Cloudy headlight lenses

InfernalVortex

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Actually, my headlights are aftermarket and fairly nice looking, I dont really have a problem with them but I notice a lot of people who do. But my parking lamps look absolutely terrible in comparison. I've been annoyed about how terrible they look for a while. See?



So I bought this $20 kit to restore headlight lenses. Some sandpapers attached to a drill for 25 minutes or so and I come out with these beauties:



Some of the remaining imperfections are where things have hit the lense over 200k miles of use creating dents and scratches too deep for the sanding and polishing process to remove. But most of it is actually crud that has somehow accumulated behind the lens. The actual surface of the lense looks very, VERY good.

Unfortunately now that the lense is clear it has become apparent that one of them has some mildew issues. It's on the back of the lens so I threw it in the oven to loosen up the sealant/glue or whatever it is they use to peel it apart. Unfortunately, it seemed pretty solid so I decided to quit while I was ahead.



I can see all sorts of things on the backside of the lenses now which is annoying. There's even dead bugs in there???

Still, they look very nice on the car...



Huge improvement.


I suggest anyone who has cloudy headlight/parking light/ foglight/tail light lenses to do this. It was beyond easy and very cheap. I would suggest removing it from the car before you take power tools to it, as my kit wants you to buy their brand's masking tape and leave the light on the car. I dont think so. You just sand for a short while with the low grit until the discolored layer is gone, polish it a bit with the higher grit, and then go to all out polishing. You're just sanding off the discolored, cloudy layer on top, and polishing the new, clear plastic under it. Different kits may work differently, but that's how my kit worked, and most of them should work along the same principles. Just get plastic polish and some sandpaper and you can do it by hand if you like. All I can say is if I knew it was this easy to fix I would have taken care of it a long, long time ago. Lesson learned.

My only concern, and I was hoping some of you smarter guys here would be able to help me out with this, is that I've heard they will just oxidize over again in due time. So I can probably re-polish them occasionally I suppose. The kit I bought was cheap and I can do this at least 2 or 3 more times if not more.

But maybe there is there some other way to protect it? Clearcoat maybe?
 
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thevictor390

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Forget the headlight kit, where did you get that magic color-changing hood?
 

argatoga

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flydiscovery

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Ugg, man I'd pay a good $40 to have mine done, double the kit price. :p Mine are probably too far gone though. The car was outside exclusively for at least 5 years. I did laugh a guy at a gas station who promised to "get all that grime off" with a spray can of crap and a rag. Poor guy was so deluded he actually thought it'd work.
 

Spectre

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My only concern, and I was hoping some of you smarter guys here would be able to help me out with this, is that I've heard they will just oxidize over again in due time. So I can probably re-polish them occasionally I suppose. The kit I bought was cheap and I can do this at least 2 or 3 more times if not more.

But maybe there is there some other way to protect it? Clearcoat maybe?

What happens is that when the lights are made in a factory, there's a sort of top-coat applied to the plastic or polycarbonate to keep it from yellowing and opaquing. This coating oxidizes and chips off over time and you polish it to remove it - but then the plastic or polycarbonate is 'naked' and will oxidize faster, necessitating far more frequent use of the kit.

What you can do to prevent this from happening again is to install some kind of headlight protection film. Xpel is a popular maker whose products don't suck: http://www.xpel.com/

Xpel dealers can custom make and install a set of film covers (similar to window tint, but clear) that will last for years and preserve your lenses.

No connection other than a happy user.
 

Nabster

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If you don't want to do the film, a good clearcoating over the freshly cleaned lenses will also help. It probably won't be perfect, but it will protect the lenses, and you can then clean, polish and wax them like the paint on the rest of the car. Now, I don't recommend the clearcoat on headlights unless you're an expert painter, but for running lights and turn signals like that it would be fine.
 

InfernalVortex

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What happens is that when the lights are made in a factory, there's a sort of top-coat applied to the plastic or polycarbonate to keep it from yellowing and opaquing. This coating oxidizes and chips off over time and you polish it to remove it - but then the plastic or polycarbonate is 'naked' and will oxidize faster, necessitating far more frequent use of the kit.

What you can do to prevent this from happening again is to install some kind of headlight protection film. Xpel is a popular maker whose products don't suck: http://www.xpel.com/

Xpel dealers can custom make and install a set of film covers (similar to window tint, but clear) that will last for years and preserve your lenses.

No connection other than a happy user.

I anticipate that film to be on the expensive side but I'm definitey looking into it. Seems like you need a dealer to come and do it for you which is a bit of a turnoff for me. There's nothing you're aware of that the end user can buy and directly apply? Im much more of a DIY guy. I can buy new parking lamps on ebay for about $50, and I've already got $20 invested into these.

I was considering trying to look into using window tint, as I kinda like the smoked out lenses look... Not sure how well that would work either though.

If you don't want to do the film, a good clearcoating over the freshly cleaned lenses will also help. It probably won't be perfect, but it will protect the lenses, and you can then clean, polish and wax them like the paint on the rest of the car. Now, I don't recommend the clearcoat on headlights unless you're an expert painter, but for running lights and turn signals like that it would be fine.

Do you think clearcoat will ahve a hard time sticking to smooth, polished lenses? I am thinking these things are polished to a higher sheen than the average basecoat is.

Forget the headlight kit, where did you get that magic color-changing hood?

I have a fiberglass hood I've put on the car since the original picture:

 
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Nabster

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I wouldn't think clear would have any trouble, assuming you degrease them first. Maybe take a very small grit sand paper and just rough them up a little. The clear should stick to that pretty well.
 

jstntlvr

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Another method for cleaning the lens is to use Acetone. just rub them with a clean cloth and a little acetone they shine rite up. you can also use Novus acrylic polish. The stuff I use on my acrylic spheres for contact juggling.
 

DarkReaper

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Acetone on plastic lenses? Not a good idea.
 

Matt2000

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I can recommend Novus polishes. I got a bottle of the No. 2 polish a few years ago for repairing damaged CDs (GT4 at the time) but it'll clean up anything plastic. Cleaned up a yellowed set of old speakers with it. All my light lenses on the SIII were replaced within a few weeks of buying it though so no need for me to do this yet. :)
 

Spectre

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You can get some of the vinyl "wrap" film they use to wrap vehicles with, it comes in clear and serves the same purpose as the Xpel stuff. I used a smoked version to cover my Pathfinder's rear turn signals - it's fairly cheap off eBay and comes in many different colors and shades in addition to clear. IIRC, the stuff I used was from Rvinyl.com via eBay.
 
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