Headlight restoration worked, kind of

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Jan 7, 2009
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Rochester, MI, US, World
On my Miata, the driver's side headlight housing looks crystal clear, and appears to be original as well. The passenger side, too, is original, but has not fared as well. It has a slight yellowish haze on it. Typical UV damage, I've dealt with it before. Usually some polishing compound takes care of it. This is a different beast though. I tried some Ultimate Polish with a lot of elbow grease, and no difference really. ScratchX made a little difference, but not good enough. Then I removed the lamp from the car and went at it with some rubbing compound (then finished with ScratchX, then polish). This made the lens look pretty good, but still lacking in comparison to the driver's side lamp. I also tried a cerium oxide paste (used for polishing glass) and it made a negligible difference. So where do I go from here? The lens feels completely smooth, but appears to just be somewhat foggy. If I look closely, I can see faint cracking that looks to be slightly below the surface. Inside the lamp I also see little dirt particles near where the bulb inserts, so I don't know whether to ignore this, or to think that maybe the lens is dirty from the inside... should I try a kit or wet-sanding? ??? I do have a drill with a polishing pad attachment, if it matters, but I have not tried it yet. I really want to figure something out, since a new replacement costs $300+.
 
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You can wet sand it. I usually do 400/600, 800, 1000, 1500/2000. Then Try some Plastix with a drill polishing pad attachment.
 
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Sacramento CA
I have had good success with the 3m kit that has the drill attachment- My drill certainly turns faster than my hand- You'll probably never get it perfect, but you can come close. Otherwise stalk ebay, you might get lucky and find a very cheap OEM one
 
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Also, if the yellow is very bad you can dry sand first. I've seen people go as low as 320 grit to get the haze off. I recently did the ones on the Trailblazer.. they have little cracks in the plastic layer which i think is on the inside cause they are smooth. I blame the Texas sun.
 
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You can't get much better (and cheaper) than a homebrand toothpaste and a microfiber cloth! I amazed a few people the other day when i turned the headlights on my sisters old car from a heavily sunburnt, cloudy yellow, to looking like they did the day the car rolled off the court! I bought some cheap toothpaste for 79c (cheaper stuff is normally gritty and more abrasive) and put quite a bit on the headlight and spread it around Keep working it in until it becomes dry and quite hard to scrub, and it will get pretty hot from the friction Turn the cloth over and rub the excess toothpaste until it is gone and the lights are crystal clear! Honestly like brand spanking new, with no expensive compounds and 5 different sand papers
 
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Here is the ones after I was done, not too bad. I do need new ones but they will work until i do.
 
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Well if you have sub surface cracking or scratches, then there is no hope for removing them. We do 2-3 headlight restoration jobs a week at my shop and some come out better than others due to the age and condition of the headlights. The vast majority of the headlights I restore are beat up and need a massive amount of wetsanding before compounding and polishing. I think the headlight "kits" do work well for most people if their headlights aren't too bad, but don't expect miracles. And if your headlights are trashed, keep the toothpaste on your teeth, that's a DIY hack approach that only satisfies those with mediocre expectations. [/URL]
 
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just remember after you get it acceptable, to add some sort of UV Blocker to the surface. even if it's just clear coat. the lenses have a UV blocking coating from the factory, but as that wears out/off, the damage gets worse. on my neon, the kits never did a satisfactory job, ended up replacing the light housings, and then applying protective film to the new lenses. on that car the new lights were only about $75 for the pair. on it's replacement, my Sable, they list around $700 each. they still look good, so i polished 'em up, and applied the same film to them. keep them from going bad.(it blocks UV, and will keep them from getting sandblasted.) used the "lightgard" film from www.clearmask.com on both vehicles. "Lightgard is a virtually optically clear film from 3M's Aerospace division. This film has been tested at 500 mph, simulating the flying speeds of modern jet aircraft. It has also been tested at temperatures down to -30 centigrade with no damage to the film or adhesive. Used on wing tip lights, landing gear lights and radar nose-cones of jet aircraft, ClearMask Lightgard film is clearly a better option than stiff, hard to apply, hand laminated alternatives."
 
