4cylndrfury SuperDork
Feb. 27, 2012 8:08 a.m.

If your DD is anything like mine, the 13+ year old headlights have seen better days. Ive tried a few times in the past to try to remove the cloudiness and oxidation from the lens in hopes of making the ol' girl look a little fresher, but often had minimal gains.

That changed this weekend. I made some delicious blackened chicken alfredo on my glass cooktop, and of course, spilled a little of my sauce (thats what she said), which then burned onto the burner area. We have some of this stuff for cleaning the burned on grit:

its a micro-abrasive and mild cleaner in one, which means it cleans off dirt, and uses a super fine silica powder to polish without scratching (Pretty sure we got it at either the grocery store or Lowes, so pretty easy to find. Its important that it be a GLASS COOKTOP CLEANER - not a countertop polish or some other such malarkey). In that moment, with a now sparkling cooktop, I thought, hey, ya know what else this might work on? Oh yeah, my car!!!

At first, I tried to apply it with a terry cloth towel, but this didn't really have a whole lot of effect. Not willing to give up so easy, I used the same paper towel I had used moments earlier on the glass cooktop, and HOLY CRAP it worked! I used a whole lot of elbow grease, applying a lot of pressure, and moved in tight, circular passes, for about 5 min per lens. When I was done polishing, I wiped the lens down with windex to remove any remaining cleaner, and then applied some rain-x. I remember reading an article somewhere when the whole lens restorer product craze happened years ago, and what I remember was that while you can easily remove the oxidized acrylic, and make the lens clear again, the problem is that the lenses came from the factory with a UV protection topcoat. This topcoat wears off after about a decade, less in the great salt-worshiping midwest. Once that topcoat is gone, the acrylic oxidizes and gets that cloudy look.

Kind of like Copper and brass, that oxidization layer protects the acrylic beneath it, preventing further oxidation. Remove that oxide layer, and youre bound to have it repeat. So I am hoping the rain-x will help to re-seal the acrylic, preserving it to prevent more buildup.

So heres some pics, just 2 - a before and after:

Before

After

Its not the most noticeable difference in the pics, but trust me, its night and day in person. My lenses are now 13 years old plus, so they are a bit worse for wear. looking from the top down, you can see micro-cracks running thru the lens - most likely the acrylic cracking from exposure to UV drying out the plasticizers in it. Also, there is some visible cloudiness on the inside of the lens. I may bake my lights so I can open them up and do the same polishing technique on the inside too. If I do, I will post more pics.

So refresh those lenses the Ghetto way, the 4CF way!

ThePhranc HalfDork
Feb. 27, 2012 9:41 a.m.

We polish plexi sign faces with something made for Honda motorcycles. It might work good as a sealer too.

Feb. 27, 2012 9:51 a.m.

Toothpaste has similar results as well . . . and makes it minty fresh.

Application of sealer (RainX etc) is recommended.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
Feb. 27, 2012 11:05 a.m.

I may go back over them with some toothpaste actually - would make sense. Its kinda like using progressively finer cuts of rubbing compound while detailing your paint...the cooktop cleaner is your medium, and toothpaste is likely to be the fine grit stuff.

Keith SuperDork
Feb. 27, 2012 11:09 a.m.

I use Novus plastic polish. Costs less than cooktop cleaner I found it worked wonders on my Tundra with very little effort on my part. The whole "UV protection" thing was a myth in that case - I found I had to repolish them once a year, and we live in an extremely high UV area.

However, the damage to the Grand Cherokee plastic is all internal so it's no help there.

CLH New Reader
Feb. 27, 2012 9:17 p.m.

Start with 2000 grit wet sand and end with the plastic polish. Lots of effort but worth it.

Double_Wishbone New Reader
Feb. 27, 2012 9:25 p.m.

If you want to go really low budget, you can buy an avocado, cut it in half, and gently buff it across the headlight surface. Or use the juice on a terry towel.

Seriously. I've done it before, but it's not nearly as good as your results.

Woody SuperDork
Feb. 27, 2012 9:32 p.m.
Keith wrote: I use Novus plastic polish. Costs less than cooktop cleaner I found it worked wonders on my Tundra with very little effort on my part. The whole "UV protection" thing was a myth in that case - I found I had to repolish them once a year, and we live in an extremely high UV area.

That's what we used to use at the yacht maintenance place I worked for in college. There are two grades, a cleaner and a polish. We used it on the plastic windows. Great stuff. You can get it at boating supply stores

1988RedT2 SuperDork
Feb. 28, 2012 6:48 a.m.
Double_Wishbone wrote: If you want to go really low budget, you can buy an avocado, cut it in half, and gently buff it across the headlight surface. Or use the juice on a terry towel. Seriously. I've done it before, but it's not nearly as good as your results.

I like to add a little minced garlic and onion, along with some salt and lemon juice and mash it all up together. That way I can munch tortilla chips whilst I work.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
Feb. 28, 2012 7:44 a.m.

