Headlight cleaning and polishing


Most budget cars are equipped with plastic glass optics. As you know, such material is subject to rapid wear. Headlights with cloudy glass not only lead to discomfort while driving in the dark, but also reduce road safety.

Dim light may make it difficult for the driver to notice pedestrians or cyclists, who rarely wear reflective tape on their clothing. Some, to rectify the situation, purchase LED bulbs, but they also do not lead to the desired result. There is still not enough light through the dull headlights, since the scratched glass scatters the light over the surface of the headlight.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

There are two ways out of this situation: buy new headlights or polish the glass. New optics are much more expensive than the above procedure, so let's consider a budget solution to the problem of cloudy headlights.

What is polishing for?

Polishing the headlights is necessary, because even the coolest light bulbs will not shine 100% through dull glass. More precisely, they will work out their cost one hundred percent, only the glass will transmit only a small percentage of this light.

Poor light makes it difficult for the driver to navigate the road. If at night it is not very noticeable, then at dusk, when the maximum bright light is needed, it is strongly felt.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

Many modern cars have transparent plastic instead of glass in optics. Over time, due to various factors, the transparency of the material decreases, and the turbidity becomes very noticeable (in advanced cases, the glass is so cloudy that even the bulbs cannot be seen through it).

If it is much easier with glass - just wash it, and it becomes more transparent (and it doesn't grow cloudy too much), then such a solution will not help with plastic. A car with cloudy optics does not look as pretty as with transparent glass.

In addition to the discomfort and increased risk of getting into an emergency, bad light has another unpleasant consequence. While driving, the driver needs to peer into the distance, straining his eyes. From this he will get tired much faster than in bright light.

Factors that degrade headlights

Headlight cleaning and polishing

The following factors affect the quality of the machine optics:

  • Poor quality bulbs. A standard incandescent light bulb is only useful in the dark. But during twilight, and even in the rain, the light beam is so weak that it seems that the driver has completely forgotten to turn on the light. The situation will be corrected by replacing bulbs of higher brightness, for example, LEDs (read about the difference between halogen and LEDs here);
  • Surface wear as a result of exposure to abrasive substances while driving or servicing a car;
  • Fogging headlights in wet weather (about why this happens, and how to deal with it, read in a separate review).

Causes of wear

The headlight can become cloudy for various reasons. The most common are:

  • Exposure to abrasive materials. In the process of driving, the front of the car perceives the influence of the air flow, which carries various types of dirt. It can be dust, sand, midges, pebbles, etc. With sharp contact with plastic headlights, microcracks appear on the glass surface, as if this surface was rubbed with coarse-grained sandpaper;
  • Larger stones, hitting plastic, can lead to the formation of chips and deep cracks, into which dust penetrates and lingers there;
  • Headlights dry cleaning. Often, drivers themselves speed up the process of fogging the glass of the headlights by wiping it with a dry cloth. At this point, the sand caught between the rags and the plastic turns into sandpaper grains.

When depressions, chips, or cracks form on the surface of the headlights, dust and dirt particles begin to accumulate in them. Over time, this plaque is so pressed in that no amount of washing can help.

Tools and materials

Headlight cleaning and polishing

Headlight polishing at home can be performed by any car owner, even without complex professional equipment or any special skills. To complete the process you will need:

  • A power tool with a rotating mechanism - a drill, a screwdriver, a sander, but not a grinder. It is important that it has a speed regulator;
  • Attachment - a grinding wheel with replaceable sandpaper;
  • Emery wheel with replaceable coating of different grain sizes. Depending on the degree of damage (in the presence of chips and deep scratches, sandpaper with a grit of 600 will be required), the grit of the abrasive will be different (for the final work, paper with a grit of 3000-4000 is needed);
  • Polishing wheel (or rags in case of manual work);
  • Polishing paste. It is worth considering that the paste itself also contains abrasive particles, therefore, for the final work, you should take material not for treating the body, but for optical systems. If you manage to buy an emery wheel with a grit of 4000, then there is no need to purchase such a paste - the effect is the same;
  • You can buy tooth powder as an alternative to paste and the finest sandpaper, but this is the most budgetary option, which often does not lead to the desired results;
  • To polish glass optics, use a special paste that contains diamond dust;
  • Microfiber or cotton rags;
  • Masking tape to cover areas that the polishing tool may touch.

