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Headlight Lens Refinishing
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Headlight Lens Refinishing

Jared Fenton

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$0 to $50

Talent:

***

Tools:

Sandpaper, sanding block, finishing compound, alcohol, buffing wheel

Applicable Models:

Porsche 955 Cayenne (2004-08)
Porsche 955 Cayenne GTS (2008)
Porsche 955 Cayenne S (2003-08)
Porsche 955 Cayenne Turbo (2003-08)
Porsche 955 Cayenne Turbo S (2006)

Hot Tip:

Take your time and don't rush things

Performance Gain:

Better lighting at night

Complementary Modification:

Replace headlight bulbs

Over time, the plastic lens on your headlights can become stained or discolored due to years of exposure. This can impede the effectiveness of your headlights at night. The design of the headlight assembly on the Porsche Cayenne prevents you from replacing the plastic lens. When the headlight gets discolored, you'll either need to replace the headlight assembly or sand and re-polish the outside of the lens.

This article is written with the Cayenne in mind, however it applies to nearly every vehicle with plastic headlight lenses. Refinishing the headlight lens is not a difficult job, but it does require having a keen eye and patience. The process involves sanding down the outside of the lens until the discoloration has been removed. Then you sand again with progressively finer grits until you finally apply rubbing compound and polish the lens. There are many kinds of kits available on the market. They all do basically the same thing. This article focuses on the old school method.

Begin by removing the headlight assembly from the car using the tool located with the spare tire. Once you have removed the headlight, sand the exterior of the headlight lens in a circular fashion with 600-grit sandpaper. Have clean rags nearby to wipe off dust and also change the sandpaper frequently. You want to keep sanding until all the faded or dark spots are removed. The surface of the lens should now have an almost opaque, white look to it.

Now use 800-grit sandpaper to remove the scratches left by the more abrasive 600-grit sandpaper. Just keep at it until all the scratches have been removed and there is a fine, opaque look to the lens. Keep wiping the dust away with clean rags and replace the sandpaper often.

The next step is to move to a finer grit sandpaper. You'll want to keep the finer grits lubricated while sanding. Spray the lens and the sandpaper with water and keep sanding, making sure you wipe the area clean with rags. Continue this process with even finer grits, 1500, 2000 and 3000. You find that as you get to finer and finer grades, it smooths out the surface considerably, and the headlight should start looking much better. At this point, look at the lens over carefully for any remaining discoloration and/or scratches. If you see any, you'll have to repeat the whole process.

The last steps are to clean the lens with alcohol and apply a finishing compound to the lens. I like to use 3M's Perfect It. Follow the directions on whatever compound you are using. You can apply it by hand, but a buffing wheel makes the final steps go a lot quicker. If you followed the directions, you should see a crystal clear finish on the lens once you buff off the final stage of compound.

Begin by opening the hood and locating the access panel at the front of the engine compartment near the headlight assembly (green arrow).
Figure 1

Begin by opening the hood and locating the access panel at the front of the engine compartment near the headlight assembly (green arrow).

Press the access panel in towards the center of the car and rotate it until you can pull it up and out of the plastic cover.
Figure 2

Press the access panel in towards the center of the car and rotate it until you can pull it up and out of the plastic cover. There is a small tether attached to the panel to keep it from falling in the hole.

Inside the access hole, you'll see a small hex head shaft (green arrow) this is the top of the mechanism that releases the headlight assembly.
Figure 3

Inside the access hole, you'll see a small hex head shaft (green arrow) this is the top of the mechanism that releases the headlight assembly.

Locate the headlight removal tool from the tool kit in the rear of your Cayenne and place the end of the tool over the hex nut inside the access hole.
Figure 4

Locate the headlight removal tool from the tool kit in the rear of your Cayenne and place the end of the tool over the hex nut inside the access hole.

To eject the headlight assembly, you'll need to turn the tool counter-clockwise on the left side headlight as shown here (green arrow), or clockwise on the right side headlight.
Figure 5

To eject the headlight assembly, you'll need to turn the tool counter-clockwise on the left side headlight as shown here (green arrow), or clockwise on the right side headlight. Don't be surprised if it takes a little effort for the headlight to pop out of the mechanism.

Once you have removed the headlight, follow the steps in the article covering the various stages of sanding and polishing.
Figure 6

Once you have removed the headlight, follow the steps in the article covering the various stages of sanding and polishing. Once finished, you should have two headlights that are crystal clear, which will provide more light when they are turned on. The front of your Cayenne will look better whether the headlights are turned on or off. Good job!

