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How to: Fully Restore your Headlights.

 
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Old 20 Jun 2010, 08:05 pm
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Smile How to: Fully Restore your Headlights.

Hello Everyone,

This seems to be a common problem that comes up on a fairly regular basis, but their seems to be a great deal of confusion over what to use, or how to restore headlights properly. So I figured I would try to give you a good write up in hopes that this will provide everyone with a good clear method and try to help clear up confusing once and for all.

The headlight lenses used in the manufacturing of all PT Cruisers from model year 2000 through present time, are made of polycarbonate (PC7) which has a specialized glazing often referred to as a scratch resistant hard coat which contains (acrylic, silicone, organic solids). This glazing acts as an ultraviolet protective barrier to keep the polycarbonate lens from rapid deterioration, micro stress cracking, and other related types of damage. When your headlights start to become hazy, and/or start to become slightly yellowish in color, it is an indicator that the hard coat is failing over the polycarbonate lens. This can be caused by any number of reasons, however one of the most common especially with Chrysler products is slow deterioration of solvents used in the hard coat glazing over the headlight.

Their are a number of products now available for consumer use that instruct you to sand down and basically remove the hard coat from the lens thus solving the immediate problem, however once you remove the hard coat, if you do not re-apply a new protective UV Coating or something equivalent over the lens, your headlights will return to their foggy, yellowish damaged state over a very short time thus requiring you to essentially redo the restoration process all over again.

Normally this would not be a terribly big issue as the process is relatively quick, and easy to do however, the headlights on a PT are injection molded with a curved shape, and unfortunately every time you sand the lens down, you are removing material. Every time you remove material you are making the lens thinner by reducing its surface which will lead to micro cracking, and eventually that polycarbonate with fail, and the headlight will break itself apart to the point where the lens will have to be replaced. This is why it is critical to protect your headlights after you restore them with a new protective coating to resolve the issue instead of just prolonging it.

Some people opt to go with compound and a buffer rather than sanding the lens down which is also an acceptable method for removing, or clearing up the lens, but just like sand paper, the silica micro-abrasives in the compound structure are still removing surface material which will inevitably lead to the same end result.

No matter which way you choose to restore your headlights to regain their clarity, if you opt to not re-apply some type of protective coating over the lenses, I would estimate roughly your headlights will start to return to their deteriorated state within a 2 - 3 month period, and some even sooner depending on the overall condition of the headlight at the time of restoration. I would also estimate depending on how much material you remove upon your initial restoration process that you should be able to safely repeat the restoration process a total of 2 - 3 times maximum before the headlight will require replacement.

Their are a couple of ways you can go on adding a protective coating, but honestly the easiest, and most effective one I have found that both high end professional detailers, as well as body shops are doing is to simply remove the headlights from the car, color sand each lens down, and then spray 3 - 4 coats of clear coat specifically formulated for polycarbonate material. The Clear Coat can be applied by paint gun, air brush, or spray can with good results, and once your headlights are properly restored, and clear coated, as long as you apply a coat of your favorite wax every 30 - 60 days as part of your regular maintenance schedule, you should be able to easily get another 3 - 4 years out of your headlights before needing to repeat the restoration process again.

I will say that again, if you restore your headlights without the clear coat, you will most likely be back to starting the restoration process a second time within 2 - 3 months, and could easily wind up with micro cracking on your third attempt a few months after that leading to inevitable replacement. If you restore your headlights, and add the clear coat, if done correctly, you should only need to perform the restoration process once, and it should last for approximately 2 - 3 years before needing to repeat the process again.


CONTINUED BELOW
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Last edited by CREWZIN; 15 Jul 2010 at 09:21 am.
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Old 20 Jun 2010, 08:07 pm
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Smile Re: Write Up: How to fully Restore your Headlights on your PT:

To properly restore your headlights, you will need the following items:

1. A bucket, or pot of clean water
2. 800 Grit, 1500 Grit, 2500 Grit Wet/Dry Sandpaper
3. A Rotary, or DA Buffer capable of 1000 RPM, or Drill
4. A Wool Cutting Pad, Foam Glazing Pad, and Foam Finishing Pad, or equivalent for Drill
5. A set of Rubber Gloves
6. 5 Clean Microfiber Rags
7. 1 bottle of Liquid Fine Cut Rubbing Compound
8. 1 bottle Glaze
9. 1 can of Paste Wax
10. A bottle of Wax and Silicon Remover
11. A bottle of Isobutyle (AKA, also known as Rubbing Alcohol)
12. 2 Cans of Clear Urethane Clear Spray Paint
13. A pair of Safety Glasses, and a Face Mask, or respirator
14. A Spray bottle of clean water

Optional Tools: A Vice to hold the headlight secure, and a Rubber Sanding Block

In order to perform a headlight restoration properly, I recommend removing your headlights from your PT. If you do not wish to remove your headlights, I would highly recommend taking blue painters masking tape around all of the outer edge of each lens initially, and then place some old newspaper, or whatever you may have on hand around the outer edge of your tape line, and mask off a minimum of 6 - 8 inches away from the lens to protect the paint from any type of potential over spray, or chemical splatter from getting on to any surrounding paint work.

