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Thread: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Sure, we've seen the threads before regarding headlamp lens restoration. Or maybe not. If you haven't, then follow these links:

    Head light lenses
    Polish those Headlights
    How to improve the headlights?

    I recently found a product called "GlassyLite" with "KONEXIS Liquid Glass Crosslinking Nanotechnology". Is this yet another wild goose chase, or does this stuff have any merit? There's a well-known internet retailer site with people's before/after photos, but none of them are "after" photos from the six months after, just the immediate results. However, the immediate results are easy to get as seen here (when I used the DoubleHorn kit):

    I want LASTING results.


    Also, this stuff says "no tools necessary", but I'd almost prefer it use a drill, since I have a fairly decent drill with a max 1650rpm speed.

    I'm pretty sure this'll turn out like the others, wherein their promise of sealing the lenses against future degradation are merely promises, but maybe this is actually approaching "The Real Deal".

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    I tried the Double Horn on one of our cars headlights, and I think a drill for polishing would have been better. I took it to a dealer who did use a drill for polishing, and it turned out pretty good. I then used Double Horn's sealer. Right now I am looking at doing something with a 1999, Town and Country's headlights. Dealer prices for new are about $500.00 each, Mopar, I would think.

    Bill

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    That pic above is right after using the DH kit. Sadly, the results didn't last that well.

    The driver's side lamp on the Previa is a bit dull-looking, but the passenger side is just fine. I just don't even want to attempt messing with the left side because that's typically a one-way trip. Had my eye on some glass-lensed UN lamps (for RHT, not LHT) that even have the built-in fog lamps, but those things are super expensive (at least, compared to my income). With the Corolla, though, I s'pose I have nothing left to lose to try to repolish it, 'ceptin for the $25-ish for a kit like that GlassyLite stuff.

    If I ever buy a new car, I'm going to immediately order a set of OEM headlamps for it from the parts department, and then put them in a cool, dry, dark place so that I'll have decent replacements when the inevitable UV damage occurs.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaric Darconville View Post
    I recently found a product called "GlassyLite" with "KONEXIS Liquid Glass Crosslinking Nanotechnology". Is this yet another wild goose chase
    Sounds a lot like yet another bogus piece of marketing verbiage designed to sound all nifty, new, and scientific. "Liquid glass crosslinking nanotechnology" does not mean anything.

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheinwerfermann View Post
    "Liquid glass crosslinking nanotechnology"
    Maybe a member of the Borg actually beams down to install it for you... Just as I thought. Had that bit of hope, but... yeah, the mumbo is way jumbo with this one.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Alaric, in my business, one of the services we perform is headlight lens refurbishment and have been doing that for about 8 years. With severely degraded lenses it is sometimes necessary to resort to 800W&D. Obviously this removes the VERY thin coating that's originally placed there by the factory and we always use power tools in the later stages of finer grinding to restore the lens and avoid changing its' shape. While it may be the only tool you have available, a drill isn't ideal since it is difficult to control and keep flat on the surface. Speed is also an issue. To avoid heat buildup we use a maximum of 800rpm and plenty of water as a lubricant and both rotary and random orbital machines, depending on the stage.

    Once the lens is restored the next step is to give it some protection and this is the truly difficult part. I have been experimenting with a whole range of different products and not one of them offers truly long term protection unless regularly re-applied. The best results are with a high quality polymer polish and we give the customer a small bottle of this to re-apply every 4-6 months. For those customers who follow the regime, it has not been necessary to re-do their lights, while for those who don't, they're usually back in 3-4 years. Even this is not bad, especially when OEM replacements are not available or are at ridiculous prices. The other thing we recommend is the fitment of acrylic headlight protectors. Once fitted these stop almost 100% of further damage and can be replaced, if need be, readily and fairly cheaply.

