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Author Topic: Refinishing Headlights  (Read 1848 times)

djw2112

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Refinishing Headlights
« on: November 05, 2019, 12:55:52 PM »
Hi,  my aftermarket headlights are starting to lose their clear coat, it looks like oxidation on the plastic but its actually the cheap clear coat from the MFG coming off.   I watched some youtube vids and tried toothpaste, did not work.  Then i tried some 400 wet and 1000 wet sandpaper with water and lightly went over the headlight, it looks like it took of the clear coat but now its all cloudy, and looks worse. 

I hear there is a kit for about $300 that will do the job, of course im not going to do that because its cheaper to buy new headlights.   

Has anyone found a solution that works to fix this and make it somewhat presentable?  Im not looking for factory perfection, i just want the clear up the plastic a bit and maybe put on a new coat of clear. 
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Tom

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2019, 01:19:10 PM »
These folks manufacture and distribute headlight restoration products, and also have a video on the subject: https://www.productioncarcare.com/

I haven't used this product, and don't recall what it costs, but have used some of their other products with good success.

Edit: Looks like the kit regularly costs $49.95 and is currently on sale for $29.95.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 01:21:09 PM by Tom »
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djw2112

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2019, 01:43:46 PM »
Thank you sir.... great link :)
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Wi1dBill

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2019, 03:25:12 PM »
 In the Farm/Industrial market we used a clear coat paint that could be sprayed over the old paint to renew a shine.   Maybe a clear coat spray bomb would do the same thing to the fog on the lights.   Being that this are aftermarket lights that can be replaced I'd try a $5.00 to $8.00 can of clear spray paint.


Wi1dBi11

Rene T

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2019, 04:03:35 PM »
I had headlights on a old pickup I use to have. Have to have some body work done and at the same time the guy buffed them. Came out looking like new.
Rene, Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
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SpencerPJ

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2019, 04:44:29 PM »
Go to the auto store.  Meguiars makes great kits that last about a year.  Restored several on my kids older Hondas in High School days.  Here is specifically the one I liked best.

https://www.ebay.com/p/23030061446

Some people also just polish with this, then spray clear coat as mentioned above

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Meguiar-s-G12310-PlastX-Clear-Plastic-Cleaner-Polish-10-oz/16550253
« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 11:26:45 PM by Lou Schneider »
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ChasA

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2019, 04:47:23 PM »
I had my coach in the shop for new batteries.  I asked about the yellowed headlights. The mechanic got out his air powered DA sander and in 10 minutes the lights looked new.
Djw2112, you need too keep going on the wet sanding. 1000, then 2000, then on up to 5000. You sand each grit until the scratches from the previous grit are gone.
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djw2112

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2019, 05:36:31 PM »
I had my coach in the shop for new batteries.  I asked about the yellowed headlights. The mechanic got out his air powered DA sander and in 10 minutes the lights looked new.
Djw2112, you need too keep going on the wet sanding. 1000, then 2000, then on up to 5000. You sand each grit until the scratches from the previous grit are gone.

I guess it is possible that i did not sand long enough, i just used my hands and not a sander.  I may try it again tomorrow using my drill with a sanding disk in it. 
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scottydl

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2019, 08:15:36 PM »
One of my favorite automotive guys on Youtube ("ChrisFix") has a video with his recommendations: How to Restore Headlights PERMANENTLY
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judway

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2019, 07:24:03 AM »
I sprayed mine with the strongest DEET bug repellant I could buy, waited about a minute and wiped off with a paper towell. Looks like near new. Did all of my older driving lights and a few relatives'
 and friends'.
Judy & Wayne
2003 Itasca Horizon 36LD
2017 Chevrolet Equinox LT
Remco Towbar, Demco Baseplate & Air Force One Brake
1995 GMC Sierra Z71
No Dogs!      No Cats!
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Back2PA

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2019, 07:28:22 AM »
I sprayed mine with the strongest DEET bug repellant I could buy, waited about a minute and wiped off with a paper towell. Looks like near new. Did all of my older driving lights and a few relatives'
 and friends'.

