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Old 11-20-2017, 07:00 PM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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Clean foggy headlight covers?

I saw something about using toothpaste to clear up cloudy plastic headlamp covers--mild abrasive, makes sense, I thought. It also doesn't work. What will? Should I buy a product specifically for this purpose?
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Old 11-20-2017, 07:50 PM
beowulff beowulff is online now
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I use “rubbing” compound. Works very well, and fast.
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Old 11-20-2017, 08:16 PM
GMANCANADA GMANCANADA is offline
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I used the 3M lens cleaner product. Worked amazing & took less than an hour. They looked like new.

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-...94857497&rt=r3
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Old 11-20-2017, 08:36 PM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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Thanks for the replies!

beowulff, is there a particular brand you used?

GMANCANADA, 3M seems to have several varieties including one that involves using a drill to buff. Do you remember which version you used--hand or mechanical?
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Old 11-20-2017, 08:56 PM
yearofglad yearofglad is offline
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I have used toothpaste and a rag. It worked pretty well, especially for the price. I just squirted a small amount on and wiped it somewhat vigorously. Of course, test on a small, relatively inconspicuous area (or your significant other's car).

There are probably better things on the market made specifically for the purpose, I suppose.
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Old 11-20-2017, 09:12 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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I've used the 3M drill kit a couple times- tape off the painted areas around the headlights well, take your time and follow the instructions and they'll come out looking like new.
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Old 11-20-2017, 09:38 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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I've used drill style kits a few times to good effect.

My last attempt on my Ranger was not successful so I ended up replacing the headlight assemblies. Given how cheap and easy to replace the assemblies on the Ranger turned out to be($15 each and took 5 minutes) I'll google future vehicles before I decide to spend time refinishing them.
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:25 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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I've read, on a lighting forum board, that you can polish off the haze and cloudyness, but the improvements will not last long because you've also removed the protective layer on the plastic lens.

GaryM
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:40 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
I saw something about using toothpaste... It also doesn't work.
Sure worked on my car. How did you try to do it?
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Old 11-20-2017, 11:18 PM
JPrescott JPrescott is offline
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Pro detailer here. I use this to clean headlights. Put a little on a corner of a microfiber cleaning cloth and start rubbing manually. Keep going until it dries and rubs off. Works wonders.
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  #11  
Old 11-20-2017, 11:23 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
I've read, on a lighting forum board, that you can polish off the haze and cloudyness, but the improvements will not last long because you've also removed the protective layer on the plastic lens.
If the covers are cloudy, is not the protective layer already worn off? Or has lost its effectiveness?
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Old 11-20-2017, 11:34 PM
JPrescott JPrescott is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
If the covers are cloudy, is not the protective layer already worn off? Or has lost its effectiveness?
I've seen cloudiness on both the protective layer and the raw plastic. Sometimes the layer will come off in pieces. Some headlights do not appear to have a layer, or at least not a substantial one.

Typically if you have hazing and remove it, expect to have to keep removing it periodically from that point forward.
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Old 11-20-2017, 11:55 PM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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Originally Posted by Chessic Sense View Post
Sure worked on my car. How did you try to do it?
Rubbed the headlights with Crest and a rag for I dunno 10 minutes each.
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Old 11-20-2017, 11:57 PM
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My car is going on 9 years old and I do not want to do this frequently, because I expect to keep it for at least another three years. Maybe replacement covers are the best idea at this point.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:04 AM
JPrescott JPrescott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
My car is going on 9 years old and I do not want to do this frequently, because I expect to keep it for at least another three years. Maybe replacement covers are the best idea at this point.
Typically that's going to mean replacing the entire headlight unit, and that can be big bucks: Possibly $100 or more. If you go that route, keep in mind that they should ideally be aimed by a professional when replaced.

Cleaning them takes maybe fifteen-twenty minutes if you are just maintaining them. That might need done 3-5 times a year, depending on how quickly/deeply they haze. It's a matter of how inconvenienced your willing to be.
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  #16  
Old 11-21-2017, 12:29 AM
anomalous1 anomalous1 is offline
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Buffing pad and Simple Green spray.

Worked great on my car and they still look like crystals. I cleaned them this way two years ago. I also took them off the car and swished around hot water and simple green on the inside, let them dry and put them back on.

