How to Restore Scratched and Pitted Headlights

by Brooke Pierce
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Poor maintenance and ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause your headlights to become scratched or pitted. Headlights often get neglected, and their physical appearance starts to change and look unattractive. Restore your headlights to their original condition with inexpensive products available at your local auto parts or hardware store.

Items you will need

  • Water

  • Bucket

  • Soap

  • Cloth towel or clean rag

  • Masking tape

  • Sand paper (wet or dry) 600, 1200 and 2000 grit

  • Soft sanding block

  • Buffing compound

  • Polish

Clean the headlight.

Soak the cloth towel in water in the bucket. Apply soap to the cloth and clean the headlights. Let the headlights dry and then wipe off any remaining moisture with a clean, dry cloth. Cover the areas surrounding the headlights using a masking tape to protect your car from scratches while cleaning.

Remove the scratches.

Use 600 grit wet sandpaper on each scratched headlight and then use 1,200 grit wet sandpaper. Finish with the 2,000 grit sandpaper.

Fold the 600 grit wet sandpaper on the sanding block. Pour water on the headlights and sand them. Move the wet sandpaper continuously on the headlights to remove large, visible scratches until the surface becomes smooth. Take time while sanding for best results. The headlights will have a cloudy appearance due to the loose coating forming as a result of the sanding. Use plenty of clean water and clean the surface of the headlights as you go.


Wet sandpaper is used by hand while the dry sandpaper is used on power and sanding blocks.

Use the wet 1200 grit sandpaper to get rid of the pits and scratches. Move the sandpaper in the same direction that you used with 600 grit sandpaper. Continue sanding until you get rid of all of the scratches. Clean the headlights again with clean water. Then move to finer 2000 grit sandpaper, keeping it wet as you sand. Use the same movements as you did for the 600 and 1200 grit sandpaper. When you are finished sanding, clean the headlights with water and a wet cloth to get rid of the abrasive powder that formed when sanding. Repeat this step to ensure that all of the scratches and pits are gone, and clean the headlights again.


  • Move the sandpaper back-and-forth and not in a circular motion. 
  • Six-hundred grit sand paper is used for sanding finishes between coats, 1200 grit sandpaper is super fine and is used for midpoint sanding of finishes, while 2000 grit is ultra-fine for final sanding and polishing. The different grits help to create an ever-smoother finish.

Apply the buffing compound and polish.

Use buffing compound to complete the cleaning process. Using a clean rag, apply the compound evenly on the headlights. Buff the headlights until they are clear. Apply the polish to give the headlights a sheen. Remove the masking tape, and your headlights should look as good as new.

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