Next, if possible, it is a good idea to try to work on your headlights in a cool, well shaded area, both for your comfort, and to try to avoid letting chemicals dry to quickly on the surface of the headlight you are working on.

STEP 1:

You will want to start off by sanding down the Glazed Hard Coat from your headlight using your 800 Grit Sandpaper. For this Step, you are going to want to first dip your Sandpaper in your water just prior to sanding, and use a side to side motion only. You can perform this step either by machine, or by hand. I recommend doing this by hand as even if you do the larger flat areas by machine, or drill, you will still have to go by hand in order to sand the outer edges anyway. While sanding, keep visually inspecting your progress, as well as feel it with your finger tips. It is in this step that you want to physically sand all of the rough, and bumpy spots off until you can no longer see any deterioration, or physical damage to the lens.

STEP 2:

In this step you will need your Rubber Gloves, Face Mask or Respirator, Wax and Silicon Remover, Microfiber Rag, your Urethane Clear Coat Spray Paint, and preferably a well ventilated area inside, where you can use spray paint.

First you are going to want to put on your Rubber Gloves. Next, grab your Wax and Silicon Remover and pour some onto one of your clean Microfiber Rags folded into four, and thoroughly wipe down your entire headlight to make double sure their is no their is no dirt particles, finger prints, oils from your skin, or any other type of chemicals left over on the surface of the headlight. It is extremely important that any and all contaminates are removed or the Clear Coat might not stick to the surface, or finger prints and dirt might show through the back side of the Clear as well.

The next part of this Step involves spraying your headlight Lenses down with Clear Coat. I recommend trying to locate your nearest Auto Body and Paint Store in your area. They should be able to mix you up a can of custom acrylic urethane into a spray can for around $15.00. Make sure you specify that this paint will be going on clear polycarbonate headlight lenses so they can mix you the correct type, and formulation for the paint you need, as it is a special kind of paint.

Now that the surface has been prepped, it is time to spray your Clear Coat down. Before you get ready to spray your headlight, here are a couple of steps to get the spray can ready to go. First, you want to thoroughly shake the can to make sure the solvents and pigments in the can are completely mixed, normally shaking for 1-2 minutes should be sufficient. Next, you are going to want to warm the spray can up a little. Do this by simply placing the can in some warm water (NOTE: JUST WARM! NEVER HOT OR THE COMPRESSED CAN COULD EXPLODE)!! By heating the can it helps the paint flow better when spraying since the warm paint has an increased viscosity, It also helps maintain a good constant pressure out of the can as well.

Once you have everything ready to start spraying, hold the can away from you out in the air and press the spray tip to start the paint flow and make sure all it ready before shooting your lenses. Once all is good, you are ready to shoot a tack coat which is pretty much a very light mist coat of your paint to help give your paint something to bite too. Remember to always work in a steady side to side sweeping motion 8 - 10" from your headlight with one continuous spray. Let the tack coat dry for 5 minutes, and then your ready to come back for your second "color coat". For the color coat, you also want to be as paper thin as possible so you will try not to get any runs in the paint. Now let the second coat for another 5 minutes to cure as well, and then check your work to see if you want the lenses to be any darker or not. If you would like them darker, I would not recommend going over 3 paper thin coats maximum as any darker, and the lights may not shine through.

After you are finished with paint, let your lenses dry 24 hours if possible before handling them to allow them to properly cure. After your lenses have properly cured, its time to move on to color sanding.

CONTINUED IN NEXT POST AGAIN
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Old 20 Jun 2010, 08:07 pm
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Smile Re: Write Up: How to fully Restore your Headlights on your PT:

STEP 3

Once your headlight has had a chance to cure for a 24 hour period, then it is time to move on to color sanding. To perform this step, you will need your bucket, or pot of clean water, 1500 Grit, and 2500 Grit Sandpaper. Here is a Link to both the 1500 Grit Wet/Dry Sandpaper, and the 2500 Grit Wet/Dry Sandpaper:

Meguiar's 1500 Unigrit Finishing Paper<br> 25 Sheets
Meguiar's 2500 Unigrit Finishing Paper<br> 25 Sheets

First you are going to want to take your 1500 Grit Sandpaper, and dip it in your pot of water to soak it before sanding, and continue to keep it wet by dipping it periodically during the Sanding process. Unlike before where I told you to only do side to side motions, now you are going to want to sand in an up and down motion directly opposite of what you did before. This is called Cross Hatching. Each time you stop sanding to take a short break to rest your fingers, grab the spay bottle filled with water, and a clean Microfiber Rag and clean off the lens to check your progress.

Once you have completed sanding your headlight with the 1500 Grit Sandpaper, follow up with your 2500 Grit Sandpaper. You are going to want to once again, dip the paper in your pot of water, and this last time you are going to sand, you are going to want to sand in small circles. This will help eliminate any sanding marks you may have put into your part so that you can hopefully obtain a great final finish.

