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Headlight refinishing...the easy way

 
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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 15 Aug 2011, 02:04 pm
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Default Headlight refinishing...the easy way

I know that Candyman has posted a quite lengthy tutorial on headlight restoration, and while I totally respect him and all his hard work, the steps he outlines are just too much for a guy like me. So, I decided I'd try every other option out there. I'm hoping that this "voice of experience" will help some of you keep from going down some of the dead end roads that I traveled in trying to restore my headlights. I knew there had to be an easier way than what Cman showed, and yes, I did find a method that takes an afternoon to complete, with about half the supplies he's suggested. Mind you, his method DOES WORK, it's just that I'm always looking for an easier method for things.

So, off we go, into a photo-intensive tutorial on the "do's and don'ts" of refinishing your headlights. Most of the photos are self-explanatory.

First off, I tried the (insert stupid, idiotic, ridiculous, asinine and any other offensive words you can use to describe doing something beyond stupid) toothpaste method that is so widely shown on YouTube. Hah! Talk about wasting my time!

Before I started:


Ready to go:







As you can see, the toothpaste did nothing more than polish the scratches. This is after three hours of trying to get it polished!!!! So, I set off and tried other kits, none of which worked, until I hit the 3m kit with the sanding, polishing and buffing supplies. Yes, $29 for the kit, but after all I've spent to get a kit that works, well, you really don't want to know what I spent.

LESSON LEARNED #1:
DO NOT USE THE BLUE PAINTERS TAPE! DO NOT USE REGULAR MASKING TAPE! Use ONLY the 3m Automotive Masking tape in Green. All the others just fall apart when wet. I even tried electrical tape, and boy was that a mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The GREEN 3m tape is fabulous, I swear by it!


LESSON LEARNED #2:
Whatever you do, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT! You will find that all your hard work will get harder as the compounds dry during your rubbing/polishing steps. You can do the 500 grit and 800 grit sanding in full sun, but make sure you're in shade when it comes to using any liquids on your headlights!!!

LESSON LEARNED #3:
Run your hand over your headlight, after washing bugs and grit off of it. If you feel the scratches, ignore every kit out there and go straight for the sanding/polishing kits!!! Believe me, you'll waste lots and lots of time and get nowhere. So, after getting my kit at Advance Auto, then going back to get the right masking tape, I sat down, ready to start.


LESSON LEARNED #4:
After you very carefully cover any chrome and/or paint near the headlight lens, go ahead and put a second layer of tape in longer strips to insure it's held good!







My apologies, the photo I took after the 500 grit sanding didn't turn out. Add to it, when I saw how it looked, really scared the poo out of me! I thought, "this headlight is ruined and will never come out right", but just follow on with the photos and you'll see what happened....


LESSON LEARNED #5:
MAKE SURE YOUR DRILL RUNS 1200 TO 1600 RPM'S!!! If it runs faster, it will overheat the lens and cause nasty streaks that will take you hours to remove. If it runs slower, you get nasty swirls that take a long time to polish out. My Porter Cable 19v drill runs 0 to 1500 rpm's, IN HIGH SETTING! Only runs at 500 rpm's max in low setting, so had to go back and spend more time on 800 grit to remove swirl marks!



Wanted to show you what the lens looks like after 3000 grit compared to 800.




You can see how nice the headlight was looking after 3000 grit, next will be the polish phase.




Be very careful when using the rubbing compound. Do NOT let the foam pad sit in one spot for long, take very slow movements back and forth and cover every surface! After you are done with the polishing, make sure you clean up EVERY BIT OF FUNK LEFT OVER from the rubbing compound!


LESSON LEARNED #6:
Whatever you do, don't let any splashed or leftover rubbing compound dry anywhere on your car and/or headlight! It sux trying to get it off!



I suggest, when you are complete and your headlight is totally clean and free from any dust and dirt, that you use a plastic sealer. This one takes quite a while to dry and you probably need two or three coats, but it does block UV-A and B rays, and should extend the life of your headlight lens.

Spray it on the lens, then take a micro-fiber cloth and spread it evenly across the headlight. Whatever you do, DON'T drive your car until it is dry! It will schmear and look a mess.




