Minnesota, 3M has been around for more than a century. 3M’s philosophy is to apply science to innovate leading formulations, a mindset that has kept them flourishing. Popular products include the Headlight Restoration Kit.
Rain-X has been making automotive products for more than 40 years. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, it’s mission is to “outsmart the elements,” making all the products you could possibly need to combat foggy headlights and other automotive issues. One of its most popular (and newly formulated products) is the Premium Headlight Restoration Kit.
Around for more than 70 years, Turtle Wax is the largest automotive care company in the world. Based in Addison, Illinois, Turtle Wax continues to develop market-leading products that deliver great results. Some of the company’s all-time best sellers include the value-priced Headlight Lens Restorer Kit.
Headlight Restoration Kit Pricing
- Under $10: You’ll find a number of budget kits at this price point. Most of them will deliver decent results, but it really depends on the brand and the overall quality of the product. If you’re looking for great results, we suggest investing a little bit more.
- $10-$30: In this price range, you’ll find several great options. Most will work well and deliver lasting results, but again, everything depends on the brand, with the more well-known ranking better than off-brands.
- Over $30: You’ll get the best of the best in this price range. Products priced here will deliver stellar results for all cars. We suggest making this investment if you have a more expensive car, as the overall results will be much better.
Single vs. Multi-Step Products
Headlight restoration kits vary a lot—some are one step only, while others include two or even three steps. One-step kits typically consist of a cleaning solution only. While these do work to some degree, they’re really only meant for minor restorations. Two- and three-step kits contain an abrasive as well, which makes a huge difference in the quality and longevity of your results.
Tools vs. No Tools Needed
Some kits will include everything you need, while others require you to have a drill or sander on-hand. If you want stellar results, using a power tool can make a difference, but lots of kits out there work really well even without this additional step. What you select is really up to you—just keep in mind that the more damaged the headlight, the more restoration it needs, which is where tools do come in handy.
- UV Blocker: Products that include a UV-blocking fluid will help prevent future yellowing, oxidization, and clouding. That also cuts down on your maintenance cost and keeps your headlights looking great for longer.
- Lens Type: Watch out for products made for specific lens types. Although most headlights are made from some type of plastic, these do vary in their composition, making some products more suited for one lens type than for another.
- Ease of Use: Many headlight restoration kits are made for the everyday consumer, making them fairly easy to use overall. However, it’s important to remember that kits including a sanding or otherwise abrasive step do require a little bit of know-how for best results (and to avoid causing accidental damage).
- Kit Contents: Look closely at kit contents—higher-quality kits tend to include more of what you need than lower-quality kits. A complete kit should contain the cleaning and sealing solutions, glove, towel, and several grades of sandpaper.
- Headlight Condition: The more damage your headlights have in the forms of pits, scratches, and discoloration, the more heavy-duty the kit should be to provide good results. The best way to go is with a kit that uses a power drill for the resurfacing step.
Best Headlight Restoration Kit Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System
If you’re looking for a kit that delivers impressive results without needing to use power tools, then this may be the right pick for you. This 3M kit includes sanding discs and polishing pads that make resurfacing your lights by hand fairly easy, but you’ll still need some elbow grease, so be prepared. Thanks to an all-around safe formulation for multiple surfaces, you can use this kit to restore headlights, taillights, fog lights, and directional lights.
This kit works exceptionally well at removing cloudiness and dullness from your lights, giving them that “like-new” look. The included rubbing compound is a great addition to the sanding, making for a really smooth finished product. There is also a lot of compound in the bottle, meaning that you can easily restore two sets of headlights (or even other lights on your vehicle that could use a little TLC).
The only problem with this kit is that it doesn’t come with a clear coat to seal and protect your finished work. We suggest investing in one that has a UV blocker as well, which will help slow down future oxidation and yellowing if you tend to keep your vehicle out in the sunlight for long periods of time.
Best Value: Turtle Wax T-240KT Headlight Lens Restorer Kit
One of the most complete kits on the market, the T-240KT includes three restoration pads (aka sandpaper) in various grits, spray lubricant, a lens clarifying compound, and a lens sealing wipe. The formulations are safe to use on all lens types, from plexiglass to plastic surfaces, which makes it ideal for restoring your rear lights and blinkers as well. When used as directed, this kit restores your headlights in less than 10 minutes, all while delivering great, professional-looking results.
