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 Old 09-23-2012, 04:32 PM   #1
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Default Headlight Restoration: How to

So, as some of you may recall I tinted and wetsanded my LED tail lights a while back. Basically, the process is identical for retouching headlights as well.
*Note: you can buy a Sylvania headlight restoration kit which contains all of the following except masking tape and ScratchX, and it comes with a Lifetime warranty if you screw it up too

To do do this yourself you will need the following from your local AutoParts store:
  • Wet-sanding Sandpaper: 400 grit, 1000grit, 2000grit (does not have to be exact, but you need to go low to high, with 2000+ needed for finishing)
  • Polishing compound: ScratchX 2.0 or other polishing compound (I highly recommend ScratchX over anything... has given amazing results every time)
  • UV Seal/Clear Coat- this stops oxidation from returning and protects lights from scratching
  • Tape (electrical and masking tape)
  • Lint free towel
  • A roll of quality paper towels which will not leave debris
  • Spray bottle of soapy water

Step 1:
Soak sand paper in water. Open hood and clean headlights and surround area with water/soap, then rub off with rubbing alcohol

Step 2:
Mask off around the lights using electrical tape (this will stay in place from the water later). Make sure to get slightly under the lip of the lights as well-slightly press down on the bumper to get some space.

Step 3:
Spray the lights with soapy water and then sand the lights using 400 grit with slight pressure going in circular motions. As you do this you will see yellow and white oxidation start running off, make sure to keep spraying lots of water as you go. Do this for ~5min, or until you feel a uniform & smooth surface across the light. Now spray the lights down with water and dry them off with paper towels to inspect the sanding for a uniform hazy look (you will see if you did not do it evenly, or if you need to do more).

Pic after starting 400 grit:


Pic after done with 400 grit:


Pic after done with 1000 grit:


Pic after done 2000 grit:



Step 4:
Repeat step 3 with 1000 and 2000 grit. At the end of each grit process you should see uniform white/cloudy appearance.

Step 5:
Apply ScratchX compound to your buffer or your paper towel and rub the hell out of the lights. The more you do this, and the more you work it in, the clearer your end result will be. Do this ~3 tmes per light, about 5min for each round of polishing.


Pic after polishing with Scratch X:



Step 6:
Your lights will look great now, but you want to keep it that way. Remove all the electrical tape and spray the lights down afterwards to remove any debris, then dry with paper towels.
Now apply masking tape where the electrical tape was, this will protect and allow you to apply the clear coat/UV without worrying about touching any paint.

Take rubbing alcohol and rub the lights down to prepare them for sealing with a paper towel.



Step 7:
Fold a piece of the lint free towel into a 2 inch square.Take the Clear Coat/UV sealer and liberally apply it to the lint free towel's folded edge, soaking it pretty well.
Now for the fun part; swipe the light with the soaked edge, starting from the top of the car's light and in a continuous/steady motion go towards the wheel. You want to go top-down, taking about 4 swipes to get the whole light, slightly overlapping each prior swipe. Now, look at the light for any running (should not be any) and walk away, DO NOT apply more.. you will mess up your new lights. The lights may look strange, but give it a minute and watch as it goes clear as glass.

Step 8:
Let the UV cure in shade for 4-6 hours, undisturbed. Remove the tape & wash the car the following day...DONE

Pic after applying clear/uv sealant:

Last edited by mczimer; 11-25-2012 at 05:13 PM.
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 Old 09-23-2012, 05:35 PM   #2
 
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Thank you mczimer. I need to do this badly.
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 Old 09-23-2012, 11:17 PM   #3
 
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Nice write up. the outer layers of plastic are starting to peel and get hazy, so theyve been due for a wetsanding. will probably be my next project.
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 Old 09-24-2012, 08:13 AM   #4
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Here are some pics in daylight, still not cleaned up, but you get the point. Once I get some Windex on these the bitches be comin'...


