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E-Class (W211) 2003-2009

Headlights restoration

 
Old 05-01-2014, 11:39 PM
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Headlights restoration

Anyone tried to diy headlights restoration?

I'd like to restore my headlights.
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Old 05-01-2014, 11:58 PM
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Did mine yesterday for the second time actually! I've done mine twice due to the harsh Colorado winters. The first time they were really bad when I first got the car, but the process goes something like this:

1) Mask off the paint around the headlights really well, go out a couple inches

2) Start with wet sanding, how bad they are will determine the grit you use. I remember starting at a pretty coarse 320 and ending at 1200. The second time we started at 600 and ended with 3000 (maybe not necessary with the polishing I did but why not). Water and purpose spray lubes both work fine.

TIP:
Sand in straight lines, not circles. The reason for this is two fold: first you can easily count the number of passes you do this way and make sure its even all around. Second reason is related to step 3, as with everything paint or polishing related it's easier to get straight line scratches out of the lens with a circular pad than it is to get circular scratches out of the lens with a circular pad.

3) Then you polish the headlights out. First time I did it I used a dremel with a buffing pad attachment, used simichrome to polish it out. It worked pretty well. Second time I had a guy from D3Detail do it for me with with a 3 stage Adam's Polish system - cutting fluid, polish, and jewlers polish that also acted like a sealant. Used a 1300 RPM drill with a few different pads.

4) Peal off the tape and wipe to a shine.

I've heard of the 3M system you can get at PepBoys for doing this as being pretty good, and some people even use tooth paste for a polishing compound due to its abrasiveness but I've never tried that. Kind of hard to mess up unless you crack, melt, or ruin a lens or somehow scuff up your paint.

Last edited by AMGAffalterbach; 05-02-2014 at 12:01 AM.
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:03 AM
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Thanks buddy!

Any shots?

This is how mine looks right now
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:26 AM
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At my dealership we use the 3M kits. They are a 4 step process and pretty aggressive for my taste. The final 2 stages are about all you will need unless your lenses are really bad.

AMG Af has the right idea. The least aggressive method is a lot safer. Take the extra time and do it in more steps. I always figure my time is cheaper than new parts. Also, beware using a single action buffer/polisher. They build up heat very quickly and can melt the plastic lens very quickly.

I do use the Meguiars Headlight Protectant on all of my cars BEFORE they start to look bad. If you will use it before the lenses start getting cloudy, they will stay new looking for a very long time. The UV protection is just like sunscreen for your headlights. When I restore headlights at work I always finish up with the Meguiars Protectant and the restoration will last a lot longer.
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:37 AM
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For sure! Mine were much worse than that, I don't have any pictures on my computer or phone but I know my dad did on his, so I'll upload some before and after tomorrow. Otto makes some very valid points too.
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Old 05-02-2014, 09:51 AM
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you should apply a UV protectant after polishing.


The sanding/polishing will have removed the UV protectant layer and without replacing it they will fog or yellow more quickly.
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Old 05-02-2014, 10:53 AM
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What type of UV protection is out there other than the Meguiars product?
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Old 05-02-2014, 11:26 AM
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Old 05-02-2014, 03:51 PM
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I just did mine again and this time clear coated it. Use the 3M system, it will make it so much easier. I would recommend wet sanding and not dry sanding. It will eliminate the pigtail problems most get with dry sanding. Use a good drill and take your time. ALWAYS tape up your area - TWICE. Tape can be gone through, so a second layer is needed in most cases. After hitting with 500 and 800 - have a body shop throw a few coats of clear on it. Wet sand with the trizact pad and polish...you're done. I am putting the 3M Lamin-X on them to keep them looking good.

I also pulled mind apart and sprayed the inside satin black, made the trim rings glossy black. Tinted the tail lights as well.


The Valspar? method mentioned above works....but it tends to slightly yellow over time which isn't a huge deal. I used it, but some cockbag took a power washer to my lens and took off the coating as well as paint on the bumper. But for normal wear and tear it was fine prior. I am clearing those as well here in a few days.
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Old 05-02-2014, 03:54 PM
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I just did mine today and they look like new. Before you start, make sure you wash off dirt from headlights. Then start wet sanding using first a 400 sand paper. Then move to 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, and then 2000 sand paper. Then, spread any toothpaste on the lense and using a papertowel rub it on the plastic surface very well using circular motions. Then wash toothpaste off and wipe the lense dry. You can either spray some WD40 on the lense, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then wipe it off with a papertowel. ONCE IN A WHILE YOU WILL NEED TO APPLY SOME WD40 TO REGAIN FULL CLARITY.
Alternatively, for a permanent fix, spray the entire lense surface with few thin layers of any UV resistant clear coat for plastic surfaces. Let it dry well and then repeat the shinning process with the sand papers starting with 400. At first clear coat may look horrible, but after shinning is complete it will look awesome. You may need to repeat shinning till best result is obtained.
(I DID MINE WITH THE CLEAR COAT AND AFTER TWO ROUNDS OF SHINNING LENSES LOOK BRAND NEW. I ALSO APPLIED SOME WD40 FOR SHINE IN THE VERY END).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you work well the 400 and 600 sandpapers in order to remove the fog from plastic. Same for shinning clear coat.
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Old 05-02-2014, 04:57 PM
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I use 3M
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Old 05-02-2014, 06:34 PM
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WD40 on plastic is a bad idea.
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Old 05-02-2014, 08:05 PM
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Thanks for the links N_Jay, and I agree I read that about the WD40 and I was a bit confused....
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Old 05-03-2014, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by N_Jay View Post
WD40 on plastic is a bad idea.
WD40 is applied as an additional final step of polishing after sanding is done. Simply apply WD40 then rub it on the surface with paper towel and then wipe it off completely. I am attaching a photo of what headlights look like after the procedure is completed (no clearcoat in the photo). By the way I have extensive experience using WD40 for more than 10 years to restore headlights. So do a couple of my friends. If you apply WD40 as I describe it here, you regain full clarity and no harm will be caused. Of course please free not to use it...Keep in mind that, if the result is not to your satisfaction, worse case scenario, you sand again...
Attached Thumbnails Headlights restoration-img_3729_a.jpg  

