DIY: Headlight Restoration using Clear Coat

Difficulty Level

Tools/Supplies Needed:

• 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper
• 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
• bucket of soapy water
• rubbing/isopropyl alcohol
• clean lint free cloth
• tape
• paper
• adhesion promoter
• lacquer/clear coat


• if you decided to remove your headlights, start with that step first
• headlight removal processes vary between makes and models of vehicles
• wash the headlights thoroughly to ensure no contaminants will get into the wet sanding process
• tape off around the perimeter of the headlight lens or vehicles paint to protect it (optional)
• ensure the lens is always well lubricated during the wet sanding process using the soap water
• if your headlights are severely hazy/foggy, wet sand starting with 800 grit sandpaper and finish with 1000 grit
• if headlights are mildly hazy/foggy, start and finish wet sanding with 1000 grit sand paper
• once satisfied, wash the headlight again to ensure there are no contaminants which would affect the lacquer/clear coat
• ensure the headlights are dry, wipe them down with rubbing alcohol
• tape off the areas you do not want any lacquer/clear coat on
• wipe headlight lens down again with isopropyl/rubbing alcohol
• do not touch the lens with your hands as oil from your skin can cause imperfections when apply the lacquer/clear coat
• use the adhesion promoter to ensure there will be maximum adhesion when applying the lacquer/clear coat
• once adhesion promoter has setup, then go ahead and apply the lacquer/clear coat
• lacquer/clear coat can be applied in 2 coats if you are not planning on wet sanding afterwards
• if you are planning on wet sanding to a polish afterwards, apply 3 coats to ensure there is enough material for the next process
• be sure to remove any paper or tape after about an hour of setup time
• let the headlight fully harden in the sun for at least 24 hours before the wet sanding and polishing stage

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

I applied the clear coat, but it became cloudy once dry, why is that?

Ensure that protects you used were compatible, the degreaser was fully evaporated, and no moisture came in contact with the fresh clear coat.

Why did the clear crack or crinkle up after drying?

This is cause from a chemical reaction. Your headlights could have been clear coated in the past and the new application of clear coat wasn't a compatible product. Another issue is that you may have used incompatible products which would also cause the same effect.

What type and brand of clear coat was used in the video?

The type is acrylic lacquer and the brand was Dupli-Color.

How long does it take for the clear coat to harden before wet sanding?

This will be dependant on your climate and how thick of a coat you applied. As a safe time span, a week should be a sufficient amount of time.

Will this method work on glass?

No it will not.

Where can I buy the products shown in the video?

The products should be easily obtained at any local hardware store, automotive parts supplier, or automotive paint retailer.

Video tutorial on how to refinished hazy/foggy plastic headlights by applying clear coat. This is intended to be a long term method compared to the other two methods which I have done in the past that was the wet sanding/polishing method and the method using strictly toothpaste. The headlights do not need to be removed from the vehicle or disassembled as I have shown the in the vehicle. Removing the headlights from the vehicle does help to eliminate the chance of any over spray from the clear coat or adhesion promoter landing on the paint which would need to be cleaned afterwards. This particular video was done on a 1997 BMW 540i E39 body style.