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 Old 09-24-2012, 09:24 AM   #5
 
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@mczimer

what do you recommend for a UV Seal/Clear Coat? i've never been able to find a decent supply of it that didn't cost me a boat load.
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 Old 09-24-2012, 10:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Uberfly View Post
@mczimer

what do you recommend for a UV Seal/Clear Coat? i've never been able to find a decent supply of it that didn't cost me a boat load.
I used what came in the Sylvania kit, but any clear coat should work fine. I do not recommend using a spray though, unless you want to do more wetsanding to remove orange-peel.
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 Old 09-24-2012, 01:31 PM   #7
 
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OK so here's some pics of what have been happening to my headlights lately. They feel almost like tinny little scratches. I tried to get some good pics of the headlights, will this Sylvania kit help with this??

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 Old 09-24-2012, 01:50 PM   #8
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Damn, using a Brillo pad to wash and dry the car?
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 Old 09-24-2012, 01:56 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by J'sSpeed3 View Post
OK so here's some pics of what have been happening to my headlights lately. They feel almost like tinny little scratches. I tried to get some good pics of the headlights, will this Sylvania kit help with this??
Well, it will not get any worse, it can only get better. What you have is micro cracks in the plastic. This is usually just on the surface, so if you do a good job of sanding you should hopefully get rid of it. Give it a go...
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 Old 09-24-2012, 02:10 PM   #10
 
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Originally Posted by Haltech View Post
Damn, using a Brillo pad to wash and dry the car?
lol i use a water blade and a shammy, it's weird it came out of no where really, I didn't even notice it until @slikr mentioned it, not it drives me insane

Originally Posted by mczimer View Post
Well, it will not get any worse, it can only get better. What you have is micro cracks in the plastic. This is usually just on the surface, so if you do a good job of sanding you should hopefully get rid of it. Give it a go...
thank you! how much was the kit? did you just get it at autozone?
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 Old 09-24-2012, 02:13 PM   #11
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Micro fiber to dry bro... Water blades are dangerous if one spec of dirt gets embedded into the silicone.
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 Old 09-24-2012, 02:15 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by J'sSpeed3 View Post
thank you! how much was the kit? did you just get it at autozone?
Kit is under 20 bucks, from any AutoParts store, wallyworld, sears, ect..
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 Old 09-24-2012, 02:17 PM   #13
 
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Originally Posted by Haltech View Post
Micro fiber to dry bro... Water blades are dangerous if one spec of dirt gets embedded into the silicone.
So shammy then microfiber or no shammy at all?
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 Old 09-24-2012, 02:19 PM   #14
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No spammy period..
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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:16 PM   #15
 
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OK so i just finished the whole process with this kit and it looks amazing! I highly recommend this kit even if your headlights aren't too bad. You can see my before pics above with the micro scratches and here's some of the pics now during the curing phase


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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:17 PM   #16
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Glad this helped you
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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:21 PM   #17
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I'm probably going to have to do this, my fucking 2011 already looks like this. Too lazy to try and go after new ones under warranty, though I did hear rumors on other sites that there was a TSB for them.
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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:26 PM   #18
 
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Originally Posted by SofaKingAwesome View Post
I'm probably going to have to do this, my fucking 2011 already looks like this. Too lazy to try and go after new ones under warranty, though I did hear rumors on other sites that there was a TSB for them.
Just do it this weekend, the process takes an hour MAX if you take your time, you just gotta have another means of transportation for 6 hours after lol
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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:31 PM   #19
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Excellent thread and how to.

