View Full Version : Headlight Scratches & Cleaning

09/17/2004, 10:47 AM
I have many post in here about, "how to remove all those scraches", in your headlights. I know people have used 1000 grit sandpaper, 2000 grit wet sandpaper. Here is my question to you!

If you have actually cleaned the lens, what did you use and what were your results?

Let's try to keep this thread clean of all the other questions one might want to ask and leave this thread for those who have actully cleaned the lens and thier responces ---PLEASE!

ps. For anybody inquiring about how to remove the headlight assembly, Ron has post some good notes and some photos to help you out.

09/17/2004, 11:08 AM
hey Kahuna...

I haven't tried the process yet but it's actually not difficult to do it yourself. I would go to a plastics shop like Tap Plastics and purchase a bottle of polishing agent or compound and use a clean rag to buff out the minor blemishes. You can probably order the agent via their website (tapplastics.com).

This process will take a lot of elbow grease , time, and patience if done by hand. The ideal way of doing this effortlessly and quickly would be using an electric buffer/polisher. To ensure you won't get into your paint job/cladding accidently, I'd remove the light assembly entirely from the vehicle.

For larger more significant scratches, I'd start off with the WET sandpaper process using a lower grit as you mentioned and work yourself into a higher grit. Then follow up with the polishing. Scratches and dents that don't come off with the polishing will need to be sanded first in order to smooth out to a level surface.

Depending on how much effort, time and work you put into the process, you can actually polish the lens til it looks brand new again. Do keep in mind that the it's polycarbonate (same plastic used for bullet-proof glass) and it's not going to be easy and results will be slow. But if you're determined to get it into a flawless level then you'll love the end results.

09/17/2004, 11:32 AM
There are several products available specifically for cleaning and polishing polycarbonate, such as our headlight housings. One in particular I'm familiar with that's used quite a bit in the aviation industry is the Autosol brand. Unfortunately they're updating the web site or I'd post a link, but you can find their products at places like Sporty's Pilot Shop (http://www.sportys-catalogs.com) or your local FBO. Another product I've heard good things about is from Craftics, (http://www.craftics.com/products.cfm?Category=4&cfid=1339368&cftoken=55856989) where they have several polycarbonate items. Also just found out about this product as well: Novus Plastic Polish. (http://www.clearlyacrylic.com/noplpo.html)

Just be sure to test whatever product you choose on an inconspicuous area (the underhood portion behind the seal) and follow the directions, especially regarding the type of polishing cloth and keeping it clean. It will require slow, patient work but the right product for the job makes all the difference. ;Do;

09/18/2004, 07:48 AM
you can pick a scratch remover at any well sorted mobile phone shop.
As it is the same stuff that is used for removing scratches from the display of these phones.

09/18/2004, 09:13 AM
used 2000, followed by3000 wetsand paper...then buffed it out with 3M extra cut at about 1000 rpm with my Makita buffer. Crystal clear, perfect. About 1.5 hours invested. Guys have done this at car lots for as long as plastic headlights have been. Deeper scratches? Start with more aggresive paper, say 1000 or even 800 grit. Work your way down to the 3000. Don't rub one small spot, you'll create an optical irrregularity (waviness) in the lens. It's easy---don't be shy.

09/18/2004, 04:07 PM
Having looked into this a little bit myself, I second the Novus recommendation based on reputation.

As for what I have personally used, I have previously used Blue Magic's Plastic & Plexiglass Cleaner with decent success. It will work for minor scratch removal and light hazing. It's probably not the best product for the task, but for what it's worth I'm tossing in my review of it. It will do for minor fixes. It will start to look good before you should actually stop, so go the extra mile. Otherwise it will just temporarily mask the imperfections and they will reappear.

If you aren't experienced with a buffer (like me), it's probably best to steer well clear of 'em and do it by hand. Like others have said, it will most likely require multiple applications and LOTS of elbow grease, so don't be shy and work out some aggression.

