Headlight Restoration Project "How To" with pics

Discussion in 'Mustang Sound & Shine All' started by Lex, Apr 17, 2005.

  1. headlight-restoration-proje.jpg

    When I purchased my 99 Mustang, the first thing I noticed was the awful hazed/fogged over headlights. I priced new headlights up and figured I could put money into more important things on the car. So after doing some research I decided to restore the headlights myself and live to tell how I did it :D

    I will point out that this was my first time and some steps may not have been neccessary but they worked for me. Heres how I restored my headlights. This was done on my 1999 Silver Mustang with 6 years of sun/enviromental damage.

    Heres the materials I used.


    - 600 Grit Sandpaper WetorDry
    - 1500 Grit Sandpaper WetorDry
    - 2000 Grit Sandpaper WetorDry
    - Turtle wax polishing compound "and scratch remover"
    - Meguiar's Plastx Clear Plastic Cleaner & Polish
    - 2 Polishing/Buffer Pads with drill (or electric polisher if you have one)
    - Clean rags
    - Masking Tape
    - Water (bottled)

    Besides those items, you just need patience and time as it is a 2 hr job.
    This is a 6 step process and I did "both" headlights during every step.
    It can be messy because it is a "wet' sandpaper job. I got all my items from Canadian Tire so you may have to find a local shop that sells similiar items.

    Step 1. "Tape Up"


    Get any kind of masking tape, and tape all around the headlights with the hood up so you won't accidentally scratch the paint finish. You can go all the way and cover the bumper but I didn't bother.

    Step 2. "Wet sand with 600 grit sandpaper"

    Wet the sand paper (don't spare the water) and pure some water over the headlight and start sanding with a bit of force. Why i choose WET sanding is because its less abrasive and you can see results when the headlights are wet. I used side to side strokes instead of circles. Use lots of water, make sure the sandpaper is always wet. I spent probally 10 minutes per headlight. You will noticed that the headlights might of look worse then you started, but thats OK. because we want an EVEN sand, you will get a chalky paste as you sand. Once you get both headlights evenly sanded , proceed to step 3.

    Heres a pic of step 2 sanding. (pretty cloudy looking)


    Step 3. 'Wet sand at 1500 grit"

    First thing is to wet the headlights and wipe of any "chalky paste" from the the first sanding. to be honest, I may of spent 10 minutes on each headlight during this step. Thats because the real time to be spent is the 2000 grit. I used 1500 to speed the process up. So wet the sandpaper and headlight and once again, do side to side strokes . Keep the sandpaper wet at all times. I used 2 pieces of sandpaper per headlight. Sand until you can start to see the inside of the headlight better and less cloudy. After sanding to this point. Once it drys it will turn to a milky color. Don't worry its normal at this point.

    Step 4. "Wet sand at 2000 grit"

    Once again, wet down the headlight , use a NEW clean rag and wipe the headlights clean. This is a very crucial and time consuming step. Approx 20 minutes per side. You may want to take a break first. You pretty much do the same side to side strokes with LOTS of water as you did in the last 2 steps. The difference here is, that you continue to sand until the headlights become almost new looking or at least close to your desired look (with water applied, it will still be cloudy dry). You know when you done when the lights look pretty clear when theres water on them. Look at the pic below to see when I finished step 4.


    Step 5. "Rubbing Compound and Polish"

    This is where the real magic happens. This is where your discouragement fades away like mine did. Even after the 2000 grit sanding drys theres still a cloudly look. Thats because theres millions of fine scratches that even the finest sandpaper can't get rid of. Thats where the "Turtlewax" polishing compound "and scratch remover" come in. This white paste will literlly remove the final scratches. I used a regular drill and buffering pad. If you have an actual polisher then use that. After wiping the headlights clean again , I put a bit of the paste on a rag and apply it in circular motions on the headlight until its completely covered with a thin layer of the paste. I then start buffering the headlight until you start seeing the amazing clearity come through. It will amaze you. Can can spend as much time on this as you want. I spent 10 minutes on each headlight. Some things to take note is if you stay in one spot too long it can scratch from the paste itself (just takes longer to buffer it out) and keep cleaning of the buffering pad to get rid of little chunks of paste buildup. Once you have done this , you should see something like this


