The headlights on our little Mini are yellowed, blurry and not all that bright – so much so that we got an advisory on the latest MOT. So, let’s do something about it. Fixing these up is way way easier and cheaper than you’d expect. It took me about an hour to do both – I mean just look at the difference!
All you need is some high grit wet and dry sandpaper – I used 2500 grit – some light polish cutting compound and one of these cheap drill polishing kits you can get on Amazon (affiliate link in the description, obviously). You’ll also want some masking tape and a spray bottle with some soapy water.
Start by cleaning the headlight of any dirt, bugs and grit. The Mini’s headlights are pretty bull-nosed so there were plenty of splattered bugs to clean.
Once it’s as clean as you can make it, you’ll want to mask around the acrylic itself. We are using sandpaper here, so you don’t want to scratch your paintwork or in my case the chrome cowelling – so I’m using my masking tape here. I’m actively tucking it in so I can be sure the edge of the chrome is protected while I’m sanding especially near the edges.
Now it’s protected, I’m spraying the surface down with the soapy water and using the 2500 grit to work the yellowing and pits out. Take your time on that, you’ll want to make sure the surface is as smooth and clean as you want. Some deep chips just won’t come out, but you can smooth them out a little.
Once it’s smooth enough for your liking, give it another wipe to clear any grit left on it, then you can switch to the power tools! If you’ve got a proper buffer of course you can use that, and if you don’t have any powered polishing tools (this kit I’m using is something like £20 or £30 on Amazon) you can use good old fashioned elbow grease. But I’ve got this so it’ll do. I’m using some TurtleWax light cutting compound here, dabbing it onto a clean pad and blotting it onto the headlight surface, then using a variety of techniques.
I tried going slow and light, pushing hard down and spinning the drill fast, and everything in between. I did a full pass until I felt like I’d used up the cutting compound either by flinging it off or having it soak into the pad itself. I gave it a wipe down to see where I’d got to. For the first headlight I don’t think I did the best job with the sandpaper. I got one area nice and smooth, but some of the outer areas weren’t the best, which meant I spent a lot more time using the drill and polish to smooth it out.
I went back for a second pass with some fresh cutting compound, and worked it until I felt it was clear enough. Again I wiped it down, and I have to say I’m really happy with that. For maybe 20 minutes work on the one headlight all in it already looks so much better. Now I did go at it again with another lot of cutting compound as once the water evaporated it looked a little less clear than I was hoping for – but this is the end result. Not bad!
Of course you will need to repeat the process on the other side, although I used the lesson I learned from the first one and spent a little more time with the sandpaper getting the whole surface smooth and clean. The more time you spend getting everything levelled with the sandpaper, the less work you’ll have on the polishing stage. In theory the sandpaper is doing all the work, with the polish mostly just cleaning up after the sandpaper makes a bit of a mess.
Still, as a before and after I’m really pleased with that. It’s practically night and day and means we won’t have any issues with them being cited on the MOT again! I think it took an hour or so all in, and I’d call that an hour well spent.