    As part of our product development we are still experimenting with different products to get longer term protection. The products used by the headlight manufacturers are either unavailable aftermarket or need specialised application techniques which are also impractical or expensive (vapour deposition). There has been quite a bit of talk in various forums about using a wipe on exterior grade urethane however, this appears to have only about a two year lifespan and can be tricky to apply evenly (pretty much supported by my tests). We are currently working on application methods for spraying on a 2 pack automotive clearcoat. This is difficult to achieve a flat, peel free finish that is thin enough to avoid chipping and there have been some issues with achieving the level of adhesion required. Once these are overcome though, (and current results look promising) the clear should offer around a 10 year life. A product called Opti-Coat might also offer some good results, especially if applied with a small HVLP gun or high end airbrush.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by NFT5 View Post
    The other thing we recommend is the fitment of acrylic headlight protectors. Once fitted these stop almost 100% of further damage and can be replaced, if need be, readily and fairly cheaply.
    Except that they are illegal—Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 prohibits any kind of headlamp cover, even if it is nominally "clear". This prohibition is because even "clear" covers, films, plates, etc. substantially reduce the light reaching the road, and none of them are anything like sufficiently resistant to abrasion and UV damage; they very quickly degrade and defocus the beam. You and whoever else runs your shop are responsible for deciding how much liability you can afford to expose your shop to, but please keep in mind that on this board Rule 11 prohibits advocating illegal activity.

    The plastic headlamp lens situation is a mess; the regulations for lens durability are obviously nowhere near stringent enough, and I don't see a fix coming any time soon. But pretty much all the aftermarket headlamp "restoration" and "protection" ideas are no good.
    Last edited by -Virgil-; 06-24-2012 at 10:24 AM.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Well, I do take my hat off to NFT5 for the continued effort and experimentation. I note that the lenses on my 2007 Corolla (roughly 100 miles per work day, mostly highway use) are beginning to show "frosty" spots, though not yet in the path of the beams. I'm wondering how much more life I'll be able to get before replacing the lamps.

    I didn't realize clear covers were a no-no, though I've wondered how much they degrade beam of a headlamp. From 1979 into the early 1980's I had them over the Cibie 5-3/4" headlamps on my Saab 99 Turbo, even trying them on the 7" Oscar+ driving lamps. Did this requirement come to pass in the late 60's, perhaps when side markers became mandatory in 1968? I suppose that's why my family's late 50's and early 60's Volkswagens had the glass lenses over the 7" round sealed beam lamps, but later Volkswagens went to directly exposed sealed beams (same was true for Jaguar XKE, but that was out of my price range).

    I seem to recall some mid 60's Chrysler products with glass lenses in front of the quad headlamps, perhaps even with the small lines of de-icers. Does that ring any bells?

    I once owned a 1967 Thunderbird. I still like the concept of solidly mounted headlamps with steel covers that protect them when not in use.

    In my VFD days, I owned a set of rectangular green lamps equipped with tough plastic covers that flipped up when "on" and down when "off." Unfortunately, the manufacturer dropped them in favor of lamps with internal screens and/or tinting and clear external lenses. It was a cheaper way to disguise the fact they were colored lamps, and I'm sure it offered fewer maintenance problems.

    When it comes to long life in sun and weather, I still miss glass lenses, but I suppose they are not coming back.
    There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures. ~James Thurber

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton Felix View Post
    Well, I do take my hat off to NFT5 for the continued effort and experimentation.
    Same here.

    I didn't realize clear covers were a no-no, though I've wondered how much they degrade beam of a headlamp
    When they're brand new they subtract about 20% of the light, and their transmissivity goes down quickly from there.

    Did this requirement come to pass in the late 60's
    1968 with the advent of FMVSS 108.

    I suppose that's why my family's late 50's and early 60's Volkswagens had the glass lenses over the 7" round sealed beam lamps, but later Volkswagens went to directly exposed sealed beams (same was true for Jaguar XKE, but that was out of my price range).
    Correct -- Beetles and Buses and Porsches and such had glass-covered 7" sealed beams through 1967; the covers had to go away for 1968.

    I seem to recall some mid 60's Chrysler products with glass lenses in front of the quad headlamps, perhaps even with the small lines of de-icers. Does that ring any bells?
    You're thinking of the 1965 Chrysler and Imperial models. There were lines applied to the glass, but they were purely decorative; there was no defogger.

    I once owned a 1967 Thunderbird. I still like the concept of solidly mounted headlamps with steel covers that protect them when not in use.
    I don't know; you're buying lamp protection at a very high cost in parts and systems (and resultant unreliability).

