Headlight polishing skillshare

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Project by DynaBlue posted 03-04-2010 09:23 PM 4355 views 19 times favorited 33 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....

33 comments so far

View ohwoodeye's profile


1978 posts in 3121 days

#1 posted 03-04-2010 09:50 PM

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

247 posts in 3716 days

#2 posted 03-04-2010 09:53 PM

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

-- Roger Gaborski,

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3200 days

#3 posted 03-04-2010 09:58 PM

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…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View DENNIO's profile


1 post in 2990 days

#4 posted 03-04-2010 10:18 PM

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


968 posts in 3075 days

#5 posted 03-04-2010 10:22 PM

”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


1287 posts in 3026 days

#6 posted 03-04-2010 10:47 PM

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


131 posts in 3158 days

#7 posted 03-04-2010 11:05 PM

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 Albert's profile


508 posts in 3557 days

#8 posted 03-04-2010 11:33 PM

I yearn for the old days of glass headlights.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3142 days

#9 posted 03-04-2010 11:58 PM


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.


-- -- Neil

View toxicoval56's profile


162 posts in 3471 days

#10 posted 03-05-2010 12:01 AM

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.


-- The view only changes for the leading dog.

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 3322 days

#11 posted 03-05-2010 12:37 AM

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


612 posts in 3157 days

#12 posted 03-05-2010 12:41 AM

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


131 posts in 3158 days

#13 posted 03-05-2010 12:50 AM

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


350 posts in 3681 days

#14 posted 03-05-2010 01:42 AM

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 Keefe Shediac NB Canada

View Rick's profile


9439 posts in 3000 days

#15 posted 03-05-2010 03:23 AM

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

-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

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