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Headlight Resurfacing (cloudiness/scratches/rock chips)
10-21-2007, 11:44 PM
Thought I'd write up a little "how to" on fixing the old headlights. As an owner of an '04 Comp G, I take pride in keeping things clean and tidy. If your lights are looking dull, or look like they are covered in light snow from all the scratches/chips, then you can fix it yourself and avoid buying a whole new assembly from the dealer, or the crummy ones from Ebay. Prices on a headlight are from $80 used to $260 new. This project will cost you approx $20.00, that is taking into consideration you have access to powertools.
600 grit sandpaper ($0.99+)
1000 or 1500 grit sandpaper ($0.99+)
2000 grit sandpaper ($0.99+)
Sanding brick (3M approx $7.00)
Buffing pad (3M tri-pack available at Wal-Mart for $5.00)
Turtle Wax buffing compound and scratch remover ($5.00)
Corded Drill for using buffing pad (cordless will not achieve enough RPM)
Now, you're probably thinking.... Whoa, I am not going to sand clear plastic, it'll ruin the lights! But, WRONG. I spent a lot of time researching what to do, also bought a few products that did not work... SO, to save you people some time/effort, use this guide to achieve BRAND NEW looking lights again.
First off, remove the headlight assembly (check your owner's manual if you'r unsure, it's SIMPLE).
1. Assess the damage. Rub your hands across the light and determine whether or not your scratches/craters are deep, or superficial. If you can catch your fingernail on anything, it's safe to say you're going to be sanding a little bit :grinyes:
2. With the light assembly off the car, leave the bulbs attached. This will keep the unit sealed so nothing gets inside and causes a MAJOR headache. On the 2004, you just disconnect the wire harness and everything comes along for the ride. CLEAN THE LIGHT THOROUGHLY. There will be a lot of dried dirt once you free it from the beast. Any sand/dirt/rocks will make your sanding a horrible experience, possibly causing MORE damage.
3. Fill a bucket with water (warm of cold, whatever suits your fancy). Apply 2-3 drops of regular detergent.
4. Depending on the amount of material that needs to be removed, choose your paper. You will want to start with 600 if its bad, or 1000/1500 if it's not so bad. Either way, you need 2000 afterwards to assist with the finish.
5. USE A SANDING BLOCK. If you do not use a block (like I did at first), you will get very poor sanding consistency and most likely some major veins since you will most likely apply lots of pressure with your index/middle finger.
6. Wet the headlight (it's sealed, don't worry about the mess). Work your sandpaper in long strokes with a good amount of pressure. After 10 seconds of sanding, soak your block/paper again to keep things nice and smooth. There will be a milky residue as you chew away the layers. Keep sanding with the first paper until your finish is uniform (no more gouges or original scratches).
7. At this point, you will panic when you see the light looks ruined! Don't worry, it will ALL work out! When working around the top of the light, pull the rubber seal upwards so you can get under it a little bit, or you will end up with a few millimeters of untouched surface.
8. Once your sanding is uniform (can take 10-20 mins depending on the damage), take out the 2000 grit sandpaper. We're going to turn those big scratches into finer ones. The light will look VERY cloudy at this stage. Check your progress by putting clean water on the lense (it'll bring back clarity momentarily) and check progress.
9. OK, your light is sanded and dull looking, BUT there are no scratches made by the road, only ones that you made yourself. Good stuff. Rinse the lense thoroughly, pay attention to lifting the rubber seal again slightly to wash out that milky residue. Dry unit with whatever you fancy, preferably lint-free.
10. Take your polishing pad (it will look like a sponge if you purchased the Tri-pack). Mount it on your drill like any other bit. It's a good idea to be sitting down to do this. Put the light between your thighs so you can apply pressure as the drill does it magic. Apply a nice amount of the Turtle Wax til the pad has a nice white surface. Buff the light with pressure and high RPM until the cloudiness goes away. It will take atleast 5 mins... You will want to keep re-applying the polish everytime you notice there are no white swirls where you're working. After a few minutes, your light will look literally brand new. It's truly a sight to behold, since you were in shock prior after witnessing the sanding disaster. Once you're happy with the polish results, mount the cloth looking pad on the drill. Continue to go over the light until the remaining polish has been absorbed and the unit sparkles. Clean the trim when complete with a cloth.
Now, after all that work... it pays off. Mount your lights again, turn them on and watch the glow. This method came out better than I could have ever imagined. The other products I used before only coated the light with a greasy film to bring back clarity. Once you touched it, the light would go cloudy again and it was horrible.
So, to all who have been pondering this project, go for it. You can do it yourself for cheap and be the hero of the home (especially if the wife's car needs some attention!) :wink:
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