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qz16

restore plastic lense

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I saw somthing on the web that showed the restoration of a plastic lens.  I think the youtube was done by chris fix.  They did something I had not seen before - clear coating plastic – so I thought I would give it a try.  Side marker lens' are fairly inexpensive and available so if I screwed it up or if it just flat out did not work it would not be a total disaster.  My rear side markers were scratched and they were moderately oxidized.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to try something new that I did not take a “before” picture.  I did think of a picture after I had sanded the reflectors.  Below is the image after wet sanding with #600, #1000, #1500, and #2000 grit.  If you decide to do this you can skip the 1500 grit, its just not necessary for this type of project.

sanded_side_marker.jpg

After sanding I cleaned it with Eastwood Pre Prep.  Then I sprayed an adhesion promoter for plastic (I am happy with the results that I get with SEM products (sand free), but there are others as well).   I then sprayed clear using a VHT spray can that I had left over from another project.  A couple of light coats and then 2 medium wet coats.  The trick here is to try to get the clear to flow without causing any runs.  If you do get a run or noticeable orange peel you can always sand it with #2000 grit, and polish and buff, or you can always start over with #600 grit, #1000, #2000 and re-clear.  Anyway, below is an image of both reflectors with clear coat.  You will have to trust me on this - the picture does not measure up to the actual result.  The lens look like brand new.  For some reason, lighting, reflections, who knows what the picture just does not measure up.  One caution - do not touch the lens for at least 24 hours.  The clear coat needs to cure (harden) before you handle it and definitely do not rush to assemble it.

side_marker_cleared_2.jpg

Of course, if a little is good why not do more – so I cleared a rubber gasket just to see if it would take the clear.  The next image shows one gasket cleared and one without the clear coat.  Normally I would not even try to paint rubber without the right product, but the gasket took the clear and it is a big improvement.  If anyone has used a specific product line please let me know what adhesion promoter worked for you on rubber.

side_markerr_bef_after.jpg

I am amazed with the results.  Now, I don’t know if any of the products that I used will ultimately do harm to the plastic reflectors or whether these results will hold up for any length of time, but at this point I would have to say the results were terrific without spending a great deal of time and without requiring a lot of technique, and with very little expense.  

Bottom line: I would certainly recommend this process.  My expectation is that the clear will hold up over time and the only real danger to the plastic could be the adhesion promoter.  Next time around I would leave out the adhesion promoter and only sand with the #600 grit and then clear.  If that was not smooth enough perhaps sand with finer grit after the clear coat and then buff.  Of course, I would like to hear from anyone that can tell me what the long term expectation should be and whether or not I should expect the lens to deteriorate. 

Hope this helps - good luck

 

 

 

Edited by qz16
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My old Mopar friend cleaned his 56 Fury lenses with steel wool and shot them with clear years ago. No adhesion promoter and they still look great.

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Great job on the rubber grannyknot!

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I polished all the lenses on my car with a small buffing wheel on a drill motor and jeweler's rouge (Harbor Freight items).  The small wheel tends to avoid the heat buildup created by a large wheel typically installed on a bench grinder, is easy to control, no damage to the raised lettering on the lens.  The turn signal lenses had the greatest amount of roughness as might be expected after 92k miles, came out silky smooth and looking like new.

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A buffing pad at slow in a drill press can give similar results. I use mine more for wire brushing and polishing than as a drill.

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Grannyknot – I also have tried to buff with a Dremel but had the same experience – melted part of the lens.  I am going to go back sand the burned lens and see if I can get something I like using the clear coat.  Thanks for the tip regarding the rubber.  I have used the SEM clear, just out of it right now, and you’re right it is good, but I have not been disappointed with any of their products.  Great results on your restoration of your plastic.  Hard to believe that those old brittle pieces can be brought back to new – nice job.

 

JFA – you’re a better man than I – I used a one inch wheel on a dremel and I still scared it.  I think my biggest problem was the speed, had it turning to fast, but I just don’t have the touch to buff plastic, that’s why I try to avoid the runs and the orange peel, and when I can’t I develop my skill at rationalization.  “Its only a side marker”, “No one will ever notice it” and so on.  In the past I have always been shamed into buying a new lens.

 

Once again, thanks for the responses.

 

Regards,

ron

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10 hours ago, qz16 said:

...They did something I had not seen before - clear coating plastic – so I thought I would give it a try.  Side marker lens' are fairly inexpensive and available so if I screwed it up or if it just flat out did not work it would not be a total disaster.  My rear side markers were scratched and they were moderately oxidized.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to try something new that I did not take a “before” picture.  I did think of a picture after I had sanded the reflectors.  Below is the image after wet sanding with #600, #1000, #1500, and #2000 grit.  If you decide to do this you can skip the 1500 grit, its just not necessary for this type of project.

@qz16  i did mine a few years ago, but took it a step further and used a razor to shave the DOT lettering off mine..... now if I can just find THAT box in my mess..... I should have wrote down the contents on the outside of the box.

Never thought of adding a clear coat to it - would like to know how it looks after a year from the Arizona sun as an update. Thanks for the tip.

 

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We just use our buffing compound and orbital buffer with a foam pad for plastic lenses.  No prep and they polish right up...  For rubber, vinyl, and plastic - Mequiar's Hyper Dressing.

Edited by cgsheen1
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