    Step 6. "Final Polish"

    This is the final step before tape removal and wipe down. You may not find it neccessary but I wanted to get a final "polish" done with PlastX by Meguiar. I heard wonders so i wanted to finish of with this. I changed the buffering pad (you probally could of cleaned the other but I had 2 anyways) . I followed the same steps as Step 5 (about 10 minutes each) and volla. Its finished. You then remove the tape and wipe down the bumper if you haven't covered it up. My end result was this


    I did find my drivers side worse then the passengers. I have learned a few new things and I may sometime this summer spend another hour and do Steps 5 and 6 again to get even the tiniest scratches out. I will of course have a polisher.

    If you were wondering just how bad my headlights were , Heres a final BEFORE/AFTER shot



    Good luck. If you have any question , do drop me a line.


    Attached Files:

  2. that looks really nice. good write up.
  3. Does this work well on 94-98 cars or is that more on the inside of the light due to bad seals? I have heard you can take a dremel to the insides and polish them really well then reseal with 3M window weld for good results but I dont know about taking my lights apart and all...
  4. I did the same thing on my original headlights from 1990 and they came out dam near perfect. I opted for the ultra clears anyway though.
  5. :nice: What a difference! Thanks for the how to and pics.

    :scratch: Are the canadian headlights exactly the same like the US one?

    :scratch: Has anybody ever cleaned the foggy stuff on the interior of the lights?

    :scratch: Are the front headlights on this stang sealed?
  6. Nicely Done! :nice:
  7. :scratch: Are the canadian headlights exactly the same like the US one?

    No. Canadians use different plastic materials due to government regulations and saftey hazards. Just incase someone were to swallow a piece of the plastic, it won't be fatal , unlike US plastic

    :scratch: Has anybody ever cleaned the foggy stuff on the interior of the lights?

    Pop the hood , remove the headlight bulb from the headlight itself , use a toothbrush (I found OralB to be the best) with some baking soda and water and gentally rub the inner shelling of the headlight. You may need to get a custom made toothbrush to reach in the hard areas.

    :scratch: Are the front headlights on this stang sealed?

    No , mine fell off yesterday on my way to to Grammy Awards. Yes they are now hosting in Halifax because we work for beer.. :shrug: Go figure

    Just some canadian humor thats all :canada:
  8. Thank for the info. I'm fine with the :canada: humor, "Let them comming".

    I noticed also on that picture that the interiour of the headlamp is clear and not black like on others. Is that a Canadian special too?
  9. might want to try rubbing compound first, 3m fine cut, and a buffing wheel, or a detailing cloth. Worked on mine. there are some more abrasive rubbing compounds out there, but the 3m stuff is available everywhere
  10. Do you guys think that this will work with headlights that are yellowish on my 91 stang??? I cannot tell whether or not it is on the inside or the outside...
  11. try the rubbing compound, it won't work as fast as sand paper, but you can atleast try it, if you lived close, I'd do it for you. The sandpaper will work, just takes a while
  12. nice work :hail2: , looks like I have a new job to do on my car.
  13. I originally thought about it, but heard of the wet sandpaper method somewhere else totally unrelated to cars and decided to try it. Worse case for me would be have to buy new headlights in which I was contiplating.
  14. Great Post man.
  15. this is good informat. mine are looking pretty bad :mad:

    I've seen those products on ebay but the feedbacks for the sellers weren't good

    where did you get the stuff from? The buffer ball or whatever for you drill?
  16. Good stuff there! Once I get a job and then have a day off I'm totally going to do that
  17. will this work on those headlights that have the little rock chips on them???