I hope this helps you out, and lastly, follow all the instructions carefully in the kit. I tried to take shortcuts and paid for that in extra effort afterwords. However, I'm insanely happy with how that headlight turned out. Now, three more to go......
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Last edited by Chromenut; 15 Aug 2011 at 02:14 pm.
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 03:12 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Nice. Worked on my Daughter's '03 withe the Meguiar's kit - the Plastix and pad - an improvement, but not real clear - I used meguiar's polish on them after -
Where'd you get the tape and headlight sealer?
I haven't seen them.
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 03:44 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

NICE!!!
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 04:11 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

nice write up!

I recently picked up the Blue Magic sealer but haven't used it yet... I got it at Pep Boys
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 09:53 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Quote:
Originally Posted by quicksilverdon View Post
Nice. Worked on my Daughter's '03 withe the Meguiar's kit - the Plastix and pad - an improvement, but not real clear - I used meguiar's polish on them after -
Where'd you get the tape and headlight sealer?
I haven't seen them.
Both at Advance Auto. I have a Napa, Advance Auto, and AutoZone all within a block of each other, and then many others just down the street. Living in the midst of the kingdom of Nascar helps.

Note - before you use the plastic sealer, make darned tootin that your headlight is literally spotless. Any bugs, grit, dirt, fingerprints, etc., that's left on the headlight will be there for a loooong time if you spray over it.


Also - including all the prep time (almost hour and a half taping just one headlight), I spent just shy of 4 hours today on that one headlight. Now tomorrow I am assuming that the prep time I can cut in half and the finish time total will be less than three hours. I'm EXTREMELY careful about using sand paper on my car, and I go slow and steady and with as much control over that drill as I possibly can. Now the older model (pre-'06) PT's will not have as much trouble. All the tight curves make masking the lens a pain, and more than that if you use a pad larger than 3" you'll never be able to get in the corners very well. With the pre-'06 models, shouldn't take you nearly as long. After I finish my other headlight, then I think it might take me all of an hour to finish both fog lights, they are in miserable shape too. I'm actually thinking of getting an aluminum mesh cut to fit over them, and having it chromed.

Lastly - whatever you do, do NOT push hard on the drill while doing this work! Let it do the work for you. You can tell when you're still cutting into the lumps and bumps as the drill will try to drag across the surface of the lens. When you're at the 3000 grit, take it very slow and easy and keep that water bottle close at hand, you don't want it going dry.

Now, for those of you who may already have a drill adapter like I've shown, I found at Advance Auto they sell the same exact sand paper but in rectangular strips 3.4" wide by 9" long. I'm buying some of the 3000 as I have some items on my motorcycle I want to polish, and you can cut three round pads out of the one rectangular one. I'm just trying to figure out how to find some really soft, thin velcro like what's on the back of the pads in the kit as it's excellent for this kind of work, and bonds wonderfully between the paper and the pad.

Last edited by Chromenut; 15 Aug 2011 at 10:01 pm.
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 10:07 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Another shot of the finished headlight. I stood in front of my PT tonight for maybe 10 minutes just staring at it, kind of in awe and wonder of how good that driver's side headlight looks. I truly think it's cleaner than when I bought it!

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Old 15 Aug 2011, 10:39 pm
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Thumbs up Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

It's looking good Robin, you did great!
Say, how come your lower tube grille is missing? Won't it fit after your
put the heavy duty cooler in the front? I still have mine and will always
be grateful for the help you gave me with my install. How have you been?
Ptpreacher
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 10:40 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Quote:
Originally Posted by PTpreacher View Post
It's looking good Robin, you did great!
Say, how come your lower tube grille is missing? Won't it fit after your
put the heavy duty cooler in the front? I still have mine and will always
be grateful for the help you gave me with my install. How have you been?
Ptpreacher
No don't ask him about that. lol jk
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 11:22 pm
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Question Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Why is that Wolfman? has he been having a bad time?
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Old 15 Aug 2011, 11:55 pm
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Default Re: Headlight refinishing...the easy way

Quote:
Originally Posted by PTpreacher View Post
Why is that Wolfman? has he been having a bad time?
PTpreacher
naw i was just kidding but he got into an accident a few months ago. if i find the thread i'll post it for ya.
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