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post #1 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-07-2011, 10:41 AM Thread Starter
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Arrow New idea for restoring headlights

So, I've come to the conclusion that most headlights (polycarbonate) turn yellow and cloudy due to ultraviolet exposure.
We've all been through the process of polishing, buffing, and even wet-sanding, but the headlights will eventually return to their previous state: yellow, cloudy or hazy.

Well, I decided to try a new approach. After wet-sanding and polishing my headlights for the 1,000th time, I decided to use a special clearcoat that blocks UV. If my theory is correct, the UV-blocking clearcoat will extend the life (and clarity) of the polycarbonate lenses we all have on our headlights.

The purpose of this thread is to establish a timeline. In years past, I could sand and polish my lights only to have them fade and turn yellow after two or three months. With this new approach, I will install the lights and see how long they last.

I will update the thread as needed, and if my theory proves to be correct, we may all have a new technique for maintaining clear headlights. If you're as tired of poor nighttime vision as I am, this could be a good thing.





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post #2 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-07-2011, 08:09 PM
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I did mine with rough 3m buffing compound back in Oct. Then I sprayed them with 3 coats of laquer clear coat from ace. They look like glass and are practically in the same shape now. No chips from bugs...yet. Those look awesome though. I wish I would have done black this time on the inside.

-Rob
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post #3 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-15-2011, 11:43 AM
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Good idea.
I have put wax on headlights after cleaning but didn't last very long either...

Do you have a link to that clear coat stuff?
did you "paint" with the stuff using a brush or just spray it?

PS: nice telecaster.

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post #4 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-30-2011, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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One month later and they are as clear as they were when I painted them. I was on the interstate last night and I had great nighttime vision. Updates to come.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ortbird View Post
Good idea.
I have put wax on headlights after cleaning but didn't last very long either...

Do you have a link to that clear coat stuff?
did you "paint" with the stuff using a brush or just spray it?

PS: nice telecaster.
I waxed mine too but it never fully protected them from turning yellow. I bought the clearcoat through my company, which sells to sign-making and fabrication shops (but not individuals). You can't buy that stuff off the shelf as far as I know, but I might be able to ask at work to see if they will bend the rules and sell to forum members.

I found a link here, though.

Thanks for the compliment. It's a '98 Mexican Fender Telecaster; one of my favorite guitars in my collection.


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post #5 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-30-2011, 08:12 PM
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do you have any "before" pictures of the headlights?

What grit(s) of sand paper did you use?

What did you use to polish them?

My headlights look like crap next to my new clear corners, and I'd rather try this before putting new headlight housings on
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post #6 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-30-2011, 08:31 PM Thread Starter
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Yes:



That is how the headlights looked when I bought the car seven years ago in 2004.

When I wet-sand the headlights, I use 800 grit, then 1000, then 1500. I spend extra time using the 1500 to make the surface as smooth as possible.

Polishing can be done by hand or by random-orbit buffer, and I usually use Turtle Wax Polishing Compound (not rubbing compound!) in the green and white container. Be prepared to have sore elbows if you do it by hand.

I always remove the headlights to do this process to ease the work, and I removed the "alignment nubs" with a Dremel so I can make full sweeps across the surface without those nubs getting in the way. If you look at the very first photo in post #1, you can see the outline of the alignment nub; that's all that's left. I cut it off as flush as possible and the years' worth of wet-sanding and polishing left it as a simple bump on the surface.


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post #7 of 50 (permalink) Old 05-31-2011, 07:36 PM
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I've found that metal polish works really well for clearing up the headlamps. I polish them every time I wax the car. It's cheap, works decently, no sandpaper, easy to clean up, also don't have to worry about hitting the surrounding bodywork with power tools.

I tried rubbing compound too, but the metal polish gives better results.
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post #8 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-06-2011, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Fritz View Post
How long have you been doing this for?
A couple of years. It doesn't necessarily last a very long time; it's just something I keep up on as a maintenance item. Once or twice a year, I count it as part of my wax routine and it looks great!

I have a hunch it works very similarly to the toothpaste method recently mentioned in this thread: Some pics of my toothpaste headlight restore job It seems no matter what technique you use, it will likely last 6-9 months. That's why I schedule mine like I do.

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1995 Mustang GT (5.0), alternate daily driver

Last edited by Urambo Tauro; 06-06-2011 at 05:17 PM.
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post #9 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-07-2011, 05:24 AM Thread Starter
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Keep in mind that once the headlights turn yellow, metal polish and toothpaste won't remove the yellowed material; they will only allow for some clarity through it.

My technique removes the oxidized yellow layer.


