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      05-16-2014, 12:05 AM   #1
Chrisar82
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DIY: wetsanding/polishing/removing dried on residue from headlights

Hello everyone. So I was finally fed up with my dried on residue covered headlights. This was the result of applying a protective film over them a while back, and never properly removing ALL the residue when I took them off (didn't even know it was there actually). So this stuff dried on there over a year and nothing would take it off. I decided to do my research and ended up with the following supplies most of which I had. I started with 2000 grit sandpaper and that seemed to be the perfect number. It will cost you $4 from pep boys for 5 sheets. I ended up using a half of one of those sheets for both headlights.



So here is what I started with. From 10 feet away they look great. Get a little closer and
you see the nasty dried up residue and tons of other imperfections. These pictures seem to
capture most of it.









So let's get started. I don't consider myself an expert, but I did my research and the whole process was a little BLURRY at first but it started CLEARING up as I went through the steps LOL.

Step 1: Soak the sandpaper in water for about 10-15 minutes.

Step 2: Do the prep work. Do a quick wash of your headlights to get any loose dirt off.
Dry the area and tape around your headlights. Don't tape up the hood because
it's easier to pop it when working.





Step 3: Get a spray bottle and fill it with a drop of car wash soap, fill the rest with water. I used Born to be Average, I mean Mild. lol



Step 4: By this time your sandpaper should be soaked pretty well. You can start sanding the headlights. Make sure you spray lots of water on the lens before you sand. You're wet sanding the lens remember. Rinse the sandpaper in a bucket about 3 times per light. I did this because I wanted to rinse the residue I was removing off of the sandpaper. Now a big part of this is to not do more than you have to because you don't want to go to far into the clear coat. For me, I was able to see the residue getting removed and stopped when I couldn't see anymore. Feel free to rinse the lens and dry it off to check your progress. You'll be able to better see the areas you sanded and if you missed any spots.



Step 5: Rinse the lense with water and let it dry completely. When it dries you will be like "WTF! I'm so screwed!"
as I originally thought. But no worries as you'll find out.



Step 6: Get your buffer. I used a Dual Action Porter Cable buffer. You will want to use 4" pads on this application. Reason being it's much easier to maneuver around the lens, especially those turn signal corners. Now I used an orange pad (a "light cutting" pad) and a black pad (a "finishing" pad). I bought these a while back when I did a 2 stage buffer on the paint of my car. They were the 6.5" pads. I cut them down to 4" actually with some scissors. It worked fine! Apply a few pea sized drops of Meguiar's 105 to your orange pad. I like to use a little more but that's just me.

Step 7: Spread the Meguiar's 105 cutting compound around the whole lens.

Step 8: Buff the headlight. I had mine up to the highest RPM as that is the only speed the thing will work on. This thing produces a lot of heat as you can feel on the headlights. You don't want to let the lens get too hot as it could cause some heat damage or warping so keep the thing moving around. Basically you want to buff the haziness off of the headlight. The 2000 grit sandpaper is very fine and so the scratches you have put into the lens are not deep at all. Do this until the haze and any scratches from the sandpaper are no longer visible. You'll know when it's done. This is what it should look like. See, all better!!



Step 9: Don't be a step skipper and skip step 9! So this step is basically the same as step 8 except now you want to use the 205 compound and the black pad. Spend the same amount of time with this as you did with the 105 and orange pad. I couldn't capture any difference with my cell phone camera from the 105 to 205

Step 10: get some glaze and spread it on the headlight. Wait about 10 minutes until it hazes up and then use a white pad (doesn't really matter what pad for this) and buff it off.

Step 11: get some sealant and spread it on with a microfiber towel. Wait 15 minutes and then buff that off as well. I used the same white pad from step 10.

And that's it. You're done. This is what I ended up with. They look perfect! I could not capture any imperfections as you could see from my pictures.









Before:



After:



Now, I'm hoping I didn't destroy the clear coat on the headlights. Most kits from 3M and Sylvania (those seem to be the highest rated) make you start with a 400 grit, then 800, 1000, 2000. With those the objective is to remove ALL of the clear coat so you can get to the oxidation below (I presume). So as you can see here, my objective was not to remove haze or cloudiness as those kits are designed to do, but to remove dried on residue on the outside of the clear coat. That's why I started with 2000. The reason for the glazing and sealant is just a precautionary measure. It adds more protection from the sun's rays. I definitely recommend doing it though. So there you go. From picture 1 to the last It was 2 hours.

I'll keep you all updated as time goes on to let you know if the results hold up.

It seems I have a BRIGHT future going here lol

Cheers!
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      05-16-2014, 04:06 PM   #2
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Fantastic DIY, those headlights look brand new.
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      06-16-2014, 12:54 PM   #3
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Nice!
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      06-16-2014, 01:17 PM   #4
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Very NICE! Thanks for putting this DIY together for all of us!
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      06-16-2014, 03:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dackelone View Post
Very NICE! Thanks for putting this DIY together for all of us!
Thanks!

And I'd like to let everyone know that they still look the same after a month
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      06-19-2014, 06:02 PM   #6
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^^ that's what I was waiting for haha.

I'm gonna first do this on my girlfriend's mom's toyota camry before doing it on the bimmer. I figure I'll get some practice before the real deal haha. And her Camry is in need of a headlight restore anyway.
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      06-19-2014, 08:46 PM   #7
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Here we are after a month:
Attached Images
  
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      06-19-2014, 08:51 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pj.rodriguez View Post
^^ that's what I was waiting for haha.

I'm gonna first do this on my girlfriend's mom's toyota camry before doing it on the bimmer. I figure I'll get some practice before the real deal haha. And her Camry is in need of a headlight restore anyway.
Are you referring to removing headlight oxidation or just some surface residues?
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      06-20-2014, 07:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisar82
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj.rodriguez View Post
^^ that's what I was waiting for haha.

I'm gonna first do this on my girlfriend's mom's toyota camry before doing it on the bimmer. I figure I'll get some practice before the real deal haha. And her Camry is in need of a headlight restore anyway.
Are you referring to removing headlight oxidation or just some surface residues?
It feels like it's surface residue/oxidation together. It can definitely be removed by this method I feel. But if not then I'll have to go full headlight resto. That's on the camry.

On the bimmer is pure surface stuff.
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      06-20-2014, 08:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pj.rodriguez View Post
It feels like it's surface residue/oxidation together. It can definitely be removed by this method I feel. But if not then I'll have to go full headlight resto. That's on the camry.

On the bimmer is pure surface stuff.
If it's surface stuff it's fine. If you have to sand down all the clearcoat you will have to reapply it. For this I've heard the Sylvania kit is good because it includes clearcoat that you can reapply.

Good luck!
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      06-20-2014, 10:54 AM   #11
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Anyone ever use the xpel plastic sealant/coating? I was thinking of doing the headlight restoration and then just using a sealant. I guess a true clear is actually needed unless I want to keep sealing every week correct?
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      06-20-2014, 02:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pj.rodriguez View Post
Anyone ever use the xpel plastic sealant/coating? I was thinking of doing the headlight restoration and then just using a sealant. I guess a true clear is actually needed unless I want to keep sealing every week correct?
I would think so.
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