Best Headlight Restoration Kit: Refresh And Revive Your Cloudy Headlights
Make your view clear again with these headlight restoration kits.
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON May 5, 2021
Few things make your vehicle look old and worn than cloudy, UV-damaged headlights. Not only that, but cloudy headlights limit the reach of your car's headlamps and can hinder your ability to see far enough in front of you at night safely. That's why it's essential to keep your headlights looking fresh and clear.
If you've got damaged headlights and buying a set of brand new replacement headlights isn't in your wheelhouse right now, consider purchasing a headlight restoration kit. While it's not nearly as fun as buying a new car, it will drastically improve the look and function of your headlights without having you go into a five-year payment plan.
We've put together this handy product review and in-depth buying guide to help you weed through the plethora of headlight restoration kits on the market so that you can be sure to get one that will deliver great results.
A complete all-around kit that will restore clarity and shine to your headlights with long-lasting results.
- Includes rugged sanding and polishing pads that won’t dull too quickly
- Comes with an adapter to use with a drill to sand and polish
- Includes a chemical sealant and protectant
- Need to be extra careful to apply sanding and polishing pads evenly for a uniform appearance
A great budget-friendly kit that’s ideal for minor to moderate headlight damage and cloudiness.
- Kit includes a sturdy polishing pad, proprietary renew and restore compound, and two ceramic acrylic sealant wipes
- Can be used on all headlights.
- Super affordable
- Sealant doesn’t last as long as some other products
- Hand sanding can be difficult without the aid of a drill
A 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.
- A 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-use
- Doesn’t come with an abrasive, making it better suited to fixing minor headlight clarity problems
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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, Minn., 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, Ill., 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.
- $30 and up: 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 Kits Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- 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?
The number one reason to resurface your headlights is to improve night visibility and, thus, overall safety. Scratches and yellow haze drastically diminish the ability of your headlights to reach far into the night to see objects safely. The fact that your headlights will look new again after using a headlight restoration kit is just a bonus.
Q: What causes headlights to get cloudy or yellow?
Several environmental factors can cause your headlights to develop a haze or cloudy appearance over time. These include prolonged UV exposure, exposure to salty sea air, dirt and debris from driving or living in a dusty or desert climate, and high humidity, among other things. It’s just a natural side effect of driving an aging vehicle.
Q: Can my car fail an inspection because of yellow or cloudy headlights?
It’s unlikely that your vehicle would fail a safety inspection because of cloudy headlights unless they were exceptionally severe and posed an obvious safety hazard. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry and be proactive in restoring your headlights before they get to that point.
Q: How often should I restore my headlights?
Headlight restoration is a car maintenance project that is easier, faster, and more economical to do regularly. Unless you have very severe exposure to harsh elements, a yearly restoration of headlights should be more than sufficient to keep them clear and looking new.
Q: Is a DIY headlight restoration kit as good as letting a professional restore them?
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.
Now that you know what constitutes a high-quality and reliable headlight restoration kit, it’s easy to see why we chose the Rain-X Premium Headlight Restoration Kit as our top pick. It’s an excellent combination of reliability, results, and value. It’s easy to apply and delivers quick and dramatic results.
For a quick, budget-friendly option, consider the Turtle Wax Speed Headlight Lens Restorer Kit. It doesn’t require any power tools to apply and is suitable for minor to moderate discoloration and damage.