The Deet does work, but you have to be careful - it will actually distort the plastic if left on too long. Rather than put it directly on the lens you might consider spraying a paper towel and scrubbing the lens, then cleaning with water. Might not work if the lens has already been partially sanded.
Scott
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Dragginourbedaround

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2019, 07:54:31 AM »
Following.
Gene

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judway

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2019, 08:57:01 AM »
I seem to remember that you should wash with water after 1 minute and dry with the paper towels.
Judy & Wayne
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ro

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2019, 09:52:03 AM »
Try using tooth paste,works great
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Ron

blw2

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2019, 10:11:07 AM »
it's all about removing the top layers of plastic that are sun damaged.
The kit I used once even said in the directions, that doing this will remove the UV protective layer and suggested follow-up with regular wax applications.  It cautioned that it will fade much faster again even with wax.... 
....and they weren't lying!
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catblaster

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2019, 02:15:22 PM »
   I tried everything from OFF to sanding and buffing....two days worth. Still after I was done there was crazing deep into the polycarbonate. Did this on bothe the RV and the corvette, finally gave up and replaced them both. Now at $600 for vette headlights I found a product..Lamin-x..that is a UV resistant film that can be purchased by the square and so far after a year my lights show no deterioration. I know that after only a year there should not be any signs but my last set of new vette headlights yellowed after six months.

https://www.lamin-x.com/automobile-products/headlight-film-covers.html
Will and Jane
95 Winnebago Luxor

Charlie 5320

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2019, 01:28:15 PM »
Hi,  my aftermarket headlights are starting to lose their clear coat, it looks like oxidation on the plastic but its actually the cheap clear coat from the MFG coming off.   I watched some youtube vids and tried toothpaste, did not work.  Then i tried some 400 wet and 1000 wet sandpaper with water and lightly went over the headlight, it looks like it took of the clear coat but now its all cloudy, and looks worse. 

I hear there is a kit for about $300 that will do the job, of course im not going to do that because its cheaper to buy new headlights.   

Has anyone found a solution that works to fix this and make it somewhat presentable?  Im not looking for factory perfection, i just want the clear up the plastic a bit and maybe put on a new coat of clear.
I seen a video on utube  a while back. The guy sanded the old clear coat all off and cleaned them real good, them taped them off and sprayed some new clear coat out of a spry bomb. They came out great. He said to make sure to give them some drying time depending on the air temp between coats. He recommended doing 3 coats, be careful it will run real easy then you will have to sand it back off to respray.

I'm going to try mine in the spring. I have one light that needs it.
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Rene T

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2019, 02:49:29 PM »
I seen a video on utube  a while back. The guy sanded the old clear coat all off and cleaned them real good, them taped them off and sprayed some new clear coat out of a spry bomb. They came out great. He said to make sure to give them some drying time depending on the air temp between coats. He recommended doing 3 coats, be careful it will run real easy then you will have to sand it back off to respray.

I'm going to try mine in the spring. I have one light that needs it.

Please let us know how you make out.
Rene, Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
AKA  Pep N Mem
2011 Chevy Duramax 2500 HD 4X4
2011 Montana High Country 343RL
From the Granite State of NH
& Florida Snowbird in Lakeland FL

Bob T

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2019, 03:11:59 PM »
The method Iíve used sounds un-orthodox but it did work for me on the motorhome and car.
Also, last winter I told a fellow about this. His motorhome headlights were so oxidized that they were nearly useless. He used my stuff and they restored to almost new looking after less than 5 minutes each. Iím pretty sure he would have improved the outcome if he had put a bit more time in.

I bought a small air polisher from Harbor Freight a few years ago. Had never used it until I read about this method.

Put the sponge wheel on, use some Turtle Wax aluminum polish and go to it. When you want to see how itís going, wipe off with clean rag.

I did mine 2 years ago and will do again this winter.
When done, I plan to spray some 303 protectant on.

To help them last, my wife made me some headlight covers using old sunbrella fabric from one of our old boats. No fasteners she just put a bit of foam backer rod to achieve friction fit and used pennies she sewed into a pocket in the top. Easy on and easy off. Now with this protection from direct sun, hopefully things should last a bit longer.

Photos of headlight covers.

Hope this helps.

Bob
« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 03:22:16 PM by Bob T »
- Bob

2008 Winnebago Vectra 40 TD
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Mark_K5LXP

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2019, 08:37:01 PM »
My pickup is 25 years old and the headlights were "well clouded".  I've also done the multiple-grit/buff/polish process and in about 6 months they would cloud again. 

Having little to lose at this point, I went quick and dirty as an experiment.  On both headlights I wet sanded with 400 grit until the surface was uniform.  On one side I used a paper towel saturated with acetone and wiped across it.  Effectively, the acetone melts the surface of the plastic and you get a mostly glossy surface.  On the other side, I sprayed the headlight with cheap crystal clear enamel.

