You see them every day — yellowed and foggy headlights that are damaged because of exposure to the sun and the elements. Damaged headlights are like scars on automobiles that are in otherwise good shape. Worse, damaged headlights reduce the light output and can become a safety issue, while at the same time reducing the true value of the car. As the average age of automobiles reaches a record high, more and more headlights need restoration.
There are many aesthetic and safety reasons to include headlight restoration as part of a service offering. Dealerships that offer headlight restoration services have an opportunity to increase revenue while providing a valuable service for their customers.
Benefit to the Dealership
From a dealership standpoint, there are many benefits for offering headlight restoration services. The most obvious reason is increased revenue, which can be achieved with low overhead and using tools, supplies and resources that are already on hand.
Most restoration services take approximately 30 minutes to perform and can be an add-on option to regularly scheduled services, other detail work or as part of a collision repair. Car owners recognize their headlights are damaged and many are intimidated to perform the work on their own. Your customers will appreciate having these services recommended to them.
One other benefit to the dealership is the improved aesthetics of used cars offered for sale. A positive first impression is critical to the purchase process. Restored headlights can make a car look newer and complements the overall exterior detail job.
Benefits to the Consumer
From a customer standpoint, restored headlights improve the aesthetics of the car, which in turn can increase the resale value. Having headlights restored can also save customers hundreds of dollars versus replacing with new headlights. More important, restored headlights offer critical increased light output that can improve safety at night and during bad weather.
While actual results will vary based on the extent of the damage and repair kit used, a light meter can show the before-and-after differences of headlight restoration.
For example, if you use a light meter to test the light output, it may indicate that the light output from a damaged headlight is 1,025 LUX, while the same restored headlight has a light output of 1,896 LUX — an 85% increase!
The Restoration Process
Headlight restoration kits can vary greatly in terms of price, ease of use and overall effectiveness. With so many kits on the market it is difficult to select the best one. A complete evaluation of the restoration process including tools, total time to restore and protection after the restoration process are important criteria to consider when selecting a kit.
There are two basic processes in restoring headlights: removing the damaged surface and sealing the repaired surface. Taking time to evaluate how these steps are accomplished and the results for each kit will pay off in time, money and customer satisfaction.
Step 1: Removing the Damaged Surface
Today’s headlights are produced with a coating to protect the plastic headlight lens. In most cases, it is the failure of this coating that causes the headlight to yellow and appear foggy. The first step is to remove this coating. The coating can be removed using various methods including removing with a buffer, using an abrasive attachment to a drill or sanding with high-grit sandpapers to remove and polish the lens.
Step 2: Sealing the Repaired Surface
While some systems only recommend sanding then buffing as a final step, once the protective coating has been removed from the surface it is highly recommended that the surface be sealed. Exposed plastic can yellow and weather again over time and will do so faster than if it had been sealed, making it more difficult to restore in the future.
Sealants can provide various features including a shiny appearance, UV protection and/or a hard coating to protect the lens plastic. Headlight sealants come in various forms. The most common are aerosols and liquids that are applied as a spray or with a sponge. There are even some sealants that come in the form of prepared wipes. The longest lasting sealants are those that are UV cured — whether by a UV lamp or by the sun. How much protection these sealants ultimately offer is based on the chemistry developed by the manufacturers, which also can vary greatly.
Headlight restoration services are an excellent opportunity for dealerships to generate incremental revenue because of the low overhead and existing resources required to perform the service. As the average age of cars continues to increase, customers are looking for this service, and offering headlight restoration can result in customers who are more satisfied — and safe.