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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 06-01-2013, 01:30 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: N. Reading, MA
Posts: 284
My Ride: 2001 325xit
DIY: Headlight restoration (w/ pictures!!)

Hello folks. Mr. Nic "Stiggissimo" was kind enough to loan me old, pitted, scratched, dirty, gross, and disgusting (sorry buddy) headlight lenses to refinish. The entire process I'll go through can be done in about twenty minutes. There are shorter methods to get it done, and longer methods as well if you so choose. This however, is an average method meant for people with average skills and an average amount of time! Keep in mind that everything I have done here was all by hand. With a buffer or orbital polisher and some finesse, there are of course even better results to be had.

*Disclaimer: This is WAY easier when the lenses are on the car. Just tape up your work area if you are worried about getting polish everywhere.

BEFORE: (Pardon the garage floor, this was done at work)

Step 1: Clean clean clean!
A lot of people miss this pre-emptive step. A good cleaning should always be done before working on paint or plastic for the best results. I used a pretty heavy duty cleanser in this case, but just about anything should work fine (simple green, APC, etc.) Use a clean towel or rag as well to prevent more scratches from forming. Make sure to do a thorough job inside and out. Look at the difference this simple step can make.

Step 1.5: Clay
An optional step here is using a claybar with lube on the outside of the lens to remove any embedded dirt leftover from the cleaning stage. This is highly recommended if you are going to use a polisher. I chose to forgo it here.

Step 2: Compounding
This step does the most work in refinishing your lenses. Smear some nice cut compound on a microfiber or other compounding pad/towel and get to work on the the lenses. Use some elbow grease, making sure to work each area thoroughly. You may want to do a few applications here. If using a polisher, use a relatively high speed and push hard to get the most work out of the compound. Be careful not burn any paint! After compounding, again clean the lens with a fresh microfiber or other very soft towel.

Step 3: Polishing
Polishing is a semi-optional step that will add some extra clarity after the compounding step. Following a similar method as in step two, go over the lenses at least once with the polish on a new towel or polishing pad. Use less pressure this time around or slow down your polisher if using one. You can see in the photo how a tiny bit of crispness is added. Don't forget to clean again after you are done.

Step 4: Protection
Always use it. After you are satisfied with the clarity of your lenses, make sure you add a layer or two of your favorite sealant or wax to lock in your new-found clarity. You could instead apply a layer of Lamin-X or similar to really protect the plastic.


**Further Disclaimer: Not all lenses are created equal! Some will come out beautifully on the first try, others won't clear up nicely no matter how hard you work at it. The lens I restored for this thread came out much clearer than the passenger side "before" lens in the pictures.

Happy cleaning, good luck!
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Old 07-07-2013, 11:57 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 912
My Ride: 2002 BMW 325i
Nice write-up! I just did mine with the Meguiar's kit that uses a couple different grits of sandpaper, polish, and a sealant to finish off. It does make a huge difference in the car's appearance.

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Old 07-16-2013, 04:06 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Houston, Tx
Posts: 107
My Ride: 330i
Good DIY, but a better alternative is buy new lenses. I did it when installed my angel eyes, theyīre cheap, and itīs really worth it. Even when my original lenses were not as faded as the pictures but mine had a haze in the pont where the xenon light comes out that i couldnīt wipe away.
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Old 07-16-2013, 04:33 PM   #4
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My Ride: 2001 325xit
Agreed. This is better if you are on a tight budget or just need something to hold you over until your new lenses come in!
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