After most minor front-end collisions, typically only one headlight needs to be replaced. Insurance companies often won’t cover the cost of replacing the other headlight, and this causes a big difference in the output of the two lights and imparts an odd look to the car.
Since the 1980s, automakers have been designing aerodynamic headlights that have a clear plastic lens covering the whole assembly. In the 1990s, headlight makers started using softer plastics that are easier to form into complex shapes. The softer plastic needs a chemical coating to protect it from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Without that coating, the plastic becomes foggy or milky and eventually almost completely opaque.
Although new headlights have that protective coating, they take a lot of punishment from sand, salt, road grime, bugs and extreme temperature differences. It does not take long for the factory coating to start deteriorating, and after only a few years a slight haze becomes visible. Eventually the protective coating begins to crack. That’s when the lens oxidizes, causing it to become foggy and opaque. Depending on climate and road conditions, the light output can be reduced by more than half.
While headlight cleaning and polishing products have been on the market for several years, not all of them have a UV-protection coating. According to Symtech Corporation, which produces Bright Solutions headlamp restoration products, without that coating, the plastic lens will fog again. When UV-protection is applied, that fogging action is slowed significantly, and a restored headlight lens will remain clear for several years.
A study conducted by Symtech indicates that the number of fogged or yellowed headlights on the road is increasing every year as the average age of vehicles continues to increase, so the opportunity to sell headlight restoration service to your customers will increase too. The charge for this service is typically between one and two labor-hours plus the cost of materials. While not exactly cheap, this can still easily be half the cost of a new headlight assembly. With experience, the right products and the right tools, headlight restoration can be a solid profit center for your shop. And your customers will definitely notice the difference.