STEP 4:

Now, you are almost done, just a couple more steps and you are good to go. For this step you are going to need some Compound, Glaze, Wax, Microfiber Rags, and optional Rotary, or DA Buffer, or Drill, and related Buffer Pads.

COMPOUND:

You will want to first start with your Fine Cut Compound. For this, you can use either Meguiar's #2 Fine Cut Compound, 3M Perfect-It Rubbing Compound. Here are Links to both of these Products:

Meguiar's Direct Fine Cut Cleaner
3M Perfect-It Rubbing Compound

By hand, you will want to grab a Microfiber Rag and, fold it into four, and dab some compound on the edge of one corner. Then rub the compound in small circles onto the headlight lens and it should start to immediately renew much of its clarity. Please note that Compounding by hand will take longer, and may require multiple applications to achieve good results. As you continue to compound, be sure to grab an extra Microfiber Rag and wipe off all extra residue.

If you are Compounding by Buffer, I would recommend setting your Buffer to 1000 RPM so that the Buffer will be more manageable on your headlight. Simply apply a small dab of Compound to a Wool Pad, and buff the lens out to clarity. Just be careful as with your Buffer in one hand, and your headlight in the other, the process of Buffing can be a bit awkward.

It is the same process with a drill. Start out with a dab of Compound again on a Wool Buffing Pad first, and be careful as again with the headlight out, it might be a bit awkward trying to hold everything, and do an effective job at the same time.


GLAZE:


Once your Compound Residue is wiped off your headlight, you are ready to move on to Glaze. For this Step you could use either Meguiar's #7 Show Car Glaze, or 3M Imperial Hand Glaze.

Meguiar's Direct Fine Cut Cleaner
3M Imperial Hand Glaze

TO perform this Step by hand, fold a Microfiber Rag into four, dab a small amount of Glaze onto the rag, and rub it in small circles working it into the polycarbonate lens until the entire lens is covered. Then you want to let the Glaze set up for approximately 15 minutes before wiping off all left over residue.

If working by buffer, then you want to use a Foam Glazing Pad. Here is a Link to a Pad.

SoftBuff™ 2.0 Polishing Pad

Apply a small amount of Glaze to the Buffing Pad and set the Buffer on 1000 RPM, and buff the Glaze into the Lens. Let any left over residue that is still present set up for approximately 15 minutes, and wipe down with a clean microfiber rag.

And again, the same process that applies to the Buffer, also applies to the Drill, and corresponding attachments as well.

WAXING:

The last step in this process is Waxing. For this step, I usually will recommend going with a good Paste Wax over a Liquid Wax. Some Chemical Manufacturers will have you believe that their is little difference these days between Liquid Wax, and Paste Wax, though it is just simply a fact that most all Liquid Waxes contain a much lower overall percentage of Wax, or related protective content, and more water thus creating an easier to use, more consumer friendly product which will last half as long as a good Paste Wax. My recommendation for this project is, NXT Generation® Tech Wax® 2.0 Paste, or Mothers California Gold Carnauba Paste Wax. Here are Links to both, though you can use whatever Wax you feel most comfortable with and should be fine:

Meguiar's Direct NXT Generation® Tech Wax® 2.0 Paste
Mothers California Gold Carnauba Pure Waxes

No matter what chemicals you use, any protective properties in both Glaze, and Wax will for the most part dissipate from the surface of your headlights, as well as paint usually within 30 - 45 days, and will need another quick coat which should only take about an hour from start to finish once a month to keep looking perfect for up to three years, or more.

STEP 5:

Your headlights are now fully restored, and ready to be put back in your PT, or if you had decided to leave your headlights in place, it is now time to pull off your masking materials. Then grab your rubbing alcohol, and a clean microfiber rag and wipe down the lenses one last time. This is to ensure that you have gotten all extra Detailing Chemical Residue completely off the surface, along with any extra finger prints, and so on, and are left with clean and crystal clear headlights for a long time to come.

I hope that somewhat clears this process up for you, however as always, should you ever have any questions on Detailing, painting, interior work and recovering, and more, I am always around, and more than happy to try to help out anytime.

I thank you for reading this post, you all go easy, and I'll catch ya later.

Candyman
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Old 15 Jul 2010, 09:06 am
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Default Re: Write Up: How to fully Restore your Headlights on your PT:

candyman
i really like your posts but this time you missed it

you made it sound really really hard that i'm opting to just leave it alone and take to a pro !! or just buy the cheap kit and do it myself and the heck with it !!

your method take more than 24 hrs to finish ! and require regular waxing to achieve the 3-4 years result which is unpractical for me and propably for most of the peaple !!
i have the feeling that this is a commercial method used by dealers and high quality shops, isnt it ?

notes and questions:
1. you mentioned removing the head light unit all together, when placing it back do we need to recalibrate the aim of the light or not ?
2. the CV kit has a sealing primer, isnt it ? so why should i worry about it not being sealed ? and they say it is a lifetime gurantee ?!
3. can MOD make this thread sticky ?

thanks for your hard work, and i'm trying to read all you postings as it is really good (if you add more pic's that would be great, thanks anyway)
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