09/30/2004, 02:02 PM
I had a few spare moments before heading out to work (and there were no hurricanes!) so I attempted to clean my lights up a bit. Problem was, I only had a bottle of Meguiars plastic polish and 1500 grit sandpaper. My lights looked horrible. Really bad.

In about 1/2 hour, I managed to wet sand both lights down thoroughly and then polish them back up with the Meguiars polish. The results were amazing. I mananged to locate some 2000 and 2500 grit and plan on going back over them. As is, it is a night and day difference and from 5 feet, they look brand new. Up close, with just the 1500 grit sanding, you can barely see some of the surface marks. Point is, if you have been putting this off, dont. It is very easy and you will be very happy with the results.

09/30/2004, 09:22 PM
Hmmmm...... With all the great responses another question somehow can up.

Is it ONLY the outside of the headlight or Inside.

The reason I ask is...because it sounds like a pain in the romp to take the headlight off......boil the headlight.....separate it...do the work.....find an adhesive that will work.......and then re-asemle the whole thing.....

10/01/2004, 05:13 AM
Yep, it's only the outside. I tried some 3M Scratch Remover (basically machine compound) and it did pretty well without any sanding, but would fail the 3-foot test. If preceeded by some wet sanding, as done by rx7tt95, it would come out quite nice. Since I'm out of Autosol I may finish up the IronMan's lights this way since I've got a few packs of 3M 1500 and 2000. We'll see!

11/01/2004, 09:35 PM
Hey: On my headlights I used 1500grit wet/dry with warm water and ivory soap(to keep paper clean) also using a sponge like finger pad to keep it uniform. Taping off the fenders/cladding and opening the hood, (be sure to cover the engine compartment due to flying compound). Sanded the top part of the headlight with even strokes until all the scratches are gone,keeping fresh grit paper at the start then the more used towards the end. Then picked up some Blue Magic Plastic and Plexiglass Cleaner from my local Autozone. Along with my full size varible speed BD polisher I polished each headlight assy. 3 times each keeping the rpm's low and keep it moving and the compound coming ,checking between each one for inspection. All the scratches are totally gone and they both look great. I wish I had some before pic's but I will display some after pic's (My Gallery). Whole process took 30-40 mins. Have a nice day..

11/02/2004, 04:48 AM
toothpaste might work.

You know the ole CD scratch removal technique?

11/02/2004, 07:47 AM
How can I remove the hazing?

11/02/2004, 08:03 AM
To remove the hazing, just try the "Blue Magic" Plastic and Plexiglass Cleaner. Or something like it, it's just a very very fine compound like toothpaste as mentioned .. Click on my "Gallery" To see a pic after the process was done. Sanded and polished a world of difference. If the pic looks bad ..click on it again

11/02/2004, 06:24 PM
Ive used both Blue Coral & Meguires. Meguires did a better job of getting scratches, but Im still left with hazing. Im not too familiar w/ using any sand paper(dont know how), All I used was a terry towel & lotsa elbow PS, I meant Blue Magic,not Coral.....duh!

DIY Mark
12/27/2008, 01:27 PM
Here's what I do, it's simple and it works!
1. Use rubbing compound (Cheap)
2. Use polishing compound (Cheap)
If your not satisfied with the results after 2 above, do 1 & 2 again.
3. Use Meguiar's PlastX (About $8 - Optional)
Yesterday I did my 96 Chevy S10 P/U for the first time since new.
It took about 10 minutes and the difference in night driving was absolutely amazing. I've been doing this on my 2001 Montero for the last year and it lasts about 6 months. Some people make things too complicated.

