The Lighting Enthusuast's guide to light restoration
Old Busted Hotness last edited by Old Busted Hotness
Let's face it, your car's lights are its face. So dingy, aged lights are unacceptable. Let's do something about that. Since it's winter, now's a good time.
When I bought these 1991 light units, they looked like this. Virtually all the silvering is gone. There are a few options for cleaning this up.
First step is to get the lenses off. Your mileage may vary, but I found it dead easy. The lenses were solvent-welded in place 29 years ago and popped right off. The reflectors were ugly.
Gray is not silver. But we can deal with that in a few ways.
Easy but spendy: If you've got a car that the aftermarket cares about, just buy some new ones. This also works if you're working on an old European or British car that uses lights from something that people want to see restored. Pretty much all British cars used Lucas lights, and Lucas only made a few different kinds, so your Triumph Herald or Hillman Minx can use lights from a TR3.
Easy but cheesy: You can try spray-bombing the reflectors with "chrome" paint. Hope you get better results than I did:
That's... sub-optimal. We can do better.
The Hard DIY Way: Chrome self-adhesive vinyl. Cut to shape, stick in place, rub it down til the corners stick. I needed about a yard. Cheap on Amazon, but read the reviews. Not all vinyl is created equal.
Vinyl on the left, paint on the right. Much gooder. Minor wrinkles can be ignored as the lens fluting will hide them. Don't cover up the drain holes.
The Professional Way: send the reflectors out for vacuum metalizing. This is what the factory did. Results will be better than vinyl, but you'll pay and wait for it.
Reattaching the lenses is as easy as gluing them back on with silicone sealant. Note that the silicone around the edge will color the lenses some. So if you use black RTV your lenses will look slightly dark. I used white marine RTV that's supposed to be all kinds of UV-resistant. Maybe it is. Time will tell.
With the lenses back on, the improvement is rather dramatic:
The lenses can be polished with Novus plastic polish, paint polishing compound or even toothpaste. Spend the time, it makes a difference.
Finally, if you're OCD/anal like me, hit the edges with a little black paint for a more finished appearance.
Yes, my workbench is a disaster area. Oddly, my OCD doesn't care.
Paint on the outside of the lens won't tint the lenses like colored sealant does, so don't sweat it.
Finally, drop 'em back into the car:
Now you've got old lights that look and work like new.
Tell the Mrs it's a safety upgrade. The reflectors will actually reflect now. Worth doing.
Finally, a Before pic.
1988-90 lenses are amber. The amber doesn't spare the reflectors, they are faded to gray as well.
So, lighting enthusiasts, get to it. Shine on!
frinesi2 last edited by
That's a really neat idea using the vinyl. How does it hold up over time?
Old Busted Hotness last edited by
Well, it hasn't even been a year, so I can't really say.
Vinyl wraps on cars/buses are supposed to be good for 5 years out in the weather. Probably last longer back behind the lenses.
jminer last edited by
@old-busted-hotness This is awesome! I've use aluminum ducting tape for a similar reflective use case before but I like the reflective vinyl.
Also I just love the LTD - I drove an 84 grand marquis for about a year, a lot of things about it were awful, but it was frankly enjoyable.
BritsnSwedes was MINIGTI last edited by
The slivering is burned off in the headlights of my SAAB a bit right near the bulbs. Would vinyl work there or would it melt immediately?
It actually has glass lenses which can be easily removed!
davesaddiction last edited by
@old-busted-hotness Moved to Best of OPPO.
Old Busted Hotness last edited by