Dim Headlights on high-mileage vehicle - No need to replace housing/lens

Just listening to this show - if the cause of the problem is yellowed, weathered or oxidized lenses, there is no need to replace the headlight housings (lenses)! There are several ways to restore a nice appearance and functionality to the headlights:

* Meguiars makes a very reasonably priced kit that works in an ordinary power drill. My father used this kit for headlights that had dimmed, and though I haven’t seen the results, I know he was pleased.

* I work in a body shop and we use a foam pad on a buffer along with fine paint rubbing compound and even finer “swirl mark remover” to achieve similar results. Sometimes we use fine sandpaper (800, 1000, 1500 grits) to repair small scratches and imperfections. It is important when using this method to use light pressure and low buffer speed - overheating the plastic damages it.

* Even rubbing weathered headlights with a terry cloth and the rubbing compound will significantly improve their functionality and appearance.

True, but you end up with a lens that is more susceptible to future damage.

 [b] Why to the auto manufactures think it is better to have fancy looking headlights, than headlights that cost just a few dollars and can be replace with just a screw driver?[/b]

T&R never did ask the caller if the covers looked clear or cloudy, so it could also be an electrical problem (poor ground connection).

Would be easy for BMW to go back to the old roundies.

Yeah, it’ll be more susceptible to damage than new headlights, but with the prices on some of these headlight housings these days, I’d rather have a $25 kit and an hour of my time every couple of years than the hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace 'em.

As for your question, the auto manufacturers think it’s better to have fancy looking headlights because people purchase cars with fancy looking headlights.

Right. But we have all seen lots of cloudy headlight lenses, and it’s a good bet that that’s the case here. A poor ground connection might be involved especially if only one light is affected.

3M makes a kit of abrasive wheels and a gel compound that sells for about $15. In about 90 minutes with that kit and an electric drill I was able to rehab the cloudy, pitted lenses on my 1999 Voyager van. The difference while driving at night is dramatic. I plan to use it on my 1999 Honda, which has less pitting (and fewer miles) but still could benefit.

I recommend the 3M kit to any careful do-it-yourselfer. One thing I would add to the instructions is a warning that if you let the drill stray, you will cut through the painted areas around the headlights. Don’t rely on masking tape. I plan to cut plastic from old milk jugs and tape that around the edges of the plastic lens next time.

How long before it needs to be re-done?

So on the same topic, I have been doing these stuff to my 2000 Caravan for a while. The car was probably not washed & waxed regularly prior to me. In the 1st few years I had good restoration with polishing/rubbing, but now the lens is almost useless. I priced replacement headlight assemblies with the lamp included on ebay and with shipping it comes to ~ $75 for both. I think I am gonna give it a try, right now at night I can’t even tell if my headlight is on or no. I hope these replacement ones would last at least 5 yrs.

I’ve had excellent results with a drill-mounted buffing pad (sponge pad is best), water, and polishing compound.

Bought aftermarket headlights on ebay and it made the car look new. The light from them is twice as bright and it included bulbs.

The parts store I work at sells 3m (part #39008-about $12) and Symtech(75010010-about $26) H/L restorers. I have had great feedback on both, but the 3m comes with a buffing pad tool and seems to be the more popular choice.