Headlight Restoration

colej23

Original poster
Member
Dec 6, 2011
19
My girlfriend's vehicle needs to have its headlights restored. I am aware of a few options such as toothpaste and wet sanding but I was wondering what would be the recommended procedure among the nation!
 

Me007gold

Member
Nov 20, 2011
1,106
I used turtle wax's head light restorer on my fiances car

before
DSC_0242.jpg


after
DSC_0243.jpg
 

Decembersend

Member
Dec 3, 2011
316
I found wet sanding to be the best along with the a good headlight restoration kit like turtle wax, meguiars or mothers. Hopefully she doesnt have the same issue I had where it was on the inside of the lens.
 

Simon01

Member
Dec 5, 2011
116
I used some Meguiar's Plast-x lens polish and a buffing wheel attached to a cordless drill on my 97 Sierra. Worked great. It was easier to take the lenses off and polish them. Wish I took before & after photos to show the difference.
 

smitty5150

Member
Nov 18, 2011
1,069
The abridged version:

Wetsand the headlights *completely* with each of the following grit papers.

800- removes the hazing and light rock chips. Leaves marring and scratching
1000- the next step, it will reduce the marring and leave finer scratches
1500- reduces the marring and scratching further. You should notice the haze getting less noticeable.
2000- you're almost there. Surface should be smooth and free of noticeable scratches at this point. Haze still present.
3000- the final sanding step. This is as smooth and defect free as you will get the surface before the polishing process.

Polishing:

Using a rotary polisher, you need to hit the lights with a semi-aggressive cutting compound. I use Meguiars m105. Not cheap, but It does a fantastic job. You can do this by hand, but it takes longer and obviously requires more effort. After this, the surface should be very smooth and almost perfectly clear. Next is the polishing compound. I use Meguiars m205. Again you can do it by hand, and you can use whatever brands you like. I use Meguiars with a machine because that is how I get the best results. Finally, you want to apply a sealer/glaze wax. I use Meguiars(obviously) show car glaze. This will protect the lights for a longer period of time.

Remember, when you sand you are removing the uv potectant. You will have to periodically polish the lights to maintain the best shine. Another option is, once all the above steps are followed, to strip the wax with degreaser and prep/paint with clear coat.

Hope this helps.
 

colej23

Original poster
Member
Dec 6, 2011
19
I absolutely love how fast you get responses on here! The best part is, you get so many personal opinions and personal experiences. Not some guy trying to sell his products. But back on track, I think I am going to try the wet sanding tactic! Thanks everyone for their opinions.
 

robjr69

Member
Dec 7, 2011
5
I used the headlight restorer from walmart in a silver packet which is by the heaslight bulbs its around $16.00 I used it and was very pleased with the results. It has sanding paper and polish in there.
 

STLtrailbSS

Member
Dec 4, 2011
1,617
smitty5150 said:
The abridged version:
Using a rotary polisher, you need to hit the lights with a semi-aggressive cutting compound. I use Meguiars m105. Not cheap, but It does a fantastic job.
.

M105&205 is a combo sent from heaven I thought I was the only one that used it around here

Cole A bottle of M105 alone will run more than a Megs restoration kit. You can also get some smaller quanities of m105 from Autogeek. You can substitute with megs Ultimate Compound $10 Autozone..MAYBE... M105 is made to be able to remove fine sanding marks. Just need a semi abrasive
 

smitty5150

Member
Nov 18, 2011
1,069
colej23 said:
smitty5150, what is the total estimated price of your method?

That is largely dependant on the polishes you use. You could do it with the products I mentioned and it'll cost $100 or more. But you will have enough product to do 40-50 pairs of lights. I am a detailer, so I buy these products for use on paint finished as well.

Retail products in smaller sizes? Probably @$30. That would get you the sandpaper, and probably a tube of plast-x and some otc sealer wax. You would have enough to probably 10 sets..
 

JosueLT

Member
Nov 20, 2011
315
I'm a body man, so I've done the wet-sand and buff method for years. Step up in grit, then a heavy cut compound with a high speed buffer, followed by a glaze compound.

I did the lights on my Protege5 back in spring when I bought the car...they came out awesome! I picked the car up in TN, so they were pretty faded. They're also cracked , but they don't condensate or anything, so I haven't gotten around to replacing them yet.

Only pic I have that shows the before...

104_5560.jpg


Sanded...

2011-04-30204322.jpg


After...

2011-04-30210419.jpg

2011-04-30210429.jpg


The guys on my Mazda forum got all hard over this....a few of them even paid me to do their headlights! haha
 

STLtrailbSS

Member
Dec 4, 2011
1,617
JosueLT said:
.
The guys on my Mazda forum got all hard over this....a few of them even paid me to do their headlights! haha

lol isn't a big reason for a forum to exchange methods so you can learn yourself. :confused:
 

TXBlazer

Member
Nov 21, 2011
533
Cypress, TEXAS USA
smitty5150 said:
The abridged version:

Wetsand the headlights *completely* with each of the following grit papers.

800- removes the hazing and light rock chips. Leaves marring and scratching
1000- the next step, it will reduce the marring and leave finer scratches
1500- reduces the marring and scratching further. You should notice the haze getting less noticeable.
2000- you're almost there. Surface should be smooth and free of noticeable scratches at this point. Haze still present.
3000- the final sanding step. This is as smooth and defect free as you will get the surface before the polishing process.