This was about 9 months ago and already both sides are holding up better than polishing with no surface treatment.  The spray enamel side looks a tad "clearer" than the acetone side but both still look pretty good.  While some of the fancy packaged restoration products may net a more "new-like" finish, I don't want to bother with the time and expense of doing that.  I can wet sand and spray in just a few minutes, and costs literally pennies.  If I end up doing this once a year I'd be happy with that, but it's on track to last longer than that already.  Maybe upgrading to some fancier UV-resistant clear spray for a few more cents could be justified.

Not to knock all the other processes and fixes anyone wants to go through to restore headlights, but a 5 minute wet sand and a spritz with a spray can checks the box for me.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM



Bob T

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2019, 08:47:23 PM »
Impressive
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Mark_K5LXP

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Re: Refinishing Headlights - The Winner Is...
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2020, 09:31:03 PM »
Resurrecting an old thread - it's been more than a year since I refinished the clouded headlights on my truck.  The winner is...neither, or both depending on your definition of success.

The sanded and clear coated light has started to yellow a bit.  The sanded and acetone wiped one has started to cloud a bit.  After over a year though they're still both way clearer than than when I started so I figure I'm still ahead for the effort.  If I cared to I could repeat the process once a year and easily stay ahead of it.  Just for the purposes of curiosity I'll leave them be for a while longer and see if they continue to age gracefully or take a sudden turn south. 

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM

djw2112

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2020, 01:37:16 AM »
Thanks Mark for the update :)
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cerd

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2020, 07:16:14 AM »
IMO, all of these restoration kits work on the naked eye, but they don't actually restore the headlight performance. For the most part, they just leave oils in the cavities so they look clean. Often, once those oils dry, they are just as bad.

I have tried just about everything and the only thing that performs to my satisfaction is replacing the headlight. Aftermarket lenses work fine, but they aren't the same grade plastic as OEM. They probably last 5-7 years instead of 10, but I live in the upper midwest where they use tons of salt on the roads during winter.

Another option you can do is have your new headlights wrapped with clear 3m 1080 wrap. Once the wrap starts to get weathered, you can just peel it off and the lights are still like-new. Then you can reapply some more wrap if you want.
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PancakeBill

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2020, 07:59:06 AM »
I spent a couple hours on the headlights on my van, was not satisfied, bought aftermarket, took 30 minutes to install. 

My motorhome has some crazing, I will order some OEM lights.  On motorhomes the trick is figuring out what is actually OEM.  Be nice if someone created a list.
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catblaster

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2020, 11:45:16 AM »
I spent a couple hours on the headlights on my van, was not satisfied, bought aftermarket, took 30 minutes to install. 

My motorhome has some crazing, I will order some OEM lights.  On motorhomes the trick is figuring out what is actually OEM.  Be nice if someone created a list.

   I found mine (1995 Luxor) by looking up the part number and googling it, after several tries and experimenting with the part number I found it was originally for a Mack truck. Then googled Mack truck headlights and found several options with a wide range of prices and options.
Will and Jane
95 Winnebago Luxor

zulu

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #26 on: April 06, 2020, 01:03:56 PM »
My motorhome has some crazing, I will order some OEM lights.

I switched to LED headlights, brighter, and less hassle than cleaning lens.
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Lou Schneider

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #27 on: April 06, 2020, 03:37:39 PM »
I thought LED headlights only replaced the halogen bulb inside the headlight assembly?  This won't do anything for the housing becoming fogged or hazed - that's caused by ultraviolet rays hitting the plastic.

zulu

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2020, 04:43:29 PM »
I thought LED headlights only replaced the halogen bulb inside the headlight assembly?  This won't do anything for the housing becoming fogged or hazed - that's caused by ultraviolet rays hitting the plastic.

My point was that since LEDs are brighter than the halogens they're replacing, there's no need to return the housing to factory specs . . . unless you're just searching for things to do.
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djw2112

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Re: Refinishing Headlights
« Reply #29 on: April 06, 2020, 05:32:36 PM »
My point was that since LEDs are brighter than the halogens they're replacing, there's no need to return the housing to factory specs . . . unless you're just searching for things to do.

The problem is that with them peeling and looking so bad i dont think they will pass vehicle inspection in Texas and i think i could get a ticket if they wanted to enforce things. 

Here is a pic  and this is a aftermarket led headlight.



« Last Edit: April 06, 2020, 05:38:05 PM by djw2112 »
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