Headlight restoration

Discussion in '1996 - 2004 SN95 Mustang -General/Talk-' started by 03_TrueBlue_GT, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Hey guys my headlights on my Mustang are beginning to look like crap. Around the edges on the passenger side it looks like someone started sanding on the headlight and the driver side one is not as bad but its starting to get worse. I bought these headlights new 3.5 years ago and I cant believe how fast they are deteriorating on me. Ive tried some products from Advance auto parts like this Blue Magic headlight cleaner and the polish.


    It cleans them up a little but after the stuff dries off the headlights look the same... So Im thinking about giving this one a try


    Unless someone has a better option because I really want my cars headlights to look nice again...

    Ill try to get some pictures up soon.
  2. I'd like to know how it turns out. I broke down and bought a new set after not having success with a "sand and respray" kit. Looked milky afterward. If you have a good outcome post up some pics.
  3. None of those OTC kits are going to fix your problem. From what I understand, there is a layer of UV protection on the outside of the lenses; that layer cracking and peeling is what you see that looks so bad. The only way to fix it is to completely sand it down and compound/polish it out. It isn't very hard to do (assuming you have a DA buffer of some sort), but it is a lot of work. I spent around 10 hours on these headlights (my granddad's), and I'd consider that a 'quick' job.

    Here's what it looked like at the beginning (probably what your's looks like). Notice the scratches on the side and all the tiny specks all over the lense.


    Sanded with 250 grit:


    Sanded with 600 grit:


    I sanded with 1000 grit, but didn't take a picture.

    Sanded with 1500 grit:


    2000 grit:


    Compounded/polished with Meguiars 105 and 205, with a Porter Cable DA polisher:



    Notice that it's completely clear with no flaking. If you look super closely, you can see a few sanding marks that I didn't get out, but that's very minor. 99.99% of people wouldn't notice it.

    If you do this, remember that you no longer have that UV protection layer on the lens; be sure to keep wax on the light to protect it and keep it from fading (not really a big deal).

    Attached Files:

    tank_567 likes this.
  4. Ha, talk about good timing, lol.

    Here's some after pics of the headlights on my car that I did the same process with (except I was tinting them at the same time).



    Attached Files:

  5. Wow thanks fellas I appreciate it a lot. Sneaky mine look worse than your grandads but I think I can save them. I'm up at college right now and don't have access to any tools to use so I have to do it by hand... Do you think it could be done if I do it by hand or should I just wait or pay someone to do it? I noticed there's a shop in town advertising that they can restore old headlights but I dont know how much they charge and if its a good price.

    Btw sorry about the pictures not being up yet, it rained like crazy today and I need a sunny dry day to take a good picture.
  6. Heres a recent picture of the car, I dont know if you can see how bad the headlights are but this is the best I can do for tonight...


  7. I've been down this road too. The process described above is the only thing that really works. You can get away with wet sanding by hand if you really work at it, but it's hard to get all the sanding scratches out by hand...and you'll need some kind of polisher for the final few steps. With diligence and hard work you can get them looking really nice, but it's not quick.
  8. Heres some pictures that I took today.

    Passenger side pictures



    Driver side pictures


  9. I bought the 3M headlight restore kit from Advance Autoparts today, figured I'd give it a try. I'm going to do a basic wash/wax for my car tomorrow also before I do the headlights too.
  10. Can't argue with Sneaky's results. The lights look good as new. 10 hours though...yikes
  11. I've done a bunch of headlights as well. It is a lot of work but saves money. Sneaky's step by step is close to what I do. Depending on how bad they are to start depends on what grit to start with. I use 400 or 600 mostly to start. You don't want to hand rub them or you'll be all day. A polisher of some sort is a must. I use a regular buffer. Not a polisher. I also use a pretty rough compound to start and then a lighter polish and a swirl remover. Be careful not to burn them by staying on one spot too long or spinning the buffer too fast. Good luck and have fun.
  12. 03_TrueBlue_GT

    That's exactly how my granddad's looked, except your's is over a larger area. However, that doesn't really matter. Once one part of it starts to peel like that, the only way to fix them is to sand all of it off. If you only sand a certain area, you'll still be able to tell the difference.

    I didn't explicitly say this, but all the sanding was wet sanding.

    Yea, and that was definitely on the low end. Someone who knows more about it may could do it more quickly, but figure this: 2 passes over the whole light with 250, 2 passes with 600, 2 passes with the 1000, 3 passes with 1500, 3 passes with 2000, 3 passes with M105, 2 passes with the M205, and a coat of wax. And then double that (for the other light). Yea....the time adds up quickly. And, at some point, you WILL wish that your arm would fall off. It sounds excessive, but if you want it to look perfect, you have to spend enough time on each grit to be sure to get all of the previous grit's sanding marks out.

    I spent well more than 10 hours on my own headlights, but that included painting and clearcoating them, along with all the sanding and polishing.

    Yea, on my headlights, I started with 1000 grit. It just depends on how bad they are and how quickly you want to get it done. I found through experimentation that I could make a couple of passes with coarser paper to remove the outer layer more quickly than making 5 or 6 passes with the finer paper.

    And +1 on not burning them by leaving the buffer on too long. Learned that on one of my experiments with some old lights. You can burn plastic WAY easier than you can burn paint.
    gearheadboy likes this.
  13. 20130220_170219_zpscd99e332.jpg


    Got the passenger side headlight done, I have to say the 3M kit did a great job for what it is. I only spent about 2 hours on this headlight too and this is the worst one. Im going to start on the driver side sometime tomorrow when I can. Let me know what you think.
  14. Here is a video I made on how to polish and restore headlights.

  15. Thanks SRT Handz, Ill watch it sometime soon. I am satisfied with the 3M headlight kit though so I recommend using it.
    Well I went ahead and detailed my car today, I figured I would post it here instead of posting a new thread... All I did was use Meguairs gold class soap, then used the Meguairs liquid cleaner wax. Kinda a pain to do in a self service car wash place because I dont have a proper driveway to wash my car... Sucks I have to carry quarters now to use a high pressure hose lol.




  16. looks good! however, i never understood why people block out their license plates for pictures. anyone can see your plate during the day
  17. excellent turn around on those headlights my friend! always wondered how the 3m kit actually worked - looks pretty good to me. did you seal them with anything after polishing?