Headlight lens replacement isn’t cheap. Once you factor in the cost of purchasing a new or used headlight, and then the labor required to swap out your old unit in favor of the new one, it can add up to a significant amount. Polish kits that promise to buff your headlights clear again seem like a promising alternative, but do they work?
Read on to find out more about which solution might work best for you.
Why Do Headlights Turn Yellow?
Yellowed, faded headlights are commonplace on older cars. The most common culprit is simply the aging of plastic covers on the headlight modules themselves, which are exposed to the heat from the bulb, the UV rays of the sun and the rain, salt and snow that are part of daily use. Unfortunately, as the plastic housing becomes more opaque, not only do the units look bad but they also let less and less light through, reducing your visibility during night driving.
Replacement vs. Polish
It might seem like headlight lens replacement is the only real solution at this point, but there’s another option available at a much lower price point: headlight restoration. Using a polish kit to remove the years of accumulated yellowing can go a long way towards restoring the look and functionality of your headlights.
The kits come in many forms, with some requiring hand-polishing, some use wipes, and others using drill attachments to do most of the work for you. A paste-like substance is applied to the lights prior to polishing or sanding, and sometimes a sealant is used at the end to preserve the clear, transparent look of the renewed lights.
Which One to Choose?
Given that restoration kits can cost as little as $25, it seems like they would be the obvious choice compared to headlight lens replacement. Still, polishing does not always work — sometimes a headlight cover is just too far gone, or too badly pitted and damaged to be restored. You may also have more serious damage to a headlight module, such as small cracks or deformations that are affecting light output, and might require replacement rather than repair.
If you’re uncertain whether headlight restoration is the best option for you, you can always check with your mechanic and have them inspect your lights before making a decision.
Check out all the lighting parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on headlight lens replacement, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.