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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I hope this may help some of you who've got the same problem. The two 1991 Caravan's that I own have had yellowing/dull headlights for... heck, I've forgotten how long it's been. The headlights are very dim and the low light output is getting dangerous. As I drive down the highways I see lots of other vehicles besides Caravans/Voyages with the same problem. Over the years the plastic covers degrade, yellow, dull and are no longer clear.

I'd considered headlight lens replacements for the last 5 years. I am too cheap to buy new. The local Pick'n Pull the cost would be $20 per lens. I have yet to find one there that is not also yellowing and dull, let alone two.

Last week, while at a local auto parts chain store to pick up brake pads and disks for the Buick. I spied a Permatex Part # 09135, Headlight Lens Restoration Kit. It was $12.95.

"I can afford 13 bucks for the kit", said I, to myself. I even got the clerk to agree to a refund if it didn't work.

What could I loose?



Before work last Saturday morning it was nice. Not too hot with a breeze, it was time to go to work! It took about 35 minutes of working to restore each headlight lens.

When I finished the first lens the lovely Mrs. LEVE drove into the driveway. I asked her to pull the headlights on and tell me which one was brighter. She was shocked to see how clear the lens was that I'd refinished. Though I could tell the difference, I was sold on the product the second SHE told me she could tell the difference.

The process was simple. My Caravan's do have the three nibs on the lens. That would interfere with the restoration. You can see the nibs in the first picture. I removed the nibs with a pair of pliers and filed down the stubs to the height of the lens surface.

Take varied grits of sand wet/dry sandpaper and sand down the lens.

Grits are:
  • 1000
  • 1500
  • 2000
  • 2500
Use plenty of water to keep the sandpaper from loading up, and keep the lens flushed. During the sanding the directions say to sand in only one direction. I chose to sand latterly across the face of the lens.





The last stage is to use the polishing compound to restore clarity and luster.

Can you tell the difference?

When the daughter gets home with my second Caravan, I'll also polish those headlights. The cost then will drop to about $3 per headlight. That's not bad. All in all, I am VERY satisfied.

Could you piece together the kit from off the shelf stuff? Sure... just buy the right grit sandpaper and the polish. But, this is just another alternative that I found worked.
 

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let us know the long term on how it holds up. MY '93 ZJ headlights are the same. I bought some Maguires lens restoration, but it was just a polish, no sanding. It looked great for the first few weeks, but is back to yellow and dull now. I'm betting the sanding really helps.
 

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Thanks Leve. I'm going to have to do this to my Mercury Sable. Its a 95 and the headlights are very obscured. Good to know its only surface deep.
 

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Can't tell from the picture...Does it come with the sandpaper? making the only products I would have to supply the elbow grease and the water?

My CTD lenses are good and fogged...guess I'll give it a try.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes, it does come with the sandpaper.

If you've got the McGuires polish already, buy few sheets of sandpaper and I'd bet you're going to do just fine at a whole lot less cost. As I sanded down the lens, I could see the yellowing/clouding lessen. With the finer grit sanding it simply continued to polish the lens. These lenses are OEM, so if they could be cleared up... I'd bet the sanding cut through the surface layer of yellowing.

Will it happen again? Sure, it's plastic and will continue to out-gas and age. But for a while longer I can at least see in the dark.
 

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I use a blue paste called 'Flitz'.
Works good and fast. Smear it on, let it set a few minutes, rub it off with a soft cloth.

Usually have to repeat at least once for a full restoration...

Give them a good coat of 'Turtle Wax' once in a while and it will be slow to cloud up again.

Flitz is nonabrasive, nontoxic (but tastes like crap), and is pretty cheap.
Removes rust, corrosion, oxydation, doesn't scratch & doesn't stink.
Removes road tar off paint really quickly and doesn't hurt the paint on our show cars.

Will polish light scratches out of paint and glass.
You can use a 'Buff Pad' in a drill and not burn through paint.

I use it on everything around here including my brass frame antique guns and it works great!
If it can cut black powder residue, it can cut anything!
-------------------

Tooth paste (the abrasive kind) works pretty good on head lights, but it's SLOW...
Use a 'buff pad' in a drill and it's much faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
[ QUOTE ]
...Tooth paste (the abrasive kind) works pretty good on head lights, but it's SLOW...

[/ QUOTE ]

I used to use toothpaste to sharpen my Gillette Safety Razor blades. Take a jelly jar and put a little toothpaste inside it with very little water... and then place the blade inside the jar. Now rotate the blade along the jar. The blade will bend and conform to the inside diameter of the jar and be sharpened as it passes over the toothpaste.

Try it... it works. I must have save $50 a year doing that!
 

