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There are many methods for polishing and restoring clouded, discolored headlights. My question is: once headlights have been polished and appear quite clear what sort of treatment effectively preserves their clarity?

There are numerous headlight restoration sealant products out there. Are they effective? Some restoration kits contain a sealant and others do not. I have read various anecdotal accounts suggesting they are ineffectual. Wax is occasionally mentioned as the only necessary "sealant"/protectant that is necessary for headlights.

I am not interested in any particular recommended product. If a sealant or alternative product is advised I am only wondering what characteristics a consumer should look for when making their selection.

Additional background information could be helpful as well.

  • There is certainly variation in headlight plastics. Perhaps a single treatment is not universally appropriate.
  • Information about the finish of headlight surfaces by original manufacturers. Raw polished surface or additional treatment?

Related questions:

  • Sure, you can polish and protect your headlight lens, but the same UV damage occurs at the reflector, and that affects the brightness even more than the clear plastic lens. My personal preference is to swap out the entire headlight assembly for a new one when it gets too bad. – tlhIngan Jun 30 '16 at 5:12
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The best way to keep them looking good is to utilize clear spray lacquer which is is not affected by UV. UV light is what causes the cloudiness in the first place. By spraying the clearcoat on there, you effectively protect the lense from the harmful UV rays.

After you get through sanding the lense down, throw several light coats of the clear, then follow up with a thick coat (not enough to run, but thicker than the rest). This will give you durability so you won't have to do it again any time soon. Do this without ever letting the first coat dry completely, so only a 8-10 minutes dry time between. There are plenty of videos on YouTube for it ... in fact I think ChrisFix has a really good one.

  • That's strange, why do manufacturers make headlight lenses out of non-UV resistant plastic? I thought road dust and debris sandblasts them and causes haziness. – I have no idea what I'm doing Jun 30 '16 at 7:29
  • @IhavenoideawhatI'mdoing - Because it would be an added expense. Even if it costs $.50 per unit, think of all the hundreds of thousands of units which would have to be produced and multiply. It all adds to the bottom line. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jun 30 '16 at 9:56
  • If saving is done so rigorously nowadays then modern cars really are crap. Headlight resistance to outdoor conditions is critical. – I have no idea what I'm doing Jun 30 '16 at 10:22
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Step By Step ChangesBefore & AfterI used the 3M headlight restoration kit to restore my car's cloudy headlights and once they were clear, I sealed them with the Sylvania UV Block Clear Coat. This seems to have worked for me. I have a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbMHBtThvpk Also, here are some pics of the process. So far, they seem to be holding up well and I love the restored clean look. Step by step3

3M Headlight Restoration KitSylvania UV Block CLear CoatBefore & After

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