As vehicles age, elements like oxygen and water can eat away at exposed surfaces, causing discolouration and unevenness. This is exactly the case when it comes to discoloured headlights. Over time, the process of oxidation causes a vehicle’s headlight lenses to become dull, foggy, and yellowed.
Not only does this make a car look old and rundown, it’s also dangerous. According to Consumer Reports, clouded lenses can compromise the effectiveness of headlights by an astounding 80 per cent! As a detailer, you’ll play an important role in helping your clients’ cars look good as new, which in turn can keep your clients safer on the road.
Read on to learn the essential steps for restoring headlights.
1. Grads of Auto Detailing Training Know to Start by Prepping and Washing the Headlights
Like most professional automotive detailing jobs, you should start by thoroughly cleaning the area you’ll be working on. Start by using warm water and a nonabrasive professional detailing soap to clean the headlight lenses of dust and grime. Use a clean microfiber towel to make sure that you don’t create any deep scratches.
After the initial cleaning, apply a clay lubricant and use an auto detailing clay bar on the surface of the headlight lenses to pick up any tiny rocks, particles, or insects that may be engrained in the surface of the lenses. You should be left with a clean surface that’s ready to be worked on. Make sure you tape off the surrounding areas of the vehicle before moving onto the next step.
2. Sand the Headlights’ Surface Using Different Grits to Remove Oxidation
The next step in the process is to sand the lenses. By sanding, you’ll remove layers of plastic that have been damaged and oxidized, and expose the intact layers of plastic underneath.
If there is a lot of damage to the lenses, you’ll want to start with coarse grain sandpaper like an 800 grit sheet. As any professional with an auto detailing career will tell you, remember to always soak your sandpaper in water before using it to ensure it doesn’t damage the surface of the lenses. Start by sanding the lenses in one direction. After you’ve sanded the surface evenly, take sandpaper that’s finer-grained like 1000 grit and start sanding in the opposite direction. The idea is to reduce the grit of the sandpaper until you’re left with a relatively smooth, scratch-free surface.
You should end off by using 2000 grit sandpaper. Always ensure you’re keeping the surface wet and lubricated to avoid damage. You’ll know when you’ve removed most of the oxidation when the water runoff is clear, instead of a murky white or yellow colour.
3. Grads of Auto Detailing Training Know to Polish the Headlights After Sanding
After you’ve finished sanding you’ll probably have already noticed a dramatic improvement. Unfortunately, it can be hard to completely remove all the scratches that sandpaper leaves behind, which is why polishing is the next important step.
After you’ve wiped the area clean of water, apply a rubbing compound to the headlight. Use a wool buffing pad on your polisher to buff the surface of the lenses. Be careful to use a low speed until the compound is evenly spread over the lenses. After you’re done polishing, the headlight should look practically good as new.
4. Apply a Protective Coating to Prevent Further Headlight Discolouration
Don’t forget the last and most important step! After restoring the surface of the headlight lenses, they will look nice, but they will be exposed to the elements. So, in order to prevent discolouration from returning, you’ll need to apply some sort of protective coating like a wax or sealant to ward off harmful UV rays. After you’ve applied the protection and let it set, peel off the tape and deliver your client their car with headlights that look like new!
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