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BMW E39 Headlight Lens Refinishing
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E39 Headlight Lens Refinishing

Kerry Jonsson

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$35

Talent:

***

Tools:

Flathead screwdriver, plastic prying tool, 8mm nut driver.

Applicable Models:

BMW E39 5-Series (1997-03)

Parts Required:

Headlight refinishing kit

Hot Tip:

Remove headlight from vehicle for best results

Performance Gain:

Repair foggy and stained headlight lens

Complementary Modification:

Replace headlight bulbs

The headlight lens can become foggy and stained over time. Unfortunately with BMW E39 models, the lens is attached to the housing with an adhesive, which prohibits replacing it. This means you are left with the option of replacing the entire headlight assembly or refinishing the lens. I find refinishing the lens, when done right can add years to your old headlight. Refinishing also saves a good amount of money, left to spend on better modifications for your E39. There are many kits available to refinish your lens. I am going to use a version that requires good old elbow grease. If you spring for the more expensive models, you can use a power drill and reduce the time by at least half. My procedure can be followed using standard sand paper and rubbing compound. However, check that your refinishing kit is similar, if not, follow the directions supplied with your kit.

This photo shows how the lens becomes foggy, reducing the intensity of your headlights, making night time driving more challenging.
Figure 1

This photo shows how the lens becomes foggy, reducing the intensity of your headlights, making night time driving more challenging. To refinish ,you can leave the headlight assembly installed and mask off the surrounding components. However, it is quite easy to remove the headlight assembly, I prefer to do it this way. I will show photos, alternating, from both methods, headlight installed and removed. Remove headlight assembly. See our tech article on headlight assembly removing. Not required.

Next, you will have to remove the painted trim piece.
Figure 2

Next, you will have to remove the painted trim piece. Press the release tab and remove it from the headlight assembly. You only have to do this if you removed the headlight assembly. Thoroughly clean the lens with soap and water. Then dry it.

Mask the body surrounding the headlight.
Figure 3

Mask the body surrounding the headlight. I like to double up the tape in the case I hit it while sanding, which is inevitable. I also like to slide the tape between the body and the headlight lens, this adds a little extra strength to the masking job.

Once completely masked, you can begin the sanding process.
Figure 4

Once completely masked, you can begin the sanding process.

Begin by sanding the lens with 500 grit sand paper.
Figure 5

Begin by sanding the lens with 500 grit sand paper. Sand in circular direction going across the entire lens to remove any stains or dark spots. Wipe off the dust frequently with a rag and replace the sand paper as needed. Keep sanding until the all of the stains are removed.

If your lens looks like this (green arrow) you are ready to continue to the next step.
Figure 6

If your lens looks like this (green arrow) you are ready to continue to the next step. If it looks like this (yellow arrow), continue sanding. The lens should have an even white look.

Now sand the lens with 800 grit sand paper.
Figure 7

Now sand the lens with 800 grit sand paper. Wipe off the dust frequently with a rag and replace the sand paper as needed. Keep sanding until the all of the stains are removed. Keep sanding until all of the scratches from the 500 grit sand paper have been removed. This photo shows the headlight lens after sanding with 800 grit.

Now, we are going to have to use a finer sand paper, which means we also have to wet the lens and paper.
Figure 8

Now, we are going to have to use a finer sand paper, which means we also have to wet the lens and paper. Spray the lens and sand paper with water. Now, sand the lens with 1000 grit sand paper. Wipe off the dust frequently with a rag and replace the sand paper as needed. Keep sanding until the all of the stains are removed. Keep sanding until all of the scratches from the 800 grit sand paper have been removed. If the lens dries out while sanding, add a light mist of water.

Now we are going to have to use a finer sand paper, which means we also have to wet the lens and paper.
Figure 9

Now we are going to have to use a finer sand paper, which means we also have to wet the lens and paper. Spray the lens and sand paper with water. Now sand the lens with 3000 grit sand paper. Wipe off the dust frequently with a rag and replace the sand paper as needed. Keep sanding until the all of the stains are removed. Keep sanding until all of the scratches from the 1000 grit sand paper have been removed. If the lens dries out while sanding, add a light mist of water.

Once done wet sanding, next polish the lens with rubbing compound.
Figure 10

Once done wet sanding, next polish the lens with rubbing compound. Apply the compound to your polishing pad.

Then polish the headlight until all the scratches are gone.
Figure 11

Then polish the headlight until all the scratches are gone. This will take elbow grease. The more time you take, the better it will come out. Once you are done, you can polish it with plastic polish if youÂ'd like. This can really increase the outcome. I find it looks a little better then just rubbing compound.

When done, remove the masking tape, then wash and dry the headlight lens.
Figure 12

When done, remove the masking tape, then wash and dry the headlight lens. Enjoy your restored, brighter headlights. If you removed the headlight assembly, install headlight and tighten fasteners and connect all electrical connectors.

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:05:20 AM