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How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

Posted July 24, 2017 9:00 AM by dstrohl

Daily driving a 1988 Volvo 244DL is more fun than it should be. Five speeds, air conditioning, lumbar support, and an engine that will run forever. Like many cars of the era, however, the Volvo has large plastic lens covers on the headlights which have long ago given up their protective factory clear coat and, as a result, have suffered from oxidation and UV damage that adds up to a cloudy, yellowish fogging effect that not only looks weathered but reduces headlamp performance.

Just before I purchased the car, two years ago, these headlamps were restored using a store-bought “headlamp restoration” kit. These kits typically include abrasives and plastic polish and some kind of UV-protectant sealant which has a limited lifespan. The lenses initially looked great but over time reverted back to this sort of jaundiced occlusion.

The optimal way to restore those foggy plastic lenses just requires some sandpaper, elbow grease and a couple chemicals.

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#1

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/24/2017 3:24 PM

New ones are $27 each on ebay if you mess it up with a repair kit.

http://www.ebay.com/bhp/volvo-240-lens

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#2

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/24/2017 11:28 PM

Toothpaste and elbow grease!

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#3

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 2:13 AM

Start with fine sandpaper and get rid of the yellowing and make the surface smooth. Next, use a finer grit paper, then a finer one until you're at 1500 or 2000. Hit it with light compound, then buff out with glaze - something like Maguires or 3M. Clean the lenses, then spray with a quality clear coat paint: http://www.krylon.com/products/uvresistant-clear-coating/

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#4

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 4:30 AM

On ebay (at least here in Europe) there are cheap kits to allow cleaning and polishing, back to an almost new standard.

Auto-Restore-Faded-Plastic-Headlight-Lens-Renewal-Headlamp-Light-Polishing-Tool

I personally would say after such a long life, dig in your pocket and buy new ones, if still available....

Almost 30 years more and you might not even be around anymore, certainly I will be LONG gone!!

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#5

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 9:28 AM

Cloudy headlamp lenses have two bad effects. Not only do they put less light on the road, but the scattered light from the lenses is more distracting to oncoming drivers.

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#11
In reply to #5

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/28/2017 12:00 AM

Still, not nearly as distracting as the poorly aimed (unless the goal was to blind othet drivers) bright blue-white aftermarket lights on so many vehicles today.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/28/2017 9:24 AM

I agree those blue-white hued headlamps are mostly just annoying.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/28/2017 2:16 PM

Not allowed here.

Only those supplied by the car manufacturer, as original equipment, with automatic levelling are allowed. I would not be without them.

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#6

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 11:57 AM

#0000 steel wool, with a fine polishing compound, like Wool Lube. Used to buff fine furniture finishes. Also works on windshields , with out scratching the glass. Try in a an inconspicuous place, first, as they say..

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#7

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 12:07 PM

Your local Checker auto parts store, or O'Reilly's might carry that since you are in Texas. I have had good luck with products of that nature. They do not start out by scratching the plastic.

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#8

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 12:23 PM

Dstrohl I have used Meguiars "Plastx" $8.99 Advanced Auto Parts with good results.

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#9

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/25/2017 10:28 PM

Get a bottle of CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust), a stiff nylon bristle brush, toothpaste and a few microfiber cloths.

Afterward, soak and gently scrub the lenses in CLR to remove road deposits. And then, rinse/scrub a few more times with CLR.

Next, rinse with water, apply toothpaste to the lenses and polish with the microfiber until clear. If the paste doesnt rub clear, use as little water as possible to rub clear.

This should restore your lenses optical quality to near original condition. And if there are stubborn spots, you may want to lay the cloth over the lens and keep wet with the CLR.

Any metal on the lens in contact with any of these fluids or paste should be brushed and rinsed with water and thoroughly dried or protected beforehand

I do this with transducer lenses and get great results. And to save money, pour the CLR into a tub and place the lenses face down, scrub and soak several times, and when done, pour back into the bottle for reuse on shower heads, faucets, etc...

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/26/2017 9:14 AM

A lot of work, when the stuff from the auto parts store gets in done with a few gentle wipes.

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#14
In reply to #10

Re: How To: Restore Plastic Headlamp Lenses

07/28/2017 9:36 PM

I replied "toothpaste" because I've used it on clear plastic parts on car models, as well as headlamp covers that wouldn't pass state inspection.

Depending on the amount of deterioration, the heavy duty stuff may be warranted.

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