Severely clouded headlights

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
Hi,

I have been clearing headlights for years. More recently, I just spend the money on 2K clear and call it a day. Seems to me that cheaper clears risk "crazing" while painting and then there are issues that take hours to mitigate if at all.

I'd like to know what your sanding and clearing method is on these headlights as each vehicle seems to require a different methodology in spite of what one size fits all youtubes claim.

Thanks.
 

Nero Morg

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 19, 2017
Location
OR
TDI
2014 A6 TDI, 2001 Jetta TDI, 2014 Passat TDI
I second that kit. Works very well.
 

rocky raccoon

Veteran Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2020
Location
Greater metropolitan Beaverdam
TDI
2014 Jetta Sportwagen
Problem with headlight cleaning kits is that they also eliminate the protective coating. As a result re-clouding happens more quickly. My solution has always been to simply replace the headlight assembly. Check out ebay. They are surprisingly inexpensive unless you insist on original equipment which we both know clouds anyway.
 

tgray

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2004
Location
Marengo, IL
TDI
'02 Beetle, '05 Golf, 2000 Jetta, 2001 Jetta, 2002 Jetta
Some after market lights are terrible with the connection points. I had one on my golf that smelled burning from day one and finally burned and melted down. Also, some aftermarket lights don't shine light as well for the driver.
 

mjydrafter

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2015
Location
dsm, ia
TDI
2004 Jetta Wagon
Clean them up real nice and then 3M film. The film can be replaced.

I prefer to wet sand starting with 600-800 and step up through 2500. Then some polish, and the film.
 

irvingj

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2006
Location
Etna,NH
TDI
2005 Jetta Wagon TDI (PD/BEW)
I used the kit by Sylvania and it worked very well on my 2005 wagon. Their kit includes "clear-coat" stuff that's applied at the end; that seems to make the difference. One year later and they still look great.
 

JETaah

Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Location
mi 48836
TDI
96 B4V, 1999.5 jettaIV,2005 BEW Beetle
Clean them up real nice and then 3M film. The film can be replaced.

I prefer to wet sand starting with 600-800 and step up through 2500. Then some polish, and the film.
FILM! yes!
 

JETaah

Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Location
mi 48836
TDI
96 B4V, 1999.5 jettaIV,2005 BEW Beetle
If you do opt for new headlights put the film on them from the git-go. Make that the sacrificial part.
 

TPW

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2017
Location
Minnesota
TDI
2003 A6 Avant BHW 6 speed manual, 2003 Golf ALH 506k miles, 1986 Audi 5000 Quattro 5 Cylinder Turbo Diesel
I prefer to wet sand starting with 600-800 and step up through 2500. Then some polish, and the film
I have had great success with this method.
 

Andyinchville1

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2016
Location
Virginia
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI wagon, 5 sp, 226K miles
Hi

While this will fly in the face of diy, i have had really good luck with our local sams club restoring my clouded headlights ... i believe it was $35 for the service.

I had 3 vehicles though them.

I should have but never asked them what brand or products they used tho but they do spray a uv protectant onto the lenses so they only do them when rain is not forecasted within 24 hours is what i vaguely recall.

Andrew
 

Shenandoah

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2008
Location
Shenandoah Valley, VA
TDI
2005 Jetta Wagon; 2005 Beetle; 2004 Jetta; 2002 Golf (three of them); 2002 Jetta Wagon; 2000 Audi TT->TDI; 1999 Beetle
Here's what I use on my headlights that have "clouded"

Wet sand from 600 up to 2500 (I bought a pack of varying grit wet paper on ebay)
Rinse headlight with water
When dry, take a cotton cloth and pour some denatured alcohol on it and wipe the headlights
In a small glass jar mix equal parts clear Spar Marine varnish and Mineral Oil (I usually mix about a tablespoon of each)
Pour some of the varnish/mineral oil on a clean cotton cloth
Wipe the headlight, covering the entire lens with the mixture - do not go over the lens once it's covered.
Let dry for a couple hours

I've used the above method on several of my VWs. It holds up well and lasts about three years before it starts to get cloudy again, and even then it's not bad.

Eric
 

bajaONE

Active member
Joined
Jan 30, 2016
Location
baja sur mexico
TDI
2001 and 2003 Jetta ALH; 2016 golf Sportwagon TDI SEL
the interior wires in the OEM headlight modules are also a potential problem, I have 2 mk4s and the wires inside shorted out because the coating on the wires disintegrated. I bought an aftermarket headlight set on amazon and agree the light distribution is an issue but between using the restoration kits for years and not perfect light distribution I accept the new units you can buy as a set for I think $70.00. I will be installing a second set in my second mk4 in a few weeks or so.
 

hskrdu

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 17, 2003
Location
Maryland and New England
TDI
2003 Golf GLS 4D 5M, 2015 GSW SE 6M
I've given up on sanding and polishing, but when I did it, I found the critical final step was sealing the headlight with a clear lacquer. This greatly slows the UV degradation, and nicely fills in any surface blemishes. It also brings them from post-haze to amazingly clear. It does takes practice to get it right, though.

