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Using 3M’s Headlight Restoration Kit

IMG_3333 Hazy headlight lenses can diminish your headlight’s reach by more than 50 percent, leaving you in the dark. Not only does it make it harder to see the road, but also reduces the distance you have to stop should something or someone pop out in front of you. Too many people live with this affliction, but you don’t have to. It is actually quite easy to restore your headlight lenses to their original crystal-clear luster, and it all starts with the 3M Headlight Restoration system. There are varying degrees of damage for lenses, from a light haze to fully-yellowed, which very little light passes through. You don’t need to the most aggressive restoration kit for a slight haze; this can often be buffed out with rubbing compound alone, whereas the worst lenses need to be heavily worked to eliminate the haze. 3M has 3 kits available- Quick Renewal, Medium Duty, and Heavy-Duty. Quick Renewal- This is the most basic kit designed for light hazing. The kit consists of a 5000-grit hand-sanding pad and some rubbing compound. You will need to supply a microfiber buffing cloth, and some water for wet-sanding. This will remove light haze, and that is about it. Deep scratches, white or yellowed lenses need more serious effort. IMG_3339 Medium Duty- Most headlight lenses fall into this category. This is for the lens that has significant fogging, the lens has some white haze, but the headlights shine through.  This kit contains 3 foam sanding pads- 1000, 3000, and 5000-grit, scratch-remover buffing compound, wax protectant, foam applicator pad, and masking tape. You will supply the microfiber towel and some water for wet-sanding. This kit will work for most cars that have dulled over time. IMG_3337 Heavy Duty- If your lenses are completely white or yellow and light barely passes through, then you need the heavy-duty kit. This package is drill-powered, which makes the process go much faster. A Velcro backup disc is loaded into your power drill and each of the sanding and buffing pads attaches to the disc. The kit comes with 500, 800, and 3000-grit sanding pads, a foam buffing pad, rubbing compound, wax protectant, and a roll of masking tape. If this kit cannot get the haze out, then you need new headlamp lenses. IMG_3335 One key tip for a successful renewal is the use of water for the sanding steps. A spray bottle or bucket of water should be used when sanding the lenses. This provides some lubrication for the sanding pads, and makes it easier to get the scratches out. The water pulls away the dust from the plastic and the sanding pad, which helps the pad last longer and you don’t make the lens worse, rubbing the plastic dust into the lens, creating more scratches. To demonstrate the power of this system, we took a 2001 Mercury Cougar with moderately hazed lenses and got to work. We probably could have gotten away with the medium-duty kit, but opted for the drill-powered heavy duty kit as one headlight was significantly worse than the other.  The following video shows each step of the process from start to finish. The entire process takes 3-5 minutes per headlight, depending on the size of the lens and the severity of the haze. Step by step instructions are listed after the video.

3M Headlight Restoration Instructions

We taped off the area around the headlight to prevent scratching the car.

First, we taped off the area around the headlight to prevent scratching the car.

This attachment pad goes into the drill. The sanding and buffing discs will go on this pad.

This attachment pad goes into the drill. The sanding and buffing discs will go on this pad.

Using a spray bottle, we applied water to the lens. This helps to lubricate the surface during sanding and prevents the sanding dust from creating more scratches.

Using a spray bottle, we applied water to the lens. This helps to lubricate the surface during sanding and prevents the sanding dust from creating more scratches.

With the lens wet, we started with 800 sanding pad. We made several passes over the lens, and varied the direction of the passes from up and down and side to side.

With the lens wet, we started with the 800 grit sanding pad. We made several passes over the lens, and varied the direction of the passes from up and down and side to side.

Next we used the 3000 sanding pad. As before, we sprayed the headlight lens with water. Make sure to keep the lens wet. Make several passes like before.

Next we used the 3000 grit sanding pad. As before, we sprayed the headlight lens with water. Make sure to keep the lens wet. Make several passes like before.

The lens was then wiped off. As you can see, it is pretty scuffed from sanding.

The lens was then wiped off. As you can see, it is pretty scuffed from sanding.

Buffing compound, included in the kit, was applied directly to the buffing pad. Use a liberal amount of compound as you work.

Buffing compound, included in the kit, was applied directly to the buffing pad. Use a liberal amount of compound as you work.

Next, we applied the synthetic wax protectant from the kit. We used a microfiber towel to apply an even coating of wax over the lens.

Next, we applied the synthetic wax protectant from the kit. We used a microfiber towel to apply an even coating of wax over the lens.

Like with most wax, after it gets hazy, wipe the wax with a new, dry microfiber towel. All done at this point.

Like with most wax, after it gets hazy, wipe the wax with a new, dry microfiber towel. All done at this point.

Here is the finished lens. Looks like new. And the whole process takes about 5 mins.

Here is the finished lens. Looks like new. And the whole process takes about 5 mins.

As you can see here, the difference is crystal clear.

As you can see here, the difference is crystal clear.

Sources: 3M http://3mauto.com/  

About Jefferson Bryant (223 Articles)
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).

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