: PSA: Headlight Restoration



eatyoursandwich
01-08-13, 07:59 PM
Attention fellow STS owners:

I am in the process of of completely rebuilding the headlamps -- new projectors, lenses, bulbs, ballasts, everything.

About 4 or 5 months ago, I restored the hazy headlight lens using professional equipment to get rid of some of the coarse scratches (I've restored headlights on just about every make and model out there so it was far from a first time). While I was successful in removing the coarse scratches, I failed miserable in creating a massive amount of fine scratches and imperfections which can only be seen when the headlight is on at night, but it is killing the light output. I'm kind of wondering how much worse the results would have been had I used one of those kits at Autozone.

Side note, I was warned about this from another member literally an hour after finishing the restoration -- he was right.

Since I piss away money better than Nicholas Cage, I have ordered a brand new set of OEM headlamps which I will put the new components in and seal the life out of them. I'm also getting a set of pre-cut, 3M lens protectors as well as the 3M clear bra on the hood and bumper cover since this Raven (I think) black paint is as thin as it gets.

TL;DR: Restoring your headlamps (e.g. sanding down the haze) looks great in the daylight, but is done at the expense of your light output at night. Opportunity cost, perhaps.

EChas3
01-08-13, 09:45 PM
This does agree with some old posts. Evidently, STS headlight assemblies aren't made from the same materials/processes as many earlier ones. Proceed with caution.

curtc
01-08-13, 10:20 PM
The issue with the fine scratches seen only at night can ONLY be solved by replacing the assemblies. The problem is not on the outside of the lens, it's on the inside, and it's not just "scratches", it's called crazing. The actual plastic has changed to the point that it spiders or pits, no amount of sanding or cleaning will remove it unfortunately.

See my headlights below, look familiar?

curtc
01-08-13, 10:23 PM
I'll deal with it for now, replacements are just so damn expensive.

muzariaz
01-09-13, 10:08 AM
Sand light with 800 Grit, then wetsand with 1200 Grit and get heavy rubbing compound and buff it in, bam, brand new light

eatyoursandwich
01-09-13, 10:19 AM
The issue with the fine scratches seen only at night can ONLY be solved by replacing the assemblies. The problem is not on the outside of the lens, it's on the inside, and it's not just "scratches", it's called crazing. The actual plastic has changed to the point that it spiders or pits, no amount of sanding or cleaning will remove it unfortunately.

See my headlights below, look familiar?

Definitely looks familiar plus some swirl marks and scratches from the sander on mine.

Any way to prevent the plastic from crazing or is it just a hit or miss thing?

Good to know about crazing, I've never heard that term before.

Lifer
01-09-13, 02:46 PM
Since I piss away money better than Nicholas Cage,

NOBODY can p*** money away like my x-wife ('cept Obama), NOBODY! getting rid of her was the best 100 grand I ever spent. And that's a fact, Jack. :thumbsup:

curtc
01-09-13, 05:03 PM
Sand light with 800 Grit, then wetsand with 1200 Grit and get heavy rubbing compound and buff it in, bam, brand new light

This issue isn't sandable...hazing and discoloration is easy to deal with, crazing is a totally different problem.

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Any way to prevent the plastic from crazing or is it just a hit or miss thing?


From what I've read it's caused by the heat from the bulbs also exposure to UV light...Parking in a garage/in the shade wouldn't hurt. But I think it just might be that the type of plastic that was used is susceptible to this apparently common problem.

mckellyb
01-14-13, 10:51 PM
In theory, you could wax or put UV resistant chemicals...there used to be one from Turtle Wax which wiped on/wiped off...which would help, but with some plastics, there's just no hope.

I have a '99 Fleetwood diesel motorcoach which has '92-'06 Ford Econoline headlights on it. Those things were foggy by year two, and now, they're effectively worthless, they're so yellow.

In fact, I'd wager they're measurably thinner then original due to my attempts at trying to put them back to clear.

eatyoursandwich
01-15-13, 12:59 PM
In theory, you could wax or put UV resistant chemicals...there used to be one from Turtle Wax which wiped on/wiped off...which would help, but with some plastics, there's just no hope.

I have a '99 Fleetwood diesel motorcoach which has '92-'06 Ford Econoline headlights on it. Those things were foggy by year two, and now, they're effectively worthless, they're so yellow.

In fact, I'd wager they're measurably thinner then original due to my attempts at trying to put them back to clear.

3M makes a film that they use on Aerospace applications that I think I am going to use -- it's just hard to find in the open market. Their are auto application which say 'Aerotek' or whatever, but the ones I'm looking for are actually used at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc.

Supposedly protects the plastic from dirt and rock chips up to 700mph and reduces crazing/yellowing due to UV's affect on plastic.

Worth a try, I guess.

48Dodge
01-15-13, 01:23 PM
What I did on my parents Lexus was to sand down to 600 to 800 grit then hit with clear coat. They have held up very well with minimal road debris marks. I've done the sand, polish and buff routine and even with regular waxing they would start showing signs of oxidation within about 6 months. My wife's MB headlights have held up better than most with the usual process. I'll spray paint them next time I have to do them, though. My escalade is getting close to needing them done

mckellyb
01-16-13, 09:44 AM
My wife's RX300, a 2002 model, started to get cloudy lenses, but buffing them with some very fine plastic polish, which I use on pinball playfields, brought them to about 95%, though there are pits/damage, which contribute to the 'wear'.

The STS's lights, however...different animal.

I didn't think about waht 48Dodge plans on doing. You could get them as good as you can get them, then lightly paint them with a UV-inhibiting clearcoat! Might take multiple coats, with 1500 grit sanding in between, to not introduce beam funkiness, however.

I've used industrial 3M clear stuff for lights, before...used to have a connection there...on glass housings, but that was for rock protection. It was on a motorcycle with multiple driving lights, plus a large, two bulb, headlight, all of which were not inexpensive, and I can say the 3M stuff didn't cloud/yellow one bit, at least according to my eyes, after six years of use.

48Dodge
01-16-13, 09:52 AM
I ran across the paint suggestion online one day. They recommend 400 grit. You need some scuffs for adhesion.