Are your headlight lenses getting cloudy?

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Rick, Sep 2, 2005.

  1. Rick

    Rick Guest

    Ever notice all the older Neons, minivans, Intrepids and some Fords on the
    road suffering from opaque lenses? I even spotted an older Mercedes
    developing the problem. It is unacceptable that we have to constantly buff
    or replace cloudy, yellow polycarbonate plastic headlight lenses because
    Chrysler and Ford were too cheap to specify a few cents worth of UV
    protection in the plastic mix. Headlight performance on these cars was
    mediocre when new. It is a downright hazard when cateracts set in.
    If you are as mad as hell about this problem as I am, and want to tell
    someone about it, click on the link below and let the NHTSA know that you
    have trouble seeing road hazards and pedestrians while driving at night.
    Demand a recall, an enforced new standard, and a permanent fix. Glass was
    Rick, Sep 2, 2005
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  2. Your link does not work. Did you try it before you posted or is it only
    good during daylight hours when headlights are not needed? Oh well,
    time to buff my headlights. I think I'll start using very abrasive
    toothpaste since most auto stores don't care the plastic stuff like
    Meguiar's PlastX.
    treeline12345, Sep 2, 2005
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  3. I don't have any problems with it... Oh, but it is daylight right now.

    -- Christian
    Christian M. Mericle, Sep 2, 2005
  4. The link works fine.

    And plain ordinary unsanded ceramic tile grout (mixed as a paste) also
    works fine to polish the lenses.. and it's a helluva lot cheaper.
    Backyard Mechanic, Sep 2, 2005
  5. (etc.)

    You're right. Lens haze sharply reduces seeing light and sharply
    increases glare light.

    Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 -- Lamps and Reflective
    Devices -- specifies UV- and abrasion-resistance performance standards
    "plastic" (polycarbonate) headlamp lens materials. They are required to
    undergo two different 3-year weathering tests. One is known as the
    "Arizona test", and the other is known as the "Florida test". Very
    scientific stuff (not); samples of the lens materials are placed on a
    board at a specified angle to the sky and allowed to age for 3 years,
    after which no more than 30% haze is acceptable.

    Obviously, these tests and standards are inadequate, for there are a
    great many opacified lenses (you say "cataracts" and it's a valid
    analogy) on
    the road, even in areas that aren't as sunny as Florida or Arizona.
    Specific problems with this test regime:

    -It means that the materials used to make any given car's lenses are at
    least three years behind the state of the art.

    -It is entirely decoupled from actual headlamp performance. Some
    headlamps might still comply with FMVSS 108 beam pattern requirements
    with 30
    percent hazed lenses, but many definitely do not.

    What's more, FMVSS 108 severely restricts the use of replaceable
    lenses. Most types of headlamps in North America are required to have
    bonded, nonreplaceable lenses.

    The international ECE (rest of world) headlamp standard contains
    different test procedures for plastic materials, involving close
    exposure to
    artificial (electric) UV light of a specified and high intensity for a
    specified time period. The allowable deterioration is less, as well.
    Even this tougher standard, though, does not prevent ECE-spec lenses
    opacifying in the sun.

    Manufacturers like polycarbonate lenses because they can be fashioned
    into more extreme styles than glass, they weigh less than glass, and
    can be truthfully advertised as more impact-resistant than glass. Also,
    they can be cheaper than glass.

    The impact-resistance of polycarbonate headlamp lenses can be
    approximated with toughened glass, but this of course is more

    So, probably the best kind of headlamp lens is replaceable toughened
    glass. After that is probably replaceable polycarbonate, and then
    replaceable standard glass...all distantly followed by nonreplaceable
    lenses of any material. It is only very recently that Mercedes has used anything but
    glass lenses. Don't think that glass-lens headlamps can't degrade, they
    can. The degradation, though, is slower and less severe.
    There are no gold stars on any Federal refrigerator for headlamps that
    are better than FMVSS 108 says they have to be.
    True, see above.
    Good luck on that one. FMVSS 108 scarcely ever changes significantly.
    The last time a change was made that could be considered major was
    twenty-two years ago. And the last time a major change was made that
    constituted a tougher, more stringent requirement for material
    specifications and durability was exactly never ago.

