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Headlight Restoration

How To: Headlight Restoration

I have tried many different products to restore the plastic headlights. Nothing really worked well. There are many good threads/posts here read over many times. Thanks to everyone for posting and answering my questions. My buddy asked me about restoring the headlights on his 2001 minivan. I ended up using the 3M Headlight Restoration System. I picked it up at AutoZone for $20.

Be sure to check out my other write-ups:

How To: Replace Blend Door Actuator in 3rd Gen Ex

How To: Remove/Replace 3rd Gen Door Panel

How To: Install Signal Mirrors On 3rd Gen Ex

How To: Replace Multifunction Switch in 3rd Gen Ex

How To: Paint Rear Pillar Trim

How To: Replace 3rd Gen Ambient Air Temperature Sensor

How To: Test a Relay

How To: Remove/Replace 3rd Gen Center Console




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It comes with the following:
6 - 500 Grit Sanding Pads
4 - 800 Grit Sanding Pads
1 - 3000 Grit Wet Sanding Pad
1 - Foam Buffing Pad
1 - Backing Plate
1 - Pack of Rubbing Compund

In addition to the kit you will need the following:
Painter's Tape - to mask off the area to prevent sanding surrounding areas
Spray Bottle filled with ordinary water
Drill (1200-1600 RPM), I used my Dewalt cordless drill set on 2

The kit has excellent instructions so I won't bore you the details. Basically you sand the "damaged" layer off and buff it to a shine. Now on to the results:

Here is the before shots:

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The sanding process:

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After using the three 500 grit pads:

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After using the two 800 grit pads:

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After using the 3000 grit wet pad:

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After using the rubbing compound, the finish product:

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The headlights look like new. We polished the lights when we were done to help protect against UV rays. I told my buddy to polish the headlights every time he washes the minivan. This kit might be the best $20 I ever spent on detailing!!
 


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BigRondo

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Thank you BigRondo for the product review. I used it in making my decision of what to use a few months ago and I can't help but share my results. Mainly because it looks so much better!

I did not use any type of sealant to replace the UV protection coat that is sanded off. It has been four months and the lenses are still clear and not discolored. I did however look into UV protection coating quite a bit before I did this and came upon this thread. If you read through the whole thing you'll find a good deal of info. The main idea is to use Helmsman Spar Urethane as a coating mixed with mineral spirits as a solvent to apply it after you are done wet sanding and polishing the lenses.

You're welcome. :thumbsup: It does work really well!
 


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BigRondo

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kevinandyolanda

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great thread!!! Nothing worse than going to wash/wax your ride and the lenses look a hot mess!
 




Dan Whitaker

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I used the 3M kit on my '97 Cougar and I only got so-so results. If the lenses are too far gone it will help a bit but not make them new again.

I was hoping as new headlight assemblies are $100 a side for my Cougar :mad:
 




safn1949

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The headlights on my 2000 look like they have been sand blasted,Rockauto to the rescue with a new pair.:D
 




2TimingTom

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I used the 3M kit a couple weeks ago. It turned out good. I considered putting new housings in, but for the cost of 1, I got the 3M kit and got both looking pretty good. Light output has been increased at night.

HERE is my writeup in my registry.
 




BigRondo

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I used the 3M kit a couple weeks ago. It turned out good. I considered putting new housings in, but for the cost of 1, I got the 3M kit and got both looking pretty good. Light output has been increased at night.

HERE is my writeup in my registry.

Looks good! :thumbsup::thumbsup:
 




Jason94sport

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I used the 3M kit on my '97 Cougar and I only got so-so results. If the lenses are too far gone it will help a bit but not make them new again.
Yep. I did my moms 02 mustang in July. The lights were REALLY REALLY bad. Worse then any of the pics posted so far.
They are starting to haze again. Replacement is needed.
 




Dan Whitaker

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I tried the 3M kit again on a '02 KIA Sportage I have. Again I was not satisfied witht he results and they were not near as bad as shape as my Cougar's light.

I eneded up getting out my variable speed buffer set at 1400 RPM using a foam pad and Meguires Plastix polsish. This worked much better than the $20 3M kit.
 




Joe Dirt

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I've only used the kit once, and for all of the sanding and labor it took to do it, I went back to some 3M Finish Restore (PlastX is fine also) and an orbital. Takes like, 2 minutes, and you're done unless you have major oxidation to correct.
 




mattadams

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I tried a similiar process for my old Grand Cherokee, but found a lot of the ick seemed to be on the inside of the headlight not the outside... but I didn't give it quite as much effort either and ended up just buying a replacement set of headlights... oh well, will keep this in mind for the future.
 




BigRondo

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The 3M kit worked very well for me on both the Jeep & the Caravan. I was very skeptical at first because nothing had worked in the past. This was, by far, the most aggressive approach I've taken. It's been 8 months since both vehicles were done. I'll see if I can post up some pictures with a status report on how well they are holding out.
 




Anime

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In addition to the 3M kit, Sylvania now has their own restoration kit, which comes with a
UV sealant:

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http://www.sylvania.com/ConsumerProducts/AutomotiveLighting/HeadlightrestorationKit/


And Turtle Wax has had their kit out for awhile too, with a "lens sealing wipe":

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http://www.turtlewax.com/main.taf?p=2,1,4,32


Just some other options for those considering restoring their headlamps.

The 3M kit, or the general sanding technique is of course much better for lenses that are completely gone, but it's still surprising that 3M hasn't come up with their own UV sealant for their kit. Some people do appear to have gotten away with sanding off the old UV layer and not had the lens yellow again, but as far as I've seen, it's just a matter of time before it comes back, without polishing every so often to keep it at bay.
Still, polishing the lenses once or twice a month is a small price to pay for good visibility and night driving safety, not to mention saving the $100+ on new lens assembles, and having to install them.
 




BigRondo

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Thanks for posting that info. Nice to know there are a couple or so decent kits on the market now. :thumbsup:
 




sethpdx

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I want to try the 3M kit.
 




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Mudboy

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sealing them is important. Just because tehy have refogged after polishing does not mean that they need to be replaced. Chances are with aftermarket light assemblies you will be fogged within a year anyways. Here's the next kit I'm trying. It comes with UV protectant resin. Nice thing the shop is semi local to me that carries this product.
http://www.glimmerglassdetailing.com/herekit.html
 




toypaseo

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Once you guys get to a stage where they are "perfect", you could consider getting a layer of clearbra on them. For my Paseo, I scored some Cynos (a Paseo in some other countries) headlights off eBay. The seller polished the clearcoat off, and left a perfectly clear lens. I knew they would cloud fast, so I talked to my tint/clearbra installer. He said he has clearbra on all his headlights, for numerous years, with no problems. So, here they are after clearbra...

Click on image for larger view.

th_Cynos_headlights_box.jpg
 




BigRondo

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Those look really nice. Clearbra is definitely worth looking in to.
 


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Joe Dirt

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Yep- clearbra is a good route to go...
 




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