How To: Polish Fogged Over Headlights
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Thread: How To: Polish Fogged Over Headlights

          
  1. #1
    Registered Member Rick's Avatar
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    How To: Polish Fogged Over Headlights

    Alright so I've been meaning to do this for a long time and happen to recently have come across the perfect candidate, a 2001 Honda Insight with 90K miles and 4 years worth of Arizona sun beating down on the head lights. Here's what I had to deal with.




    As you can see they're almost completely fogged over and they looked much worse in sunlight.

    Here is my arsenel to fix these:
    Mikken 1500 grit sand paper
    Mikken 3000 grit sand paper
    Meguiar's Backing pad
    Rotary buffer with small 3" foam pad
    PlastX



    I wish Meguiar's would make these nice little foam pads. This one is not quite as good of a foam as the Meguiar's pads are, but it's so nice for working in small areas like this or on small defects.

    So the first step was to wash the area I'm working on and tape off the sorrounding area. Afterall I don't want to be polishing the paint unnecessarily if I accidentally go over the edge of the headlight with the sand paper.

    Note: soak the sand paper in some water with a drop of car wash soap for a little while before going to work on this.



    Now basically you just go to work with the sand paper. Start with the 1500 and keep the surface wet. Dip it in the water often to keep it from clogging up. You will notice it smells like fresh plastic. Keep and even pressure on the backing pad. If necessary spray the headlight down and use the backing pad as a squeege to see if you need to sand more or not.



    Here's the headlight after 1500



    And after 3000, notice it's already looking a lot better.



    Now I'd like to stress this could be done by hand because PlastX is such an awsome product it's micro diminishing abbrasives can cut through 3000 grit sand marks by hand.

    Using this small dab of PlastX



    And polished a spot by hand



    Now I'm just lazy and decided to use the buffer on it. I know PlastX is not designed to be used by rotary, but with the foam pad and a low 1000 rpm it doesn't really generate any heat of significance so it worked out nicely. Still make sure you keep moving and feel the plastic from time to time to make sure you aren't heating it up. If you get it too hot you could potentially warp the plastic.

    So here's the after picture




    Hey we have optical clarity again!

    A comparison of one done and the other not.



    Now repeat for the other and they're almost like new again.




    This was fairly simple and quick. Like I said you could do it by hand with plastX. The results were they are not like perfect brand new, mainly because of the rock chips taken out of them can't really be sanded out; however, you can judge how much of an improvment was made. If nothing else they are believable for a car with 90,000 miles on it. Saves me the $200+ each a new headlight would have cost!
    Last edited by Rick; Aug 26th, 2005 at 08:11 PM.
    Later,
    Ricky

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  2. #2
    Registered Member roushstage2's Avatar
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    Looks good-as-new! Great job


  3. #3
    Registered Member gb387's Avatar
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    That looks great! Didn't know you could wet sand plastic.
    Brandon

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    Registered Member Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Great work Rick...

    I've seen so many people struggle with getting their plastic clear and when they post to other detailing forums the regulars and the gurus that hang out on the forums tend to recommend non-Meguiar's plastic products, due to sponsor restrictions or because they don't know about PlastX. The problem with this is none of the competition offers a product that works like PlastX.

    Because Meguiar's pioneered the use of all kinds of diminishing abrasives since 1901 when they introduced their first cleaner, a safe to use cleaner for furniture which utilized diminishing abrasives, we have gone to develop products that use this technology for other materials including plastics.

    As you stated, PlastX works great by hand and also by machine if you know what you're doing. Another step past what you did with the rotary for some applications would be to re-polish the plastic either by hand or with a dual action polisher to insure a swirl free finish. This isn't so important on a headlight cover, but if you were working on something like a clear flexible window then it would be.

    Check out the before and after side of this clear flexible window using PlastX with a W-8006 foam pad on the G100. First we cleaned and polished the outside, then we repeated the process on the inside. The car is a 1966 Charger and that's the original factory top and window. The owner thought they would have to replace the window and with Meguiar's we removed the defects and restored optical clarity.



    While Meguiar's doesn't usually recommend using PlastX by machine, if you're careful, have some experience and know what you're doing, it can be done. The most important thing to remember when working on plastics, especially flexible plastic windows and thin rigid plastic windows like the plastic used on some helicopter windows is to avoid generating heat or you will warp and/or stretch the plastic.
    Mike Phillips
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  5. #5
    Registered Member Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Originally posted by gb387
    That looks great! Didn't know you could wet sand plastic.
    You can wetsand some plastics. You cannot wetsand coated plastics as you will remove the coating and some/all Lexan doesn't lend itself to polishing ver well.
    Mike Phillips
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  6. #6
    Registered Member gb387's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike Phillips
    You can wetsand some plastics. You cannot wetsand coated plastics as you will remove the coating and some/all Lexan doesn't lend itself to polishing ver well.
    What do you mean by coated plastics? Plastics with color?
    Brandon

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  7. #7
    Registered Member Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Originally posted by gb387
    What do you mean by coated plastics? Plastics with color?
    No, special coatings that are a part of the plastic, an example would be some sunglass or some prescription glasses. I have some Speedo goggles that have a coating on the inside that helps prevent fogging, as I continually cleaned them I could see the coating wear away.

    I'm pretty sure I've come across headlight covers that appeared to have a coating.
    Mike Phillips
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  8. #8
    Registered Member rusty bumper's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike Phillips
    I'm pretty sure I've come across headlight covers that appeared to have a coating.
    I presume the coating you are referring to Mike, is a UV coating?

    Our Dodge Caravan has some foggy looking lenses. But after repeated cleanings over the years, I noticed what looks like a coating of some sort that is wearing away on the outside surface.

    I wonder if this is a UV coating, and can PlastX do anything for Chrysler (Dodge) headlights in this condition?
    Last edited by rusty bumper; Aug 28th, 2005 at 09:42 AM.
    r. b.

  9. #9
    Registered Member Vandelete's Avatar
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    that`s a great difference betweeen de before and the after picture... i will keep that in mind for some people

  10. #10
    Registered Member Rick's Avatar
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    Well, I am pretty sure these headlights had some sort of UV coating on them but it was ruined anyway as you can see in the before pictures. I'm really thinking there isn't much left now if at all, but what good does a coating do that you can get light to go through all that well? On that note does anyone know if it's possible to reapply some sort of coating to plastic? I was thinking why couldn't you just spray some clear coat over a polished head light to give it some more uv protection? Could this be done?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    The only thing unfortunate about this case is this car is for sale so I won't have it long enough to see how long the polish job holds up.
    Later,
    Ricky

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