This instructable will walk you through refinishing your plastic headlight covers without learning how to buff plastics. Here we will use only sand paper and clear paint and achieve a renewed look to the plastic lenses on your car.
You will need:
1. a can of gloss clear paint
2. 400 grit sandpaper
3. 1200 grit sandpaper (800-2000 grit is ok)
4. painters tape or masking tape
5. about 20 minutes.
Step 1: Cloudy Headlight Fix
The reason your headlight lenses are cloudy is the surface of the plastic is crazed, damaged by weather, and has tiny road dings.
We will smooth the surface and provide something for the paint to hold onto.
Tape off the area immediately around your headlight lenses. This protects the painted and surrounding surfaces from sanding and later from overspray.
Step 2: Sanding With 400 Grit
Using lots of water and the 400 grit sandpaper, lightly sand the clear plastic lenses. I usually spend only about 2 minutes sanding each side with this grit. You should see white plastic "dust" coming off in the water. This takes the surface down to a relatively smooth face with 400 grit scratches in it. Do this as much as you feel necessary depending on the starting point of your lenses.
Step 3: Sanding With 1200 Grit
Using more water and the 1200 grit sandpaper, sand the clear plastic lenses again. This should take another 2-3 minutes per side. The point here is to take those 400 grit scratches down to even smaller 1200 grit scratches.
Step 4: Dry the Lenses
Wipe the lenses dry. If you have compressed air or a leaf blower/shop vac, blow the area dry to make sure to get all the water out from the underneath the headlights. As they dry you will see they are even more cloudy than before you started. That is ok because now we have tiny little scratches that are consistent and easily filled by the paint.
Step 5: Painting the Lenses
With everything taped off, go ahead and apply light coats of clear spray paint.
Paint runs are your enemy here, so concentrate on smooth consistent strokes with a slight overlap, leaving just enough paint in each coat to make a wet look (where the small droplets of paint flow together to become one thin film).
Use two coats applied within about 10 minutes of each other. The lenses should appear clear and shiny.
Let the paint dry and remove the tape and you are done.