    When it comes to long life in sun and weather, I still miss glass lenses, but I suppose they are not coming back.
    It's going to become a more pressing issue as more and more LED headlamps come onto the world's roads. A very expensive headlamp assembly with a light source of indefinitely long life...and a degradation-prone plastic lens doesn't sound like a very wise combination to me.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    hey guys, this i can put some input on, as i detail cars professionally, this in fact is very real. they have new high tech stuff out that will last indefinitely the brand i use personally is made by Optimum Polymer Technologies and you can use it on paint, plastic, chrome etc. its called opti-coat 2.0. can be found on Autogeek.com. Although I am not a chemist by a long shot from what i understand it is a nano molecular resin that sets harder than clear coat, and is very hydrophobic. It will last anywhere from 2 to 5 years.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    forgot to add if you are looking to restore headlights............... you need 1500 2000 3000 grit sand paper, compound, polish, a drill and some pads. If you guys need anything advice in the way of shiny car stuff just shoot me a pm. dont want to clog up this thread.

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by TheExpert View Post
    hey guys, this i can put some input on, as i detail cars professionally, this in fact is very real. they have new high tech stuff out that will last indefinitely the brand i use personally is made by Optimum Polymer Technologies and you can use it on paint, plastic, chrome etc. its called opti-coat 2.0. can be found on Autogeek.com. Although I am not a chemist by a long shot from what i understand it is a nano molecular resin that sets harder than clear coat, and is very hydrophobic. It will last anywhere from 2 to 5 years.
    "nano-molecular"... so, the molecules are small. We get it. Still, more marketing mumbo-jumbo (or mano-nano). Also, while I know the chemical term "hydrophobic", I can't help but think of rabies (hydrophobia).
    Quote Originally Posted by TheExpert View Post
    forgot to add if you are looking to restore headlights............... you need 1500 2000 3000 grit sand paper, compound, polish, a drill and some pads. If you guys need anything advice in the way of shiny car stuff just shoot me a pm. dont want to clog up this thread.
    Or, one can just buy new lamp assemblies. Although my time is by no means so valuable that I couldn't go to that effort, I know it's not a permanent solution and sanding is not one of my favorite activities.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    yes, nothing will ever be as good as new, but most do not want to pay the amount of these new headlights cost. btw i think is highway robbery. But that opti-coat really does work, personally tested it myself. Yes, I to hate sanding too more than you know. lol. But for those looking for a fix without buying new headlights that is the best thing i know of. hopes this helps

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by TheExpert View Post
    opti-coat 2.0. can be found on Autogeek.com. Although I am not a chemist by a long shot from what i understand it is a nano molecular resin that sets harder than clear coat, and is very hydrophobic. It will last anywhere from 2 to 5 years.
    Mm...no. For starters, please explain for us exactly what you believe "nano molecular resin" means.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    The issue is not the hardness of the lense. The issue is the UV-reflective coating applied to the lense when it is first manufactured. That coating gets damaged by road debris, which allows UV light to damage the plastic underneath the coating. You can scrub off the damaged plastic and restore the smooth surface, but you can't replace the UV-reflective coating with a rub-on commercial product. There is no way to refurbish plastic headlight lenses for the long-term.

    Supposedly plastic headlight lenses were adopted because they are less likely to shatter in a crash and drop glass on the pavement. Well, I agree they are less likely to drop glass on the pavement, since they aren't made of glass, but the idea that they're less likely to shatter in a crash is nonsense. I have seen cars with glass and plastic headlights post-collision and the ones with plastic lenses were almost always broken and the glass lenses were almost always intact. My own car included. In the picture below you can even see where the plastic corner-lamp was destroyed but the glass headlight is completely intact, not even a crack. Plastic headlights are nothing more than a rip-off and I wish they would be made illegal because they don't last the life of the car, like safety equipment is supposed to do.

    [okay, so Photobucket isn't working right now; I'll post the photo when I get home.]

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    Plastic headlights are nothing more than a rip-off and I wish they would be made illegal because they don't last the life of the car, like safety equipment is supposed to do.
    Agreed on plastic headlamp lenses being essentially a rip-off, but nothing is supposed to last the life of the car. Brakes have replaceable pads and rotors, there are replaceable master and slave cylinders for the brakes, replacement sensors and parts for airbags, etc. Granted, plastic headlamps are particularly bad at lasting very long, but they're not a "life-critical system".

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheinwerfermann View Post
    Except that they are illegal—Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 prohibits any kind of headlamp cover, even if it is nominally "clear". This prohibition is because even "clear" covers, films, plates, etc. substantially reduce the light reaching the road, and none of them are anything like sufficiently resistant to abrasion and UV damage; they very quickly degrade and defocus the beam. You and whoever else runs your shop are responsible for deciding how much liability you can afford to expose your shop to, but please keep in mind that on this board Rule 11 prohibits advocating illegal activity.

