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2003 CTS
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Discussion Starter #1
I recently asked on this board about replacing my foggy headlamp covers. I was directed to a link explaining how to do the repair instead of buying new headlamp covers, which included sandpaper and polish.
I read the directions and set out to get 600, 1000, 1500 & 2000 grit sandpaper.
I live in the 4th populated area in Pennsylvania and my local Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Loews only carry sandpaper up to 600 grit. I had to order the required sandpapers online. They arrived today.
So, armed with sandpaper(s), bucket with water, Maguires Tech wax, multi speed circular sander, painters tape to mask off the headlamps, and cloths I headed out to clean up those headlamp covers.
Now, i must admit taking sandpaper to plastic seemed wrong, but I figured the advice given on here was tried and true and It would all work out.

WRONG

I very gently started with the 600 grit sandpaper, as wet as it could be, and sanded very gently. After a few seconds, I was HORRIFIED. I spent the next three hours trying to undo what the previous sandpaper had done. By the time i was finished, the headlamp covers were so bad, they HAD to be replaced.

Long story short (if not too late...)
My local Cadillac dealer is now $900.00 richer, and I will have nice shiny new headlamp covers.

Before i get a million responses telling me how wrongly I did this let me state the following:

I used the sander on a slow speed.
The sandpaper was soaking wet at all times.
I tried both circular and horizontal strokes.
I did not grind away at the covers, i used very gentle strokes.
I tried to wax the covers at the end, to no avail.

The fact is, Plastic + Sandpaper = Destroyed.

Thanks for the advice. :annoyed:
 

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2008 SRX-V8, 1991 Eldorado
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Juniorverse said:
I recently asked on this board about replacing my foggy headlamp covers. I was directed to a link explaining how to do the repair instead of buying new headlamp covers, which included sandpaper and polish.
I read the directions and set out to get 600, 1000, 1500 & 2000 grit sandpaper.
I live in the 4th populated area in Pennsylvania and my local Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Loews only carry sandpaper up to 600 grit. I had to order the required sandpapers online. They arrived today.
So, armed with sandpaper(s), bucket with water, Maguires Tech wax, multi speed circular sander, painters tape to mask off the headlamps, and cloths I headed out to clean up those headlamp covers.
Now, i must admit taking sandpaper to plastic seemed wrong, but I figured the advice given on here was tried and true and It would all work out.

WRONG

I very gently started with the 600 grit sandpaper, as wet as it could be, and sanded very gently. After a few seconds, I was HORRIFIED. I spent the next three hours trying to undo what the previous sandpaper had done. By the time i was finished, the headlamp covers were so bad, they HAD to be replaced.

Long story short (if not too late...)
My local Cadillac dealer is now $900.00 richer, and I will have nice shiny new headlamp covers.

Before i get a million responses telling me how wrongly I did this let me state the following:

I used the sander on a slow speed.
The sandpaper was soaking wet at all times.
I tried both circular and horizontal strokes.
I did not grind away at the covers, i used very gentle strokes.
I tried to wax the covers at the end, to no avail.

The fact is, Plastic + Sandpaper = Destroyed.

Thanks for the advice. :annoyed:
I don't know who told you to use 600 grit sandpaper on your crystal headlamp covers, but they should be kicked off the forum. Certainly you did not know any better and now your education is $900 richer.

I successfully used a low grit rubbing compound and a buffer to bring mine back to life. The sanded ones can be brought back as well, but will take a lot of work. If the old headlamps are not cracked, sell them on eBay to recover some of your expense. The old headlamps still have value to the person who has the ability to bring them back, but a little short of funds to buy new ones.

Wax, and a buffer are essential once the surface has been broken no matter what is used to remove the oxidation, rubbing compound or 1500 grit sand paper. Low grit rubbing compound will leave the lenses looking perfect, but unprotected. Even 1500 grit sandpaper will leave them looking scratched. A buffer along with wax will take the scratches out and polish the lenses like new.

I know this for a fact and have restored many scratched instrument cluster lenses, radio face plates, clock lenses, you name it. So please do not tell people it can NOT be done, NOT TRUE. It must be done right!