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4.6 - Dynomax-Equipped - Tranny Cooler - 3.27 T/L - 125k Miles
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post #10 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-07-2011, 10:29 AM
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did you put the clear on after wet sanding or after buffing the headlight?
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post #11 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-07-2011, 12:17 PM
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This may not be as good but Krylon makes a clear UV spray.

http://www.krylon.com/products/uvresistant_clear

There is also an awesome car paint shop here that carries everything you need for interior restoration as well. They have a massive inventory of cool stuff so I'm going to check there. if they have it they have an online store too.


I think this is a good idea and we wouldn't have to keep cleaning up old head lights. I just ordered a new set of Eagle Eyes and I'm going to prep them then save until I need them.

-Kelly
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post #12 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thumbs up Update

Here is how they look six weeks after painting. No problems yet!



1996 Mercury Cougar XR7
4.6 - Dynomax-Equipped - Tranny Cooler - 3.27 T/L - 125k Miles
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post #13 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 07:44 PM
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I have an odd question....after all the wet sanding you have done on your lights, is the little blue oval and other markings/numbers still on the bottom of the lenses? Or have you sanded those off by now? I am very tempted to wet sand my headlights, they are more yellow by the day!
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post #14 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Those castings are on the inside of the lens. The bottom alignment nubs are still there, but the top nubs were cut off and polished over years ago. The bottom nubs don't impede my sanding and polishing, while the top ones really got in my way.

Hope that helps!


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post #15 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 09:29 PM
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I've done the same thing to my lights. I paint cars and most of the clears used today block uv rays so the paint does not fade. I also did my tail lights and they look brand new.

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post #16 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cougarcragar View Post
Those castings are on the inside of the lens. The bottom alignment nubs are still there, but the top nubs were cut off and polished over years ago. The bottom nubs don't impede my sanding and polishing, while the top ones really got in my way.

Hope that helps!
There was somebody years ago on here that removed all the alignment nubs, polished over them, did step by step photos, you could not tell they ever existed, wish I could find it
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post #17 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-17-2011, 11:14 PM
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If I removed the nubs I would cut them off just a hair higher than the lens then go at it with a dremel and slowly get it even. If it doesn't polish up right put some kind of clear acrylic to fill any pitting. I may try that, the nubs are a pain to polish around.

-Kelly
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post #18 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-23-2011, 11:51 AM
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"NUBS"
I cut the nubs off the headlights on my '92 and my '95, they are for old style Mechanical aimers. All the stations here now use Optical aimers. New lights don't have them at all. I used dremel tool with cuttoff wheel on medium speed and got a good seat and used two hands and was very careful. Light sanding using finger pressure, polish, you have to feel for any evidence of their existance.

"CLEARS"
My '92's lights hold up really really well as it sits alomost 100% of the time in a carport out of the sun I guess. My '95's had turned cloudy so yesterday I decided to clean them up and try coating with a clear UV protectant. I used Krylon Fusion Clear that's labeled as "UV Protection" ..... I did not like the look, some reason it didn't "lay right". I had to sand it off and repolish the lights, got them looking great again. Lots of work .... I try not to polish the SAE and Ford and other script off .... on my two Birds it's on the outside.

I'll watch for updates here, try to get some of the better stuff in the opening post and do it again maybe. For now, I'll rely on a Mother's Power Ball and plastic lense polish.

Did a search for " Sign Painters 1 shot 4005A " ..... that stuff ain't cheap! $10.50 and up per 12 oz spray can. Must be good then!


A fine pair ... ... and whatever you do, Have a Safe Trip!

Last edited by CrystalPistol; 06-23-2011 at 11:59 AM.
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post #19 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-23-2011, 12:37 PM
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I'm glad you tried the Krylon and let us know, I won't be trying that now. I imagine too that some would be more yellowish than others. Clear isn't always clear. I may hit up Space Age today and see what they have.

-Kelly
===================================
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post #20 of 50 (permalink) Old 06-23-2011, 05:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueEyes View Post
I'm glad you tried the Krylon and let us know, I won't be trying that now. I imagine too that some would be more yellowish than others. Clear isn't always clear. I may hit up Space Age today and see what they have.
Well, that was the "FUSION" (for plastics paint that I tried.

I haven't found the Krylon Clear UV protectant as mentioned above (http://www.krylon.com/products/uvresistant_clear). Might be same stuff for all I know? I usually get great results with Krylon though.

I have an old headlight that I once brought home from a wreck for some reason, complete but the mounting tabs were broken. No idea what it fits now, forgot I had it. I'll use it as a guinea pig and likely try the Krylon Clear above. First though, think I'll look more for that high dollar stuff.



UPDATE .... I cleaned that oddball headlight assembly good and taped off a 2" wide section and sprayed it with the same FUSION that I used earlier, I can tell it's on there, but it looks OK really. This is a non fluted lense. My '95 and '92 both have fluted lenses.

