How to restore your headlights

Have a cool mod or a repair procedure you would like to share with the rest of the club? This is the place for it.
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bronson75
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How to restore your headlights

Post by bronson75 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:51 pm

Car is question is 2000 Passat.
The factory headlights on the car were HORRIBLY hazed and deteriorated, worse than the typical yellowing you see on most cars with plastic headlights. At night, I was lucky to see 20 feet in front of the car, and the high beams and fog lights were equally ineffective.

On a whim, I stopped by my FLAPS to see what they had to offer as far as restoration/refurbishment products. Among others, I came across this:
Image
It was a about $25, more than other products offered, and included a bottle of Meguiar's PlastX plastic polish, a drill-powered buffing wheel, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
I bought this kit because of the buffing wheel (less work for me!), the guarantee, and the fact that I have used and like other Meguiar's products.

Once home, I decided to proceed with the side marker lights first, as they were also yellowed and would be a good test of the product. I used a DeWalt corded drill, I didn't think my cordless would have enough RPMs to do the job. After using painters tape to protect the surrounding body work, and taping off half the light, I put a dab of PlastX on the wheel and went to town. I was impressed by the results (the left half of the light was polished at this point): :thumbup:
Image
Image

So far so good, so I decided to tackle the headlights.
Image
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Again, I taped off the body work and started polishing, and after about 10 minutes, I had NOTHING to show for my work. The PlastX and wheel did absolutely nothing to the headlights. :hmm:

For reference, the following photos show the poor quality of the light at this point (the drivers side bulb wasn't sitting correctly in the lamp, which is why it looks low):
Low beams
Image
High beams
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Low beams/fog lights
Image

Soooooo, I got online and did some checking, and found a few DIY write-ups regarding headlight restoration. After combining some site knowledge, I armed myself with the following:
Trigger-style spray bottle
600/1200/2500 grit wet/dry sandpaper
Dish soap
Paper towels

I soaked the sandpaper in water, and filled the spray bottle with a water/dish soap solution (the dish soap helps keep the paper lubricated as you sand) and proceeded to start wet-sanding my lights. I sprayed the lights, and starting with the 600 grit, sanded across the headlight, using the sprayer to keep the light saturated. But after a matter of a minute or so, the 600 grit filled up, and became useless. I found some 400 grit, but the same thing happened. I grabbed a 220 sanding sponge and took to the light, and make progress. After about 10 minutes, the rough, hazed surface had levelled off, and I was back to a smooth, although milky white (from the sanding) surface. So, I took to the 600 grit for about 5 minutes, moved up to the 1200 grit for another 5, and followed that with the 2500. The lights looked 98% better, but they still needed polishing. So once again, I broke out the Meguiar's kit and polished up the lenses. Holy hell, what a difference! I can actually SEE the bulbs now, and the light output has to be better than 100%. I haven't taken it for a ride at night yet, but I'm THRILLED with the results thus far. The lights could use another go around from the 600 paper, as there are still fine sctatches from the 220 pad, but I ran out of time.
Anywho, the results:
Image
Image
Low beams
Image
High beams
Image
Low beams/fog lights
Image

So, for about $25 I did a pretty good job (IMHO) of refurbing my headlights (I had the other supplies on hand). I had contemplated replacing them, but this is a much cheaper solution. When the kit failed on the headlights the first time around, I wasn't too suprised, seeing as how they were in such bad shape. But with a little elbow grease and about an hour (for both lights), the difference is pretty astounding. :yahoo:

Before and after (and yes, they ARE the same lights):
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Image
Last edited by bronson75 on Mon May 07, 2012 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Drag racing is for fast cars, autocrossing is for fast drivers.
http://www.madisonsportscarclub.com
http://www.scirocco.org
2 cars, 9 cylinders, 36 valves

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KO-R32
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Re: How to restore your headlights

Post by KO-R32 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:51 pm

WoW!!!!!! Great results! :geek:
Image

~Karl

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bronson75
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Re: How to restore your headlights

Post by bronson75 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:18 pm

I didn't really know how well they turned out until I saw the before and after photos at the end of the post side-by-side.
I'm pleased!
I ran the buffer over the clear corners and tail lights as well, just because.
:thumbup:
Image
Drag racing is for fast cars, autocrossing is for fast drivers.
http://www.madisonsportscarclub.com
http://www.scirocco.org
2 cars, 9 cylinders, 36 valves

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Re: How to restore your headlights

Post by valladar » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:41 pm

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