DO IT!

Fast Car - - DIY DAY JOBS -

1 GET PREPPED

For the vast ma­jor­ity of cars, you’ll do the job with the head­lights still in­stalled. This is be­cause most headlight units are a right old bug­ger to get out, re­quir­ing the re­moval of grilles, bumpers and all sorts.

That said, if you have a car where they pop out eas­ily enough, say a New Bee­tle or a Puma, you can do the whole job on a bench if you choose to. For the rest of us, though, you’ll want to give your car a wash, and mask off an inch or two around the head­lights, par­tic­u­larly where they meet any paint­work, be­fore you start.

2 GET ‘EM WET

The idea here is to work your way down (or tech­ni­cally, up) through a few grades of abra­sive, start­ing with wet & dry pa­per. The level of fad­ing on your lights will dic­tate the grade you’ll want to start with, but re­mem­ber that you’re not sand­ing off paint, the stuff you need will be rel­a­tively fine com­pared to what a body shop will use for crash re­pairs. Ba­si­cally, you don’t want the re­ally rough stuff (like any­thing less than 800-grit) and power san­ders, be­cause there’s a chance you’ll do ir­re­versible dam­age to the sur­face. If in doubt, al­ways start with a higher grit than you think you’ll need, you can al­ways go back and do it again.

Per­son­ally, I like to work through three grades – 1200-grit, 2000-grit, and 3000grit (the last be­ing a handy foam-backed pad). But you can use as many grades you feel are needed; it will sim­ply take a while longer. There’s no prizes for be­ing the fastest any­way.

The most im­por­tant thing is to keep the sur­face wet while you’re sand­ing; all you need for this is a spray bot­tle filled with wa­ter. I also like to pop in a lit­tle wash­ing up liq­uid for lu­bri­ca­tion – pos­si­bly the only time it’s ac­tu­ally okay to use a house­hold de­ter­gent on your mo­tor.

3 SAND AWAY

Once you’ve given the lens a good soak­ing, you can start with the coars­est grade of pa­per. Don’t go mad; you don’t need much pres­sure for it to work, and al­ways make sure you use a new piece for each light. A quar­ter of a stan­dard sheet will be fine, and it won’t take long – you’ll ac­tu­ally feel it go all slip­pery as you work.

Most im­por­tantly, only sand in one straight di­rec­tion, keep­ing the pa­per flat and fol­low­ing the con­tours of the light. The old ‘ wax on, wax off’ im­pres­sion is no good to you here as it’ll only in­flict swirl marks. Oh, and make sure you don’t let it dry out while you have the abra­sive in con­tact with the lens.

Once you’ve com­pleted the whole light, wipe it off with an old mi­crofi­bre and a squirt of al­co­hol-based glass cleaner (or panel wipe), let it dry, and you’ll see it’ll be all scratched and hazy… er, don’t panic.

4 MORE WET SAND­ING

Now you can jump to the next grade – in our case the 2000-grit. Get the headlight wet again and work by sand­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Wipe that off and check your hand­i­work; it should be a lit­tle less hazy than be­fore, right?

Spray it down again and then get to work with the next grade (3000-grit here), sand­ing in the orig­i­nal di­rec­tion. You’ll find that af­ter you wiped that off, it’ll start look­ing a bit more like a clear lens. Phew, this is about the point where your heart stops rac­ing, and you re­alise that this stuff ac­tu­ally works!

5 SHINE THEM UP

The last stage uses the same prin­ci­ple as the sand­ing and again you’ll be us­ing var­i­ous grades of abra­sives. The dif­fer­ence here is that the abra­sives will be pol­ish and com­pounds, and you’ll be go­ing in dry, so to speak.

Here I used a com­pound (a paint restorer) fol­lowed by a fine pol­ish, but that’s not set in stone – you can use as many dif­fer­ent prod­ucts as you feel you need to – just make sure that you start with the coars­est and fin­ish with the finest, and use a dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tor for each. The more pol­ish­ing you do the bet­ter the fin­ish will be.

You can also use a ma­chine pol­isher if you don’t fancy the el­bow grease but, to be fair, there’s not too much ef­fort in­volved in do­ing the job by hand, and you get far more con­trol.

With these fi­nal com­pound­ing/ pol­ish prod­ucts it’s best to use light pres­sure and a cir­cu­lar mo­tion to cut out the ex­tremely fine scratches you’ve pre­vi­ously in­flicted with the last stage of wet sand­ing.

Ap­ply your prod­ucts, buff them off, and when you’re happy with the su­per­shiny fin­ish, you’re done. That was easy, wasn’t it?

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