Headlight cleaning and restoration

Over the years of abuse from the elements, your headlights can become cloudy, you can easily overcome this by following this headlight cleaning and restoration guide. This can be quite frustrating to many people and end up replacing the headlights when in reality, regular maintenance can prevent them clouding over the first place. Even if the headlight is very cloudy and feels rough to the touch it is possible to restore them back to their original clarity with the correct procedure.

Depending on how cloudy, rough and pitted your headlights are determines how much effort you have to put in to make them crystal clear again.

BMW e39 headlight light restoration

What’s required if your headlights are lightly clouded

  • Applicator Pad
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Headlight cleaner of your choice
  • External plastic/glass protector
  • Detailing masking tape

What’s required if your headlights are heavily clouded

  • Drill with adjustable speed control
  • Headlight restoration kit of your choice with drill attachment and variety of sanding pads
  • Headlight cleaner of your choice
  • External plastic/glass protection
  • Detailing masking tape
  • Applicator Pad
  • Microfiber cloth

Headlight cleaning and restoration process step 1

Lets assume that you’re starting off with heavily clouded lenses that require a lot of attention. If your headlights don’t need cutting back (You can tell by running your fingers over the surface, if it’s rough then it will need light cutting) then skip the initial steps using the drill. But follow the very first step.

First you should mask off the area around your lights as you do not want to cut down the paintwork, alternatively you can remove your headlights and do this without the worry of cutting back your paintwork by accident.

Taking your drill or cordless screwdriver attach the circular sanding attachment and use the most abrasive pad. Apply as much of the cutting compound that came with the kit as recommended by the manufacturer and sand the lens down evenly, do not press too hard or this will create a flat spot which will potentially will ruin the curvature of the lens. Repeat this process until you are using the finest sanding pad that came with the kit.

At this point you should clean your headlights with water, removing the cutting compound then dry it with a soft microfiber cloth, removing any residue that may be left. You are now ready to clean the headlights.

Headlight cleaning and restoration process step 2

The headlights cleaning products are typically a paste suited to both dense plastics and glass. You should apply headlight cleaning product as recommended by the manufacturer using an applicator pad. At first the paste will be abrasive but as you work it in, it will break down into a polishing compound. You may need to work this in quite considerably (Even working up a sweat). You can clean the light off at any time with a soft microfiber cloth at any time to see your progress. Most likely you will need to repeat this process at least three times across the headlight.

Once you have repeated the above process enough times that your headlight is clear you should buff the light up with a soft microfiber cloth and ensure that there is no left over cleaning compound on your headlights. Your headlights will now look fantastic and like new again, but the lenses will still require further attention or in time to come, you’ll be back to square one with cloudy lenses again.

The last step is to apply a headlight protection product, there are many on the market so select one that best suits your environment. Apply the protection with an applicator pad ensuring there is even coverage across the lens, following manufacturers advice you may have to allow the product to settle (Much like a wax) before buffing off with a soft microfiber cloth.

Great, your headlights will now look as good as new and will look great for time to come as protection has been applied. I hope you enjoyed this headlight cleaning and restoration guide.


BMW e39 headlight restoration before



BMW e39 headlight restoration after