Do Car Headlight Restoration Kits Really Work?

Cars at night on a road with their headlights on Photo: iStock

Over time, some car’s headlights have a tendency to go from crystal clear to cloudy. But how much does this degradation affect a driver’s visibility at night and is there anything you can do to correct the problem?

“The yellow and fogginess you see on car headlights as they age will affect how much light is projected out onto the road and degrades your visibility,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “There’s a polycarbonate coating that goes on headlight lenses and that’s what’s deteriorating as your headlights age, particularly in areas where cars get a lot of sun.”

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The good news is you have options. You can either replace your headlight housings or restore them using a headlight restoration kit. These can cost from $10 to $20. Essentially they help you sand off the damaged lens coating, then reapply a protective layer. The kits require a bit of elbow grease. Some require an electric drill.

“The restoration kits absolutely work and they’re very much a DIY project that you can do in your garage or driveway,” says Stockburger. “You’ll see much better at night after using these kits.” (Find out how Consumer Reports tests headlights.)

If you prefer not to restore the lens yourself, body shops often offer this service. 

Either DIY or do-it-for-me, the kits are not a permanent solution. The hazing effect will return, typically becoming noticeable after a year based on our tests. 

Consider the cost and effort for using restoration kits versus the cost of replacing the headlight housings, factoring how long you plan to hold on to the car. The newer the car, the more expensive the headlights are going to be.