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Comments and Suggestions:
Zachariah Comments: You can use a clean, microfiber-soaked cloth, thru the HID opening and use a 16" curved metal bar with rubber cap - to allow the methanol-soaked rag to distrbute and simultaneously remove loosened particulates. Gently rotate the curved bar with cloth at the end, to cover all inside the lens. When finished, simply use a long needle nosed plier to snatch the rag out carefully
November 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Insite4U Comments: http://www.6speedonline.com/forums/cayenne-955-957/389132-clean-inside-headlights-can-done.html
A little more detailed account of cleaning inside of the lense...
April 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Tom Comments: Sorry but I am a newbie
But how I do take off the headlight cover to clean inside of the headlights ?
Apparently polishing the surface of the lights didn't clear out the cloud/ stains/ dirt, please help
April 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: MOst models you can't. If the inside the in bad shape, replace them. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dave Comments: I have always wondered if the clouded headlights reduce the light to see the road and pedestrians etc...can the automakers be sued for faulty design...like a class action against all manufacturers? It seems really stupid that they continue to make these lights that eventually cause accidents.
April 21, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Doubtful, seems like normal wear to me. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
insite4U Comments: Well, I can't believe I got up the nerve t try it, but I had nothing to lose but $2,000 buying new headlamps!
Outside headlamps I used one Megiures kit plus one 3M kit. I had to sand at each grit level with corded power drill about ten minutes. The outside was near perfect but the grunge inside the lenses spoiled it. I followed the plan discussed I my previous comment and it worked unbelievably well! I had a professional lense restorer tell me he couldn't help me...& I got them to near original.
I poured about 6-8oz of 99.95% methanol with Pyrex cup and inverted the lense sloshing it around gently for about a minute. I then siphoned as much of the methanol out with gas siphoning setup that I got at DrugMart. Position the headlamp with the lense perpendicular to the ground and let the remainder evaporate. It will take about 2-3 days to fully dry, but you can plug it back in once there is no pooling of methanol.
Read about methanol safety and keep it far from flames.
It worked for me. Saved me about $1850!
April 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
insite4U Comments: Hey hamad,

I believe I t is possible to clean inside of the headlamp assembly! You have to use 99.8% methanol, because less pure will have excess H2O condescent. Remove headlamp and turn light to have small access hole to inside of the headlamp assembly. Poor about a pint 200ml into the headlamp housing with the lense down, so the methanol covers the inside clear portion. Slosh side to side and then tilt the solution back from the front of the assembly. The methanol will evaporate, which you may aid with hair dryer...but be careful of methanol flammability. I'm gonna try it on mine next week and will update.
April 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the info. Sounds a bit unsafe. I would not suggest it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
hamad Comments: Is it possible to open the headlight lens to clean it from the inside, Cayenne 2006.
regards.
March 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't believe so. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
loui Comments: How can i get some of these article for printing ease all in one location
February 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Print from your sen browser. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Don Eilenberger Comments: Strangely your website doesn't seem to actually allow the use of parenthesis - which belong around part of the sentence starting "Pro detailers.."
January 25, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: no problem, got it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Don Eilenberger Comments: One comment - the lenses that were polished will likely deteriorate faster now that the factory applied protective coating has been removed. Pro detailers who do cars for dealers ever seen a cloudy headlight on a Porsche used car lot? use a 50% diluted clear coat paint finish sprayed onto the headlight.

Duplicolor sells a kit that contains a spray can of the same thing - for not a lot of money. The spray should be a "wet" coating so the finish actually flows down the headlight.

The clearcoat gives UV protection for the plastic which is what causes the cloudy condition to begin with. If it starts to cloud up again - you can treat it just like the clearcoat finish on the rest of the vehicle.. use detailing products to bring it back to perfection.
January 25, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
KB Comments: Is there a way to adjust the headlights? I have an 08 Cayenne S and I feel like I'm blinding everyone at night.
June 21, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We are planning to do a few tech articles on the 2008-later Cayennes. We will add this to the list. To answer your question though there is BUT, most of the time I found the issue to be a disconnected ride height sensor. The sensor attaches to the front and rear suspension to determine if the vehicle is diving or squatting so it can adjust the headlights on the fly. Check under the front of the car on the drivers side. There should be a little metal clip on the lower control arm which connects to the sensor via a little rod. This is usually the culprit to the blinding Cayenne headlight. Either re-attach the linkage or replace the broken piece. - Casey at Pelican Parts  

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