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How to Clean Oxidized and Cloudy Headlights

Bob Jackson
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by Bob Jackson

This tutorial how to clean foggy oxidized and cloudy headlights on an older car with a commercial cleaning kit. The plastic lens haze is removed by polishing and sealing.

Cloudy Plastic Headlight Lenses

The headlights on my 11 year old Volkswagen Passat were cloudy and turning yellow from oxidation of the plastic headlight lenses. Up close, the oxidation looks like a thin film with an irregular pattern that is thicker in some spots and slightly rough to the touch.

Flitz Headlight Restoration Kit – Before and After

Besides looking bad, the oxidation blocks and diffuses the light making the headlights less bright. The oxidation can get so bad the car is unsafe to drive at night.

Flitz® Headlight & Plastic Restoration Kit Product Review

My options for fixing the cloudy headlights are:

  • Buy new headlights for about $420 (or $210 per unit)
  • Pay a garage to clean the headlights for $120 (2 headlights @ $60/each)
  • Buy a Flitz Headlight Restoration Kit for $32 and do it myself

I decided to go with the low cost option and do it myself. I purchased the Flitz Headlight & Plastic Restoration Kit from Amazon.com for about $32.

Why choose the Flitz brand headlight restoration kit? Because the garage uses Flitz to clean headlights (they buy it by the quart can) for their customers and I was impressed when Flitz restored the foggy headlights on other cars to a like-new clarity.

Flitz® Headlight & Plastic Restoration Kit

The Flitz headlight restoration kit has everything you need to restore and polish headlights:

  • Instructions
  • Buff ball
  • Abrasive Scruffing Pad
  • Flitz Polish/Paste – 1.76 oz tube
  • Headlight wax
Flitz® Headlight & Plastic Restoration Kit Contents

The kit is sufficient to restore about a dozen headlights in a heavily oxidized condition like mine.

Restore a Cloudy Oxidized Headlight

This is the cloudy headlight on my 2000 VW Passat with 140,000 miles. It’s been a great car, always kept in the garage and I recently had the transmission replaced. It’ll be my son’s car soon when he starts driving.

Oxidized and Cloudy Headlight

The headlights are given a good preliminary cleaning with the Flitz Abrasive Scruffing Pad wetted with water to remove the heavy oxidation. The pad looks and feels similar to steel wool, but it’s not steel wool and doesn’t fall apart like steel wool. The oxidation layer was quite thick in places and there’s no worry about protecting the clearcoat on these 11 year old acrylic headlights. You can feel the oxidation as a slight surface roughness need to completely knock this down with the pad before applying the buff ball and polish. I raised to the engine hood to protect the paint.

Flitz Headlight Restoration: Abrasive Scruffing Pad

Using the abrasive pad, at first I thought, “Uh oh! It’s looking worse and the entire headlight is now hazy!” Not to worry, the buff ball and polish will fix that.

Oxidized Headlight after Cleaning with the Flitz Abrasive Pad

After masking off the headlight with clean-release painter’s tape to protect the car body, I smeared a light coat of the Flitz Paste-Polish over the headlight. The paste-polish contains an ultra-fine abrasive.

Oxidized Headlight Restoration with Flitz Buff Ball and Polish-Paste

I attached the Flitz Buff-Ball to my Dewalt cordless drill, set the drill on it’s highest speed setting, and spent several minutes polishing the headlights. You’ll need eye protection because bits of polish may be flung off by the spinning ball.

Polish the Headlights with the Flitz Buff-Ball and Paste-Polish

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After polishing the headlights with the paste and buff ball, I could see and feel there were still several mottled areas of oxidation. Most of the headlight lens was silky smooth, but the oxidized areas were ever so slightly raised like a thin scab. Extra paste/polish and buff balling wouldn’t remove the oxidation.

I reapplied the abrasive scruffing pad to the remaining oxidized areas and got much better at feeling with my fingertips when the oxidization was completely gone with a smooth surface. I found there was no need to be shy with the scruffing pad, but do keep it wet and work it in circles for a even finish. If you’re working outside, you can rinse the headlights with the garden hose. I used a damp towel while working in the garage.

After another round of Flitz paste/polish and buff ball polishing, I checked the headlight for any remaining imperfections. In total, it took three (3) iterations of scruff pad followed by paste & buff ball to remove all the oxidation. On the final pass, I was chasing out small oxidation spots I missed near the edges that could only be seen after polishing.

Final Headlight Wax and Polish

Lastly, I applied the small packet of Flitz Waxx (white carnuaba and bees wax formula) included with the kit to the headlights and let it dry:

Flitz Waxx Headlight Polish

Then buffed off the Flitz Waxx with a clean towel:

Cloudy Headlight Cleaned with Flitz Headlight Restoration Kit

The headlight restoration speaks for itself. I was very pleased:

Flitz Headlight Restoration Kit – Before and After

I restored the passenger side headlight with equally great results.

Hope this helps,

Bob Jackson

acrylic headlightbuff ballclean headlightscloudy headlightFlitz Abrasive Scruffing Pad
Bob Jackson
Bob Jackson
Technology product manager by day and a prolific handyman in the evenings and over the weekends. Bob was the founder of the original Handyman How To website and that tradition continues on this site with excellent new handyman content into the future.
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