Last edited by notoriousk; 05-03-2014 at 06:30 AM. Reason: misspelling - addition of picture for better clarity
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Old 05-03-2014, 09:34 AM
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http://wd40.com/faqs/#a98

What surfaces or materials are OK to use WD-40 Multi-Use Product on?

WD-40 Multi-Use Product can be used on just about everything. It is safe to use on metal, rubber, wood and plastic. It can also be applied to painted metal surfaces without harming the paint. Polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic are among the few surfaces on which to avoid using a petroleum-based product like WD-40 Multi-Use Product


(Emphasis added)
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Old 05-03-2014, 09:38 AM
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A friend just told me that SIGMACOTE works well too. I never used it for polishing lights, but I know that it is an excellent repellent (rain, snow, salt, dust etc).
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:33 AM
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I did an older BMW M5 using the Meguiars kit. I removed the headlight assembly from the car and put it into a vise to work on. It was a bit of trouble, but I didn't risk damaging the car with the power drill (and buffing wheel). Not as risky on a Mercedes.

The results weren't perfect, they still didn't look like new, but it was a huge improvement.

And I too would stay away from using WD40.
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Old 05-27-2014, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by otto6457 View Post
At my dealership we use the 3M kits. They are a 4 step process and pretty aggressive for my taste. The final 2 stages are about all you will need unless your lenses are really bad.

AMG Af has the right idea. The least aggressive method is a lot safer. Take the extra time and do it in more steps. I always figure my time is cheaper than new parts. Also, beware using a single action buffer/polisher. They build up heat very quickly and can melt the plastic lens very quickly.

I do use the Meguiars Headlight Protectant on all of my cars BEFORE they start to look bad. If you will use it before the lenses start getting cloudy, they will stay new looking for a very long time. The UV protection is just like sunscreen for your headlights. When I restore headlights at work I always finish up with the Meguiars Protectant and the restoration will last a lot longer.
Im going to use 3M no drill. Should i do all 4 stages or only 2 final?

Headlights restoration-img_20140527_041202_zpsum7mymxu.jpg

P. S. got to adjust hood.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by despicable merc View Post
Im going to use 3M no drill. Should i do all 4 stages or only 2 final?



P. S. got to adjust hood.
I would start with the third step (the water and grey pad) first and see how they clean up. In my experience, if the lenses are to the point you can actually feel the deterioration of the plastic with your finger tips or even your nail, then you will need to use all 4 steps. You have to get all the oxidized plastic off of the lens to get it back to clear. From the photo, yours doesn't look that far gone.

And with the water and grey pad, even though it's a single action motion, it is perfectly fine to use your electric or air drill. It's a slow cut and the water keeps it cool enough that you won't burn or melt the plastic. It will take forever if you try to go by hand or even with an orbital. Just keep it wet, with the pad moving constantly, and you can't hurt it unless you really bear down.

For the final compound polish, I use a Griots orbital buffer set on 5. You need to spin it decently fast to get the compound to work correctly. I have used a single motion buffer many times but you do need to be very careful. It heats up fast and with the curves in the W211 headlight, it's easy to overheat the plastic. The orange polishing pad they give you is very forgiving and was designed to be used in a drill, so if you don't have an orbital polisher it's not a big deal. Just keep the pad moving, use light pressure and you will be fine. An orbital just makes the process almost idiot proof by slowing down the cutting action and keeping the heat to a minimum. Don't be afraid to use plenty of the compound. They include enough to do 4 or 5 headlights so don't be stingy with it.

Good luck and take an "after" photo.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by despicable merc View Post
Im going to use 3M no drill. Should i do all 4 stages or only 2 final?
Is the 4 step with or without protectant?
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Old 05-28-2014, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by N_Jay View Post
Is the 4 step with or without protectant?
In the 3M kit you get 2 dry sand paper stages. IIRC it's 400 then 800 grit. Then a grey wet padded disc and you finish with a thick orange foam disc for the compound based polish. I add the 5th step of the Meguiars Headlight Protectant after I'm satisfied with the final polish.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:20 PM
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Another popular thing to do when restoring headlights is clear coating them and polishing the clear coat out. This helps protect the bare plastic finish underneath.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by otto6457 View Post
In the 3M kit you get 2 dry sand paper stages. IIRC it's 400 then 800 grit. Then a grey wet padded disc and you finish with a thick orange foam disc for the compound based polish. I add the 5th step of the Meguiars Headlight Protectant after I'm satisfied with the final polish.
There is a 3M kit "with Protectant"
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by N_Jay View Post
There is a 3M kit "with Protectant"
Didn't know that. I will ask our parts manager to get one and I'll try it. It might be just as good as the Meguiars.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by svre46 View Post
Another popular thing to do when restoring headlights is clear coating them and polishing the clear coat out. This helps protect the bare plastic finish underneath.
Our tint guy has just started using this. I'm not sure how many he has done but he seems to think it's good stuff.

http://www.xpel.com/products/stealth_film.asp
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