BTW... the higher grit abrasives can be found at automotive paint and body supply stores, or at Pep Boys, but I highly recommend rubbing compound instead.
 

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The mistake made here was not the grit... It was electricity...

To be successful this is a totally manual process... The purpose of the water on the sand paper in this process is to keep the plastic cool and to wash away contaminates.... The speed of an electric sander makes this impossible... Even with gentle slow hand sanding cold running water from the hose is preferred. Also important, if the water in your area is full of grit and rust, buy an in line filter... Your need this if you plan to wash your car with the hose too...

While not difficult this is a DELICATE procedure...

Regarding 600 grit... Texas is mostly right...on an electric sander he is TOTALLY right! way to aggressive...But 1000 or even 2000 grit on a power sander WILL NOT WORK!... TOO MUCH HEAT...

Its counterintuitive, but on a project like this you want to start with the finest polish/paper, clean the lens and if there are still scratches or pits move to a more aggressive paper. Of course you always need to go back through the series of finer papers/polishes to finish...

On my car, my headlights were badly pitted... really really bad...and cloudy too. 1000 grit and mag wheel polish made the cloudy clear but the did nothing for the pits... I had to go to 600 grit. running water... GENTLY BY HAND...To get the pits out... Then back to 1000 (fresh sheet) GENTLY BY HAND... and then Mothers Mag Wheel Polish on a diaper by hand! finally Mothers plastic polish... on a soft cloth! gentle! By hand! (you get the idea)... I was very happy with my results.

No electric tools are required for this project! On the sanding OR the polishing part!
 

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Ur7x said:
The mistake made here was not the grit... It was electricity...

To be successful this is a totally manual process... The purpose of the water on the sand paper in this process is to keep the plastic cool and to wash away contaminates.... The speed of an electric sander makes this impossible... Even with gentle slow hand sanding cold running water from the hose is preferred. Also important, if the water in your area is full of grit and rust, buy an in line filter... Your need this if you plan to wash your car with the hose too...

While not difficult this is a DELICATE procedure...

Regarding 600 grit... Texas is mostly right...on an electric sander he is TOTALLY right! way to aggressive...But 1000 or even 2000 grit on a power sander WILL NOT WORK!... TOO MUCH HEAT...

Its counterintuitive, but on a project like this you want to start with the finest polish/paper, clean the lens and if there are still scratches or pits move to a more aggressive paper. Of course you always need to go back through the series of finer papers/polishes to finish...

On my car, my headlights were badly pitted... really really bad...and cloudy too. 1000 grit and mag wheel polish made the cloudy clear but the did nothing for the pits... I had to go to 600 grit. running water... GENTLY BY HAND...To get the pits out... Then back to 1000 (fresh sheet) GENTLY BY HAND... and then Mothers Mag Wheel Polish on a diaper by hand! finally Mothers plastic polish... on a soft cloth! gentle! By hand! (you get the idea)... I was very happy with my results.

No electric tools are required for this project! On the sanding OR the polishing part!
I both agree and disagree with your post regarding electric tools. You need to know the tool you are using and have "some" experience. The only way to gain experience is to DIY.

Too much heat is bad. Some heat is okay. Remember we are cleaning up headlamp covers that during normal operation, reach temperatures way too hot to feel comfortable on the skin. We don't want to scorch them either. A quality buffer is fine for this application as long as you keep the speed low and the contact time limited. So, this is where I disagree with using electric tools. I do agree with never using a sander, and also agree to keep a gentle touch.

This procedure can be done all by hand, but laboriously. Pits in the surface are rarely the same depth. This almost tells you that the job will take several light attempts before you achieve good results, which may or may not eliminate all the pits. Even hand polishing generates heat, so that is good, not bad.
 

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Texas is right you can get excellent results with an electric polisher.

My point is this, My mother is a gemologist and I have been watching and helping her polish things for almost 40 years. The challenge with polishing plastic is that it melts at relatively low temperatures. So it is not difficult, especially with power tools, to create "micro" pockets of plastic so hot that it melts and flakes off or smears around. This is what happend to junior with his power sander...