    What's more, the man who was in charge of FMVSS 108 for about a decade
    retired a few months ago, nobody has replaced him, and the search for a
    replacement is not being carried out with any urgency. And even when a
    replacement is found, the position does not carry the authority to make
    any changes to FMVSS 108 without proof that failure to make the change
    can be directly and demonstrably linked to a large pile of dead bodies.
    automakers have a great deal of veto power over auto safety regulations
    in North America; all they have to do is say "You can't prove this
    is necessary to save lives" and NHTSA is legally hamstrung. The system
    broken; it will take a great deal more than a replacement 108-manager
    to fix it. Congress would have to effectively dissolve NHTSA and
    comprehensively rework the way auto safety regulations are devised and
    written, and that's not going to happen.
    Sealed beams were good. Their performance wasn't amazingly great, but
    it was certainly adequate, and it was certainly better than that from a
    great deal of the model-specific junk that has disgraced US-market cars
    in the last
    22 years. They were all one of four shapes/sizes, they were
    available everywhere, they could be replaced and aimed with simple hand
    tools, they were resistant to environmental factors, they were
    resistant to idiots bearing blue and overwattage bulbs, and because
    they were all standard-sized, old cars got constantly updated to the
    newest headlamp
    performance every time they replaced a burnout, and the sealed beams
    could easily be replaced with European conversion lamps for those who
    preferred (or were moving overseas).

    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  6. TR3 works well (see ). I suppose one ought to
    use the green-label clearcoat stuff, but I've had fine results with the
    blue-label regular.
    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  7. Of course, every time you polish or buff these lenses, what you're
    doing is stripping away more and ever more of the anti-UV hardcoat,
    which means the lenses then degrade faster and ever faster. :-(
    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  8. Rick

    David Guest

    3M has a plastic sheet laminate that is supposed to be placed on headlamps
    after they have been polished by glass shops that sell 3M window tint. Not
    all do, It is another product they can sell to customers that need headlight
    polishing. And the clear plastic laminate(sticker) is cut to fit the model
    of car. The laminate is supposed to be UV resistant, and has a two year
    David, Sep 2, 2005
  9. Rick

    C. E. White Guest

    I agree with some of what you are saying (particularly the parts about
    availability and aiming), however I am old enough to have spent a
    significant portion of my life driving cars with sealed beam headlights, and
    in my opinion they were not better than the cars I've purchases in recent
    years that use non-sealed beam units. I think my last new car with sealed
    beams was a 1983 Mazda 626. These headlights were horrible. The first new
    car I had with non-sealed beam units was a 1986 Mercury Sable. I far
    preferred the Sable headlights to the 626 headlights. I can remember many
    nights cruising around in 60's, 70's and 80's era cars with sealed beams and
    they just weren't that good. On the other hand, meeting cars with those old
    style headlights was not the irritant that meeting many of the newer car is.
    I even tried European after market lights on one car (1974 Jensen Healey)
    and they were better, but still not as good as more modern headlights - at
    least as I perceive it. Now maybe I am perceiving things incorrectly, but I
    don't think so. Are modern headlight a higher wattage? They certainly seem

    C. E. White, Sep 2, 2005
  10. Rick

    Bill Putney Guest

    If 3M is still even making that, they go out of their way to make it
    difficult to find information on it or even a source for purchasing - at
    least that is what I saw 3 years ago when I sought it out and actually
    purchased it. Several months ago, I searched the www for adiitional
    consumer info. and source for purchase, and found it even more
    scare/difficult to locate - gave up.

    Here's what I've come up with under a non-3M brand name:

    I wouldn't be surprised if the material is actually made by 3M, but I
    have concluded that 3M is not interested in marketing such a product
    under their own label.