Polishing plastic headlights: different ways

If all work on polishing headlights is conditionally divided into two categories, then there will be two of them. The first is manual work, and the second is with the use of electrical tools. If a decision is made to polish the optics by hand, then you need to prepare for the fact that this will be a long and tedious process.

Manual polishing

This is the cheapest way. First, the surface is abraded. If there is no experience in such work, then it would be better to practice on something. This may require a block of wood. The goal during the test is to make the surface as smooth as possible and free from burrs.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

Do not rub the plastic back and forth in just one part of the glass. So there is a risk of making a large depression, which will be difficult to remove without a grinding tool. At the end of the procedure, a paste is applied to the rags and the glass is processed. A similar process is carried out from inside the headlight, if necessary.

We use sandpaper

When choosing sandpaper for manual or machine polishing, it is necessary to build on the degree of surface wear. If it has depressions or deep scratches, you will need coarse-grained paper. It is necessary to start with a grit of 600 to remove the main damaged layer (the smaller the damage, the greater the grit).

Headlight cleaning and polishing

Then each time the grain increases. The paper should be wetted beforehand so that it is elastic and does not form rough folds. Grinding is carried out in circular motions in different directions, so that the sandpaper does not process the surface in stripes, but the efforts are distributed evenly. The process is much easier if a sander is used.

Headlight polishing with toothpaste

There is a widespread advice on the Internet - to polish the headlights without using expensive polishes and tools, and to use ordinary toothpaste. In such cases, experts do not recommend the use of whitening types of pastes, as they contain abrasive particles.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

However, in this case, there is more chance of ruining the headlight than bringing it to perfect condition. Without the use of additional funds, this effect cannot be achieved. Anyway, to remove scratches and chips, you need to remove a thin layer of plastic, and without sanding paper this cannot be achieved.

If you rub the headlight with a whitening toothpaste, the plastic will be even more scratched, since the grain of the material does not change. If a gentle paste is used, it will not be able to remove the damage, and over time, dirt will accumulate on the headlight again. For this reason, it is better to use polishing with different grit emery wheels or to resort to the help of professional repair shops.

Machine polishing

The principle of polishing with a grinder is identical to manual, with the exception of a few subtleties with the operation of a power tool. During the rotation of the circle, you cannot stop in one place, and also strongly press on the surface. The revolutions must be set to the middle position, and during processing it is necessary to periodically check whether the plastic surface is heating up too much.

If you neglect the above rules, the headlamp can be damaged - the plastic will overheat, and the surface will be dull, not because of scratches, but because the material itself has changed its color from the high temperature. There is nothing to fix such consequences.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

After machine polishing, a protective layer of acrylic varnish can be applied to the surface of the plastic headlight. It will prevent the rapid appearance of abrasions on the optics.

Internal polishing

Sometimes the headlight is in such a neglected state that not only external, but also internal processing is required. The task is complicated by the fact that it is necessary to polish a concave rather than a convex surface. For this reason, you will have to do the work either manually or with the help of a special miniature grinder.

Headlight cleaning and polishing

The principle and sequence of work on internal processing is identical to that described above:

  • The surface is treated with coarse sandpaper;
  • Each time the graininess increases;
  • Finishing polishing is performed either with the 4000th number or with a polishing paste for optics.

In addition to the presentable appearance of the headlights, their polishing has a number of other positive aspects:

  • The driver's eyes get tired less when he peers into the distance (provided that the bulbs themselves shine brightly enough) - the road is clearly visible;
  • Reduces the risk of an emergency;
  • Since some of the plastic is removed during the polishing process, the headlight becomes more transparent than when it was new.

In conclusion - a short video on how the procedure is carried out:

Do-it-yourself headlight polishing on RS.

Questions and answers:

What do you need to polish your headlights with your own hands? Pure water (a pair of buckets), polish (abrasive and non-abrasive paste), a pair of microfiber napkins, sandpaper (grain size 800-2500), masking tape.

How to polish your headlights with toothpaste? The adjacent parts are protected with masking tape. The paste is applied and distributed. The surface dries up and the plastic is sanded by hand or with a machine (1500-2000 rpm).

Can I polish with toothpaste? It depends on the hardness of the paste (what kind of abrasive the manufacturer uses). Often, modern pastes are very gentle, so it will take a long time to polish.

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