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Headlight polishing skillshare

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Project by DynaBlue posted 1606 days ago 3277 views 18 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Headlight polishing skillshare
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Some of you might think ‘duh!’ but this was a bit of paradigm breaking for me :)

I’ve owned my car since 2001 and about 4 years after I bought it the plastic headlight lenses started to fog and craze. The situation had only worsened over time and about 18 months ago I tried an ‘over the counter’ solution from one of the box stores. It seemed simple enough, rub the lens surface lightly with their garnet paper and then brush on this clear syrupy liquid which was supposed to fill the small cracks and imperfections giving a smooth, clear surface when it dried. It didn’t work all that well.

Yesterday as I was waiting for glue to dry I finally got tired of the ugliness and went all woodworker on those lights! I opened up my kit and pondered how to proceed. Finally deciding that polishing plastic was no different than polishing out a film finish (just the ‘film’ is far thicker) I approached it accordingly. Wet sanded the lights with 400-600-1000 grit and then used a round applicator pad and butcher block oil with two grits of pumice (FF and FFFF) and rottenstone in succession. The results are visible in the picture. The left front light has been polished and the right front has not. It took about 25 minutes to get that level of clarity.. which is really almost new-car clear, the picture might not show that.. and I didn’t have to spend a dime on anything new or fancy, just things I already had in the shop. Last night I drove the car around and found that my lights produced a whiter, sharper light than they had in years. Since I’ve noticed just how many cars develop this fogged condition I thought I should share it with my fellow headlight polishers here on Lumberjocks.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....





30 comments so far

View ohwoodeye's profile

ohwoodeye

992 posts in 1754 days


#1 posted 1606 days ago

Thanks for the tip…....looks great with an incredible difference!

-- Directions are just the Manufacturer's opinion on how something should be assembled. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View Roger Gaborski's profile

Roger Gaborski

144 posts in 2349 days


#2 posted 1606 days ago

The difference is impressive. I have a Jetta that has the exact same problem. Thanks for the information.
Roger

-- Roger Gaborski, http://www.gaborski.com

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5378 posts in 1833 days


#3 posted 1606 days ago

FWIW, I have been using an over the counter product for years with similar results and less effort. The stuff is called “Plastix”, and it is a polishing somewhat like a runny gel. Apply like you would liquid car wax. Buff out with a clean microfiber towel. Works wonders. I use it on our ‘00 Focus, ‘01 SL2 and my ‘04 F-150…

Some cars seem to get it worse than others. The Focus took 3 applications to get to the level you show, the SL2 only 1…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View DENNIO's profile

DENNIO

1 post in 1623 days


#4 posted 1606 days ago

cutting into my business. in my automotive shop i use 500 ,800 dry 1000 trizact blending discs with water and 3000 trizact wet . then on a buffing pad 3M plastic cleaner then plastic polish for uv protection works grate.

View Jeison's profile

Jeison

947 posts in 1708 days


#5 posted 1606 days ago

”went all woodworker” lol :)

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1659 days


#6 posted 1606 days ago

I have a polish that I purchased for cleaning my windscreens on my motorcycle and face shields on motorcycle helmets that works pretty well for this type of thing as well. In fact, I even polished out some minor scratches on a pair of polycarbonate prescription eyeglasses with it. I can’t remember the name, but it is pretty commonly available from most motorcycle dealers and retailers.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View DynaBlue's profile

DynaBlue

129 posts in 1791 days


#7 posted 1606 days ago

dbhost – The stuff I had used in the past did clear up the lights for a while (less than six months and not as clear) then it yellowed and the lens surface was rough and fissured as the stuff dried, I guess. I went this route just to polish a fairly smooth surface back on the lens.

DENNIO – Oops..sorry! I’d been considering using a low speed orbital buffer and some plastic polish compound as a finishing touch but I don’t own a buffer. I’d also been considering putting some automotive finishing wax (ie, Turtlewax) with ‘swirl removing power!’ to both more finely polish as well as giving UV and road grime protection.

Doc- Since the surface of the lens was rough and I could even see small fissures, probably the remnants of the original treatment attempt, I felt that I needed to go a bit more aggressive than a polish. But I’ll be on the lookout for your idea as maintenance a couple times a year.

