Why You Should Think Twice Before Polishing Your Own Headlights

May 25, 2017 - 

The Origin of Plastic Headlights

The earliest headlights were introduced in the late 1880s and were fueled by acetylene or oil. Electric headlights came onto the market only a few years later in 1898, as optional additions on the Electric Vehicle Company’s Columbia Electric Car. Cadillac was the first to create the modern vehicle electrical system in 1912.

Headlight housing varied wildly in size and shape for several decades. In Europe, headlights did not have standardized requirements until 1983. Even in the United States, headlight design changed very little from 1940 to 1983. Most vehicles had glass, circular bulbs that were set into the front grill. Ford Motor Company petitioned for an amendment to the 44-year-old U.S. headlight regulations in 1981. Two years later, the regulations were changed to allow replaceable-bulb, nonstandard-shape headlights with aerodynamic lenses that could be made of plastic.

Headlight Wear and Tear

Glass and plastic headlights alike both experience considerable wear and tear due to their prominence at the front of your vehicle. Road debris such as stones and sand can kick up into the lens, potentially causing small chips or cracks. Plastic headlights are less susceptible to breakage than glass lenses, but have to deal with troubles of their own. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun oxidizes the plastic, causing the unappealing cloudiness and yellow discoloration. The degradation not only looks unappealing, but severely limits the brightness of the headlights.

DIY vs Professional Restoration

Professional headlight restoration services ensure your headlights are polished to their former glory for a fraction of the price it would cost to completely replace them. Using specialized tools, restoration technicians can remove nearly all of the oxidized material on a vehicle’s headlights. Some shops even apply a urethane or acrylic clear coat to protect the lenses from additional UV exposure.

Many retailers offer do-it-yourself restoration kits for purchase. They usually contain a cleaning fluid and multiple sheets of sandpaper with descending level of grit. Some even include a UV sealant. While the tools might seem the same, DIY kits are not the same level of quality as professional equipment. An inexperienced car owner might use the sandpaper too aggressively, potentially scratching or damaging their lenses. Furthermore, DIY UV sealant typically requires multiple applications over time to prevent oxidation, forcing you to buy more materials. Investing in a professional restoration service could actually save you more money in the long run than trying to tackle the project on your own.

Headlight Restoration in Florida

Oxidized or sun-damaged headlights are not just unsightly, they’re also a safety hazard. The expert auto body technicians at Carsmetics are highly trained in professional headlight restoration service, and can help make your old lenses as bright as ever! Contact us today for more information or visit one of our many locations.