How Long Does Car Headlight Restoration Last? Consumer Reports Testers Answer

With car owners keeping their vehicles longer, DIY repair and maintenance options are growing. One concern about aging cars is headlight discoloration and cloudiness. So, what can you do to fix cloudy headlights, and how long does car headlight restoration last? Consumer Reports weighs in with testing and results of headlight restoration kits. Here’s what CR’s testers suggest, along with other insights into maintaining your vehicle’s headlights.

Does your car have cloudy headlights?

Headlight restoration tested by Consumer Reports
A cloudy headlight cover (top) and one that has been restored | Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

If you drive an older car, you might notice the headlight covers are losing their clarity and shine. That yellowish, foggy look is normal due to exposure to the elements over time. Cloudiness occurs when polycarbonate coating deteriorates, typically when the vehicle spends a lot of time in the sun, AAA explains.

Cloudy headlights can be problematic because the discoloration reduces light output during nighttime driving. And decreased light projected onto the road can significantly affect your visibility, increasing the risk of accidents. Though you can follow industry suggestions for replacing your headlight covers every three to five years, you have other options.

Explore some of the available headlight restoration kits on the market. Though they aren’t a permanent solution, Consumer Reports’ tests suggest these kits work to a certain degree.

How long does headlight restoration last?

Consumer Reports conducted tests using various headlight restoration kits. Jennifer Stockburger, the director of operations for the CR Auto Test Center, says these kits “absolutely work.” And with a price point of $10 to $20, they’re an affordable DIY option. But know that some applications require more elbow grease, including an electric drill.

This DIY project is doable and a viable option. However, headlight haziness will eventually return. Based on CR’s testing, the kits’ results last about one year. So if you need an immediate solution to cloudy headlights, you can increase visibility for up to a year using this method of headlight restoration.

Is it better to replace the headlight assembly instead?

Though headlight restoration kits are affordable, they’re only a short-term solution. At some point, you might consider replacing the headlight assembly. Prices vary based on your vehicle’s age and model and whether you hire a professional or replace the headlights.

The price to replace vehicle headlight components varies widely. For instance, replacing a bulb could cost $15 to $20 when doing it yourself or $150 if you hire a pro. Professional installation of an entire headlight assembly could run anywhere from $75 to $700. The parts alone could cost about $75 to $200. Tacking on professional labor translates to a $300 to $700 bill, Jerry reports.

If you’re experiencing your first bout with cloudy headlights, you might find the best value in a DIY headlight restoration kit. But if you’ve used these kits multiple times and noticed the haze returns, consider investing in a complete assembly replacement if you think your car is worth the expense.

Overall, headlight restoration kits are handy for DIY maintenance. They are an affordable and effective solution, just not for the long haul.

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