    The plastic headlamp lens situation is a mess; the regulations for lens durability are obviously nowhere near stringent enough, and I don't see a fix coming any time soon. But pretty much all the aftermarket headlamp "restoration" and "protection" ideas are no good.
    I wasn't aware that they were illegal there. Certainly not here, they are sold as new car accessories and are readily available in just about every auto parts shop. We don't recommend illegal accessories, in fact refuse to fit or modify if this might contravene the regulations. Our recommendations to our customers are well within the law.

    With respect to my previous post I add that "this is a solution only where local regulations permit".

    While regulations are, in many respects, similar from country to country, there are differences and Rule 11 doesn't quite allow for such. Taken literally, I can discuss headlight covers and other things, but you cannot. Conversely, you can discuss red rear indicators which are strictly illegal here. There are differences even between the USA and Canada.

    I don't want to take this thread off topic but this is an international forum and, provided it is understood that some things may not be legal in all jurisdictions, the discussion of such topics does not contravene Rule 11, subject to the caveat that the discussion is restricted to the application and use in such areas where those activities are legal. To do otherwise would be parochial in the extreme and begs the question of the level to which such narrow-mindedness would be applied. Certainly laws vary from State to State in the USA and even between more local jurisdictions. Would Rule 11 be applied, for example, to prohibit discussion because the topic happened to be contrary to regulations in the particular jurisdiction in which CPF is based? I'd suggest (and hope) this would not be the case, that the intent was not for such stringent application and that a more adult approach would be taken.

    In fact, Rule 11 goes a little further than this, stating that "you will not use this BB to post any material which is knowingly illegal or promotes illegal activity". This does not prohibit the discussion of such material (we do both live in societies which permit free speech) but does prohibit the posting of material which in itself is illegal. I would think that pornography might be an example of such (even though it is actually legal here, but with restrictions on distribution). I should point out also that the key word is "knowingly".

    The second part of Rule 11 (that I've quoted) prohibits the promotion of illegal activity. Thus the discussion of same is not prohibited, just the promotion of it. For example, discussion of HID "kits" is not prohibited when this is restricted to the technical aspects, but the recommendation to instal or use one in a headlight is. Now, if my understanding of US law is correct, it is illegal to import and sell such a kit (even the individual components), but is not illegal to own one or to use it in a torch, for example. So, free discussion of HID bulbs, their specification, technical aspects and even use in a torch is freely permitted in other parts of CPF despite the fact that such bulbs are capable of being fitted to a motor vehicle and, in so doing, rendering the light "inoperative" under FMVSS 108. Exactly the same may be said of LED's. I'd think that the broad restriction of discussion on both of these topics would result in some very unhappy members, at the least.

    In summary, Rule 11 does not prohibit me from discussing acrylic headlight covers, nor does it prevent me from promoting their use in a jurisdiction which permits their use. It does prevent me from promoting their use to a member who may be located where their use is in contravention to local laws. The solution to this apparent anomaly is to include the caveat "where permitted" in such promotion. In fairness, if Rule 11 were applied in my case then it would have to be applied with the same force to discussion and or promotion of materials/products/practices which might happen to be illegal where I live.

    I'm not inviting discussion on this. I am, however, asking that members and moderators take what I've said on board and enter into discussion and permit, respectively, objective and healthy discussion on topics which have, in the past, been too rapidly locked. Always aware, of course, that there is a difference between discussion and promotion.

    Back on topic. Yes, plastic headlamp lenses are certainly not the panacea that they were thought be be. Safer, perhaps, in some instances and definitely lighter, the problem of lens degradation remains unsolved by most manufacturers. In a sense that's good for my business, not so good for the consumer. We will continue to seek a longer term solution to the continued degradation after refurbishment and I'll be happy to pass on any significant advances we make in this area and anything that I might happen to come across that might be useful to other members here.
    Last edited by NFT5; 06-25-2012 at 11:45 AM.

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    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaric Darconville View Post
    Agreed on plastic headlamp lenses being essentially a rip-off, but nothing is supposed to last the life of the car. Brakes have replaceable pads and rotors, there are replaceable master and slave cylinders for the brakes, replacement sensors and parts for airbags, etc. Granted, plastic headlamps are particularly bad at lasting very long, but they're not a "life-critical system".
    Have you ever driven through the woods at night? Good headlights are *definitely* a life-critical system.