I'll be doing this immediately. My headlight housings are proper fucked.
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 Old 09-25-2012, 12:43 PM   #20
 
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mine are messed up but I think it's mostly from my 55w hids. I heard they could melt the housing and i think they are. I could get a pic up later if anyone is interested.
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 Old 09-26-2012, 08:26 AM   #21
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always a good feeling to make people happy...
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 Old 10-14-2012, 01:55 AM   #22
 
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Originally Posted by Boosten Ya(josh) View Post
mine are messed up but I think it's mostly from my 55w hids. I heard they could melt the housing and i think they are. I could get a pic up later if anyone is interested.
If you could post up the damage that would be good info.... As I've recently thought about converting from 35w factory to some 55w'ers as well as upgrade the projector itself.
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 Old 10-18-2012, 09:33 AM   #23
 
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I have seen another user @S-hendrix with this exact problem. I have it too. I believe it to be severe UV degradation. We are both here in Bryan/College Station. Numerous days over 100 F. Neither of us had a garage. He had one side that was worse than the other. I'm gonna pick up a kit and give it a shot. Ill post up some before and afters for everyone.
@mczimer, you said you used this on your tail lights, any pics? I just painted mine with the tamiya paint and they are pretty foggy. I was hoping to attempt something similar for those.
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 Old 10-18-2012, 10:09 AM   #24
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i was referring to wetsanding. I tinted my tail lights and used wetsanding to get them glass-clear. You could use this procedure to "seal" them once completed.
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 Old 10-18-2012, 10:17 AM   #25
 
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Originally Posted by TrePaul86 View Post
If you could post up the damage that would be good info.... As I've recently thought about converting from 35w factory to some 55w'ers as well as upgrade the projector itself.
I'll take some pics tomorrow. My car is dirty so it looks worse then it is.
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 Old 10-18-2012, 11:11 AM   #26
 
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Originally Posted by mczimer View Post

i was referring to wetsanding. I tinted my tail lights and used wetsanding to get them glass-clear. You could use this procedure to "seal" them once completed.
put a shirt on! lol, pretty impressive i can see your reflection in the plastic.
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 Old 11-25-2012, 05:13 PM   #27
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Thread updated with more pics after doing this again on another ms6
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 Old 12-13-2012, 08:50 PM   #28
 
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posting up my results with the sylvania headlight restore kit..

my headlights were really about as bad as they could possibly be before i did this. every time i went to a meat, that is the first thing that people would say.. they just stuck out like a sore thumb. i was worried how much the kit would do, because my headlights were not just fogged, but they had 1000's of scratches on the surface. but i figured, it definitely wouldnt hurt it.

and this is my results.











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 Old 12-13-2012, 08:59 PM   #29
 
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You can do mine when I get home?
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:03 PM   #30
 
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i'm definitely gonna do this, but after it's all said and done, do you think there's an advantage to laying down some Lamin-x overlays? Figure they should last a bit longer than just the clear coat by itself.
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:03 PM   #31
 
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Originally Posted by Don06speed6 View Post
You can do mine when I get home?
maaaaaaaaaaaybe.. if you ever decide to visit me down in lancaster!
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Originally Posted by MS3-a(sore)ASS-rex View Post
I envy your ass raping.
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:27 PM   #32
 
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Consider it a date filled with lots of unicorn jiz
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:30 PM   #33
 
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Originally Posted by Don06speed6 View Post
Consider it a date filled with lots of unicorn jiz
DONE!!! ill supply the unicorn jizz!
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I envy your ass raping.
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:30 PM   #34
 
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I'll have my own to supply!
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 Old 12-13-2012, 09:31 PM   #35
 
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Originally Posted by Don06speed6 View Post
I'll have my own to supply!
cant wait!
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 Old 01-13-2013, 12:44 PM   #36
 
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Nice writeup im doing this the next sunny day we have
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 Old 01-16-2013, 07:52 PM   #37
 
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Just finished headlight number 1...so glad I did this!
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 Old 01-17-2013, 12:03 PM   #38
 
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big help
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 Old 01-17-2013, 08:10 PM   #39
 
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It was even more awesome because I actually did this while at work....so I gots PAID to do it. Word.
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 Old 01-17-2013, 08:32 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by btstarcher View Post
Just finished headlight number 1...so glad I did this!
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