ADDITIONALLY – My wife was so impressed that she went out this morning and performed the same procedure on her PT Cruiser. So the process is wife tested and approved! So you can do your car and then sit back sipping a refreshing adult beverage while she does hers :D

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View Paul's profile

Paul

341 posts in 2190 days


#8 posted 1606 days ago

I yearn for the old days of glass headlights.

-- If you say 'It's good enough', it probably isn't.

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1775 days


#9 posted 1606 days ago

Nice!!!

Just when I was getting around to doing this, on my car, myself … a kindly young lady solved the problem for me … by totaling my car :-(

Wife’s car is starting to get those cataracts, though. I’ll bookmark your post.

Thanks!

-- -- Neil

View toxicoval56's profile

toxicoval56

148 posts in 2104 days


#10 posted 1606 days ago

My headlight covers are perfectly clear and 54 years old. They are made of glass! You would think that car manufacturers would see that after a while these plastic ones are troublesome and put glass back in them. But then again, it would be very expensive to form the glass to the same level as some of these plastic ones.

Thanks for the tip because I will need to do something on my newer cars in a couple of years. These things are good to know.

Chris

-- The view only changes for the leading dog.

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

261 posts in 1955 days


#11 posted 1606 days ago

I’m also familiar with this issue, but it seems to effect some cars far more than other. My wifes old Cirus had it real bad, but my PT cruiser’s lights still look brand new and I’ve never done a thing to them. There must be different plastics out there. I’m confused why my PT’s lights are ok but DynaBlue’s wife’s needed some work. Strange.

View Hacksaw007's profile

Hacksaw007

589 posts in 1790 days


#12 posted 1606 days ago

Thanks very much for sharing!

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View DynaBlue's profile

DynaBlue

129 posts in 1791 days


#13 posted 1606 days ago

Will – Perhaps climate has something to do with it. The lenses were exposed to hot, humid, sunny, salty Pearl Harbor weather (including being parked not 100ft from the harbor itself) for my 4.5 years being stationed there, as were the PT’s. Before that my car was in San Diego and hers was in Chicago and DC, both are 2001’s. I noticed that Hawaii climate takes a toll on just about everything.. the heat baked my dashboard so often that my little LED information panel in the instrument cluster fades out in anything above about 75F and the rearview mirror got so hot that the seals failed and leaked the electrochromatic gel all over the place rendering the automatic darkening feature useless as well as giving me double images, especially at night. The PT has the early model plastic bumpers and those faded to a light grey. My tools, despite being kept in tupperware type containers with moisture absorbing gel all rusted and needed frequent care to try and keep them looking somewhat useable. My only fortunate thing was that my Ryobi table saw table was aluminum and never had a problem. I can’t imagine what a nightmare my Sawstop’s cast iron top would have given me!

NBeener – A unique method of headlight replacement but not one you recommend, I’m sure.

Paul/Toxicoval56 – Cheap is king! I guess it’s easier to replace those halogen bulbs in their plastic housing than it is to replace and realign those older style glass bulb units. Of course VW wants something like $130 a pop to replace the plastic units, so go figure..

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View jackass's profile

jackass

350 posts in 2314 days


#14 posted 1606 days ago

Had the same problem with my 01 Jetta, never did find a solution, and traded it in before I had to clean them up. I heard toothpaste does a good job, have never tried it. I was told by a retired RCMP officer that toothpaste cleans your eye glasses well, I did try that and it is fantastic. They rinse right off and a quick wipe with a towel, super clean. Now I keep a soft bristle toothbrush in the bathroom for this only. “Try it you’ll see” no pun intended.
Jack

-- Jack Keefe Shediac NB Canada

View Rick's profile

Rick

6455 posts in 1633 days


#15 posted 1606 days ago

I’m gonna do this for sure! My OLD Intrepid has the same problem and new Lens Covers or whatever they’re called are priced Out Of Sight! Add some SNOW on them and you can’t see three feet in front of you! A friend was actually stopped and Warned by the Police to get his headlights fixed. Toothpaste?? BYE! I’m heading for the Bathroom, Glasses in hand!!

Thanks Guys: Rick

-- COMMON SENSE Is Like Deodorant. The People Who need It Most, Never Use It.

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