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Old 06-18-2017, 12:16 PM   #1
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Plastic headlight restoration tips?

I'm looking to fix up my plastic headlights (on my CTS-V, but any info given would apply to JDM one piece headlights on a CB7 so I'm putting it here.)

I tried to follow ChrisFix's Youtube video to restore the lights on my Fit, but the results were disappointing. I must have screwed something up! That being said, I now have more tools and materials at my disposal. I could use some advice, however. Here's what I have to work with:

Mothers claybar
Sandpaper (600-2000 grit)
Meguiars ultimate compound
Meguiars ultimate polish
Meguiars cleaner wax
Blue painter's tape for masking
And an orbital polisher with orange, blue, and black pads



The headlights are BAD.


Any advice, using the tools and materials at my disposal?
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Old 06-18-2017, 01:53 PM   #2
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So much easier if they are removed from the car. I spent countless ours getting my Grand Am headlights cleaned up. A lot of the quick fix headlight polishing kits merely cover up the delaminating materials. You have to remove those loose layers, or at least blend them together. That's were the wet sanding comes into play. I guess a power ball would work. I find you have much better control wet sanding by hand though. would hate from someone to burn through a plastic lens.

My go to requires some elbow grease
Start off with a lot of wet sanding this is the key. only advice I can give is try to apply an even pressure and take your time, use lots of water and don't swirl. try to keep it going in one direction. then cross direction. Same as if you were block sanding a car for paint.
1 - 220 grit
2 - 400 grit
(start @ 600 if that's what you have, just take a bit longer to get that initial rough stuff off)
3 - 800 grit
4 - 1000 grit
5 - 2000 grit
6 - Mothers aluminum polish (green jewelers rouge) (same as your McGuires)
7 - Mothers 3 stage wax system to finish it off (cleaner, sealer and carnauba wax)

Not quite as bad as yours,


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Old 06-18-2017, 01:59 PM   #3
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I started with 600. 400 maybe would have been better! That's the lowest I have on hand.

I'm up to 2500 grit now (apparently I have some of that!) It's coming along.
Next I'm going to try the compound, followed by the polish, and then the cleaner wax. If I can get them good enough, the plan is to put Laminx on them. I don't want to spend the money on Laminx if I can't get what's underneath looking acceptable, though!

Here's the current state, after 2500. Am I on the right track?
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Old 06-18-2017, 02:13 PM   #4
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Biggest thing I found after you get used to doing this, is that you want to remove all of the marks from the previous grit sand paper. Not sure if that makes sense or not. You don't want to have deep scratches that you are always chasing. The surface should be a uniform roughness after each stage.

Looks like you are on the right track. Only way to tell is to use a buffing compound and then see if there are any rough spots left. If there are still rough spots left repeat the sanding process. You generally don't have to go all the way back to 600 if you are close though.

I found with my lamin-x install, it magnified any imperfection. Luckily I noticed it right away. I only had to remove it and do another round of polishing. For my Ridgeline it was a quick fix. It is a good thing that you have fairly square lenses.
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Old 06-18-2017, 04:24 PM   #5
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I can still see some scratches from the sandpaper, so I'll need to do this again before the Lamin-x... but I'm happy with the result!

I just finished washing the car, and I'm waiting for it to dry a bit more before I wax it. It's amazing how clean headlights can change the look of a car!

Thanks for the guidance! After screwing up my Fit's lights, I felt pretty uneasy about doing it to my Cadillac. I'm satisfied with the results for now!

Here's my final result on the left side. Still a little haze (the right came out a bit better) but it's acceptable.
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Old 06-18-2017, 06:16 PM   #6
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Huge improvement from what you started with. Looks really good.

It takes time to get it perfect! Hit them a little bit more with the higher grit (2000-2500) and you'll notice the difference. That or you could sit there with buffing compound for a week!
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Old 06-18-2017, 06:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deevergote View Post
I just finished washing the car, and I'm waiting for it to dry a bit more before I wax it. It's amazing how clean headlights can change the look of a car!
I hear ya,



[/thread jack]....lol
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Old 06-18-2017, 07:56 PM   #8
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You're on the right track. Don't worry about fog looking, that will all go away when you polish them. For now use wet sanding to take away corrosion and crap on the headlight. Remember, they are just plastic. You've seen people polish plastic on cb7tuner before, same thing. Like a car you are sanding away the orange peel before you polish. I'd invest in a drill for the polish.

The other important note here is that you need some clear coat protector for these when you are done or they will yellow/fog again.
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Old 06-24-2017, 07:57 PM   #9
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I plan on doing it again in the near future, and hitting it with clear coat then. The last time I cleared lenses (when I did them on my Fit) I made quite a mess of things! I'm leaning toward the LaminX for that reason... though I could see myself screwing that up as well (and at $60+ for the kit, that's a risk!)