    My opinion is, rather than polish up a hazed headlight assy., replace
    with new, and then install the X-Pels to extend the useable life of the
    new headlights beyond the life of the vehicle. Worst case, the X-Pels
    themselves may need replacing every coupla years due to UV damage, but I
    don't know that to be true - but even if so, a lot cheaper to replace
    them than the complete headlight assy.

    Bill Putney
    (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
    address with the letter 'x')
    Bill Putney, Sep 2, 2005
  11. Rick

    Bill Putney Guest

    I've been a conspiracy theorist regarding the NHTSA since trying to use
    their web site a few times. Seems the site is very difficult to use, or
    just plain broken. I have concluded that that is intentional to cut
    down on complaints/placate the automakers. I am a very persistent
    fellow, yet I twice gave up trying to file a complaint on-line. One
    wonders what percentage of attempts at complaints actually get
    submitted, and of the ones submitted, what kind of "screening" they are
    subjected to to avoid/delay action that otherwise is warranted and might
    get taken.

    Bill Putney
    (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
    address with the letter 'x')
    Bill Putney, Sep 2, 2005
  12. Rick

    Brent P Guest

    This sounds similiar to the testing that I had to put my parts through
    when I worked in consumer electronics. The USA test requirement you
    mentioned is exceedingly half-assed. No wonder they fog over, the housing
    on a piece of consumer electronics has better resistance to UV light.

    You're not going to like this... I think it was at walmart... I saw...
    BLUE 'blub' sealed beams. Yep, someone is making sealed beams for this
    market segment.
    Brent P, Sep 2, 2005
  13. Rick

    Brent P Guest

    That was because of bulb technology, not the sealed beam design. A good
    halogen sealed beam with proper voltage works quite well IMO.

    I've generally had better seeing with halogen sealed beams... go figure..
    Brent P, Sep 2, 2005
  14. Rick

    C. E. White Guest

    C. E. White, Sep 2, 2005
  15. Rick

    Frank Ross Guest

    worked just fine here lol
    Frank Ross, Sep 2, 2005
  16. Rick

    Frank Ross Guest

    turtle wax seems to work for me. not a permanent solution but cheaper then
    new fixtures
    Frank Ross, Sep 2, 2005
  17. Because they don't make any such a film, though a lot of people *think*
    they do because of a product called "StonGard" (with a cutesy umlaut over
    the "a" to appeal to the toffs who think only the Germans make good

    3M supplied only the adhesive and the crack-n-peel backing paper for that
    stuff. The adhesive and backing paper are fine. But the headlamp
    "protection" film itself is garbage. It steals about 15% of the light
    right out of the bag, and contrary to claims of lasting optical clarity,
    it clouds up and turns yellow. But, 3M gets the blame because their name
    is on the backing paper. 3M 3M 3M 3M 3M, in green ink all over the back of
    the stuf.

    If you feel a headlamp protection film is worth trying, use the stuff from .
    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  18. The range of headlamp performance is enormous. '93-'97 Chrysler LHS,
    '96-'00 minivans, virtually everything Ford made between 1984 and 2001,
    and a great many other model-specific headlamps produce less and
    poorer-focused light than a good sealed beam.

    Of course, not all sealed beams were/are the same, either. That '83 Mazda
    came from the factory with "energy saver" 35w low beams. Legally
    compliant, sure, but not a lot of fun to drive behind.

    On the other hand, there are also plenty of model-specific headlamps that
    give extremely good performance.
    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  19. You're not wrong, but hey, the site has NHTSA's smarmy little "People
    Saving People" motto on it, and that's all that really matters, right?

    The US is only 16th-best in the world (not 1st-best) in highway fatality
    rate, but ask any NHTSA regulator, and s/he'll tell you that US cars are
    the safest in the world, and US regulations are superior to the stupid
    idiotic ones they have in the rest of the world.
    Daniel J. Stern, Sep 2, 2005
  20. Rick

    Bill Putney Guest

    The link that I gave in an earlier post in this thread was a source for
    the X-Pels (here it is again: You're
    supposed to read everything that I ever post, including looking at all
    links! 8^)

    Bill Putney
    (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
    address with the letter 'x')
    Bill Putney, Sep 3, 2005
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