In general my suggestion would be to keep your OE Hella headlights and replace the lenses. Plastic poly replacement lenses for the Jetta can be as little as $45 for the pair. The quality is generally fine and it takes all of 20 minutes to remove the old lenses and put new ones on. Glass lenses for the Golf are more pricey, and Lamin-X or other rock protection is a good idea, but they will look perfect after a decade+. I've replaced poly lenses for the Jetta that still look new at the 7 year mark, and did away with yearly polishing.
 

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
Alot of great stuff here. Every posts here reflects my thoughts in one way or another. I will be back with other thoughts and questions.
 

jokila

Vendor
Joined
Dec 3, 2004
Location
Houston, Texas
TDI
2003 Jetta GLS, Manual
I know this will sound like weird trick, but use the mosquito repellent Off. Spray it on the lens and wipe off with paper towels. It will not make them as clear as sanding them, but it will remove all the yellowing and much of the cloudiness.
 

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
Gosh, so many suggestions. I think I am interested in the Hella replacement lenses but I am kind of lazy when it comes to the idea of taking off the front bumper cover to replace lenses. The Ebay options are cheap but I have had bad experiences with extra weak clearcoat that comes flaking off and poor beam pattern. Poor beam pattern can seemingly be mitigated with HID bulbs or LEDs but that is a whole 'nother discussion and requires more work. Hmmm.....

Thanks.
 

KrashDH

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
Gosh, so many suggestions. I think I am interested in the Hella replacement lenses but I am kind of lazy when it comes to the idea of taking off the front bumper cover to replace lenses. The Ebay options are cheap but I have had bad experiences with extra weak clearcoat that comes flaking off and poor beam pattern. Poor beam pattern can seemingly be mitigated with HID bulbs or LEDs but that is a whole 'nother discussion and requires more work. Hmmm.....

Thanks.
Bumper is easy to remove. Lenses are easy to swap. I've pulled many lenses of this car and other vehicles for multiple projector retrofits.

HID and LED bulbs will NOT help with beam pattern...it will get worse.... Unless you retrofit a true projector designed for HID bulbs into the housing. If you do that, don't bother with LEDs at all, stick with HIDs.

I've also tried about everything for clouded headlights. Those kits work temporarily, sometimes not at all. The sealer they give with em is a joke. It's not a clear coat, so if you go that route, you'll be applying it often and you better make sure you wet sand until the lenses are damn near clear again. It's a sealer, not a clear/filler, so any imperfections or haze will show when they dry.

Best success I've had that's permanent is to wet sand in steps from about 600-1200/1500 grit until the haze is even in color/texture. Then have a body shop spray them with a UV inhibited clear. They come out looking new.

If you don't want to go the paint shop route, spraymax 2k is the next best, but be absolutely SURE to have the correct PPE. That stuff is nasty. It can absorb through skin and do big damage only using it once if not properly protected.

Next best would be to use a 1k UV inhibited clear that you can find at pretty much any auto/home improvement store. It's 1k so it won't have the hardener, but it will still work and function great. But you'll likely have to repeat the sanding/application more often then having them shot with a 2k.
 

hskrdu

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 17, 2003
Location
Maryland and New England
TDI
2003 Golf GLS 4D 5M, 2015 GSW SE 6M
The front bumper cover comes off with a few torx in each wheel well, a few under the center upper grill, and a few behind the lower grills. If you have a skid plate or belly pan, make sure any torx between the two are removed. I'd say it's 20 min not counting any prep. The headlight assembly goes in the oven at low temp for a few minutes, remove the old lens, and replace. If the old lens is OE, and carefully removed, the butyl rubber sealant is usually still good, and while warm will nicely receive the new lens. The OE type of buytl rubber sealant is available in a roll from Amazon for cheap.I bought some as a "just in case," but I think I've only used a section once. I've not yet had a problem with a new lens flaking or clouding, the primary concern is usually that the aftermarket polycarb is more brittle, doesn't fit right, or doesn't have the same optical clarity. These haven't been an issue with even the cheap one I've gotten from ebay. The OE headlight housings aren't designed for HID bulbs, and I haven't yet seen LEDs that are cost effective compared to a good H7 (of course, that's for the Golf, and the Jetta headlights are notably less effective). More posts available on this through a search.

The methods above are all helpful, and obviously each owner finds a method they prefer. In terms of time and effort, if we put two MkIVs side by side and made a full effort to properly polish and seal on one, and replace lenses on the other, I'll bet the lens replacement is quicker for those who have removed the bumper cover before. That effort results in a decade-long solution. No knock against the above products and techniques, but I haven't found any that last very long (24 months at best, but often 6 months before there is a decline). Heck, take a can of clear lacquer to the salvage yard and with no other effort, just spray an old MkIV headlight- it will look quite nice....but it won't last.

