Hello there and welcome to the BMW Car Club of America.

If you are a BMW CCA member, please log in and introduce yourself in our Member Introductions section.

Headlight Lens cover scratched

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by ARByers, Dec 28, 2008.

    • Member

    ARByers ///MPower

    Post Count: 5
    Likes Received:0
    Happy holidays all! Anybody know how to repair scratches to the headlight covers without having to purchase new headlights. I haven't seen any options to replace the lens cover only ... everything points to replacing the whole assembly.
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    Which side and how badly scratched? I think I have a spare laying around somewhere. Some assembly required, though. I think you can just replace the lens if you have one but BMW does not sell them in the US because they are considered sealed beam headlights and it is "illegal" to replace the lenses on sealed beams. Gotta love those antiquated lighting laws.
    • Member

    ARByers ///MPower

    Post Count: 5
    Likes Received:0
    Thanks MooseheadM5! It's the passenger side headlight that's scratched. The scratches aren't bad, superficial if anything. I saw something in Griot's garage that looked like it could fill in the scratches--buffer and all. From the old law looks like I have to replace the whole assembly.

    M3Driver guest

    Post Count: 619
    Likes Received:3
    Several options now for this. Meguiars, Griotts, and Bavarian Autosport sells products for this. I also think BMW has a OEM product now too.

    The only one I have personal experience with is the Meguiars Scratch-X. It provided great results. I figure all the rest would probably be just as good.

    deilenberger guest

    Post Count: 13
    Likes Received:2
    I don't believe there is any law about having "sealed beams" anymore.. since E46/M3 headlight covers (the clear bits) are readily available from BMW (and cheap..)

    To fix your current ones - this is a very brief version of a writeup I did for Roundel a few years ago for the E36 series:

    - Use some painters blue tape to protect the surrounding painted bits..

    - Start with 1200 grit paper - wet sand the lenses until the crap coating on them comes off. BMW/Hella/Whoever made them put a coating on the outside of the headlight cover that was supposed to prevent them from being damaged. The coating itself becomes hazy and starts flaking off - making the clear cover lots less clear.

    - If (and ONLY if) you have scratches that are too deep and the 1200 paper doesn't get rid of them - try using 1000 grit paper (both available at most big-box-auto-stores, used for wet-sanding paint..) When you get the scratches out - then use the 1200 paper to make the sanding scratches smaller. Use LOTS of water.

    - After finishing the wet sanding, with your orbital buffer (you do have a Porter-Cable right? You can do it by hand, but your wrists are gonna be sore) - startthe polishing with 3M "PerfectIt-II" Polishing Compound on a foam pad (mine is yellow - made for this polish.)

    http://www.google.com/products?sour...a=X&oi=product_result_group&resnum=1&ct=title

    Use this until all the haze/scratches from the sanding is gone.

    - When done with the polishing compound - go to Meguiars plastic finishes to really make it clear and sparkling: http://www.superiorcarcare.net/megplascar.html

    - Then I'd suggest putting one of the clear-film potectors on the lights to keep them from hazing up again. The films have the advantage of closely matching the index of refraction of the plastic lens, making pits and scratches you couldn't remove basically disappear.. and in my experience, the surface of the film is much longer lasting then the surfaces of the hard plastic used on the lights.

    That's it in a nutshell.. (condensed version..) Just did my '03 Touring - looks great now.
    • Member

    CRKrieger

    Post Count: 1,616
    Likes Received:20
    Don, I would add that using more progressively finer grades of abrasive and wet sanding every step makes things a whole lot easier.

    From your 1200 grit, I would move to 2000 grit; or go directly from 1000 to 2000, which is commonly available. There are cloths that go all the way to 12,000 (which will leave a noticeable reflective sheen). I use these to sand model car paint, where the smallest defects loom large. The advantage you have with lamp lenses is that you're not likely to sand through them. ;)

    Then, there's Novus® plastic polish (provided with Clearview windscreens) you can work through. I plan to attack my Jeep headlamps when it gets a little warmer, and this is exactly what I have planned.
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    I will be polishing wifey's ti lamps soon and will post pics in a different thread. Also, I found my spare E39 headlight housings if anyone is interested.

