Completing the Cobalt's Headlights
The Cobalt's headlights are finally complete.
I used Mothers' NuLens Headlight Restoration Kit and as promised, I'll explain what I did to achieve the final results.
Let me start by telling you I ended up going about it a little bit differently than the directions and used a number of supplies and tools both mentioned in the instructions and improvised.
The passenger side headlight was first and I ended up doing it twice because I didn't like the results the first time. Here's how I went about doing it:
- Step 1: I cleaned the headlight and surrounding body panels with Sprayway foaming Glass Cleaner.
- Step 2: I masked off the body edges surrounding the headlight with 2" 3M Auto Body Masking Tape.
- Step 3: As mentioned in the instructions, I began by using the PowerBall 4Lights buffing ball and the PowerPlastic 4Lights polish on my trusty Makita angle drill to see if it would restore the headlights by itself. No dice. I was going to have to go in deeper.
- Step 4: I wet sanded the headlight by hand with 400 grit 3M Imperial Wetordry Sandpaper. This is the first deviation I made from the directions.
- Step 5: I wet sanded the headlight by hand, again, with 800 grit 3M Imperial Wetordry Sandpaper. This is a deviation, but not as far as you might think. 800 grit sanding discs are included for use with a drill. However, I felt safer doing it by hand, and since other headlight restoration kits mention using this method and the old Mothers NuLens Headlight Restoration Kit used hand sanding as seen in this video, I figured I'd be fine. My first mistake was in not sanding enough in each of the steps the first time, which is what led to the second attempt.
- Step 6: I wet sanded the headlights with 1500 grit 3M Imperial Wetordry Sandpaper, and although a deviation, again, only is it one because I did it by hand.
- Step 7: I wet sanded the headlights a final time using the 3000 grit sanding disc provided in the kit, but I did it by hand.
- Step 8: I used the PowerBall 4Lights buffing ball with the PowerPlastic 4Lights polish to finish them off.
The driver side headlight was in much worse condition and required a little deviation from the above steps:
- Step 1: After seeing the results of just the polish on the passenger side, I didn't even bother with it on the driver side.
- Step 2: I masked off the driver side just like the passenger side, but that is a deviation from the instructions. The instructions state to double mask the body surrounding the headlights. I thought I'd be fine because I'm super careful. One tiny misstep with the 800 grit disc on the angle drill and I removed the tape in a tiny spot. Later I took the paint off the spot with some aggressive 220 grit hand sanding. Both were obviously unintentional. Thankfully there was already a chip in the area, so it's not like it was pristine to begin with.
- Step 3.5: After some failed attempts with the 400 grit followed by the 800 grit disc on the drill, I began wet sanding by hand with 220 grit 3M Imperial Wetordry Sandpaper. I did this a long time, and I followed with the other grits, going equally long or longer with each one.
- Step 7: This time I used the 3000 grit disc on the drill and knocked it out pretty quick — comparatively. I still took my time and made repeated passes to make sure it was thoroughly sanded and that all previous sanding scratches were out – to the best of my ability.
Otherwise, everything else was done the same for the driver side headlight. Sadly, the driver side headlight has a small leak and there's a small amount of condensation inside, but the exterior looks great.
I will mention that even with lots of careful sanding and lots of polishing, all the little hairline scratches and the swirl marks didn't disappear.
I also managed to get the reverse lights repaired in between the two headlights and they turned out great with only the polish — partly on the PowerBall 4Lights and partly on a microfiber towel by hand.
I don't know what your situation is, what extras you will need — if any — or how it will work for you, but I was pleased and I'd use this kit again, without hesitation. It turned the Cobalt's gnarly old headlights into almost like-new again.
That's it for day eight. With another four hours under my belt that brings the total to 33 and counting.
Stay tuned for day nine, there's more on the way.