Oh, dont get me wrong folks, I know theres multitudes of better ways of restoring hazy headlamp lenses. But I dont have any plastic polish or high grit sandpaper. This was just using what I have on hand.

on a side note, anyone have experience with Lamin-x? Ive always wanted to lightly smoke my lenses, or maybe go with that barely blue tint. Is it worth the time? Or does the stuff shrink/crack/peel/fade/bubble/etc?

curtis73 SuperDork
Feb. 28, 2012 12:15 p.m.

3M scotch brite to take off the oxidation, then a rattle can of clearcoat.

Works great, lasts about 3 years in TX.

Dr. Hess SuperDork
Feb. 28, 2012 12:56 p.m.
Woody wrote:
Keith wrote: I use Novus plastic polish. Costs less than cooktop cleaner I found it worked wonders on my Tundra with very little effort on my part. The whole "UV protection" thing was a myth in that case - I found I had to repolish them once a year, and we live in an extremely high UV area.

That's what we used to use at the yacht maintenance place I worked for in college. There are two grades, a cleaner and a polish. We used it on the plastic windows. Great stuff. You can get it at boating supply stores

My step son was a space suite technician for NASA before Obama fired him and the rest of the space program. The Novus stuff is what he used on the astronauts' face shields.

Keith SuperDork
Feb. 28, 2012 2:05 p.m.
Woody wrote:
Keith wrote: I use Novus plastic polish. Costs less than cooktop cleaner I found it worked wonders on my Tundra with very little effort on my part. The whole "UV protection" thing was a myth in that case - I found I had to repolish them once a year, and we live in an extremely high UV area.

That's what we used to use at the yacht maintenance place I worked for in college. There are two grades, a cleaner and a polish. We used it on the plastic windows. Great stuff. You can get it at boating supply stores

Three grades, actually. I think I bought mine eons ago at a plastic supply store. Cheaper than an avocado per application

4cylndrfury MegaDork
April 22, 2013 7:54 a.m.

Well, after a year, the ghetto restoration has been holding its own. The lenses continue to appear more clear than before, without yellowing, needing only a few re-coats of rain-x to keep the surface relatively "sealed".

Then, the other day, SWMBO decided we needed to do something about our hardwood floors. Having an epileptic dog and hardwood floors is the equivalent of owning male cows and housing them in a retail establishment for fine dinnerware. They looked scratched up and worn. We arent interested in a full strip and restore, as Bandits epilepsy hasnt diminished, meaning theyd only get torn up again.

So after a little googling, we came up with a plan to make them look nice without a full on reworking. The first step was using a restoring product to make the scratches the same color as the finish. This restoring product by Old English was what we purchased:

Notice, its for LIGHT woods - its got a tan color, but goes down very clear. They also sell a dark wood finish...more on this later

So, the stuff worked wonders on the floors (sorry, no before and after, I know home renovation is a close second to car restoration for many here). It got me thinking about what else I could use it on.

MY CAR!

So, here was the result of the last process, using glass cooktop cleaner:

Before: After:

Pretty good, right!

Well, add some of this scratch restorer, and you get this

BAM!:

Not too shabby - $4 for the bottle, and that one bottle will refinish ever headlight on every cab in NY, twice! I applied it with a terry cloth towel, just rubbed it on in a circular motion for 3 or 4 minutes per lens, and the results are really impressive.

I did this on friday, and this morning, theyre still minty fresh. I was a little worried that whatever is in this stuff that makes it so shiny would catalyze the acrylic and leave me with a gooey mess or something (then Id be forced to just buy new ones, oh darn ). But, they look great, and the stuff is its own sealer too, so no more rain-x on the headlights.

Now, as to the DARK wood restorer, its VERY dark, like, coats the sides of the bottle so that no light gets thru. I am probably going to wash this stuff off with some degreaser, and try the dark stuff - my hope is it will give the lenses a smoked appearance, while still promoting clarity. I will post an update once I get a chance to do it...

slantvaliant SuperDork
April 22, 2013 8:15 a.m.
4cylndrfury wrote: Ive always wanted to lightly smoke my lenses, or maybe go with that barely blue tint. Is it worth the time?

Please, don't.

ARTICLE on lens coloring.

Javelin MegaDork
April 22, 2013 8:15 a.m.
Double_Wishbone wrote: If you want to go really low budget, you can buy an avocado,

Wha?!?! Avocados are expensive man!

GameboyRMH UltimaDork
April 22, 2013 8:29 a.m.

Wow you're a pioneer in ghetto lens restoration!

I should try this on my mom's bugeye Impreza, they went cloudy when the car was about 4 years old and if you polish them up it only lasts about 3 months. My Samurai has the problem too.

bravenrace PowerDork
April 22, 2013 8:32 a.m.

I just use regular rubbing compound, the grit of which is determined by how bad the lenses are. I've also wet sanded some really bad ones, then buffed them out with compound and my buffer. They come out looking like new. No big deal.

4cylndrfury MegaDork
April 22, 2013 8:43 a.m.
bravenrace wrote: I just use regular rubbing compound, the grit of which is determined by how bad the lenses are. I've also wet sanded some really bad ones, then buffed them out with compound and my buffer. No big deal.

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