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
    Likes Received:1
    I just replaced mine with the DEPO lens covers for $99 cause I wanted the clear corners. It was unbelievable how much brighter my Xenon's were after the changeout. My wrists aren't sore, I didn't have to buy a buffer and now I know how the lights are assembled, which allowed me to install my CCFL AE's with total confidence...:D
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    Damn. I forgot I promised pics. I sanded lightly with 2000 grit and then went straight for the 3M headlight buffer kit. I would probably take an intermediate 4000 grit step if I were to do it again, and also use a plastic wax/polish, but the dingy yellow lense is as clear as the other side that had been replaced before I got the car. Took maybe 15 minutes.

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
    Likes Received:1
    I'm gonna try this on my old covers (they may be up for grabs soon) and my motorcycle windscreen...:D

    Congrats on the success...
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    I forgot to say I WET sanded the covers VERY lightly with 2000 grit. Keep a spray bottle handy to keep them wet. This really did the trick.

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
    Likes Received:1
    I'm guessing you used a buffer?? :p
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    Nope. Did this by hand. The 3M kit that you polish out hte final marks with is a pad for use with an electric drill. The whole process is very fast. The 2000 grit knocks off the yellowed layer, if you use 3 or 4000 grit, that would do most of the polishing, then hit it with a polishing compound if you have a slow buffer, then wax it.

    ViolinARC guest

    Post Count: 178
    Likes Received:1
    WOW...nice! I just replaced mine cause I wanted clear corners...it was an easy changeout.

    There was discussion on BF.c about buffing out the glass lenses on the pre-2001 fogs and the results were amazing! I was just inspecting my cloudy, pitted ones the day before that thread appeared too. One guy tried it by hand and gave up PDQ...he realized that glass is a different beast! LOL

    gsa1 guest

    Post Count: 1
    Likes Received:0
    3M kit works well

    i used the 3m kit on my bmw last week. came out great. also used it on a sebring last summer. same result.

    kevinheap guest

    Post Count: 38
    Likes Received:0
    So all hope is not lost for my M3 lens that must have had antifreeze etch into the surface. The quixx kit I bought did not work and the 600 paper I tried in the corner, wet, just made scratches.

    Where is a good place to get these fine grit sandpapers, on the net, 3m?
    • Member

    John in VA

    Post Count: 624
    Likes Received:3
    From a local auto body supply store, or online.

    stosman guest

    Post Count: 2
    Likes Received:0
    Lens Scratch Cleaners

    I have an E39 M5. Bavarian Autosport has a 2 part kit for $35.00 that really works well. It will not only get out many of the common scratches but will get rid of the faded aspect that the lenses develop over time. Give it a try. It's much cheaper than new assemblies.
    • Member
    • Technical Service Advisor

    mooseheadm5

    Post Count: 1,880
    Likes Received:15
    I would just like to add that someone at the shop bought the Flitz kit and wanted to show off on my lights, and it absolutly puts the 3M kit to shame. They look like brand new and it took 5 minutes to do both.
    • Member

    CRKrieger

    Post Count: 1,616
    Likes Received:20
    Well, in terms of optical clarity, 600 grit isn't even close. It should not be too hard to find 1000 and 2000 grit papers (although cloths are better because you'll want to use them wet) locally. Model car builders like me use abrasive cloths that start at 2400 grit and go in about six steps (3000, 3200, 3600, 4000, 6000, 8000) up to 12,000(!) grit, which leaves a reflective shine. Still, a little work with talc and a cloth will improve on that. A nice coat of wax finishes it off. If you can't find these grits, try searching for the Novus© plastic polishing system.

    The general principle is, use whatever coarse grit will remove the visible defect and then use the progressively finer grits (don't jump from 600 to 4000, for instance; it will take you all day) to remove the marks from the previous sanding. Be patient and your results should be great.

Share This Page