Headlight Restoration
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2004-2007 Cadillac CTS-V Appearance Mods Discussion, Headlight Restoration in Cadillac CTS-V Series Forum - 2004 - 2007; Well, decided to restore my headlights this weekend. Definitely went in thinking that there wasn't much likelihood of them looking ...
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    Faber is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Headlight Restoration

    Well, decided to restore my headlights this weekend. Definitely went in thinking that there wasn't much likelihood of them looking good enough to be able to avoid replacing the housings. Did some searching and didn't notice any write ups on how to do this - I know it's relatively easy, but having never done this thought this might spur others into giving this a shot.

    Here are some pics pre-restoration:
    Attachment 80631Headlight Refurbish 002.jpgHeadlight Refurbish 019.jpg

    Based on feedback from the board, I went with 3M Headlight Restoration Kit - about $23 at Advanced Auto Parts. This is the one with the drill hook up. Instructions are pretty clear & there are videos on 3M's website, but thought I'd post up here to confirm how easy this is to do as I was hesitant to begin with as well and pleasantly surprised at the results.

    Supplies:
    3M Headlight restoration kit
    water bottle
    towel
    Drill (I have a Rybolt) with 1200 - 1600 RPM - your drill should state it's speed on it
    Tape - duct tape & painters tape

    1. Wash both lenses with soap and water and dry them out.
    2. Work on one headlight at a time. Cover the car (at least the hood) as this will get dust all over and then the "slurry" from step 7 will get all over as well. Definitely will help speed up clean up.
    3. Instead of removing the headlights, I opted to tape them off instead - much simpler/quicker but trades off being able to do as good on the edges. I put down 2 layers of blue painters tape and then 2 layers of duct tape. The painters tape keeps the duct tape from sticking to the paint & leaving adhesive on it. Duct tape is thick enough to not get eaten through by the sanding discs too quickly.
    Attachment 80635
    4. Start using the gold pads - 500 grit. move around the lens at a steady pace. Staying in one spot too long will result in too much heat building up and cause the stuff to melt. Move at a controlled pace making certain to get over the entire lens. I ended up doing a few up and down passes, then letting the lens cool off. Caution if you get on the tape as it will grind the tape and can transfer the adhesive to the lens. If that happens, use your fingernail to scratch off as much as possible and then buff over the area again. Use a paper towel to wipe the lens off and the sanding disc to keep them from clogging up.
    4.a. I ended up needing additional sanding discs for the 2nd light - used three on the first one, and the remaining three on the passenger side but definitely needed more. I hit up Lowes & bought some 600 grit wet/dry sand paper for $4 vs. spending another $23 on a 2nd kit. As long as you've got the arm strength, this is cheaper.
    5. Keep sanding till it is a uniform cloudiness. The first pic is not sanded enough - see in the middle how it changes hue, I kept going until it looked like the second pic - uniform across the lens.
    Headlight Refurbish 005.jpgHeadlight Refurbish 007.jpg
    6. Do the same with the white 800 grit sand paper. main goal here is to make certain all the scratches with the 500 Grit are rubbed out with the 800 grit. It'll still be pretty foggy looking still but smoother overall (sorry didn't take pics of this step). Again, same sugestions as the 500 - keep moving, don't let heat build up, keep the disc from getting clogged.
    7. 3000 grit plastic looking pad next. Wipe the lens as clean as you can then wet the lens & disc with water. This step you will see the clarity coming out. It was the one where I started thinking, man, this is gonna work. You'll see a slurry develop relatively quickly, but keep going till you've had 5+ passes over the entire lense. Make certain to keep it wet the whole time. Don't worry about over doing it here, I don't think there is much concern of damage, but again, keep moving, keep it wet, ensure that all of the major scratching is gone. Remeber that this disc will be used for both sides. Headlight Refurbish 011.jpg
    8. On to the last step - foam pad. Wipe the lens clean and dry it off. Dime size amount of the polishing compound in the center of the pad. Smoosh it around the lens and proceed to polish it out. Same advice - keep moving and don't let heat build up. I made about 2-3 pssses over the entire lens, then did another dime size amount and 2 more passes over the lens.
    Headlight Refurbish.jpgHeadlight Refurbish 026.jpgAttachment 80644

    Overall night and day improvement and the headlights look great for a 7 year old car.

