I had removed the exterior lights after I had took Maych
to the paint and body shop in November 2001. They
had been sitting in a cardboard box in my garage for about a month
while I worked on the exterior trim. Now they were the only
items on the exterior left to restore.
I fully expected to have to replace
one or two of the lights. But, after careful inspection, I was
pleasantly surprised to find that other than the lenses being faded
and slightly scratched, they were in good shape. So, I decided
to try to see if I could remove the scratches and return the luster to
In some of my surfing around the
net, I came across a web site that described restoring the lenses on
on restoration project using 3M™ Finesse-it™ II
machine polish. Since I had already bought a bottle of this
product for use on a stove restoration, I decided to give it a
shot. I spread a little of the machine polish on one of the tail
light lenses and used the Final Finish System
I had purchased from the Eastwood Company
to buff it out. After one buffing, the lens looks much brighter,
but the scratches where still there. In fact, the scratches were
even more noticeable because the machine polish tends to get into the
scratches and highlight them. I would have to use something a
little more aggressive to remove the scratches.
I do a lot of woodworking and to
hone my chisels I use a felt
wheel and honing compound mounted in my bench grinder. I didn't
know if this would work, but I thought I'd give it a try.
I decided to try it on the side of one of the tail lights, so in case
I screwed it up, it wouldn't show. That turned out to be a good
decision. The felt and compound removed the scratches okay, but
it was also very easy to gouge or melt the plastic if you got a little
too aggressive. The key is to TAKE YOUR TIME. To keep from
building up heat or making gouges, you have to very lightly touch the
lens to the wheel and you have to keep the lens moving at all
times. If you stop in one spot or apply too much pressure, you
will likely leave a gouge or melt the plastic.
I practiced on the sides of the
tail lights until I felt confident enough to do the rest of the
lens. Once I had the technique down, the felt and honing
compound did an excellent job of removing the scratches and restoring
the luster to the lenses. After the scratches were removed, I
then used the 3M™ Finesse-it™ II
machine polish to
give it a final polish. After using the machine polish, I did
have to use water and a soft brush to remove the polish residue from
the many small crevices on the lenses. In the photo of the two
tail light lenses you can see the polish residue on the right lens
that has not been washed.
After finishing with the tail light
lenses, I did the same felt wheel/honing compound technique to the
parking light lenses. Actually, I should have used the parking
light lenses to learn on. The tail light lenses have many ridges
that make it more difficult to polish, while the parking light lenses
perfectly smooth. Just as with the tail light lenses, I used the
felt wheel to remove scratches and return luster, then I buffed with 3M™ Finesse-it™ II
machine polish. The only difference was I didn't have to wash
the parking light lenses to get the machine polish out of the
crevices, because there weren't any.
One curious thing about the parking
light lenses - they are riveted to the parking light housing.
This means you have to replace the entire unit if you need new
lenses. Wonder why GM decided to go this route? Weird,
huh? It also makes cleaning the inside of the lenses a real
bitch. To clean the insides I poured a little Dawn dish
detergent in the hole where the light bulb housing goes, filled it
about half way with hot water, placed my thumb over the hole and shook
it real good for about 5 minutes. It then took about 10 minutes
of running clean water in the hole to get all of the suds out.
It also took about 24 hours to dry. Because they are such a
bitch to clean, I think I'll put a little silicone around the light
bulb housing when I re-install the parking lights to keep the dirt
Ok, four lights down, six to
go. The next four to work on are the side marker lights.
The lenses on the maker lights weren't scratched very bad, which was a
good thing because the felt wheel/honing compound technique wouldn't
work on these lenses - they are too small and too recessed. I
did hand buff them with the 3M™ Finesse-it™ II
machine polish and that seemed too restore the luster. Because
these are a sealed unit, I had to use the same soap/water/shake technique
to clean the insides of the lenses that I used on the parking
lights. That meant I couldn't start painting them for about 24
hours because it takes that long for the insides to dry out.
Part of the plastic housing for the
side marker lights is painted black. This black paint was worn
off in several areas and
needed repainting. Masking off the lenses was simple but I also
wanted to keep the paint off of the back of the housings.
You could question why I cared
about getting paint on the back of the lenses when they can't be
seen. I don't really have a
good reason other than I just didn't. I also didn't want to
spend a great deal of time trying to mask off the backs.
My solution was to cut a hole in a
box the same size as the back of the housing, then insert the housing
into the hole, leaving only the
top of the lens exposed. To hold the lens tight against
the box I oulined the hole with double-side tape. You an see in the
photo what box I used. And of course the box had to be
empty. Maybe there is a correlation between the empty box and my
other than rational reason for not wanting the backs of the housing
painted. Surely not.
Anyway, the box worked like a
charm. I inserted each lens into the box and gave it three coats
of Floquil's Poly Scale Steam Power Black with
my airbrush. This was paint I
had purchased to paint a caboose for my grandson's model train.
The paint is water based and can be re-coated within just a few
minutes if you use a hair dryer to dry the paint between coats.
It is also a very flat black, which is what I wanted for the lenses.
It only took about 20 minutes to
paint all of the lenses.
Because the paint cures so quickly with the help of a hair dryer, I
was able to immedi- ately remove the masking tape and polish the
stainless steel trim that surround the lenses with Autosol
. I think they look as good a new.
That left only the two backup
lights to restore. After inspection, I determined that all they
needed was a good washing to remove the dirt and grim.
That completes the restoration of
the exterior lights. The only items left to restore are a few
hardware items that were removed in preparation for the paint and body
work, such as door strikers, bed bolts, miscellaneous screws and
bolts, etc. I'll cover the restoration of the items in these