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Turnbull's work keeps lights bright

Until about 15 years ago, the only way a headlight on a car would go dim was if the bulb was dying or it was covered in dirt. Since auto manufacturers started making their headlight lenses out of plastic rather than glass, drivers have seen the quality of their headlights deteriorate over time, even when they put in new bulbs.

The problem is that the plastic on the outside of the light gets cloudy and yellowed, and doesn't direct the light the way it should. Don Turnbull of Hastings noticed the problem on his wife's car a little more than a year ago and decided to see if there was something he could do to fix it.

He tried a few cleaners, but they didn't have the effect he wanted. Finally he found a restoration kit that cleared up the lens perfectly.

At the time, General Motors was closing a number of dealerships, including the one where he worked. He figured he needed to find some income, and after the success on his wife's headlights, decided he would offer the same service to others.

Turnbull operates his business, Don's Bright Lights, out of his home. He's come across those who don't believe headlights can be restored, but most people, he thinks, are unaware the process exists.

"I don't think a lot of people know about it," he said.

Restoring the lights can save a considerable amount of money. Turnbull charges $80 - $40 per light for the service. Replacing the headlights can cost more than $175 per light, and depending on the type of headlight, replacing a pair can easily cost between $300 and $900, Turnbull said.

An obvious sign that your headlights need restoration is simply a lack of visibility at night. Another way to check is to look into the fixture itself.

"If you can't see the reflective background, you need to have it fixed," Turnbull said.

Restoration takes about an hour to and hour and a half. Turnbull's process involves sanding the surface multiple times, using a finer and finer grain sandpaper each time. A good cleaning and polish at the end leaves the lights looking and shining bright as they did new.

The effect's duration depends on the type of plastic and how frequently the car is driven. It can take anywhere from nine months to two years for the lights to cloud up again.

Turnbull has been operating his business for just more than a year, and so far, the lights he's restored are still bright.

"Most of the ones I did last year still look good," he said.

Just in case, he's offering an 18-month guarantee, even for those who have already come to him.

"I stand behind my work," he said.

He also offers free local pick-up and drop-off on the vehicles he works on.

For more information about Don's Bright Lights, go to or call Turnbull at 651-335-9527.