04

Tested: Mother's NuLens Headlight Restoration Kit

by David Zipf

Two things happened to me in the span of a few months.  The first was years of slowly killing myself in College paid off and I finally landed a great engineering job that also happens to be in the automotive industry.  The second was my trusty 1997 Honda CR-V rolled over to 200,000 miles.  Honda engines are dead reliable though: 200,000 miles is a walk in the park for a Honda engine.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Honda automatic transmissions and our CR-V hasn't exactly lived the easy life with us. We knew the transmission was on the back end of its life.  Deciding a newer car would make much more sense than replacing the transmission in a 17 year old Honda, I decided to jump into the used car market.  I spent weeks searching for the perfect vehicle and I ended up with one of my dream cars: a 2001 Isuzu Vehicross.  Why I wanted one of these so badly is another story for another day (spend a few minutes reading about them.  We can wait).  This particular Vehicross was mechanically solid, but cosmetically unloved.  Many people had been turned away by its worn leather interior, faded plastic body cladding, and peeling hood.  Not me: after taking a test drive I knew I had to have it.  With Vehicrosses being reasonably rare (less than 4000 were imported to the USA and only a few hundred were the Ironman Edition I ended up with) and having fallen in love with the funky trucklet, I decided I needed to bring this Vehicross back to its former glory, starting with the exterior.

 

Not the worst used car purchase ever, but there s definitely room for improvement.  Even with this somewhat crummy cellphone pic, you can see the hazing and fading on our Vehicross's headlights. 

We'll tackle the paint, plastic, and leather later on, but restoring headlights should be fairly easy.  These days when you walk down your local parts store's body care aisle you'll see a dozen different headlight cleaners.  I've used headlight cleaning kits before with very mixed results.  In fact the last kit I used made no difference at all to my headlights, even after an hour of polishing.  Worse yet, a year later the lights looked even worse than before.  So I was skeptical about how well the Mother's kit would work.  The Vehicross's lights weren't terrible, but the hazing was noticeable and ruined the look of the nose.  The Mother's kit was on sale at my local parts store and I decided "Why the hell not?"  It had been a few years since I had tried one of these kits; maybe headlight cleaning technology had improved.

 

The Mothers kit comes in this simple box.  You will need to provide a power drill, a spray bottle with water, and "a clean, microfiber cloth."  Glass cleaner and paper towels would do the job for this project.
Inside the box, you get a bottle of plastic polish, a drill chuck with a Velcro pad on it, the Power Ball polisher, and a few different grits of sanding pads.  The grits range from 300 to 1500.  If your lights are really bad and are pitted, you will need to use the coarse grit pads first.  Since ours were only hazed, we started with the 1500 grit pad.
We started with the 1500 grit pad, using our glass cleaner to wet the headlight.  The glass cleaner foamed up as we sanded, but it did the job, preventing us from accidentally scoring our lenses as we sanded the haze off.  If you still have nice paint, you should probably use some painter's tape on your fenders and bumper to prevent the sanding pad from scratching the surrounding paint.  Fortunately the Vehicross has a nice unpainted plastic bumper we don't need to mask!  And the fenders need a respray anyway, so who really cares if the edges have a little swirling.  By putting our drill on low and not moving too quickly, we never strayed off the lens anyway.
Once we wiped off the suds, the difference was already noticeable.  It's not perfect, but it's definitely better than what we started with.
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Comments
ginsu
ginsulink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 12:32 AM
I did this for a family member, was just so happy the lights could finally be seen at night! Does a lot for your safety, it's not just for looks.

As for Ginger, she's nice, but what's up with the wheel gap on that Prelude? hehe
dgerryts
dgerrytslink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 5:33 AM
I find that if you don't use some kind of surface sealer (ie, clear coat or plastic sealer) after polishing, the lights will haze up again within months.
Sootfoot
Sootfootlink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 7:20 AM
@dgerryts - I ran by a company at SEMA 2013 that was pushing the fact they were one of the few companies that had a plastic sealer with their headlight restoration kit. Of course the card got buried with the hundreds of other cards so I never bought any. Do you have a recommended sealer pla? My lights are in need of some restoring.
seat safety switch
seat safety switchlink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:10 AM
I've seen some good results with putting a protective film over top of the lens instead of using a sealer. Mostly Lamin-X product, though I've seen some nice eBay cheapies too.

I doubt anyone has a specific pre-cut film for the Vehicross (the most awesome yet under-recognized Isuzu product since the Impulse RS) so it might be more work than a sealer, but you could also get yellow film and pretend you're French.
theneil
theneillink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:18 AM
Im woundering, will this product be good for motorcycle plastics and fairings??? most specifically a white side panel? I've heard people rave about how the headlight buffer kits are the only thing that will save vintage plastic parts
Maxzillian
Maxzillianlink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:36 AM
I've ran into a similar problem as dgerryts when using a 3M kit... headlights turned out great, but without UV protection it didn't last. Ultimately this last time around I sanded the headlights down to 1500 grit and sealed them with Rust-Oleum clear coat paint... turned out great.
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:51 AM
The headlight kits are a great cheap DIY option to clear up your oxidized lenses. The issue with them is that the lenses are prone to yellowing more after they've been sanded and polished, as this removes the protective top coat on the lenses. At the very minimum, after you've polished the lenses you should apply a wax or sealant every 3-4 months. For more lasting durability you can use a ceramic coating (such as CQuartz Dlux), a protective vinyl film (such as those offered by 3M and Lamin-X), or a UV clear coat.
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:52 AM
I'm very glad that there was no usage of bug spray in this article. :)
dgerryts
dgerrytslink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 9:14 AM
@Sootfoot:
I now use a combination of wet sandpaper (down to 2000 or 3000 grit) with soapy water and the Turtle Wax headlight restoration kit. Comes with polish and a prepreg clearcoat wipe.
I don't use any of the abrasive pads in the kit.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 5:55 PM
Yeah I was thinking 1500 grit and two part clear. On my Subaru I polished then put laminex over it, its works good too.
Atrais
Atraislink
Thursday, February 05, 2015 6:15 PM
Please let the Vehicross be a project car. I love these things.
Reedicus
Reedicuslink
Friday, February 06, 2015 12:41 PM
Not gonna lie, when I saw those headlights for the article preview I got excited. Then I opened this article and saw 11 comments, I figured it was all about the Vehicross...but to much blah blah about headlight polishing and not enough Vehicross love! I thought that car was awesome when it came out, besides any 2 door SUV is always cool, ALWAYS. Please make this a project so you can share the pain of owning an Izuzu and a very rare care with probably next to now replacement parts....good luck!
Reedicus
Reedicuslink
Friday, February 06, 2015 12:43 PM
^^^EDIT:

care -> car & now -> no

Too much excitement while typing.
brian
brianlink
Saturday, February 07, 2015 3:26 AM
I used Opti-Lens myself. Been about a year, headlights still look perfect after polishing. That said, my car doesn't see sun much, so I may not be a good example.

Others I know use 3M or some others, but all the internet pundits I found said those usually didn't last more than a few months, a year tops. Lamin-X was the other main thing I'd heard of.

FWIW, while not cheap, one syringe of Opti-Lens probably does at least a half-dozen headlights, so YMMV...
Anonymous User
Anonymous Userlink
Thursday, February 12, 2015 12:30 AM
Anonymous User
Anonymous Userlink
Wednesday, August 05, 2015 11:16 PM
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