Detail Oriented: Headlight lens restoration

Top: A headlight lens before Mark Barger restored it using Optimum Opti-Lens. Bottom: Mark Barger brought the lens back to like-new condition with the methods discussed in this post.

Photos provided by Mark Barger

Faded or UV damaged headlight lenses look bad, and they can affect the distance you are able to see while driving at night.

Headlight restoration can be a complex subject. There are many over-hyped products and methods regarding restoring them, and accurate information can be hard to come by. This doesn’t mean you should go out and purchase costly new lenses, though, because they can be restored if done properly.

I asked Mark Barger, from Visual Pro Detailing, to provide the proper techniques to help restore your headlight lenses.

So how do headlights end up looking so bad? Oxidation. Headlights oxidize and discolor because their UV coating begins to fade away after years of being exposed to the elements.

The damage will only increase as time passes, unless that damage is removed and a new UV coating is applied. This means a wipe-on product or simply waxing the lens isn’t going to fix the problem.

When restoring headlights, Barger makes it a goal to provide a solution that has at least a full year’s worth of protection.

“It is always best to begin with the least aggressive method, and then work your way up as needed,” said Barger.

After cleaning the surface of the lenses, Barger recommends sanding them with 1,500 grit sand paper, followed by using a compound rated to remove the scratches. Some headlights are made out of stronger plastics than others, but this will work in most instances.

Next, use a light polish until you get the desired level of clarity on the plastic. For more stubborn plastics, you might want to start with 1,500 grit sand paper, work your way up to 3,000, then follow up with the compound and polish.

Now that your headlights look new, they will need a new layer of UV protection. Barger recommends a product called Optimum Opti-Lens, which can provide up to three years of superior UV protection. If Opti-Lens is not in your price range, using a wax or synthetic sealant will work for protection, but you will have to apply it a lot more often.

If you have any questions or topics you would like Mark and I to cover feel free to email me at

You can reach Mark at or visit with any questions or to schedule an appointment to let Mark take care of your car’s detailing needs. He is currently restoring headlights for $50 a set, which includes the sanding, compound, polishing, and coating of Optimum Opti-Lens.

Idle Thought of the week: “Headlight restoration needs to be done right to get lasting results. Skip the gimmicks and find something that works the first time.” - Mark Barger


Copy editor

Shawn Anglin is a sports clerk for The Southern Illinoisan. He also blogs about cars at

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