Restoring Ford Mustang Headlights

Posted by on February 28, 2007 - more

When I purchased my mustang, the first thing that I noticed was the hazy and foggy headlights. New headlights are more expensive than I realized so I decided to see what else I could do. After doing some research I decided to restore the headlights myself and live to tell how I did it! I will point out that this was my first time attempting this and some steps may not have been necessary, but they worked for me. This was done on my 1999 Silver Mustang with 6 years of sun and environmental damage.

Materials Needed

  • 600 Grit Sandpaper Wet or Dry
  • 1500 Grit Sandpaper Wet or Dry
  • 2000 Grit Sandpaper Wet or Dry
  • Turtle wax polishing compound and scratch remover
  • Meguiar’s Plastx Clear Plastic Cleaner & Polish
  • Two Polishing/Buffer Pads with drill (or electric polisher if you have one)
  • Clean rags
  • Masking Tape
  • Water (bottled)

Besides the items listed above you just need patience and time as it is a two hour job. This is a six step process and I did both headlights during each step. This can be messy due to it is a wet sandpaper job. I purchased all my items from Canadian Tire so you may have to find a local shop has similar items for sale.

Taping Up
You can use any kind of masking tape for this step. Tape all around the headlights with the hood up. This is done so that you won’t accidentally scratch the paint while working on the car.

Wet sand with 600 grit sandpaper
Wet the sand paper and spray some water over the headlight. Start sanding, it will take a bit of force. I choose wet sanding because it is less abrasive and you can see results when the headlights are wet. I used side to side strokes instead of circles. Use lots of water and make sure the sandpaper is always wet. I spent probally ten to fifteen minutes per headlight. You will notice that the headlights might probably look worse than when you started, thats ok at this point. We want an even sand across the headlight, you will get a chalky paste as you sand. Once you get both headlights evenly sanded then proceed to step 3.

Sanding Results 600 Grit:

Wet sand at 1500 grit
First thing is to wet the headlights and wipe of any chalky paste from the the first sanding. I spent ten minutes on each headlight during this step. That is because the real time to be spent is the with the 2000 grit sanding. I used 1500 gritt also to speed the process up.

Wet the sandpaper and headlight and once again. Do side to side strokes across the headlight with the sandpaper. Keep the sandpaper wet at all times. I used two pieces of sandpaper per headlight, which is about right. Sand until you can start to see the inside of the headlight more clearly. Once you reach this point you should stop sanding or only sand a little more. Once the water drys the headlight will turn to a milky color. Do not worry, this is normal for now.

Wet sand at 2000 grit
Once again wet down the headlight and use a clean rag to wipe the headlights clean. The sanding to follow is a very crucial and time consuming step. You should spend about 20 minutes per side on this step. You pretty much do the same side to side strokes with a good bit of water as you did in the last two steps. The difference here is that you continue to sand until the headlights become almost new looking or at least close to your desired look. With water applied they will still be a little cloudy looking. You will know when you are done by the lights looking pretty clear when there is water on them. Look at the picture below to see what my headlights looked like after I finished this step.

Sanding Results 2000 Grit:

Rubbing Compound and Polish
The following step is where the real magic happens. This is where your discouragement fades away as mine did. Even after the 2000 grit sanding is over and the headlights have dried there may still be a cloudly look to them. That is because there are millions of fine scratches that even the finest sandpaper can not remove. Thats where the Turtlewax polishing compound and scratch remover comes in. This white paste will literlly remove the final scratches.

I used a regular drill and buffering pad. If you have an actual polisher then it is best to use that. After wiping the headlights clean again I put a bit of the paste on a rag and applied it in circular motions on the headlight until its completely covered with a thin layer of the paste. I then start buffering the headlight until you start seeing the amazing clearity come through.

You can spend as much time on this step as you want. I spent ten minutes on each headlight during this step. Some things to take note of is if you stay in one spot too long it can be scratched from the paste. It just takes longer to buffer it out if this happends. Keep cleaning off the buffering pad to get rid of little chunks of paste buildup. Once you have done all of this, you should see something like this.

Polishing Results:

Final Polish
This is the final step before tape removal and wipe down. You may not find it neccessary but I wanted to get a final polish done with the PlastX that is made by Meguiar. I have heard wonders so I wanted to finish off with this. I changed the buffering pad and followed the same steps as Step 5. After this it’s finished. You can now remove the tape and wipe down the bumper if you haven’t covered it up.

The Finished Results:

I did find my drivers side worse then the passengers. I have learned a few new things and I may sometime this summer spend another hour and do Steps 5 and 6 again to get even the tiniest scratches out. I will of course have a polisher when I go back to finalize this process.