Headlight Restoration Cost
If your car is more than a few years old, it’s likely your headlight lenses are cloudy, and scratched. Thus hindering their ability to shine bright for you to see at night. But don’t worry. You won’t have to buy whole new headlight housings to fix this problem. You can restore your old headlights. With headlight restoration cost being a fraction of the cost of a cheap headlight housing. Not to mention way less than a new OE headlight housing costs.
What you need to restore your headlights
Before we talk about headlight restoration cost, we need to look at what it takes to restore headlight lenses.
The plastic headlight housing gets scratched up from everyday driving. Dust and dirt in the air hitting that plastic at 30-75 MPH will do a lot of damage. This means you need to sand out all the scratches and polish the lenses. Depending on how bad they are, depends on how much time and effort it will take.
You’re going to need a few different grits of sand paper, and some sort of polishing/ rubbing compound. At minimum. Of course a power drill and sanding discs can make this a lot easier.
Restoration Kits VS buying components
You can definitely go out and buy a couple sheets of 1500 and 3000 grit sand paper. Plus a polishing wheel and polish for your drill. Or, you can a kit that has everything you need.
It’s hard to buy just a single sheet of sandpaper. Thus the cheapest way to get what you need is in an assortment of grits. Which means you’ll spend $10-20 on at least half a dozen pieces of sand paper and only use 2-4 of them. Then you still have to get the polishing wheel and polish. A polishing wheel is $10-15, and can of polish starts at $5. This means you’ll have $25-45 in materials.
Buy a kit
When you buy a kit everything you need but the drill comes in the kit. Most of the time you can get enough to do at least a couple sets of head lights. However unlike having to buy a huge selection of sandpaper you only get what you will use. Thus you aren’t wasting money on things you’ll never use. Since kits run between $10 for a cheap one to $20 for a really nice one. Like this one from Mothers that even comes with a polishing ball. You will save money on buying a kit.
Of course the cost of materials isn’t the only headlight restoration cost. It does take time to clean up and restore your headlights. If you do it by hand it takes even more time. You must sand and polish the whole headlight cover, till it’s clear. This can take 30-45 minutes a side, depending on the size of the headlight. If you get a kit with a drill attachment you can cut this time in over half. Although, now you need to figure in the cost of a drill if you don’t already have one. It really comes down to what you’re time is worth and if you have a drill already. These things all add up to what you’re total headlight restoration cost will be. Especially if you value your time heavily.
Restoration over Replacement
If you are opposed to spending a half hour of your time to clean up and polish your headlight lenses, there is an alternative. You can buy new housings from somewhere like CarParts.com or Auto Parts Warehouse. The problem is that the cost of even one new headlight lens will be $100 or more, depending on your car. Of course you may find both cheaper but you get what you pay for. If you didn’t like the work it takes to polish your lenses then you will hate how much effort it will take to replace the whole housing. Many times you have to take half the grill and radiator support a part to change them out. Which means if you don’t want to polish the lenses then you won’t want to even begin to replace the headlight housings. Thus leading to even more costs.
How to Restore Headlight Lenses
If you bought a kit all the directions you need to restore you headlights will come with the kit. Of course if you choose to buy sand paper and do it without a kit here’s the simple steps.
Start by masking off the body around your headlight. Then wet down the headlight cover with water. Starting with a sand paper no rougher than 1000 grit sand the housing until it looks uniform in color. Most likely it will look cloudier but less yellow. Do not worry about this. After that go to a finer sand paper like 3000 grit. Do the same thing. You will notice the headlight is looking clearer. Once it looks as uniform as you can get it. Go ahead an switch to a rubbing compound or polishing compound and keep at it until your headlight is clear and shiny. It’s that easy.
Almost all kits you get will have the same general instructions. Although they may not all have the exact same grit of sand paper. In all reality you could just use polishing compound and get the same results but it will take a lot longer to get there. Especially if you have very cloudy lenses. If you are using a drill make sure not to stay in one spot very long as you don’t want burn the plastic or make one spot to thin. And when in doubt make sure you use lots of water to keep things clean and cooled off.
End Results and added safety
The end result of less than an hours worth of work is brighter headlights. This leads to being able to see more after dark. Which means you are driving safer. Normal people wouldn’t drive around after dark with their headlights off. So why drive around with clouding headlight lenses giving you half the light you really need? Of course if you still don’t believe that the headlight restoration cost it worth it. Watch this video I did, when I restored my wife’s cars headlights. You will understand how $20 for a kit and the twenty minutes I spent was well worth it cost. With the added bonus of replacing the headlights with LED bulbs her 18 year old car now has headlights as bright as many of the high end luxury cars do brand new. Without the $80,000 price tag of a new car. Not to mention if the slight cost of restoring your headlights still seems high. Think about it as just another bit of maintenance you need to do on an older car. It’s always worth the money to be safe.
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