Bowman Chevy DIY Tips: How to Restore Headlights

If you’ve noticed your car’s headlights have become foggy over time, you’re not alone. The natural process of “oxidation” can dim even the brightest lights. However, a little DIY wet sanding can restore the radiance in just a few hours! Learn how to restore headlights in just a few simple steps, or head to our service department for additional assistance!

Getting Ready

Before you start, you will need:

  • Blue Chevy Cruze headlightAutomotive masking tape
  • Sandpaper in 800, 1,000, and 2,000 grits
  • Shop towels
  • Automotive rubbing compound
  • Electric drill
  • Compound pad with drill adapter
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Spray bottle filled with water (can add a small amount of soap for lubrication)
  • Small measuring cup
  • Odorless mineral spirits
  • Clear gloss spar urethane

Getting Started

Place automotive masking tape around the headlights to protect the paint from accidental scratches. Next, cut the sandpaper sheets into fourths. Spray a quarter sheet of the 800 grit sandpaper with your spray bottle. Place the wet sandpaper on the headlight, where it should stick on its own, and then spray the entire headlight until thoroughly wet.

Begin to slowly sand the headlight, continuing to spray water as you sand. Be sure to sand the edges and corners as well, using a fresh sheet of sandpaper for each headlight. It is helpful to sand in just one direction. Keep sanding until a uniform surface of 800 grit scratches can be easily seen, but wipe the surface with a shop towel before you check.

Rinse and Repeat

Now that you’ve mastered the wet sanding process, repeat the same steps with 1,000 grit and 2,000 grit sandpaper. Remember the key points: Sand in one direction, lubricate the surface, and wipe the surface when done. The more time you take on this step, the better your results will be. When you’ve again reached a uniform finish, you’ll see that the headlight looks noticeably clearer.

Time for the Drill

Take out the drill and attach the compound pad, or substitute a wool buffing pad and a polisher if you have them on hand. Shake the rubbing compound well and apply a generous amount to the headlight. Without turning on the drill, rub the compound over the headlight with the compound pad.

Now, it’s time to start the drill and begin polishing—but be sure to start slowly. Once the compound has spread, you can turn up the drill to full speed. Make sure you cover all areas of the headlight, adding more compound if needed.


At this stage, you are essentially finished! Your headlights should look much better. Now, it’s time to take protective measures to keep your headlights bright and shiny.

Use a shop towel and the rubbing alcohol to wipe the headlights, which will eliminate any remaining rubbing compound. Then, pour one ounce of spar urethane and one ounce of mineral spirits in a measuring cup. Mix well.

Now, fold a shop towel into a small square and dip it into the spirits mixture. Apply carefully to avoid drips, beginning at the top of the headlight and applying in a horizontal movement as you make your way down. The clear coat will thicken quickly after application, so work steadily. Should you make a mistake, simply remove the clear coat with mineral spirits and begin again.

Let this clear coat dry for at least 30 minutes before driving the vehicle. Let the headlight sit for at least four hours before you touch it. You can hand wash after a day has passed, but normal washing can commence after three days.

See the Team at Bowman Chevrolet for All Your Service Needs

For vehicle work that cannot be performed at home, the experts at Bowman Chevrolet are at your service. Visit our dealership or contact us today!

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