'02 Impala 3.4L 201.5k: Headlight Lens Restoration


#1

I bought the 3M Headlight Lens Restoration Kit #39008 ($20 at Advance after online coupon). It comes with the drill attachment, (6) 500 grit sanding disks, (4) 800 grit disks, (1) 3000 grit disk, and a bumpy sponge pad to apply some rubbing compound to finish it all off. The first step is to sand with the 500 grit until the entire lens looks white/frosty/milky. It says “if any portion of the lens looks clear or glossy, continue sanding before moving to the next step”.

My Impala lenses started with a very clear jagged “line” below which the lens was completely obscured, and above which it was fairly clear. After using all (6) 500 grit disks on both headlights (and both headlights of my '97 Taurus), you can tell they’ve been sanded, but that line still exists and the headlight looks pretty much the same. The lens feels smooth to the touch, but I’m thinking these headlight lenses might just need to be replaced. I don’t see how continuing to sand and then applying the rubbing compound is going to fix this. Now, my Taurus headlights had not such “line”. But they also did not sand to a milky/frosty look. They look pretty much the same, although you can tell they were sanded.

Should I continue with this? The Impala “damage” really seems like its on the inside. Should I try a rougher grit? 500 grit is VERY fine. Maybe drop down to 250 to see if I can sand down to the point where that stuff below the jagged line is ground away???

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#2

Those are too far gone. I have a mobile guy who comes and does the headlamp resto for me. He wouldn’t even try to save those. I’d simply replace them.


#3

I agree with asemaster. I’ve wasted many hours trying to restore lenses that were in that condition - to no avail.

Rockauto offers three grades of replacement headlamp assemblies for your car, ranging from $44 to $68. For those prices, it’s well worth just buying new ones.


#4

BINGO…!


#5

I ordered a set from Headlight Deport through Amazon for my 2003 Taurus. I had buffed out the original headlights and although the lenses were clear the light output was still not good at night.

I installed the new headlight assemblies with the old bulbs and there was an immediate improvement. I think the reflective coating in the old headlight assemblies had deteriorated over time.

I think your best and only option is new headlight assemblies.

Ed B.


#6

Had several black sheets of 220 grit with my paints and chemicals, so I gave it a try. Went through 4 sheets with both headlights (by hand) and it definitely had an effect on that heavy cloudiness below the jagged line, so now I’m thinking the damage IS on the outside, just very deep. Might try a 220 grit on a power tool next, or maybe even drop down to 100! I had some 40 grit available, but it was just too coarse to try.

I think I can grind this stuff off! Question is - how thick will the lens be at that point? Notice the “circle” in the center is mostly gone now, as is the “reindeer” at the far right…


#7

Go for it…I’m on the edge of my seat…

;-]


#8

I am so sick of these crappy polycarbonite headlight lenses on our cars. Honda had great looking lenses on their accords around the early 90’s. They were made of glass and still look great when you come across one for sale. They need to go back to glass instead of this plastic crap!


#9

insightful:

Sorry if I’m boring you, but I don’t give up on anything until I have concrete evidence to do so. Besides, it might benefit someone else.

Kinsha:

You’re absolutely right! My '89 Colt has glass headlights and they still look like new. Manufacturers would say it’s a “weight” thing, but we all know it’s a “money” thing.


#10

I’ve never had a problem. If you use plastic polish on them once or twice a year, they won’t cloud up in the first place. At least mine never have. What is that stuff around the headlight housing though? Duct tape or something?


#11

You won’t see glass headlights in modern cars due to pedestrian safety (collision) regulations.


#12

Actually the glass will sand blast over time the same as a windshield exposed to winter road conditions. No way to repair sand blasted glass headlight. Never seen the plastic ones get sand blasted… Glass was fine when the lights themselves.


#13

Keep doing it, it’s not costing much besides sand paper and elbow grease. I probably would have given up and bought new lenses by now.

I prefer the sealed glass beams over this plastic any day. They’re still cheap, work great and never crust up like plastic. If they do get water inside just buy a new one.


#14

I agree with the others. Those are too far gone. Unless you want to see what will happen in the interest of science, I’d just get new ones. On my old Mustang replacement headlight housings were so cheap (less than $50 per side usually) and so easy to replace (both sides done in less than 10 minutes) that whenever they looked a little worn, I’d just replace them and pop a new set of bulbs.


#15

You could try continuing with the process using the higher number grits on just a small 1 x 1 inch square, see if that will improve things. I tend to agree with the other’s here however, either what’s blocking the light transmission is on the inside, or they can’t be smoothed enough to make them clear at this point. You could remove them before buying news ones, maybe there’s something on the inside, dried salt spray maybe, that can be cleaned off once you got the lens on the bench.

Another idea, I had a similar problem with a watch crystal, nothing I tried seemed to work to clear it up. In fact everything I tried seemed to make the problem worse. Someone recommended trying a few drops of optical diamond slurry. Cleared it up straight away, clear as when new. 30 seconds of polishing was all that was needed . Not sure where’d you’d buy optical diamond slurry, but you can probably find some internet listings for vendors by Googling.


#16

??? Not bored here…I truly want to know what happens.


#17

A guy on the wood board had a home grown method involving lacquer thinner but I can’t remember anymore what his process was and the board has gone belly up. Just for the fun of it try a little lacquer thinner on it to melt the surface smooth again. They’re pretty much ruined anyway.


#18

Time you get done buying diamond slurry and everything else to try, you could have bought a couple used ones in the junk yard.

http://www.supergrit.com/products/products_automarine-liquidpolishing


#19

A friend of mine used deet to clean his headlamp lenses. And he swears by how well it worked.

Has anyone else used deet?


#20

Deet just melts the outer layer of the plastic. Looks for a few days, then it comes right back.