A friend just told me that the chemicals in the polish I used are no good, as the polish is designed for paint, not plastic. He says that I should use a plastic polish (unfortunately, those things are a bit pricey!) Is there truth to that?
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Old 06-24-2017, 10:06 PM   #10
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Here's the thing I don't even use that stuff I use other things to maximize my headlights only if you knew I should show pics of my work.
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Old 06-27-2017, 01:48 PM   #11
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I just use 1k grit sand paper and then Mother's aluminum polish, the new fad is to sand and spray clear on the headlights. I have also used Mother's on old cds and dvds and it worked like a champ, although I did used the billet version for that since I had some from when I had polished my wheels.
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Old 06-27-2017, 06:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h22sparkle View Post
Here's the thing I don't even use that stuff I use other things to maximize my headlights only if you knew I should show pics of my work.
I'd love to know what you use... since I'm looking for advice here.
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Old 07-12-2017, 03:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deevergote View Post
I started with 600. 400 maybe would have been better! That's the lowest I have on hand.

I'm up to 2500 grit now (apparently I have some of that!) It's coming along.
Next I'm going to try the compound, followed by the polish, and then the cleaner wax. If I can get them good enough, the plan is to put Laminx on them. I don't want to spend the money on Laminx if I can't get what's underneath looking acceptable, though!

Here's the current state, after 2500. Am I on the right track?
You need to sand the lights more and use more water to wash off debris in between strokes. They should be clearer by the time you get to 2500. Try alternating your strokes when you change grits. For example 600 could be vertical, then 800 is horizontal, 1000 is vertical and so on. The finer the grit you sand, then the clearer the headlights will become.

The longest lasting method would be to sand the headlights down until they're smooth and all the old clear is removed, then spray clear on them. Any UV clear for plastics found at home depot or walmart should be good enough for most people. If you want the best method, then a real automotive clear would be the best. Spraymax and Eastwood offer aerosol 2k Clears which have a hardener that gets mixed into the clear when its ready to use. The can is good for 48 hours, so plan to polish all your car headlights in 1 weekend. I don't have any personal experience doing this, but I bought the cans recently. They are pricier ($20 a can) compared to the regular plastic clear that can be found locally.

For most cars I do 800 > 1500 > 3000 > 5000 > Plastic polish > seal with some type of coating. There are many options for this (opti-lens, ceramic coating, xpel/laminx film, or regularly applying sealant), but the new clear is supposed to last the longest.

Start


800


1500


3000


Final result after plastic polish, not my best work, but it gives you an idea of how clear each step should be after sanding.


Same process:

Before


After
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Old 07-12-2017, 05:05 PM   #14
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Ya, what he said ^^^^^^^

And even i learned something from his post, my headlights look great but re-oxodize again. I can wipe it off with a rag almost. So I need to apply a thicker clear coat after sanding and this should prevent this. Also having a drill w/ pad will make this job a lot easier and you'll get better results.
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Old 07-12-2017, 05:39 PM   #15
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Ya, what he said ^^^^^^^

And even i learned something from his post, my headlights look great but re-oxodize again. I can wipe it off with a rag almost. So I need to apply a thicker clear coat after sanding and this should prevent this. Also having a drill w/ pad will make this job a lot easier and you'll get better results.
Thicker clear won't necessarily solve the problem. You're looking for the best bond and seal. Something else to note about using the 2k clear is that you must wear a respirator and proper clothing when using it in a well ventilated area. It's always recommended to use a face mask, but 2k clear is on a different level compared to regular consumer grade spray paints.

Even the new clear will oxidize again, but it'll last longer than any other method.

This kit: https://www.amazon.com/3M-39008-Head.../dp/B001AIZ5HY is the best value. It includes most of the stuff you'll need to restore the headlights and those 3m trizact disc are expensive.
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Old 07-12-2017, 08:47 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blk EX Coupe View Post
Thicker clear won't necessarily solve the problem. You're looking for the best bond and seal. Something else to note about using the 2k clear is that you must wear a respirator and proper clothing when using it in a well ventilated area. It's always recommended to use a face mask, but 2k clear is on a different level compared to regular consumer grade spray paints.

Even the new clear will oxidize again, but it'll last longer than any other method.

This kit: https://www.amazon.com/3M-39008-Head.../dp/B001AIZ5HY is the best value. It includes most of the stuff you'll need to restore the headlights and those 3m trizact disc are expensive.
thanks, i'll order that.
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