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Thomistopheles 02-14-2013 05:29 PM

Headlight Restoration Guide
Once the factory UV coating has worn off the plastic lenses of your headlights, they'll start to haze over and yellow. Store bought headlight restoration kits provide means to remove the oxidation, but nothing to protect the lenses from UV after you're done... this is why the results don't last and you have to keep buying more kits. The method outlined in this thread will restore the lenses and then provide long lasting protection from UV, years of clarity as opposed to a few months.

Supplies and tools:
400 through 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
Bucket o' water
Meguiars M105 compound (or equivalent)
Meguiars M205 polish (or equivalent)
Foam pads, one light cutting and one polishing
Microfiber towels
Isopropyl alcohol
Mineral spirits
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, clear gloss
Heat gun (optional, faster cure time)

I removed some 5+ year old rockblocker film. It left a thick adhesive residue behind, which required removal with a plastic razor and 3M adhesive remover on a rag. This photo was taken after cleaning it up.

500 grit wetsand
I soaked all my sandpaper in a bucket of soapy water and started wetsanding. Remove any scratches, pitting, and remaining factory UV coating in this step.

800, 1000. 1500, and 2000 grit wetsand
Pretty self explanatory. Work the headlight progressing through finer and finer grits, until you hit a minimum of 1500 grit. M105 can handle removal of 1500 grit scratches, but I prefer to hit it with 2000 grit for a better finish.

M105 and a light cutting pad
In this step, I used a Lake Country light cutting pad with Meguiars M105 compound. This removes the scratches from wetsanding and gives the light clarity again. M105 leaves its own swirls and haze, so follow it up with a less aggressive polish and pad.

M205 and a polishing pad
This step removes the haze left behind by the M105, leaving a glass-like surface. After this step, wipe the headlight with isopropyl alcohol to remove any contaminants or oils left on the surface. The lens is now ready for coating.

Mix Helmsman Spar Urethane and mineral spirits 50/50
You don't need much, I could do two sets of headlights with 30ml.

Urethane mixture applied
Fold a clean dry microfiber OR blue shop towel so you have a 1 inch square. Dip it in the mixture and apply the coating using overlapping vertical strokes, then overlapping horizontal strokes. The coating will self level, but watch for air bubbles, runs, and contaminants. If you mess up, mineral spirits are your friend. You can use a heat gun to speed up cure time, and apply as many coats as you like.

Finished headlights

Another before/after example

Stang70Fastback 02-14-2013 06:49 PM

Damn dude.

LegacyLou 02-14-2013 07:01 PM

Outstanding Return !

monkeyposeur 02-14-2013 08:27 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Sweet! :)

Can you pour whatever Helmsman and spirits that are left into the gas tank to clean everything else up?

Thomistopheles 02-15-2013 12:54 PM

lol, I don't think the inside of your tank needs any UV blocking urethane in there.

Also, bonus Husky content:

spooln30 02-15-2013 10:35 PM

Thanks for the tip on sealing it once done. People have said to use clear coat paint in a rattle can but I've never wanted to try that. They look better than new.

Analog 02-16-2013 05:15 PM

Wow, great job! I'll have to do this. Thanks for the write up!

Shoe 02-16-2013 07:31 PM

wow that looks great. I've used 800 grit sandpaper and polishing compound and thought it came out good, but yours look 10 times better. I'll try again and also use your coating method.
This is perfect timing; I was just about to start on my daughters Bronco headlights.

Thomistopheles 02-18-2013 02:46 PM

I've seen a lot of posts lately where people are using headlight kits, so I figured I'd share my method.

This spar urethane is as good as it gets without making a large investment into UV cured coatings, you can generally get 2 years out of it. Do at least three coats, any less and the longevity drops off.

I'm very excited about a new product from Optimum Polymer Technologies. They're releasing a new coating for plastic headlight lenses, similar to opticoat but with UV inhibitors and acrylic for added flexibility to account for temperature changes. 3-5 minute cure time, easier application. If it's as good as Opticoat, it will be my new coating for lights.

Bandit240 02-18-2013 04:56 PM

Now you say to do 3 or more coats after I already reinstalled the headlights on my wife's 95.

Thomistopheles 02-18-2013 05:00 PM

Hah, yeah I'm always updating my headlight threads. One or two coats will still last a long time.

Bandit240 02-18-2013 06:39 PM

I may try this on my boat windshield. It's made of plastic and I'm cleaning it all the time to keep it clean.

Sludgeroo 02-19-2013 05:19 AM

^ also if you wanna spend the $ go to lexan, but this should help as well.

Definitely will reduce yellowing.

Stoltz 02-19-2013 10:04 PM

Wow I'm doing this to my lights this weekend!!! +1 on the writeup

mattmattyxcore 02-21-2013 05:51 PM

Wow that is amazing and seems incredibly simple. I have to get a new set of headlights this weekend and with this info, I think that any set without broken tabs will work!

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