Take pics for us after you decide!
 

hskrdu

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 17, 2003
Location
Maryland and New England
TDI
2003 Golf GLS 4D 5M, 2015 GSW SE 6M
Whoops, Krash and I wrote at the same time- Sorry for the repetitive notes (but at least we have had the same experience).

Side note- a friend asked if I would help with his Jetta lenses, so I'll do a write up with pics sometime after they arrive.
 

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
Thanks guys. So much info! May I ask where you all are getting the lenses for a good price? Very tempting!
 

hskrdu

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 17, 2003
Location
Maryland and New England
TDI
2003 Golf GLS 4D 5M, 2015 GSW SE 6M
I used to get them from Mike at Volx Tuning, but now I just order them from Ebay. The poly ones are usually from VW China. The glass Golf headlights are often from VW in Eastern Europe, but harder to find. Glass MkIV Jetta headlights seemed to have dried up lately.

I can no longer vouch for many domestic suppliers, because it's been a bunch of years. The old Volx website seems to have purchased by VXT tuning, and they show VW lenses, but I have no idea who they are. Mike's lenses became a link through Andrew of AA Rodriguez, who does show glass headlights, but I've no idea if the pages are current or outdated.


I guess Andrew moved everything to fixmyvw.com. I can't keep up. You can probably disregard all my links and just go through ebay....
 

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
I used to get them from Mike at Volx Tuning, but now I just order them from Ebay. The poly ones are usually from VW China. The glass Golf headlights are often from VW in Eastern Europe, but harder to find. Glass MkIV Jetta headlights seemed to have dried up lately.

I can no longer vouch for many domestic suppliers, because it's been a bunch of years. The old Volx website seems to have purchased by VXT tuning, and they show VW lenses, but I have no idea who they are. Mike's lenses became a link through Andrew of AA Rodriguez, who does show glass headlights, but I've no idea if the pages are current or outdated.


I guess Andrew moved everything to fixmyvw.com. I can't keep up. You can probably disregard all my links and just go through ebay....
There are numerous headlight lens coverings in the sub 30 dollar range on ebay. All chinesium non VW I guess at that point. Is there a point where you draw the line?

Can't cheap lens coverings cause problems with the beam pattern?

I tried the mothers but these lenses are way too far gone. I grabbed some used 1500 grit sandpaper from a headlight restoration project on another vehicle that had to be taken super seriously (B9 Subaru Tribeca) because there is no aftermarket option whatsoever and sanded it all up.

I then used my old Duplicolor headlight kit with clear that is supposed to have UV protection and went to town.

That kit has done maybe 10 sets of headlights but the UV gets them regardless. I just needed a quick fix for safety inspection and then I can take it from there.
 

KrashDH

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
There are numerous headlight lens coverings in the sub 30 dollar range on ebay. All chinesium non VW I guess at that point. Is there a point where you draw the line?

Can't cheap lens coverings cause problems with the beam pattern?

I tried the mothers but these lenses are way too far gone. I grabbed some used 1500 grit sandpaper from a headlight restoration project on another vehicle that had to be taken super seriously (B9 Subaru Tribeca) because there is no aftermarket option whatsoever and sanded it all up.

I then used my old Duplicolor headlight kit with clear that is supposed to have UV protection and went to town.

That kit has done maybe 10 sets of headlights but the UV gets them regardless. I just needed a quick fix for safety inspection and then I can take it from there.
The Duplicolor kit does not have a true clear, it's a sealer. I've tried it as well. As soon as it was dry, the lenses still didn't look clear. I would not have run them. I sanded them again and properly clear coated them.

It's ok to use if you're sealing decent lenses, but it's not meant to bring them back from the dead
 

2002_auto_tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Location
Virginia
TDI
03 5spd wagon and 02 01m sedan
The Duplicolor kit does not have a true clear, it's a sealer. I've tried it as well. As soon as it was dry, the lenses still didn't look clear. I would not have run them. I sanded them again and properly clear coated them.

It's ok to use if you're sealing decent lenses, but it's not meant to bring them back from the dead
Yeah. Good enough to pass inspection and start over.
 

hskrdu

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 17, 2003
Location
Maryland and New England
TDI
2003 Golf GLS 4D 5M, 2015 GSW SE 6M
There are numerous headlight lens coverings in the sub 30 dollar range on ebay. All chinesium non VW I guess at that point. Is there a point where you draw the line?

Can't cheap lens coverings cause problems with the beam pattern?
Your "TDI" lists 02, but not model. The NA Jetta headlamps are so weak (IMO) that the lens is not in the realm of issues, until it get clouded. Golf headlights are much better, and for a while owners were arguing that China-market glass lenses had bubbles and imperfections that made them subpar. Not to be too critical, but we are talking but halogen bulbs from the early 2000's, it's not rocket science. Certainly the VW-China supply chain has lots of crappy stuff, but as long as you receive polycarb (or glass) lenses that are clear, you'll see a 100% improvement. If the seller has low ratings, avoid them.
 
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