Depending on how pitted, yellowed, or otherwise damaged and faded your headlights are, the lens clarifying compound may be all you need to remove surface discoloration. The deeper discoloration is easily addressed with the included restoration buffing pads and the sealing wipe finishes the restoration job, preventing future yellowing and discoloration.
Keep in mind that the sandpaper that comes with this kit is on the smaller side, meaning that larger headlights will be harder to restore without purchasing extras. Again, power makes all the difference when cutting through the old oxidation, so consider using a power drill attachment to resurface your headlights if you choose this product.
Honorable Mention: Meguiar’s G2000 Perfect Clarity Two Step Headlight Restoration Kit
This kit makes restoring old, oxidized, and yellowing lights surprisingly easy, protecting them at the same time to keep them clear. One of the easiest systems on the market, this product restores headlight clarity without sanding. A quick cleaning with the included formula followed by the restoring liquid improves headlight clarity almost immediately.
The proprietary formula is made to prevent re-oxidation for up to a year, bringing this product up to par with three-step systems that involve buffing and resurfacing of the headlight. Keep in mind that this formulation can be applied by hand, but you’ll see the best results when applied with a buffer or drill. The formula has an excellent shelf-life as well, allowing you to re-use the opened bottle a couple of times.
Overall, this is a great product that will deliver the results to get your headlights back to looking like new. Keep in mind that really pitted and damaged headlights will need more elbow grease than just cleaning and recoating. That’s the downside to this product: It doesn’t come with an abrasive. You can still use this to restore your headlights, but you’ll have to buy sandpaper separately.
- Make sure to cover the edges of the headlight with masking tape to avoid damaging the paint job. This will also make for crisp lines in your headlights and a worry-free work area.
- Use varying grades of sandpaper to get the best results when resurfacing your headlights. Move from coarse to fine as you work your way down, and make sure to work in back and forth strokes if sanding by hand.
- It’s important to completely remove any yellowing before moving on to the next restoration phase. This will ensure a clear and even end result that lasts for many months.
- Remember to apply a UV sealant, whether it comes with your kit or not, as resurfacing headlights removes the factory protective coating. UV protection is one of the best defenses against future oxidation.
- Lens covers are a useful added precaution to keep your lights looking like new. They’re especially useful if you park your car outside in harsh sunlight, mitigating any potential elemental damage.
Q: Will resurfacing the headlights improve night visibility?
A: Definitely! Resurfacing headlights can improve night visibility by as much as 95 percent. Remember that driving with foggy or yellowed lenses can be a safety hazard, so we recommend restoring your headlights.
Q: What causes headlights to get cloudy or yellow?
A: There are lots of factors that can turn headlights cloudy or yellow. Many of these are elemental in origin, including UV exposure, salty ocean air, high humidity, dirt from driving, and others. Properly caring for your vehicle will help prevent yellowing and clouding.
Q: Can my car fail inspection because of yellow or cloudy headlights?
A: Although not a common occurrence, your car can theoretically fail to pass inspection because of yellow or cloudy headlights. That’s because they can pose a safety hazard, as light output can be greatly diminished when your lights aren’t in tip-top shape.
Q: How often should I restore my headlights?
A: Once a year should be enough in most cases unless you happen to live in very extreme climates where your headlights show signs of yellowing or cloudiness more often. With headlight restoration kits, this maintenance procedure becomes an easy step in your routine. Keep in mind that headlight restoration also frequently includes resurfacing the lenses—that’s something you don’t want to do too often since they may end up scratched or damaged.
Q: Is a DIY headlight restoration kit as good as letting a professional restore them?
A: That depends on a couple of factors, including the quality of the kit you’re using, how closely you’re following the instructions, and how yellow or cloudy your headlights are to begin with. In most cases, a DIY session will rival a professional restoration job, but the results might not last quite as long.
Our top recommendation for restoring your headlights DIY-style is the 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System. It delivers stellar results with or without power tools.
If you’re looking for something in the budget aisle, check out the Turtle Wax T-240KT Headlight Lens Restorer Kit. It’s our top value pick, combining an easy-to-use formula with a great price.