How to Remove Oxidation From Polycarbonate Headlight Lenses
All modern headlight lenses are made of polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate is way less brittle than acrylic, its predecessor. Unfortunately, poly lenses are also prone to oxidation, which mars the look of your vehicle and even blocks light from the headlamps shining through the lense efficiently.
What is Oxidation?
Oxidation shows up on polycarbonate headlights in the form of an opaque “haze” that will turn yellow as time wears on. This affect is caused by ultra-violet rays from the sun shining on the outer lense, discoloring the protective shatter-resistant coating placed on the lense by the original manufacturer.
The good news is that in many cases if you catch this damage early enough; your headlights can be restored. The amount of effort will depend on the level of hazing or yellowing, but the methods detailed for you down below may just save you hundreds of dollars you’d otherwise have to spend on a new set of bezels!
- Use sandpaper to remove oxidative damage. This may do more harm than good as you’ll scratch the lense and weaken the protective coating that protects the bezel from cracking and shattering when road debris hit it (600-grit or finer sandpaper can be used as a last-ditch effort only.)
- Use chemical cleaners not designed specifically for polycarbonate lenses. This will weaken the protective coating and may well discolor the lense too.
Tips for Removing Oxidation:
Use Windex or other glass cleaners: This method will only work for minor oxidation and is best used as a monthly, bi-monthly preventative than a solution after the fact. Spray glass cleaner on the lense liberally and use a cheesecloth (or paper towel, rag, etc.) and wipe firmly. Repeat several times if necessary.
Use Dish Soap: Like the first suggestion, dish soap will only work for minor oxidative damage, and is also preferred for use as an oxidation preventative. However, it’s worth a shot at less than a penny per application! Rub the soap onto the lense without diluting it in water. Use a sponge or rag to work the soap into the lense for several minutes. Rinse, dry and repeat if necessary.
Use a hand degreaser: One of the best hand degreasers for removing oxidation from your headlamp bezel is Gojo “white” hand cleaner. You can find it at any Walmart, along with local auto and hardware stores starting at just $0.97! Non-scented works best. Coat the lense in the degreaser, allow it to sit for two minutes and wipe with cheesecloth or rag, with moderate pressure. Rinse the degreaser off when finished.
Use plastic lense cleaner: This is a pretty affordable option that will work on opaque and yellowed lenses. You can purchase this product at Walmart or your local auto parts store for less than $10. Apply the cream-based cleaner just as you would any car wax to your paint job. Allow it to dry, then wipe clean.
Use headlight restoration kits: The main difference between these kits (which can be found everywhere) is that they come with a buffing attachment which attaches to a power drill, in addition to a lense cleaning wax and lint free polishing rags. Keep in mind that you’ll need a drill to use most of these kits. Follow the instructions that come in the package.
If All Else Fails…
Or if you just want a new look for your vehicle: Consider purchasing a set of aftermarket bezels from our extensive selection shown here: AutoPartsToys Headlights
Sometimes nasty oxidation damage is the only reason anyone needs to dramatically change the look of their vehicle, while getting better-performing lights to boot!