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Buffing Old Faded Headlights To Look Brand New
Using A Ryobi Buffing Kit On The Head Lights of a 94 Mustang Cobra & a 97 Dodge Stratus

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Polished Mustang Headlight

Recently I replaced the faded and chipped stock OEM head lights on my 2001 Grand Prix with brand new aftermarket units made by Eagle Eyes. Then shortly after that, my brother sent me these pictures of his 1994 Ford Mustang Cobra, and 1997 Dodge Stratus.

He had purchased a Ryobi headlight buffing kit and revitalized his old cloudy headlights to like new appearance with just a few passes of his drill and some polishing compound.

Unfortunately, he didn't take any before pictures of the Mustang's headlights but I know for a fact that they looked a lot worse than these "after" pictures. The Cobra hasn't seen as many miles as the Stratus so the lights didn't look quite as cloudy but they definitely couldn't pass for being brand new.

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Before Buffing Picture
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Above, you can see the "before" pictures of the headlights on the '97 Dodge Stratus which we affectionately refer to as "the cloud". This vehicle has more than 150,000 hard driven miles on the odometer. Most of which were traveled on the gravel covered, construction crazy streets of South Florida that really take a beating on a car.

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Once you have the buffing pad secured onto your electric drill, get the pad rotating at a reasonable speed and apply it gently to the headlight's surface. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or spin the pad too quickly. This process will vary by vehicle and headlight due to material differences so just take your time and don't rush or else you'll end up buying new head lights any way.

Tips From Dennis Via Email -

There is a UV coating over the face of the headlight lens. Polishing the lens smoothes the plastic but also removes this protective coating (basically a clear coat).

The lens will be clear afterwards, but will eventually (couple of months) return to a cloudy appearance due to the suns UV rays clouding the poly.

Here's what I ran across and have used successfully for a few years now.

1. Wash the lens with soap and water.
2. Clean and polish the lens with Meguiar's G12310 PlastX Clear Plastic Cleaner & Polish.
3. Buff off the residue and wipe to lens clean.
4. Reestablish the lens protective UV coating with Meguiar's G170804 Keep Clear Headlight Coating.

No matter which method you use to polish the lens, the critical part is to reestablish the protective coating afterwards. This should be done annually (even on a new lens such as your aftermarket lenses) as the coating wears off due to what they are exposed to.

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After Buffing Picture

The headlights on my Grand Prix didn't look as worn and weather beaten as the lights on the Stratus so I wish I had tried this technique out before I spent $160 on new aftermarket headlights. I was able to sell my old lights on eBay for a decent amount so I'm not too disappointed. At least now I know how to extend the life of my current ones with a headlight buffing kit.

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