'02 Impala 3.4L 201.5k: Headlight Lens Restoration


Well, I don’t have time for pictures right now, but I CAN report that after a LOT of time sanding, dropping down to #60 grit sandpaper, I was able to clear the lenses up finally on the Impala. Had to laugh because once the bottom half was clear of all that crap, I could see some melted yellow material sitting inside the headlight as the very bottom edge … looked like a piece of the amber reflector, but I couldn’t see any missing. Oh well! It took a LONG time! I used the 60 grit to grind it down really good and achieved the milky haze that the 3M instructions made reference to. After that, I went up to 220 grit for a while, then got back to the 3M disks, using the 800 grit, and then the wet sanding with the 3000 grit wheel. Then, I had some Polishing Compound I had initially bought to see if just using that would fix the problem (not!), so I polished up all the lenses (Impala and Taurus) using that. Then finally finished up with the 3M supplied Rubbing Compound, which really didn’t make much difference at that point.

I have to say that the Taurus headlights came out better. I didn’t have to drop down to the 60 grit, but I did use some 220 on them. They are clear now, and look fairly close to new, I’d say. The Impala’s got scratched up a bit by the 60 grit, and I wasn’t able to buff all that out with the higher grit paper. Nonetheless, the Impala headlights are now clear, although you wouldn’t mistake them for brand new. The process worked, and it was a good experiment. I just think the Chevy Impala headlights were poorer quality than the Taurus. The Taurus is 5 years old, subjected to the same conditions, driven 20,000 more miles (226k vs 202 k), yet the Impala headlights went bad like a double-pane window that had leaked all its gas out. Probably not much I couldv’e done about it.


Interesting. 60 grit is for paint removal, fast.


May I assume your headlight lenses are now paper thin . . . ?!




Hahaha! Forgot all about this thread!

I’m not sure how thin they are now. They don’t feel like they’re going to cave in or anything, but I did sand them down quite a bit.

I really should do another round of sanding with the higher grit numbers, though, to see if I can remove the (up-close) noticeable scoring caused by the 60-grit paper.


You know you can get complete headlight assemblies for that car for around $50 per side (bulb included). Much more expensive than sand paper and elbow grease, but it’s going to look better and last longer, and it’s easier to replace than it is to spend an hour or two sanding the originals down.


Sorry to hear/see of your bad experience with this. I just did a set of headlights last weekend for a friend, and her neighbor saw the results and now wants me to do hers too.

I simply use polishing compound, generously applied and buffed out with a wetted round sponge on a 1/4" handheld drill arbor, then washing the residue. I then wax the lights for protection. I’ve done a number of fogged headlights, and it comes out great.

Your process appears to have done too much damage for this to work, But for future reference…


Holy abrasion Batman!
Surprised it would require such an aggressive sanding. It’s going to be quite the chore to get that smooth again…



Yeah, I know. This was an experiment more than anything to prove it was doable - even with the lenses so far gone.


The Taurus lenses cleaned up well with only minimal elbow grease - even though they were 20 years old and had never been “conditioned”. For whatever reason - both cars were subjected to exactly the same conditions with the Impala 5 years younger, the Impala lenses were just horrendous!


Had to drop down to 60-grit. That was the only way to cut through the crap. I tried all the light stuff and compounds first. They weren’t making a dent. Check out the original pictures at the top. Those lenses were really bad!


The Impala’s lenses may have been made of a different polymer than the Taurus.