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I have never been completely happy with the compound products that restore headlight lenses. They're OK but, it is, what it is! The lenses will never look brand new again, only better than what they were when fogged. I do this lense cleaning about every 2nd car wash. Quickly, I go over the lenses with a product prior to washing. I have used, fine rubbing compound, chrome polish, toothpaste and a variety of other lense cleaner/compounds. Now that I keep the lenses polished on a regular basis, it isn't a hard task keeping them there. I also use a coat of wax or similar product after the car is complete. But, this fogging does return quickly(monthly) if not treated on a regular basis.
 
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Originally Posted By: Char Baby
I have never been completely happy with the compound products that restore headlight lenses. They're OK but, it is, what it is! The lenses will never look brand new again, only better than what they were when fogged.
In general, what bugs me is that the lenses generally aren't easy to replace, and their rarely cheap to replace. My F-150 can have brand new lighting for around $30 and 15 minutes effort. Try that on the G or my old Audi. Sometimes, I wish the DOT standards were still stuck in the 1980s. wink
 
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Going to make a business that makes aftermarket glass headlamps. I will be rich!! Until then I recommend sanding it down well, taking it off, cleaning it well then hitting it with a few passes of clear wood coat. This method has worked well for me in the past.
 

Klutch9

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Originally Posted By: Garak
Originally Posted By: 3800Series
Going to make a business that makes aftermarket glass headlamps. I will be rich!!
Put me on your mailing list! wink
I'd like to heavily invest in your business pursuit.
 
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Originally Posted By: Garak
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
I have never been completely happy with the compound products that restore headlight lenses. They're OK but, it is, what it is! The lenses will never look brand new again, only better than what they were when fogged.
In general, what bugs me is that the lenses generally aren't easy to replace, and their rarely cheap to replace. My F-150 can have brand new lighting for around $30 and 15 minutes effort. Try that on the G or my old Audi. Sometimes, I wish the DOT standards were still stuck in the 1980s. wink
Yes, very true! The headlight lenses are not easy to replace and in toooo many instances(like the cars that I own), the front bumper cover needs to be removed in order to access the lower hold down screws to complete the lense removal. Sometimes this same bumper removal/headlight housing removal is in order just to replace the bulbs...in many cases! Then, the OE replacement is probably the best source of new headlight lenses, as the aftermarket lenses vary in their quality and price. And you'll never know what you're getting until you buy'em, install'em and see how long they hold up until they start to fog themselves! My understanding is, the OE's are the best bet but, probably the most expensive(~$250/each +, compared to the aftermarket of ~$250/both), which is roughly the case for my own vehicles!
 
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Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Then, the OE replacement is probably the best source of new headlight lenses, as the aftermarket lenses vary in their quality and price. And you'll never know what you're getting until you buy'em, install'em and see how long they hold up until they start to fog themselves!
The G37 looks like it would be an absolute nightmare. The Audi 200 Turbo's headlights weren't a difficult job. It took me an hour or so to install brand new, OEM glass assemblies. The Germans had a pretty good setup there with decent hardware, and the aiming wasn't affected in the slightest. They had to be replaced because the reflector paint flaked off, which made the things rather dim. The OEM ones from the States were half the price of the Canadian price. This plastic business absolutely has to go. And, as I've said before, modern headlights are designed to provide great light with a fantastic pattern. Of course, that only holds while the lenses are in good condition and HIDs or something similarly expensive haven't failed. My F-150 can have showroom original lighting (actually better) at minimal cost and with minimal effort after stone chips or other issues. I could replace my F-150's battery and alternator, rewire the headlights, install a relay, new halogen sealed beams, and have them professionally aimed for cheaper than what the headlight assemblies are worth for the G37.
 
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