    (It is my understanding that) Safety and emissions equipment is supposed to last a minimum of ten years, or 100,000 miles. That includes airbags, seatbelts, catalytic converters and so on. Consumable parts like brake pads and lightbulbs need to be replaced, of course, but non-consumable parts should not require replacement due to aging faster than the rest of the car. Lighting is definitely safety equipment; it's not like they added headlights, taillights, and turn signals to cars for their decorative qualities.

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    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by NFT5 View Post
    Back on topic. Yes, plastic headlamp lenses are certainly not the panacea that they were thought be be. Safer, perhaps, in some instances and definitely lighter, the problem of lens degradation remains unsolved by most manufacturers. In a sense that's good for my business, not so good for the consumer. We will continue to seek a longer term solution to the continued degradation after refurbishment and I'll be happy to pass on any significant advances we make in this area and anything that I might happen to come across that might be useful to other members here.
    I doubt they're safer. Sufficiently hard plastic shards can cut skin just as effectively as broken glass, and if it's more likely to break then it provides more opportunities for injury to occur. They may be lighter, but with all the extra stuff that's been added to cars, the weight savings of plastic headlamps is completely offset, not that it would've been noticeable even if cars hadn't gained 500 pounds on-average in the past couple decades. And of course, they wear out faster because they aren't 100% unaffected by UV and road grit like glass is. So basically, plastic headlights have a sum total of ZERO advantages over glass headlights, and several disadvantages. Maybe they're easier to manufacture, I dunno, but if they are, that's their only benefit.

    The only thing I can think of that MIGHT make a significant difference in preserving a refurbished headlight would be to paint it with a hard-shell UV-resistant clearcoat, like what is used on automotive paint. Nothing short of blocking the UV from reaching the plastic lenses will make any difference in the long run.
    Last edited by fyrstormer; 06-25-2012 at 01:36 PM.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    The only thing I can think of that MIGHT make a significant difference in preserving a refurbished headlight would be to paint it with a hard-shell UV-resistant clearcoat, like what is used on automotive paint. Nothing short of blocking the UV from reaching the plastic lenses will make any difference in the long run.
    OEMs use the most UV-resistant, durable clearcoats that exist and have been tested for adequate safety and durability. They must be applied to clean, smooth plastic in a clean room and cured under controlled conditions. Stuff you smear on in the driveway can't compare. And sanding the front of the headlight changes its optical properties. Even if you go to ten billion grit paper, you've changed the thickness of parts of the plastic more than in other parts. It's a very short-term solution, and you'll start getting hazing in a few months. UV damage will progress much faster with these **** ("Aftermarket, pardon) coatings. I guess if you needed to spend $50+ to buy a month or two before replacement then these might be your thing, but when is that the case?
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    In response to AnAppleSnale's post, as I posted earlier, I own a 1999 Town and Country mini-van. A nice clean van that I purchased for my son's family, and I will gift it to him soon. It cost about $500.00 for each headlight, if I have them replaced. Not sure I want to do that. There must be a better solution.

    Bill

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    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    Have you ever driven through the woods at night? Good headlights are *definitely* a life-critical system.
    Not when compared to a steering system.

    (It is my understanding that) Safety and emissions equipment is supposed to last a minimum of ten years, or 100,000 miles. That includes airbags, seatbelts, catalytic converters and so on. Consumable parts like brake pads and lightbulbs need to be replaced, of course, but non-consumable parts should not require replacement due to aging faster than the rest of the car. Lighting is definitely safety equipment; it's not like they added headlights, taillights, and turn signals to cars for their decorative qualities.
    EPA requirements state that the catalytic converter last for 8 years or 80,000 miles, so long as the failure does not result from misuse of the vehicle or failure to follow the manufacturers' written maintenance instructions. Seat belts and air bags may be required to have a 10 year warranty, I really don't know if they do or not.

    If headlamps were included in this, then the plastics for the lenses would go through a much more stringent testing procedure than they do now.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Bullzeyebill View Post
    In response to AnAppleSnale's post, as I posted earlier, I own a 1999 Town and Country mini-van. A nice clean van that I purchased for my son's family, and I will gift it to him soon. It cost about $500.00 for each headlight, if I have them replaced.
    Replace one of them now, and the next one in six months.

    AllPar.com lists chryslerpartsdirect.com as a good source of parts (and I know Daniel Stern has recommended them, as well); I see they're $405 or so a side there (then there's the labor for aiming once you put them in).
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 06-25-2012 at 02:47 PM.