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For years I've gone through a similar process when machining acrylic (Plexiglas and similar products.) After sanding with the finest wet paper, I use a plastic polish made for the purpose, and can get a glass-like clarity.

Polycarbonate (Tuffak, Lexan and others) is a different matter though. Using the same products and procedures it can be worked very smooth, but not to the glassy state. It seems to be a slightly softer material than acrylic, so it just won't take on that final clarity.

I had always assumed that headlight lenses would be made of polycarbonate because it's tougher and more impact resistant than acrylic. Shows what I know. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crazy.gif But maybe some lenses are polycorbonate. Before you get carried away, it would be a good idea to work on a small out-of-the-way area to see what you can do. Otherwise you may trade a dull lense for a lot of work and a dull lense.

And those bumps are what the alignment equipment uses. I wouldn't nip them off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
[ QUOTE ]
And those bumps are what the alignment equipment uses. I wouldn't nip them off.

[/ QUOTE ]

Why not?

I learned to manually align the headlights, years ago. I've never had the darn thing "professionally aligned" in the 16 years I've owned it! 25", a tape measure, a garage door/wall and a torx bit and I'm good to go!
 

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Actually I'm with you on that. Since 1977 I've been running European lights that can only be aimed optically. But there are probably a bunch of guys here who would rather have it done, and they'll be in for a rude surprise if they cut the bumps off.
 

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JYG, just bought the Flitz at the fair for my Dodge headlights, good to know I made a good chioce, now all I have to do is actually get out there and polish them.

Flitz says it will not affect factory bluing on firearms!
 

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Speaking here about the Cibie and Hella conversion lights in my Volvos and the Jeep. The story I was told way back then was that because the bulbs were replaceable, they couldn't guarantee the precise position the filament in the housing. With the position of the filament a variable, the assembly couldn't be accurately aimed by the housing. Since they had to be aimed optically there were no alignment bumps.

The zoomy lenses in our new Volvo have alignment bumps, so either they've now gotten tolerances tight enough that the filament position is the same with every bulb change, or it was a red herring all along.

That's what I think - the US manufacturers didn't want competition from the European lights, so they got the DOT to mandate sealed beams with alignment bumps, on the grounds that anything else couldn't be aligned with the commonly available equipment.

There was also the issue of the old (long before my time) multi-piece headlights letting dust and water into the light, with the resultant deterioration of their effectiveness. I remember my dad bragging on the sealed-beam headlights in our '49 Chevy, saying how bad the lights were when he was a kid in the twenties and thirties. But by the seventies, those problems were pretty well solved.

When the American auto manufacturers wanted to make fancy headlights for styling purposes, and later for aerodynamics, they quickly got the DOT to drop the sealed beam requirement.
 

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"Flitz says it will not affect factory bluing on firearms!"

No, it won't. I have a few very old rifles that had rust from PO, but still had some factory bluing, and it took the rust and left the remaining bluing.
Took all the years of crap off the bluing, but left the bluing.

If you do headlights, I'd do like Jim_Lou said and find myself a little test spot first.

They tell you to use paper towels, but I prefer those funky yellow synthetic chamois from the auto parts stores. Cheap, reusable, washable and don't scratch or leave swirl marks in paint or plastic like the paper towels do...
Seem to actually buff out glass, plastic & paint faster too.

Use paper towels on metal, aluminum ect... Faster clean because the paper is slightly abrasive.
 

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Shhhhhh Larry, I make good money at work selling "clear headlights". /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif

I have a killer buffer at work I use. But save your money if you have a buffer (hand or stationary) and don't buy the kit. Any rubbing compound or "cleaner wax" that you have on the shelf works great too. You can do it by hand too but it's tough on the arm. Been doing this "secret" for years.

Good post BTW.........never thought to bring it up here.
 

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I have a makita polishing sanding wheel. Variable speed. I turn it all the way down and put on a 3m double sided wool polishing pad (yellow type) and use 3m micro finishing compound. headlights clear as crystal in 4 minutes flat. then was them and they stay that way. wax them everytime you wax the car. Old detailers secret. everyone knows someone who has a polishing wheel. you can use the orbiter or a drill if your hard up and you can get microfinishing compound at almost any parts store. Keep your bumps and save your time for fishing /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif
 

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By "Mircrofinishing Compound" do you mean paint buffing compound?
 

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[ QUOTE ]

By "Mircrofinishing Compound" do you mean paint buffing compound?

[/ QUOTE ]
Yes sir thats the stuff. meguires makes it gliptone...3m and many others but you want the cream kind. Wipe it on with a piece of terry cloth and just polish it like its paint. Works like a charm.
 
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