Polishing:

Using a rotary polisher, you need to hit the lights with a semi-aggressive cutting compound. I use Meguiars m105. Not cheap, but It does a fantastic job. You can do this by hand, but it takes longer and obviously requires more effort. After this, the surface should be very smooth and almost perfectly clear. Next is the polishing compound. I use Meguiars m205. Again you can do it by hand, and you can use whatever brands you like. I use Meguiars with a machine because that is how I get the best results. Finally, you want to apply a sealer/glaze wax. I use Meguiars(obviously) show car glaze. This will protect the lights for a longer period of time.

Remember, when you sand you are removing the uv potectant. You will have to periodically polish the lights to maintain the best shine. Another option is, once all the above steps are followed, to strip the wax with degreaser and prep/paint with clear coat.

Hope this helps.

:iagree:
Smitty has this process Down....I have seen his work on headlights....I follow a very similar method, depending on the condition of the light.
 

colej23

Original poster
Member
Dec 6, 2011
19
Holy cow, if you lived in big rapids, Michigan, I would probably pay you too! Im going to try my best to get hers to look like that but we will see how it turns out. Do you do a clear coat at the end or no?
 

JosueLT

Member
Nov 20, 2011
315
STLtrailbSS said:
lol isn't a big reason for a forum to exchange methods so you can learn yourself. :confused:

Eh, not necessarily. Some people either don't trust themselves to do certain things, or they're just not mechanically inclined enough for DIY projects.

colej23 said:
Holy cow, if you lived in big rapids, Michigan, I would probably pay you too! Im going to try my best to get hers to look like that but we will see how it turns out. Do you do a clear coat at the end or no?

No clear coat. They've lasted a while now. I did these in April, and they're due for a little sprucing up now. That's the only problem with this method, you strip away all the UV protection. But, most of the time the UV is already gone...that's how the lights GOT that way in the first place! lol

I know there are products out there that claim to restore UV protection, but I'm not sold on them returning the light to factory OEM condition/protection.
 

Mark20

Member
Dec 6, 2011
1,630
I need to do my Envoy's but their not too bad yet. What would you recommend for a clear coat?

Sent from my Android using Tapatalk.
 
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07Blazerman

Member
Dec 4, 2011
102
smitty5150 said:
The abridged version:

Wetsand the headlights *completely* with each of the following grit papers.

800- removes the hazing and light rock chips. Leaves marring and scratching
1000- the next step, it will reduce the marring and leave finer scratches
1500- reduces the marring and scratching further. You should notice the haze getting less noticeable.
2000- you're almost there. Surface should be smooth and free of noticeable scratches at this point. Haze still present.
3000- the final sanding step. This is as smooth and defect free as you will get the surface before the polishing process.

Polishing:

Using a rotary polisher, you need to hit the lights with a semi-aggressive cutting compound. I use Meguiars m105. Not cheap, but It does a fantastic job. You can do this by hand, but it takes longer and obviously requires more effort. After this, the surface should be very smooth and almost perfectly clear. Next is the polishing compound. I use Meguiars m205. Again you can do it by hand, and you can use whatever brands you like. I use Meguiars with a machine because that is how I get the best results. Finally, you want to apply a sealer/glaze wax. I use Meguiars(obviously) show car glaze. This will protect the lights for a longer period of time.

Remember, when you sand you are removing the uv potectant. You will have to periodically polish the lights to maintain the best shine. Another option is, once all the above steps are followed, to strip the wax with degreaser and prep/paint with clear coat.

Hope this helps.

I like the idea of the clearcoat. We did the lenses on my fiancee's Grand Prix and after a few months looked just as bad as they did no sealer or uv protectant.:frown: Gave up and ordered new lenses on ebay and after 6 months they started to leak.:mad:
 

HARDTRAILZ

Moderator
Nov 18, 2011
49,665
Thanks for the info guys. I got two set to take off and do this winter. I will definitely need some finer sandpaper...
 

JosueLT

Member
Nov 20, 2011
315
Mark20 said:
I need to do my Envoy's but their not too bad yet. What would you recommend for a clear coat?



If you don't have any skills with spraying automotive clear coat out of a HVLP gun, I'd recommend a can of aerosol clear coat from the parts store. I used to use that when I tinted lights, and had good results.
 

colej23

Original poster
Member
Dec 6, 2011
19
I have experience in using an Air Gun but I think that the spray can would just be so much more efficient! I never though about that. No clean up or set up.
 

smitty5150

Member
Nov 18, 2011
1,069
Spray can definitely creates more orange peel. I would use the clear coat after the 1500 grit so that it has more to bond to, then proceed from 2000 grit to the glaze. And definitely would use a good adhesion promoter so the paint doesn't start to peel.
 

daddyx2

Member
Sep 7, 2013
76
I just did the Crest fresh mint headlight cleaning kit. My lights started to get the haze in the upper corners, but not all over. using a shop towel I did the circle motion, and I am impressed with the results, but I did not get pictures. I will try to remember to keep you guys updated as to the longevity of it.
 

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