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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    The only thing I can think of that MIGHT make a significant difference in preserving a refurbished headlight would be to paint it with a hard-shell UV-resistant clearcoat, like what is used on automotive paint. Nothing short of blocking the UV from reaching the plastic lenses will make any difference in the long run.

    Quote Originally Posted by AnAppleSnail View Post
    OEMs use the most UV-resistant, durable clearcoats that exist and have been tested for adequate safety and durability. They must be applied to clean, smooth plastic in a clean room and cured under controlled conditions. Stuff you smear on in the driveway can't compare. And sanding the front of the headlight changes its optical properties. Even if you go to ten billion grit paper, you've changed the thickness of parts of the plastic more than in other parts. It's a very short-term solution, and you'll start getting hazing in a few months. UV damage will progress much faster with these **** ("Aftermarket, pardon) coatings. I guess if you needed to spend $50+ to buy a month or two before replacement then these might be your thing, but when is that the case?
    Exactly what we've been working on and we have a spray booth so conditions can be controlled. There are three issues with automotive clearcoat:

    Firstly it has a design life of 10 years. This is readily admitted by the paint companies and vehicle manufacturers. Just look at any car that's about that age and has spent most of its' life outside. Clear degrades just like the stuff they put on headlights, just takes longer.

    Second is getting the surface flat so the orange peel doesn't scatter light all over the place. We have this pretty much nailed. Not quite optical lens quality, but what I'd call satisfactory.

    Third is adhesion. There are adhesion promoters available and they're almost clear. We can now achieve thin enough coatings for the colour darkening effect to be not visible. Don't forget we're working with total dry film thickness of ideally, around 30μ.

    Is all this going to achieve the factory standard of clarity? No, I don't kid myself that we can even get close. Not visible to the naked eye is about the best we will ever achieve. That, however, is a massive improvement even on the lights that are allowed to pass registration inspections. It is also a big improvement in safety for those owners who have UV damaged lights. Tests with a meter of the type used by automotive tinters show that we're getting better than 90% compared to "clear" glass.

    Also important is cost. Some of the worst cases we've seen have been what are referred to here as "grey imports". These are second hand cars that are imported from Japan and which were not sold here as new. Mainly performance cars and some four wheel drives. Because there are so few and there never was dealer parts backup, the cost of parts, especially large bulky items like headlights, is horrendous. Talk $700 - $1200 for a second hand headlight. They're low volume, even in Japan, so companies like Depo and TYC don't have an aftermarket alternative. Spending $200-$300 on refurbishment is a viable option when the alternative is that kind of cost or not being able to register or, in some cases, even sell the vehicle.

  25. #25
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Fascinating.

    I understand the "$200-$300 on refurbishment." Suddenly I'm glad that my online research today showed I can get factory headlights for my 2007 Corolla for about $169 apiece - though there's a scary number of "same quality as OEM" garbage lights out there to watch out for.

    Once it starts, the degradation progresses quickly, doesn't it? I just now took another look at my little Toyota (after cleaning the lights with Plexus) and I can see the progression of the "frosty" areas. Also noted a lot of tiny rock chips in the paint. I bought it in May of 2008; it looked virtually brand new at that time, and had 46,000 miles on it. It's now past 175,000 miles, doing nearly 100 miles per workday on both two lane blacktop and freeway; the "new" appearance is long gone.

    I wonder how much of what I'm seeing is UV damage and how much is actually "sandblasting" from highway running in traffic. We live in the rainy western part of Washington State, so desert sunshine is not an issue. The lenses are not turning yellow at all.

    Considering the information shared here, it would appear that expensive and/or difficult to find lights are worth the effort of refurbishing, but if the lights are under $400 a pair, it's better to just replace them.
    There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures. ~James Thurber

  26. #26

    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration


  27. #27

    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    The issue is the UV-reflective coating applied to the lense when it is first manufactured.
    True.

    That coating gets damaged by road debris, which allows UV light to damage the plastic underneath the coating.
    Not so much. There's some abrasion degradation, but mostly the coating actually oxidizes with prolonged exposure to heat and UV.

    You can scrub off the damaged plastic and restore the smooth surface, but you can't replace the UV-reflective coating with a rub-on commercial product. There is no way to refurbish plastic headlight lenses for the long-term.
    True on both counts.