Or in other words... if you have done lots of polishing and you know what you are doing... Have at it with your buffer loaded up with your favorite rubbing compound...

The problem with novices, is that they don't get immediate results. They tilt the head and/or press down a bit and/or switch to a higher speed and they will make a mess...

If this is your first attempt to polish plastic... take it easy!
 

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I'm owning up to this, since it is my fault. I was the one that supplied that link. I am sorry that it didn't work for you but i have seen the results of people who have done it.

the link I supplied was this: http://www.sebringclub.net/board/viewtopic.php?t=2424&highlight=foggy+lamps

it never mentioned using an electric sander, in fact it says do not use an electric sander.

If I am to be kicked off this board, fine, do it, moderators. I am extremly sorry that it did not work for you. (yeah what's that going to do for you, nothing i know).

i don't know what side your headlamp was that ruined but here is one on ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/98-04-CADILLAC-SEVILLE-L-HEADLIGHT-HEADLAMP-LIGHT-LAMP_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQcategoryZ38661QQitemZ7993664914QQrdZ1QQsspagenameZWD1V

maybe you can take the one back you ordered from the dealer or get it from www.gmpartsdirect.com
 

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I have done this myself on my Mark VIII. They reccomend the same thing on markviii.org, only with 1000 and 2000 grit paper and no electric sander. I striped paint off from my restoration project with 600 grit, I can only imagine what it would do to plastic headlamp covers. Now as for the bad information, I don't think anyone should be kicked off from this forum for simply posting a link with the bad info on it. Any time you DIY with information off from a forum, there is a risk you take. Afterall we do not work for the cadillac dealer :). I am truly sorry about the bad info, but you were probably going to replace the covers eventually anyway. It is better to try and fix it yourself for cheap first and if that dosen't work you can go the expensive route.
 

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I'm sorry for your bad$$ experience, as I too tried the sanding technique with varying results.
On another forum, someone posted the technique of hand sanding with 600,1000, and 2000 grit wet sand paper.
I used a similar technique to yours, but I gently, slowly sanded by hand. I was horrified to see the murky white result. Wiping with Armorall took away the haze, but it came back.
I then did some more reading, and realized the first post neglected to mention the polish step.
I used Maguire's X with an orbital sander, and I was quite pleased. The covers don't look new, but pretty darn good.
I then tried the same technique on my wife's 02 Accord, and the lenses came up looking like crystal. I believe these lenses had less pitting so I achieved better results with the same effort.

Attached is a pic of the STS .... decent results, far better than the cloudy before shots.
 

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Juniorverse said:
I recently asked on this board about replacing my foggy headlamp covers. I was directed to a link explaining how to do the repair instead of buying new headlamp covers, which included sandpaper and polish.
I read the directions and set out to get 600, 1000, 1500 & 2000 grit sandpaper.
I live in the 4th populated area in Pennsylvania and my local Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Loews only carry sandpaper up to 600 grit. I had to order the required sandpapers online. They arrived today.
So, armed with sandpaper(s), bucket with water, Maguires Tech wax, multi speed circular sander, painters tape to mask off the headlamps, and cloths I headed out to clean up those headlamp covers.
Now, i must admit taking sandpaper to plastic seemed wrong, but I figured the advice given on here was tried and true and It would all work out.

WRONG

I very gently started with the 600 grit sandpaper, as wet as it could be, and sanded very gently. After a few seconds, I was HORRIFIED. I spent the next three hours trying to undo what the previous sandpaper had done. By the time i was finished, the headlamp covers were so bad, they HAD to be replaced.

Long story short (if not too late...)
My local Cadillac dealer is now $900.00 richer, and I will have nice shiny new headlamp covers.

Before i get a million responses telling me how wrongly I did this let me state the following:

I used the sander on a slow speed.
The sandpaper was soaking wet at all times.
I tried both circular and horizontal strokes.
I did not grind away at the covers, i used very gentle strokes.
I tried to wax the covers at the end, to no avail.

The fact is, Plastic + Sandpaper = Destroyed.

