Home How-to Articles How-to: Making Headlights Safe with a 3M Headlight Restoration Kit

How-to: Making Headlights Safe with a 3M Headlight Restoration Kit

by Moses Ludel

Modern vehicles with halogen, HID and LED bulbs often cloud the front face of the headlamp assemblies. In this how-to video, we restore a pair of Ram truck headlight assemblies. This “DIY” alternative saves replacing entire light assemblies.  There is also a shop-grade kit for higher volume headlight service.

The Ram truck’s headlight covers are glazed and pitted from many miles of desert highways and normal road debris.  Assemblies that have little or no signs of moisture are candidates for restoration.  These two headlamp units show no signs of moisture.  The covers are opaque, however, and the lamp performance has been diminished substantially.  These headlights have become unsafe under some night driving conditions. 

On the 2005 Ram 3500 truck, changing a headlamp bulb involves removing the entire headlight assembly!  The left headlamp bulb’s low beam burned out, a good reason to remove both assemblies to replace all bulbs.  We took advantage of this opportunity to use the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit and install new upgrade bulbs.  Sticking with DOT-approved Philips X-treme Vision halogen replacement bulbs provides additional, legal light.  These halogen headlamp bulbs fit our 2005 Ram truck.  (Select the correct bulb size/number for your vehicle!)  Purchased from Amazon.com with accompanying positive reviews, the bulbs boast up to 100% improvement over the OEM headlight bulbs:  Philips 9007 X-tremeVision Upgrade Headlight Bulb, 2 Pack.

The 3M Headlight Restoration Kit comes with a drill arbor and three sets of abrasives:  500, 800 and 3000 grit.  The grits are used carefully and in sequence from roughest to lightest.  After final smoothing with the 3,000 grit disc and an electric drill, we followed with the provided foam pad, rubbing compound and supplied silicone wax.

The system is easy to use.  Be prudent, though, and do not gouge or damage the plastic.  The process should take 30-minutes to an hour per pair (plus the time to remove the headlight assemblies if necessary).  Time involved depends upon the intensity of the glazing and depth of pitting.  These abrasives work, so use them accordingly!  Shown here is the foam pad for applying the rubbing compound and final wax.  This is a sensible DIY package for servicing one vehicle, more if you have extra rubbing compound and silicone wax.

The results were very impressive!  An alternative is to replace the headlight assemblies with new ones.  There are off-shore knockoff assemblies available, tread carefully and read product reviews.  If your OEM headlights can be restored, do so.

When the headlight units can be restored in position (without a bulb installation), the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit provides masking tape to prevent damage to paint.  The use of tape with mask-off paper would be advisable, as the arbor can dance around until you become familiar with its action.  Use of a light weight electric drill works best.

Level of Difficulty and Lighting Results

The use of this kit should be easy for anyone who can safely control a 1/4″ drill motor.  Practice to get a feel for the drill motion.  Once you can wield the drill smoothly, the task will not be difficult.  Use a respirator to avoid inhaling disc abrasive or chemicals from the rubbing compound and wax.

Results were exceptional in our case.  The Ram’s headlights have been marginal since new, and the deterioration caused by glazing and pitting of the covers further exaggerated the problem. 

Note:  At the magazine, you will find a review of PIAA driving lights with video examples of how weak these OEM headlights became over time.

Annecdotally, without the use of a luminescence meter, it is safe to say that we now have 200% brighter lights, a combination of using the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit plus new Philips X-Treme Vision replacement halogen bulbs.  Both the kit and bulbs are highly recommended for restoring and improving the lighting on a Ram truck like ours.

For more information on this 3M Product and others, click here


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