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mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/15/18 8:18 a.m.

The headlights on the Accord are borderline dangerous as far as total light output and I need to either polish or replace them. These aren't just a bit hazy, but are bad enough it's tough to see the bulb inside. What's my best bet procedure and equipment wise to attempt a restoration? 

02Pilot
02Pilot Dork
4/15/18 8:22 a.m.

On my E39 I used fine sandpaper in stages (1000-1500-2000), followed by 3M Imperial Hand Glaze, Meguiar's Plast-X, and finally a UV clearcoat.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
4/15/18 8:25 a.m.

I used the kit from harbor freight.  When I bought it it was USA made.  Worked fine, had a backing pad for the drill and a few sanding sheets and polishing pad and compound and was about $11 before coupon and obligatory free microfiber towels

Rodan
Rodan HalfDork
4/15/18 8:29 a.m.

I used a Sylvania kit from Amazon on one of my NBs...  worked great.  Jury is still out on longevity, as it's only been ~ 6 months.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
4/15/18 8:35 a.m.

Hit it with 400 grit on a DA sander until all of the yellowing is gone, then swap to 800 grit and sand until smooth. Next, spray with a few coats of UV clear coat. I’ve done this quite a few times, and they look better than new and last as long as paint. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
4/15/18 8:36 a.m.

And yes, I mean ALL the yellowing. You’ll be sanding for a long time. 

Run_Away
Run_Away HalfDork
4/15/18 8:36 a.m.

I used a meguiars kit on my Civic lights, it only lasted about a year before reverting back to it's original state. I ended up replacing them with a pair of oem style smoked reflector units.

 

I've never tried it myself, but next time I'm going to try lots of sanding followed by a 2k clear with uv protection. I've heard good things about the SprayMax 2k clear from Napa on the headlight junkies FB page.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
4/15/18 11:10 a.m.

I've used both the Meguiars' and the Sylvania kit after the latter had been either tested or recommended here.

The Meguiars kit works pretty well but at least out here, only works for about 6 months before you have to redo it. The Sylvania kit is a lot more work but definitely lasted longer.

Either way I'm probably going to go the "spray with 2k clear with uv protection" route the next time.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/15/18 2:17 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Thanks. I'll go sandpaper/clear shopping in the morning. 

And thanks to everyone else. Truck headlights are bad too, but they're thinner plastic and are more expensive so I'm going to experiment with the Accord first and hold the rest of this info in my pocket for the next go-round, just in case. 

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 MegaDork
4/15/18 2:19 p.m.

i like the 3m kit myself. 

can someone link the right kind of clear in a rattle can? i want to preventatively do the new headlights for the truck, and may as well spray the whole fleet at that time. 

dropstep
dropstep SuperDork
4/15/18 3:45 p.m.

We use the 3m kit at work. I originally wasn't a believer but after 6 years there I still see cars we did 2-3 years ago that look decent. The biggest issue we run into is people going too the car wash before the uv protection is dry.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
4/15/18 9:28 p.m.

The biggest misunderstanding or hangup is not using an aggressive enough abrasive (i usually start at 400grit on ugly lights) or not going deep enough in that first stage of the process. 

How long it lasts is basically down to did you clearcoat over it and did you do it properly. 

 

As Tom said, done right it's basically as durable as any other automotive paint finish. But, done right it is more like a $200+ labor process vs the $39 you see advertised at oil change places. I'm not saying you can't do it well for cheap, but the reason why you see or hear about a lot of 'headlight restorations' not lasting well is that most of them are done half-ass in 10 minutes by people making $10/hr in shops that charged $40. If you do it right you'll realize you'd never sell it to anyone that cheap, it'll take you approximately 10 times that long, and there are times when it may be best to just buy new (oem) housings instead.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
4/15/18 9:43 p.m.

Yep! What vigo said. 

As far as what clear, go to any auto body supply store and ask for rattle can urethane UV clear coat. They’ll hand you the right stuff. 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Reader
4/15/18 10:52 p.m.

It's not the polishing, it's the final step of protecting the plastic from the sun after the job is done.

Last time I did mine, I used one of the name brand rattle cans from the big box hardware store, UV resistant, plastic compatible clear. 

Results weren't great. I think I put it on too thick, it has been flaking off in spots. Anyone ever try the clear plastic laminate that's made specifically for your light? I don't recall the brand. 

gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
4/16/18 4:18 a.m.

Whatever kit or process you use, be sure to mask off the surrounding painted body parts.   Don't want to have fix those,

if you should 'slip up'.

02Pilot
02Pilot Dork
4/16/18 6:42 a.m.
gjz30075 said:

Whatever kit or process you use, be sure to mask off the surrounding painted body parts.   Don't want to have fix those,

if you should 'slip up'.

Or just pop the light assemblies out of the body. Much easier to work with, I found, but then I did mine by hand rather than with a power tool.

The0retical
The0retical UltraDork
4/16/18 8:34 a.m.

If you don't want to do UV clear coat I found that a layer of clear Lamin-X works really well after using one of the 3M kits. I refinished the lights on the X-Terra about 4 years ago and the lights have held up very well.

Professor_Brap
Professor_Brap Reader
4/16/18 11:02 a.m.

I have had great luck polishing headlights, long as you dont burn them or they arnt already burn never had a issue. 

maschinenbau
maschinenbau Dork
4/16/18 11:05 a.m.

It will only fade back to yellow if you don't clear coat. I've gotten 3 years out of my 3M drill-mounted kit because I taped and sprayed it with automotive clear coat. If you don't coat, it will yellow within a matter of months.

Bob the REAL oil guy.
Bob the REAL oil guy. MegaDork
4/16/18 11:08 a.m.
Rodan said:

I used a Sylvania kit from Amazon on one of my NBs...  worked great.  Jury is still out on longevity, as it's only been ~ 6 months.

I used the same one on the wife's old Rio. It still looked good after 4 years but it was starting to haze the edges again. 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Reader
4/16/18 11:30 a.m.
The0retical said:

If you don't want to do UV clear coat I found that a layer of clear Lamin-X works really well after using one of the 3M kits. I refinished the lights on the X-Terra about 4 years ago and the lights have held up very well.

That's the product I was thinking of trying. 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver PowerDork
4/16/18 11:40 a.m.

An alternative way thats the lazy option.   Grab a clean t-shirt rag, spray the tinest amount (I MEAN TINY, a dab'll do er) of brake parts cleaner on it and use to buff the headlight.  

Duke
Duke MegaDork
4/16/18 11:42 a.m.

Plus whatever on the clear coat.  I did the TSX using a 3M drill-powered polishing kit and they looked great for 9-12 months, but they are hazing again.  I'll touch them up if we ever get a spring this year, and then clear spray them immediately after.

Also +++ to masking off the surrounding bodywork, with multiple layers of tape.  You will hit it with the sander, unless you remove the lights from the car.

Cousin_Eddie
Cousin_Eddie Reader
4/16/18 12:23 p.m.

I think I do a pretty good job on headlights.

1) I remove them from the car and get my wife to sit, facing me, and hold the headlights firmly with her hands an/or knees

2) I work them hard with a DA polisher and compound just like I do oxidized paint. Avoid flinging compound on wife or hitting her hands with the buffer. This is paramount.

3) Coat with Meguiars headlight coating which I get from Amazon.

 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Reader
4/16/18 12:36 p.m.

In reply to Cousin_Eddie :

I hadn't seen that product

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