528i – Polishing the Headlights

About 6 weeks ago we bought a 1999 BMW 528i wagon. I really love this car. But since it’s 15 years old it has some issues. Nothing major and I’m working my way through them.

One of the issues is that the headlights have plastic lenses (as do most cars starting about 20 years back) and they are fogged and pitted. They are not too yellow, but they were pretty foggy.



Yesterday I cleaned up the right side light and today I did the left. I put more time into the left one and used some rougher sandpaper to start out so it turned out better. I might redo the right side sometime soon.

But I took photos of the steps along the way this time.

Removing the headlights is surprisingly easy in this car. Undo four small bolts and four electrical connectors and they pull right out. The trim piece on the bottom just unclips, as does the rubber gasket on the top.

I bought the Meguiar’s Heavy Duty Headlight Restoration Kit which comes with 1000 and 3000 grit pads. The pitting on the headlights was pretty deep, so for the second one I started out with 400 grit wet/dry paper. I don’t think I would go any lower than that, but the 400 worked out quite well.

I used lots of water when sanding. Here is the headlight after the 400 grit pass. Pretty hazy, but the pits are mostly cleaned up.


Next I did a pass with some 600 grit. I ran this pass at about 90 degrees to the first one to clean up any scratches.


I then used some 800 grit paper and went the long direction again.


Starting to look a little clearer. I used the Meguiar’s 1000 grit pad next.


I had some 1500 grit paper, so I used that between the two Meguiar’s pads.


And finally the 3000 grit Mequiar’s pad.


Starting to look pretty good. The next step is to polish it with the plastic polish that comes in the kit. It comes with a yellow polishing pad to use with your electric drill.

Here is a half-way polished shot.


After polishing you apply some UV protectant and you are done. I think it turned out pretty good.


Just for reference, here is the before photo again.


There is a little dirt and stuff inside the lens and you can take them apart – they just clip together – but I think I’ll leave that for another time.


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