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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 10-28-2012, 11:02 AM
Norcal325 Norcal325 is offline
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Headlight Restoration

Hey Bfest. So I was attempting to restore my headlights with some materials I already had. 600 grit sandpaper, 1000 grit, and some turtle wax polish. I first wet sanded with 600 horizontally, then 1000 grit vertically. At this point both headlights were hazy with scratches (which is normal according to internet methods). Then I added polish and buffed them only to find that the haziness cause by the sandpaper was not going away. I tried the process over again to see if I could fix it and made one headlight even worse.
Anyways is there any way I could fix this? Is this a cause of bad sanding technique? I do not own a mechanical buffer, so I want to fix it by hand if possible.

TL;DR: Headlight restoration ended with foggy sandpaper scratches, can I fix this by hand?




I appreciate any help (with such a mundane thing lol).
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  #2  
Old 10-28-2012, 03:24 PM
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Yes, you can fix it, but you really need to wet sand at 3000 grit or higher, and then finish off with a plastic polish like Meguiars PlastX to achieve a crystal clear lens. 1000 grit is WAY too course to be finished. You'll be much better off if you spend $20 and buy the 3M headlight restoration kit (if you have a power drill).
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 10-28-2012 at 03:25 PM.
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  #3  
Old 10-28-2012, 04:13 PM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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It's fixable but you've got a lot of work to do. The lenses are hazy because 600 grit is ridiculously too rough for this job and even 1000 grit is too aggressive. The 600 put some relatively deep scratches in the plastic and you now have to remove enough material to smooth them. You really need to get a power drill and a couple of the 3M kits. You can get a decent cordless drill at Harbor Freight for $20.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cordles...olt-68239.html

If you are going to do it by hand you'll need some 2000 grit to sand the 600 grit scratches smooth, then some 3000 grit to wet sand to smooth from the 2000 grit. Finally some polish to finish it. I'd wager you're going to spend as much buying the materials to do it buy hand as you would to buy the Harbor Freight drill and the 3M kits.
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  #4  
Old 10-28-2012, 04:52 PM
Norcal325 Norcal325 is offline
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Dang eff me for being cheap. I'm gonna go get a legit kit and fix these. I wanted to save a few bucks, and I've never sanded anything before, so I suppose that was a recipe for failure lol. I'm never gonna cut corners on my e36 again (so to speak)! Hopefully this will turn out well.

Many thanks again, you guys are awesome.
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  #5  
Old 10-28-2012, 05:38 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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just did this to the hyundai tucson. i should have taken them out to do a better job but, i was in a rush to get it done and wanted to be able to see better later that night.
it wasn't too hard, and the lights on the e36 are much easier to do since they are rather geometric and smaller area to work on.

1 kit should do you just fine.

i'd use the drill for the polishing, though, and keep it plenty wet. it's easy to overheat and scorch the surface with a drill if you are not careful. i don't think that you would be satisfied with gouges in the lenses.


good luck with it.



df
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  #6  
Old 10-30-2012, 11:33 AM
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We've had lots of positive results from the CCP kit LINK. Below is a video showing how to use this kit.

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  #7  
Old 11-01-2012, 11:05 AM
Norcal325 Norcal325 is offline
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I ended up using one 3m kit and it fixed the problem. I spent like an hour on each one and still didn't do that great of a job lol. up close they still have swirl marks, but they are clear nonetheless and look much better. ill prob post some pics in the stickied showoff thread once I paint my grey bumper black.
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  #8  
Old 11-01-2012, 11:25 AM
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Yeah, the reason they still have swirl marks is because you murdered them with 600 grit in the beginning. Live & learn I guess.
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Old 11-01-2012, 11:51 AM
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FWIW, I bought that drill from HF about a year ago and returned it because it was junk. I like HF for hand tools and oddities, but I'd recommend you go elsewhere if it has a cord or battery.

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  #10  
Old 11-01-2012, 11:55 AM
Norcal325 Norcal325 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Yeah, the reason they still have swirl marks is because you murdered them with 600 grit in the beginning. Live & learn I guess.
Haha! You are always right. I spent 40 minutes on the first light with the 600 grit, because I felt the lens was not uniformly 'clouded.' So I really put (too much) effort into sanding the whole headlight. But it is still better than before, and I will be getting some DJ autos once I catch up with all the mechanical work.

Murdered them
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  #11  
Old 11-01-2012, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by E36 Phantom View Post
FWIW, I bought that drill from HF about a year ago and returned it because it was junk. I like HF for hand tools and oddities, but I'd recommend you go elsewhere if it has a cord or battery.

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Yeah, I read the reviews for that drill and they were abysmal. Seems like they almost unanimously stop working very quickly due to charging/battery issues.
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  #12  
Old 11-01-2012, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Yeah, I read the reviews for that drill and they were abysmal. Seems like they almost unanimously stop working very quickly due to charging/battery issues.
I had one. Bought an extra battery with it. The first battery lasted about 3 minutes and died (after the recommended 3+ hour charge). The second battery exploded while on the charger. I mean kaboom. I took the drill, the dead first battery and the remains of the second battery still on the charger and returned the whole sorry lot to HF. They gave me my money back.

/thread-jack. Back to headlight restoration.......
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  #13  
Old 11-01-2012, 06:15 PM
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Interesting! I've got one of those I've had for about a year with no issues although it's admittedly been lightly used. More typically I use a model similar to this one, but it came with two batteries...

Back to the headlights. If you spent 40 minutes with the 600 grit you'll need to spend about 4x that time with the 2000-3000 grit to get them polished clear again. Replacement is a good choice at this point!
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Old 11-01-2012, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Yeah, I read the reviews for that drill and they were abysmal. Seems like they almost unanimously stop working very quickly due to charging/battery issues.
My battery didn't even latch in place. Pick up the drill and the battery stays on the bench. Build quality was on par with the AA-operated Playskool drill I had circa age 3. Didn't want to bother gambling on a replacement so I just got money back and got a Craftsman.

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