Step by step: Our 3M headlight restoration.

Written by Chris Dekker, former co-owner at Tools in Motion.


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This little Volkswagen came in with some very cloudy headlights, which were affecting the driver’s visibility at night.

The best repair for this problem would be two new headlamp assemblies. Unfortunately, that’s often expensive – and this vehicle was an example of that. Not only are the new parts rather pricey, but changing them is labour intensive because (as with many vehicles today) the front bumper must be removed to access some of the bolts. And of course, new assemblies must be aligned using our headlight aimer; adding more expense.

So, what about the headlamp fillers and polishes available at your local hardware store? We’ve tried several of these products, but weren’t impressed with the results: either the results weren’t great, or they just didn’t last.

More recently, we have been using a kit from 3M that actually allows us to repair – not just temporarily fill – the headlamp lense. Customers have been loving this solution for vehicles where replacement headlight assemblies are too expensive an option.

Here’s what we did to repair the headlamps on this Volkswagen Golf today:


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Step 1) On vehicles where it is very time consuming to remove the headlamp, we do the restoration with the headlamps in the vehicle. In these cases, we tape off the surrounding area to avoid scratching the paint.


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Step 2) We start with a fairly coarse sandpaper mounted on a soft foam pad, and actually sand away a thin layer of plastic from the headlamp. We remove just enough surface plastic to eliminate any cloudiness or pitting that exists. This step is tricky, as too low a sanding speed can leave scratches, but too much speed will melt and burn the plastic.


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Steps 3 & 4) We continue sanding, working our way from the first (and most aggresive) grit to a finer sandpaper; and then a finger grit again. After working our way through all 3 grits of sandpaper, the surface imperfections are removed and we’re starting to smooth out the lense surface.


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Step 5) We perform a wet sand with a special rough sponge. This smooths out the surface and liquifies a layer of loose plastic from the sanding into a white slurry, which is forced into any remaining low spots as a filler. It is during this stage that we start to see the results of the previous steps, as the clarity improves.


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Step 6) We perform a final polish using a special sponge, and rubbing compound – a special gritty paste. Like toothpaste, rubbing compound has fine abrasive particles in it, which polish out imperfections.


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Step 7) After removing the masking tape, we apply a sealer & wax to the headlamp lense in order to protect it. Looks great, doesn’t it?


Would you like your headlight assemblies restored using this method? Call us today! For almost all vehicles, we charge $69 per headlamp (about $140 for both).

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