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    Sullyfx is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Great write up!

    I too had great results with the 3M kit. Sticky worthy?

    Before:
    IMG_0390.jpg

    After:
    IMG_0402.jpg

  4. #3
    Rakenjevnk's Avatar
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Thanks for the heads up. +1 3M kit

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    falke401 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    I will keep this in mind when my headlights start to look bad.

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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Does anyone have any long term results with this? I know that they look good at first, but what about more UV damage? There are some detailers that will do basically the same process, but then spray on a UV protectent clear coat. There is a guy in my town that will sand and spray them for $75. This is supposed to keep you from having to repeatedly buff the lenses out as they age.

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    Faber is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    I don't think long term is good - Previous owner of my car mentioned he had buffed the driver side a year before I bought it and you can see in the photo under step 3 how bad it was. Not as bad as the passenger side which wasn't buffed out previously so it seems like a good comparison. Also, the 3M kit recommends using a separate wax to help it last longer and further mentions "upkeep" polishing every 3 months. Haven't done any of that on mine as of yet, but doing some type of UV protectant clear coat seems to make a lot of sense.

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    Sullyfx is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Yeah I would suggest some sort of coat after the referb as well... I used a hardner that Turtle wax makes... Its been looking good for 6 months now in the South Carolina sun. We shall see after winter. I fully expect to have to work on them again.

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    Faber is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Alright, I can't figure it out. How do I edit the first post - would like to add a step 9 in about using a coating - potentially the Turtle wax to help keep them good for longer but I can't figure out how to revise the first post...

  10. #9
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    well wouldnt it be better to just replace the headlights? if the headlight restoration isnt long term (or no more then a year before having to do it again), it just seems less of a pain in the ass to just replace the headlights altogether in my opinion. to my understanding, the reason that headlights oxidize is because it is old plastic and the quality of the plastic has been compromised. i know its alot of money to replace the headlights, but it sure beats having to repeat the restore every year versus not having to do it over a several year period. thats my thoughts and my two sense if it maters.

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    CadzillaTN's Avatar
    CadzillaTN is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Negative, ghost rider.

    You could do this process for 75 years before you eclipsed the cost of new hids.

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    Faber is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    vcaddy06 - using that logic, shoot, why replace tires, just buy new rims and tires every time you need them. Comparing the $25 cost and 2 hours worth of effort vs. the 5-7 yr lifespan on headlights before they start yellowing, seems reasonable to do this a few times before replacing. Plus, I think if I were to get a similar coating as from factory, they'd last longer. Granted, unlimited funds I'd just replace every item and repaint the car every year or two...

  13. #12
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    I think that crap you see bubbling is clearcoat failing on the originals. So when you sand it off and have nice clean polycarbonate exposed, I think it might make sense to shoot a layer of clear on them again. I wonder if a $3 spray can would do the trick?

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    Sullyfx is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Aurora40 View Post
    I think that crap you see bubbling is clearcoat failing on the originals. So when you sand it off and have nice clean polycarbonate exposed, I think it might make sense to shoot a layer of clear on them again. I wonder if a $3 spray can would do the trick?
    I was thinking the same thing... Not sure how clear it will turn out though..... Maybe that will be a good test for Spring time....

    Or we could just have vCaddy06 try it, cause if it doesn't work he will just buy new ones. hahaha j/k man.

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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    I used the same kit with amazing results, i also used them on my Jeep Cherokee and i'm very pleased. I've tried pretty much every kit out there and 3M is the best by far.

  16. #15
    WarrenMRogers is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Headlight Restoration

    I had excellent results with the Turtle Wax "by hand" kit. It was $9.95 but it only lasted about two weeks! I used it on my wife's Jeep Grand Cherokee and it turned her lights from yellow to sparkling like brand new. I am going to try again and throw some meguiar's wax on it and look into a clear coat and see if it lasts any longer! The worst part is it is only one headlight that is bad, it looks awful.

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