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Orbital sander to detail headlights #5281534 11/30/19 10:24 PM
Joined: Dec 2017
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Snagglefoot Offline OP
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I had purchased a headlight restoration kit that users 3 inch diameter sanding disks chucked to my electric drill to restore the headlights on my 2008 Suburban. Unfortunately, I ended up scarring the headlights due to the inability of the small disks to follow the contours on my headlights. I decided to purchase sanding disks for my Milwaukee orbital sander. This sander used 5” Velcro type disks.

I was able to find a package of disks that had 1000, 1500, 2000 and 3000 grit. I then shopped for lower grit disks but all I could find was 400 grit Diablo brand disks. I couldn’t find anything between 400 and 1000.Using the orbital sander and a spray bottle with water I was able to use the 400 grit disk to repair the damage to the headlights, then used the 1000 grit and then the 1500 grit. While using the 1500 grit the headlight started to get much clearer. Then I used the 2000 and 3000 grit disks. After the 3000 grit I photographed the lens ( first photo). I then changed to a buffing pad and applied Meguiars PlastX to the pad. Pad and Meguiars PlastX shown. Very quickly I ended up with a clear lens, which after cleaning with a paper towel, ended up with the final photo. I found the orbital sander to be effortless but had to hand sand the corners. Anyway, in the future I will be looking for some 600 and 800 grit discs but generally I liked using the orbital sander. Enjoy.

5F362073-C85E-440D-AD7D-E079274F9F4C.jpeg4E0C9A5C-EE09-479B-9A97-4B13FF9E2518.jpeg0A0C4FA3-55DA-46F2-BF6A-306C8039B5CD.jpeg15362CD6-9B06-46A0-B07E-6A3CF5050647.jpeg
Last edited by Snagglefoot; 11/30/19 10:29 PM.

If you want the job done right......do it yourself.
Re: Orbital sander to detail headlights [Re: Snagglefoot] #5281549 11/30/19 10:58 PM
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Trav Offline
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ASE L1, Master. Deutsch Meisterbrief.
Re: Orbital sander to detail headlights [Re: Snagglefoot] #5281675 12/01/19 07:04 AM
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atikovi Offline
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Originally Posted by Snagglefoot
I was able to find a package of disks that had 1000, 1500, 2000 and 3000 grit. I then shopped for lower grit disks but all I could find was 400 grit Diablo brand disks. I couldn’t find anything between 400 and 1000. Using the orbital sander and a spray bottle with water I was able to use the 400 grit disk to repair the damage to the headlights, then used the 1000 grit and then the 1500 grit. While using the 1500 grit the headlight started to get much clearer. Then I used the 2000 and 3000 grit disks. After the 3000 grit I photographed the lens ( first photo). I then changed to a buffing pad and applied Meguiars PlastX to the pad. Pad and Meguiars PlastX shown. Very quickly I ended up with a clear lens, which after cleaning with a paper towel, ended up with the final photo. I found the orbital sander to be effortless but had to hand sand the corners. Anyway, in the future I will be looking for some 600 and 800 grit discs but generally I liked using the orbital sander. Enjoy.


The 3M kits come with 500 and 800 paper grits as well as a 3000 grit foam pad used wet. PlastX isn't necessarily the correct product for hard plastics like headlights, and since you don't mention adding a UV coating, it will start deteriorating in a few months. Before and after using a 3M kit + their coating.

[Linked Image from fototime.com]

[Linked Image from fototime.com]

Re: Orbital sander to detail headlights [Re: Snagglefoot] #5281734 12/01/19 08:36 AM
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benjy Offline
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great tip + they look great. like a cars finish the smoother the better but only show cars or those with lots of $$$$ can afford the labor costs. headlights being small are dooable for sure + of course DIY is always the cheapest!!

Re: Orbital sander to detail headlights [Re: atikovi] #5281944 12/01/19 12:09 PM
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Dave9 Offline
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Originally Posted by atikovi
PlastX isn't necessarily the correct product for hard plastics like headlights


This is not true, backwards even. Hard plastics do far better with a plastic polish than soft ones do.

Quote
and since you don't mention adding a UV coating, it will start deteriorating in a few months. Before and after using a 3M kit + their coating.



UV coating means you must strip the coating off when it degrades and go through that long process again, while not using the coating means you can do a quick, easy touch up instead. Whether it is every few months or a year, or two, depends on where the vehicle is parked relative to sun exposure. A touchup takes only a damp rag and a minute, could be done when you wash the vehicle for example.

You're far better off using a polishing sealant or wax product instead, that you can just polish through with regular plastic polish while it's still on the lens, or if you do it more often, need nothing more than that polishing sealant or wax product.

I'm not suggesting that the kits don't have their place. If the lens is bad, sure you may need to break out the sandpaper that ONE time, but never again if you keep up with them, unless you put that hard clearcoat on then you put yourself in the position to need a much larger strip down effort and expense again.

It's clever marketing by 3M for sure, to get people to spend more money AND do more work for a result that is often inferior because the additional amount of work tends to make people put off re-doing it longer, especially if pulling the housings to do so.

Lastly, your headlights are shiny but optically more translucent than they could have been. They are supposed to be polished as finely as possible, not left hazy to try to get a clearcoat to adhere better. Adhesion isn't the only issue, rather that even with perfect adhesion, no spray on product stops all UV from degrading the coating and the plastic under it, so you are adding more material that needs removed, so you need a more abrasive solution, so you must go through more steps till the final, finer abrasive again.

Last edited by Dave9; 12/01/19 12:22 PM.
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