Thanks for the advice. :annoyed:
$900??? For that amount of money + about $60 extra, you could have gotten both head lamps and fog lamps from my local stealership. If your head lamps were that bad that you had to make repairs and you have an STS, your old fog lamps will look very dull compared to your new head lamps as the fog lamps are conditioned at about 75%-80% of your head lamps.
 

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I'm sorry if I'm mistaken but I don't recall anyone telling you to use an electric sander. Nor did that link to the sebrings tell you to either. And from what you described when you started sanding it sounds like you got scared. After you wet sand with 600, 800, 1500, even 2000, the lens will look completely fogged over. This is normal. As long as it wasn't melted or had burn marks it was ok. Again, the electric sander would've done that. But oh well, you've already bought new ones so enjoy em :)
 

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I use an electric sander to remove paint from siding. This should give you some indication of what it could do to your headlights.

The advice I've received in the past few days is very credible in my book. I asked about radiator fluid change, and even the parts guy at the dealership had no idea and actually told me I was wrong, they sell no pellets and none are required while simultaneously changing the coolant.

He looked at me like I said I wanted to use orange juice in the radiator. He had to ask a service guy, and he was finally enlightened. Point is, these guys on this site seem very knowledgeable, not withstanding the fact that in addition they go out of their way to help novices such as myself for no compensation.

BTW, I would like to take the time now to thank those knowledgeable persons.
 

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I agree with speedy, any time you take an aggressive action either with paint or plastic you always will appear to do more damage initially but you have to endure through it and complete the process. i recently did something sililar with my black paint. I freaked out at first but as i continued through the process of cleaning sanding and polishing the paint came back to life and now looks incredible. When using any abrasive "less is more" if you stick with the process you will get the desired result, just hang in there. In the end with your project....well you got what you ultimately wanted...nice smooth clear headlights. Maybe work on them by hand over time and you'll have spares or sell them.
 

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I polish edges of acrylic sheet (cut on a table saw). Using elbow grease, I start with a file to smooth it out (if needed), then I go from 150 grit all the way to 2000! All slowly with plenty of water.

Yes, if you let it dry while you are sanding, it will look scary (milky, satin white - not clear). That is normal. Down around 1500, even when dry, it looks much better - a bit shiny with some haze.

After 2000 grit, I use Novus Plastic Polish No. 1 and 2 (IIRC). One is white, the other beige liquid.
After that, the acrylic is quite shiny and smooth as glass.

Never tired this on headlights, but I suspect that it would work ok.

The problem here was the power sander and then lack of continuation to the next finer grit. Well, the power sander really clinched the issue. :(

Peteski
 

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iametarq said:
I'm owning up to this, since it is my fault. I was the one that supplied that link. I am sorry that it didn't work for you but i have seen the results of people who have done it.

the link I supplied was this: http://www.sebringclub.net/board/viewtopic.php?t=2424&highlight=foggy+lamps

it never mentioned using an electric sander, in fact it says do not use an electric sander.

If I am to be kicked off this board, fine, do it, moderators. I am extremly sorry that it did not work for you. (yeah what's that going to do for you, nothing i know).

i don't know what side your headlamp was that ruined but here is one on ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/98-04-CADILLAC-SEVILLE-L-HEADLIGHT-HEADLAMP-LIGHT-LAMP_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQcategoryZ38661QQitemZ7993664914QQrdZ1QQsspagenameZWD1V

maybe you can take the one back you ordered from the dealer or get it from www.gmpartsdirect.com
iametarq
I was smearing a bad point, and I am sorry for my comment which may have made you feel uneasy. I am sure that nobody seriously recommended 600 grit sandpaper attached to a sander to polish headlamps. The glove don't fit...so you are free from banishment!...LOL
 

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91TexasSeville said:
iametarq
I was smearing a bad point, and I am sorry for my comment which may have made you feel uneasy. I am sure that nobody seriously recommended 600 grit sandpaper attached to a sander to polish headlamps. The glove don't fit...so you are free from banishment!...LOL
thanks boss! :worship:
 
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