    Supposedly plastic headlight lenses were adopted because they are less likely to shatter in a crash and drop glass on the pavement.
    No, plastic lenses were adopted because they were cheaper to manufacture and less subject to impact damage (from rocks and such, not in crashes). Glass dropping on the pavement was not a consideration, nor was pedestrian safety.

    Plastic headlights are nothing more than a rip-off and I wish they would be made illegal because they don't last the life of the car, like safety equipment is supposed to do.
    There's no requirement for safety equipment to last the life of the car. It would be nice if some real (toothy) durability requirements for headlamp performance were added to the regulations, but I don't foresee it happening. There exist polycarbonates and coatings that will give a reasonably long lifespan even in extremely harsh environments (Arizona, etc.) but these are not used on automotive headlamps because the regulations aren't tough enough to require them, and they cost more than the polycarbonates and coatings that do meet today's lax regulations.

    Also keep in mind all glass lenses are not alike. Some are much more prone to breakage than others. In the first place there are two kinds of lens glass, soda-lime ("soft glass") and borosilicate ("hard glass"). The "soft" and "hard" doesn't refer to the glass itself, but to the nature of the flame needed to work it. Then there are various ways of toughening/hardening the glass to make it much more resistant to pitting, chipping, and breakage. There are heavy-duty headlamps with hardened glass lenses that are exceedingly difficult to break; if you ask me that's the material all headlamp lenses ought to be made of. But I'd happily settle for plastic lenses built to comply with a much tougher durability standard.

  28. #28

    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by AnAppleSnail View Post
    OEMs use the most UV-resistant, durable clearcoats that exist and have been tested for adequate safety and durability. They must be applied to clean, smooth plastic in a clean room and cured under controlled conditions. Stuff you smear on in the driveway can't compare.
    I agree with you on all these points, but the sand-buff-polish-spar varnish procedure elsewhere on the Auto Geek site linked by "TheExpert" in this thread does seem to do a surprisingly good and durable job.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheinwerfermann View Post
    ... the sand-buff-polish-spar varnish procedure elsewhere on the Auto Geek site linked by "TheExpert" in this thread does seem to do a surprisingly good and durable job.
    So, should I saddle up with my fellow Conquistadors* and obtain some Opti-Coat 2.0, or...?

    *Gotta keep that whole "Seven Cities of Gold" thing going

  30. #30
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Seven Cities of Gold, the Fountain of Youth, and Headlamp Lens Restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaric Darconville View Post
    Not when compared to a steering system.
    Can't dodge what you can't see. That's why we're flashaholics, remember? It's nighttime half our lives and it's hard to do anything well in the dark. But yes, steering comes up a close second, and braking a close third.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaric Darconville View Post
    EPA requirements state that the catalytic converter last for 8 years or 80,000 miles, so long as the failure does not result from misuse of the vehicle or failure to follow the manufacturers' written maintenance instructions. Seat belts and air bags may be required to have a 10 year warranty, I really don't know if they do or not.

    If headlamps were included in this, then the plastics for the lenses would go through a much more stringent testing procedure than they do now.
    I must've remembered the duration wrong, my apologies. I understand that headlights aren't required to last the (statistical) lifetime of the car -- I'm just saying they ARE safety equipment and the SHOULD be required to last that long.

    - - -

    The overarching problem with automotive design nowadays is the expectation that people will trade their cars instead of running them into the ground, as if salvaging some small scrap of the original purchase price is somehow a worthwhile goal if you're not desperate for quick cash. It's just a scam to get people to buy cars more often, but as a result, it becomes more reasonable for parts like headlights to be designed with the expectation that they'll get swapped for cheap aftermarket parts later in the car's life, and the second (or third, or fourth) owner will never know the difference.

    I remember helping my dad buy a used minivan a couple years ago. The sales guy was happy to talk about how they steam-clean the engine bays in their CPO'ed cars so everything is nice and shiny, conveniently removing all trace of fluid leaks AND smear marks from prior service. When I started the engine he made sure to talk over the sound of the engine and stand right next to me while I was examining things. When I pressed the heel of my hand against the valve cover and jammed my ear against my shoulder, he gave me an odd look and then started talking louder, so I stared at him while plugging my other ear with my finger until he got the message and went away. I had to go through four minivans before I found one that the valvetrain sounded like it was still in good condition through my improvised shoulder-stethoscope.

    Okay, that's enough of a rant, I guess.
    Last edited by fyrstormer; 06-26-2012 at 11:40 PM.

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