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Plastic Headlight Refinishing & Restoration

We had recently purchased a late-model used car that had seen too many trips through a brush-style car wash...a no-no for any real car enthusiast. But for most people, those time-saving, discount gas station car wash machines are just too easy. The whole car had taken on a patina from the swirling automated car wash brushes. We knew we would be able to restore the paint work in short order with Eastwood products, but we wanted to concentrate at this time on the plastic tail light, head light and decorative trim.

Cloudy plastic headlights not only look bad, they effect how well you can see the road ahead, and can be dangerous. Why live with them like this when in just an afternoon you could buff and polish the lenses to be crystal clear and like new again?

The objective was to rejuvenate these areas to a "like-new" finish. Eastwood has everything you could possibly need for this job, from how to videos and books, to polish, to drill mounted buffs, to sandpaper and clear paint for those really bad lenses. We selected AutoSol Polish to start for this project with just some hand rubbing.

We first set about to carefully wash the entire vehicle, eliminating dirt, grit and contamination. Turning our attention to the tail lights, we applied AutoSol by hand. We applied a small amount to a clean, dampened cloth, and, with only a small amount of pressure and elbow grease, we could see our tail light lenses rejuvenate right before our eyes. A quick final polish with a clean rag had all but eliminated the car wash brush marks. The headlights were in worse shape and the Autosol helped somewhat, but more drastic measures were needed.

NOTE: Autosol is an excellent polish for use on any plastic.

The Eastwood Headlight Refinishing and Restoration kit includes almost everything you need to do the job, except a 3/8" drill.

Kit includes:

Tools Needed:

  • 1 - 3/8" electric drill w/ maximum RPM of 1,800-2,200
  • 1 - 3/4" wrench
  • 1 - clean terry cloth or micro-fiber polishing rag
  • 1 - large drop-cloth
  • NOTE: This kit is ONLY for Plastic Headlamps and WILL NOT WORK ON GLASS LENSES.


  • Step 1 Be sure headlamp assembly is stable and firmly held in place within the housing prior to beginning this process.

  • Step 2 Clean headlamp assembly with a dish soap and water or glass cleaner and a clean wash cloth or sponge and dry thoroughly.

  • Step 3 Lay drop-cloth over the painted parts of the car so as to protect from polish residue that may be "thrown" off of the buff wheel during the buffing process.

  • Step 4 Attach 3" buff wheel to 1/4" arbor and tighten nut. Note: Arbor has left-hand threads, be careful not to over tighten when attempting to disassemble.

  • Step 5 Place arbor with wheel into drill If drill is a "reversible" unit, be sure drill is set to turn clockwise.

  • Step 6 Apply Autosol Polish onto the surface of the headlamp in a series of "beads" from left to right and from the top of the headlamp to the bottom, with approx. 1" - 1½" between the "beads" of polish. Turn the buff wheel by hand while smearing the Autosol onto the entire surface of the headlamp. Use the thin edge of the buff wheel just as you do when performing metal buffing/polishing.

  • Step 7 Hold drill next to headlamp with buff wheel touching headlamp surface. Activate drill by pulling trigger slowly so as not to "throw" the polish off of the wheel instantly. A variable speed drill makes this task easier, as you can slowly increase your speed to the maximum drill RPM to avoid "throwing" the polish.

  • Step 8 With drill spinning begin to sweep across the face of the headlamp from left to right while dropping down 1/4" - 1/2" at the end of each horizontal pass. Then repeat this process in a vertical manner, buffing from top to bottom while moving slowly sideways. Be sure to apply additional Autosol Polish if surface or wheel have "dried out". Follow the vertical buffing with another series of horizontal sweeps while applying additional Autosol to the headlamp surface.

  • Step 9 After the drill, you will want to "buff" the headlamp surface by hand with a clean rag to remove any residuefrom the buffing process. At this point you should notice a cleaner, clearer appearance on your headlamp lens which will yield better night-time visibility. This process may also be used on taillight, turn signal & side-marker lenses.


If headlamps appear extremely discolored or hazy or have a rough feel to the surface due to the abrasion caused by road debris encountered during everyday driving, you may want to precede the above process w/ a few simple wet-sanding steps. Wet-sanding is a safe way to remove more material from the headlamp's surface in a quicker & more noticeable manner than continuing to buff w/ the polish.

Wet sand at first with 400 grit paper and a soap and water solution. Sand with short vertical strokes, then a series of short horizontal strokes. Keep the paper wet to avoid over sanding. Next move on to 800 grit paper and the same process, then finally 1200 grit. NOW you can progress to the polishing steps outlined in the 1st part of the instructions above using the Autosol Polish and 3" Buff Wheel.

This process, when performed correctly, should return your lenses to a "like NEW" appearance with little effort and no specialty tools. At the cost of replacement lenses these days, this kit is an inexpensive fix for a widespread & costly problem and offers enough product to perform this task many times.