If you opt to replace them, check ebay aftermarket or oem replacements. Depending on the car you could get them for about $50 a piece at minimum, or some good deals on stylish replacements.
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Old 11-21-2017, 01:38 AM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
My car is going on 9 years old and I do not want to do this frequently, because I expect to keep it for at least another three years. Maybe replacement covers are the best idea at this point.
My car is 15 years old, and the headlight lenses were very scratched and cloudy. I buffed them with a drill style kit. It took maybe 30 minutes, including time to read the instructions and clean up time. 16 months later, the headlights are still in decent shape. So it's not like I'm having to redo it every 2 months.

I suggest asking around, friends and co-workers, and see if anyone has done this to their cars. The amount of buffing compound that comes with the kits is way more than is needed to do 2 sets of headlights, so it's very possible someone has a 1/2 bottle sitting around that they are happy to get rid of.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:56 AM
MeanJoe MeanJoe is offline
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My vehicle is a 2002 so it is about 15 years old. Headlights had become very hazy, nearly white. I used the 3M heavy duty kit with the drill attachments linked to above. If my memory is correct, it took me about an hour including taping and final clean-up. The headlights looked like new when I was finished and it was really easy to do. The first time driving at night I was stunned at how much brighter the headlights were with that haze removed. It's been over a year now, including a midwest winter with rain, sleet, snow, and salt. The headlights are still shiny and new looking with no need to re-touch them yet.

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Old 11-21-2017, 10:59 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
If the covers are cloudy, is not the protective layer already worn off? Or has lost its effectiveness?
The covers are made of polycarbonate, which:

1. blocks transmission of UV light, and
2. oxidizes due to UV light exposure, turning yellow.

Since it's so strongly absorptive of UV light, the oxidation damage is always confined to a very thin layer at the surface (because that's where the UV gets entirely absorbed). A factory protective coating on the outer surface of the cover helps to resist abrasion damage and blocks most of the sun's UV light from reaching the polycarbonate, but a little still gets in, which is why they the covers still tend to yellow after many years of exposure to the sun. In some cases the coating is also compromised by being sandblasted over the course of many miles of highway driving.

To restore clarity, you need to scrub off the UV-protective coating, and then scrub off the thin yellowed layer on the surface of the now-exposed polycarbonate. If you don't apply a new UV-protective coating, the exposed clear polycarbonate will oxidize/yellow relatively quickly (i.e. a couple of years instead of ten years; this also depends on how much sun they are exposed to). In addition to the mild abrasive for de-yellowing the covers, a good store-bought kit will also include a protective clearcoat and the tools to apply it with. In my experience this aftermarket coating isn't quite as durable as the factory coating, but it's pretty good.

Lots of options available.

FWIW, when I did my car, I removed the headlight assemblies so I didn't have to worry about damaging painted metal surfaces around them. This also meant I didn't have to squat in front of my car or work at uncomfortable angles; I could do all the polishing/coating while standing at a workbench.
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Old 11-21-2017, 02:18 PM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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Okay, I'm leaning more towards the drill buff thing now with a replacement protective coating (I'm in SoCal, lots of sun).

Re taking the assembly off, I get the reasoning but this makes me nervous. I am a decent DIY person, but I also know myself well enough to know there's a chance I will bust some connector that will result in buying a new assembly anyway. I think I'd rather tape off the paint, although I'll take a look at the process--maybe it's just a couple screws (fingers crossed).

Thanks for all the great info, everyone.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:39 PM
GMANCANADA GMANCANADA is offline
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I did the 3M with the drill bit, it was pretty easy especially if you have a cordless drill. I kept the light covers on and put 3 layers of masking tape on the paint around them and had no problem. BUT still be careful not to touch the paint. That's about the only thing you can screw up.

My car is parked outside 100% of the time either on the street at home or an above ground lot at work. The re-do started to get slightly hazy after about 18 months, but when I sold it it still looked good after 2.5 years. Even if it starts to fail, I would argue that once you've done it once and see how easy it is, you'll have no reluctance to do it again if need be. Its really no big deal, just read the instructions beforehand and follow them exactly as you go through. Easy Peasy Sunday morning project.

I also thought about replacing the covers, but when I saw the price tag of a few hundred dollars each versus less than $20 and an hour of time, it was a no brainer for me. Even if you screw it up somehow(?), you can always buy new covers later.

I'm not so sure about the concern re: taking the "protective coating" off. It seems to me the coating has failed anyway, my covers were opaque and looked like crap. What is the "protective coating" protecting at that point?

I did it for appearance, but I did find that night illumination was quite better. The headlamp beams were not as diffused as before.
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