12/27/2008, 03:00 PM
I wrote a thread call 'zen and the art of headlight polishing'. The one thing I noticed is what ever you do, it seems to lose the surface tension and will fog/scratch easier so would highly suggest covering it with lexan afterwards. I did this two odd years ago and have had no problems

12/27/2008, 03:10 PM
I did this today and the results are amazing! The headlights look almost brand new. I had some pretty noticeable scratches on the driver's side headlight and they are all gone now. I wet sanded twice with 1000 grit followed by 2000 grit sandpaper I picked up at Autozone. After that it took about 4 applications of the Meguires PlasticX polish to get them clear again. Upon close inspection there are a few areas of fine scatches that could probably use another go around, but overall things look a lot better then they did this morning. I spent about 40 minutes on each headlight.

12/28/2008, 03:29 AM
Hi my lights have a coating on them - do you guys recon its a spray on job - its starting to flake off and looks pants -
did these lights come with a protective coating from new or not ?

12/28/2008, 09:46 AM
Wallmart and Target have kits that you can buy for less than $10 I believe. I used one from Wallmart and it worked just fine.

12/28/2008, 11:57 AM
After reading the posts on this website after I bought my VX, I went with wetsanding with 2000 grit sandpaper, followed by Meguair's PlastX cleaner. The results speak for themselves. Friends wanted to know where I got new lenses so quickly! I forget whose thread I read, but I kept the sandpaper and lens wet constantly. It took me about 30-40 minutes to do both lights, and mine were yellowed and hazed pretty badly. The results would pass a 1-foot test.
Between that and the tips on the "Refinish Restorer" for the cladding, and my VX looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. I liked the results of the Refinish Restorer so much, I used it on my mirrors, door handles, spoiler, and hood inset. It's a liquid miracle.
Thanks to all who have posted tips in the past...
Robert (soon to be site supporter)

12/28/2008, 01:00 PM
Hi my lights have a coating on them - do you guys recon its a spray on job - its starting to flake off and looks pants -
did these lights come with a protective coating from new or not ?

Oi, Some people have had their's clear coated, that might be what your seeing and I can image how bad it looks now with the peeling.

12/28/2008, 01:02 PM
Hi my lights have a coating on them - do you guys recon its a spray on job - its starting to flake off and looks pants -
did these lights come with a protective coating from new or not ?

There was some protective coating that was sprayed on the engine. Which was also on my headlights. Mine were so bad I used an orbital sander to remove it and used a buffer with regular compound (for paint) to buff it back. shawn

12/28/2008, 02:04 PM
Heres what you need to do to make your lens like new or near new !!! You will need to repeat the process about every six months depending on how often your truck sits outside ...but the results are great and only takes around ten minutes per lens , yes only minutes and will clean and smooth out minor scratches ... The product is called ( NU-FINISH CAR POLISH ) .....No need to remove the lights and no worries if you get it on your paint or cladding . you can find it at any store for around $9.00 !!! Let me know how it worked for you or for my method of applying the polish ...

12/29/2008, 02:21 PM
Hi yes - my lights shine bright yellow - so i recon i need to remove the coating and buff them up - i have 2000 grit paper and meguars plastic x so i shall try that

01/11/2009, 08:38 AM
Just watching an R&M car auction (repeat) and one of the sponsors was introducing a "Meguires" plastic headliight restoration product that is specifically designed for headlights like the VX. It contains a polishing compound and a foam polishing wheel and a microfibre tack cloth.
This should help alot of us out.

01/22/2009, 09:01 PM
Hi folks,

My headlights are doing something a little odd.... it almost seems like layers of the plastic have rubbed away, leaving thicker slightly bubbled pieces on the back corners. Anyone else seen this?? Still amenable to the sandpaper cure??

01/23/2009, 12:44 PM
Just watching an R&M car auction (repeat) and one of the sponsors was introducing a "Meguires" plastic headliight restoration product that is specifically designed for headlights like the VX. It contains a polishing compound and a foam polishing wheel and a microfibre tack cloth.
This should help alot of us out.

Yup, I posted about that stuff here:


The kit actually worked really well. My lights look waaaaay better than they ever have.