***As of 09-05-10 this is a work in progress***
See below for original post.
DIY: How to restore the clarity of your aged acrylic headlight lenses.
I've finally gotten around to doing this the right way, and decided to
document it at the same time.
The car is my '96 Civic DX 4-door beater. Every year the lenses turn
a nasty yellow oxidized color. They emit a dim beam and just look
Below this update you will find my old DYI from '08 where I show
what just polishing can do. What polish won't do is get rid pits and of all the
yellowing. That's what this update is all about.
Materials and Tools
This is simply what I used to do this. Yours may differ,
depending mostly on severity.
➔ (4) 9"x11" sheets 320 grit sandpaper
➔ (4) 9"x11" sheets 800 grit sandpaper
➔ (4) 9"x11" sheets 1000 grit sandpaper
➔ (4) 3.5x9" sheets 2000 grit sandpaper
➔ (2) 3"x4" NEW regular kitchen sponges
➔ 1+ gallon container of soapy water
➔ Many clean, relatively lint free rags. A couple
of old cotton T-shirts work well for me.
➔ Drill (plug-in type is ideal)
➔ Fine buffing wheel w/ arbor
➔ Plenty of newspaper etc.
➔ Roll of wide masking tape
1. Goal: Remove contaminants
Here is how they look after less than a year since I last polished them.
Take one of the sponges and lightly scrub the lens with clean water.
I didn't feel the need to use masking tape for this step.
In this pic you can see the peeling remnants of the 'special' clear coating my
friend at a shop applied a couple months ago.
Many vehicles have this hazing problem. 1998 Integra GS-R:
2. Goal: Mask off area around lens
I did not feel the need to use newspaper yet. Dry everything well and grab
the masking tape. I recommend using more and wider tape than I have
More like this.
After 190,000 miles, the lenses are in rough shape.
3. Goal: Remove pits, scratches and yellow oxidization
I wrapped one of the sponges with sandpaper, rolled up worked well.
The sponge conforms to the contour of the lens and also also provide
a good grip of the paper so more and even pressure can be applied.
Mine were so bad that I decided to start with 320 grit sandpaper
(not pictured). Any decent auto parts store should have 800, 1000, 2000 and even 2500 grit automotive sandpaper.
THIS IS IMPORTANT:
Sand in one direction from one side of the lense to the other, and then perpendicular to that direction.
This way, material is removed evenly from the lens.
DO NOT SAND IN A CIRCULAR MOTION ON THE LENSES
It should look something like this (320 grit):
Keep the sponge, sandpaper and lens wet at all times.
Wipe down the lens often. Use the soapy water and the other clean sponge
(in the same direction you just sanded) and switch to a new area of sandpaper when necessary.
This is what happens to the sandpaper when sanding without water.
Here are the steps for sanding:
1. Evenly sand in one direction, from one side of the lens to the other
keeping the lens and sandpaper wet.
2. Wipe off the lens with the sponge and water.
3. Inspect and use a new area of sandpaper if nessesary
4. Switch sanding direction.
*Depending upon severity, Repeat these steps with the coarse
sandpaper until the pits and yellowing are removed to your satisfaction.
*Repeat these steps 4 times with each grade of finer sandpaper.
The reason behind using successive grades of sandpaper is to basically
remove the scraches of the previous grade to the point that the polish
can take easily care of the rest.
Lenses ready for polish.
Originally Posted by Ohmster
[...] I think the company has even more grades of polish now, I got my Novus polish from MCM Electronics online but here is the company that makes the stuff:
Here is the Novus polish and the Mother's polish I used in the OP in '08.
I used the step 1 cleaner and the step 2 polish, but I feel the Mother's
polish is almost or as good or than the step 3 Novus.
Plus I can apply it in the larger quantities needed for power buffing.
A little goes a long way when hand buffing, but a whole bunch more
works really well for power buffing.
I knew it would fling a little polish so I masked off the front end.
Buff in a CIRCULAR MOTION and follow the direction on the polish
I think my results were quite good.
***Original Post 07-04-08***
I did this DIY because all the other ones I could find in the 92-00 Civic forum had non-working pics. I just wanted to show how well plastic polish works on 96-00 Civic headlights (and 94-01 Integras as well).
Here you can see how bad my '96 headlights are, the the passenger's side is very oxidized while the driver's isn't too bad but could certainly use some work.
I used Mothers Plastic Polish and 3 large terry clothes for this job, use at least 3 clothes, I recommend having 6 on hand. Other companies make plastic polishes as well.
Dedicate at least one of the rags for washing/wiping. I used water and nothing else. Use at least one rag for drying. You can see how much grime was on just one headlight.
Once you're satisfied the headlight is clean enough, apply a liberal amount of polish. That's what the directions say so I did.
Rub in the polish in a circular motion just like you're waxing the car, paying special attention to the edges. I can't help but think a buffer would be an ideal tool for this step.
Wipe down the light with the wet cloth after each application, bare down hard as if you are still polishing to get of the excess. Be sure to dry it off as well, still baring down.
I recommend repeating these steps 3 times. Here are my results after 3 applications:
A lot better, but not exactly brand new looking. I may use a buffer, and if the results are noticeably better, I'll update with a couple more pics. -mcvtec-