It is just possible that my poor result was from actually spraying it outside in the very warm sunlight of day?

I also picked up a Powerball 4 Headlights kit and a bottle of Blue Magic Lense Sealer that's UV protectant. The Powerball kit is pretty neat. I have my mother's car and my sisters car to polish soon. We'll see.

A fine pair ... ... and whatever you do, Have a Safe Trip!

Last edited by CrystalPistol; 06-24-2011 at 10:11 PM.
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post #21 of 50 (permalink) Old 10-08-2011, 11:45 AM Thread Starter
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10/8/11 Update:


Here is how they look five months later. They sure don't look brand-new, but I'm happy so far. They would have been tinged yellow by now had I not used the UV-blocking clearcoat.



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post #22 of 50 (permalink) Old 10-09-2011, 10:01 AM
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It has been about a year now for my polish job+ lacquer clear coat and it is holding up very nicely.

-Rob
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post #23 of 50 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Update

UPDATE: 3-17-12

It's been 10 months since I used the UV-blocking clearcoat. They have held up well, but there may be a slight yellow tinge forming. Even so, they would have been much worse had I not clearcoated them.

I hope this helps those who have subscribed to this thread.



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post #24 of 50 (permalink) Old 07-07-2012, 06:07 AM
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Life starts at 200 MPH !! Cops make me fell like the walking dead .
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post #25 of 50 (permalink) Old 07-07-2012, 06:22 AM
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The more you use the lights, the faster the clear would burn off making it thin from the heat. There is no protection in spray can paint, whats makes it hard? Nothing because there in no hardner. Also, the finer the sand paper grit the less adhesion. Clear coat can cover 600 grit and thats strong enough to bite into. Anything over 800 is risking it.
I`m suprise to see the clear held on that long consdiering you used a spray can. I`ve done many headlights using Dupont clears and the Imron 6000 held up the best. But then again the lights were all on tractor trailers and they take some serious abuse.
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post #26 of 50 (permalink) Old 07-11-2012, 01:16 PM
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It may not be a permanent solution for yellowing headlights but I think it was worth the effort. Even if you did this once a year it would be worth it to me. Imagine what they would look like with no protection. My bird is 18 years old and there are a lot of things I've had to redo over and over to keep the car looking newer-ish, especially with interior things.

-Kelly
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post #27 of 50 (permalink) Old 07-20-2012, 11:41 PM
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Do you think some clear coat over that would help keep it in check ? I live in the sand and wind of the desert and I drive at my speed limiter sometimes .

Life starts at 200 MPH !! Cops make me fell like the walking dead .
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post #28 of 50 (permalink) Old 10-14-2012, 11:35 AM
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Just came back to say that about 8-10 months ago I polished my '95s and my mother's Subaru headlights and I regularly apply the "Clear Headlight Protectant" (in a clear bottle, at Advance Auto Parts) to mine and she has as well .... it seems to slow the degredation but you still see it happen over time. Maybe if you apply it weekly?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lou View Post
The more you use the lights, the faster the clear would burn off making it thin from the heat. There is no protection in spray can paint, whats makes it hard? Nothing because there in no hardner. Also, the finer the sand paper grit the less adhesion. Clear coat can cover 600 grit and thats strong enough to bite into. Anything over 800 is risking it.I`m suprise to see the clear held on that long consdiering you used a spray can. I`ve done many headlights using Dupont clears and the Imron 6000 held up the best. But then again the lights were all on tractor trailers and they take some serious abuse.
I'm gonna try it with 600 here on that old odd ball headlight. My '92 still looks good with no clear but it sits in a carport almost always. The '95 is my DD and I have room for only 4 under covers so the '95 and my '77 F150 sit out. But that first time with the Krylon .... I think I had the surface too polishjed before applying the paint (I cleaned the surface, but I think I just had it too slick).

Might try the Krylon again and if that don't look right, get some " Sign Painters 1 shot 4005A ".

A fine pair ... ... and whatever you do, Have a Safe Trip!
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post #29 of 50 (permalink) Old 10-14-2012, 11:53 AM
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Let me ask y'all something. After y'all spray the clear coat on your headlights to extend the life before they need refinishing, then the year to year and a half later when you DO require refinishing, how tough is it to sand all the clear coat AND oxidation off to start all over again?

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post #30 of 50 (permalink) Old 10-14-2012, 01:49 PM
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I like the thought process of the clear in a can, but food for thought... I have a tint shop here about an hour away from you @cougarcragar just north of Youngstown....

I have been installing a film on headlights and tail lights called Lamin-x for about a year now on customers cars and my own. It comes in many different shades, but they do offer a clear film that blocks the UVA/UVB rays to prevent the "yellowing" and fading headlights and has worked well.

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