Not getting perfectly clear

Discuss all aspects of headlight restoration, including marketing, technical, and business advice.
cvilleHR
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Not getting perfectly clear

Post by cvilleHR » August 28th, 2014, 8:45 pm

Hey all. So, I've been doing HLR pretty much full time for the last year or so. Or should I say, I've been doing all of the work that I can get my hands on. I am definitely still learning, and I don't ever expect to stop. However, I get very consistent results, and my customers have always been very happy. When I do a set of headlights following the DK method, I can't seem to get them to look brand new. They look really good, and no one would ever argue that they aren't significantly improved. Still, looking at the lens in the right light, you can still see marks from the 3000 grit pads. Especially in the sunlight, the light bounces off of the imperfections, rather than allowing the light to shine through as if the plastic wasn't there. This very light marring prevents the lenses from looking brand new. I always assumed that, given the sanding process and the fact that we are removing a layer of plastic, it would be impossible to replicate a "fresh from the factory" lens. I have tried numerous compounds and polishes (before sealing, of course) to really get down to a brand new finish, but have never been successful. Again, I figured that for a restoration, 98% was a reasonable expectation. I'll put some pictures up below of some of my work, so people can get a base line for what I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, I just lost a big fleet account to one of these people who sand and then clear coat. Watching the person work (in "civilian" clothing... I doubt he would have let me watch if I was in uniform), he follows the exact same sanding steps. He then masks the whole front of the car and sprays clear coat. Obviously, clear coat does not give the same UV protection that Infinity does. What it does do, however, is make the lens look brand new. I mean, his work looks like it just rolled off of the assembly line.

This is a problem for me. If I'm doing something wrong, and the DK method should be able to make the headlights look brand new, please let me know and I'll keep working at figuring out what I need to fix. However, if my results are typical, then I've got to figure out what to do about this other guy. Cause frankly, my dealerships don't give a damn how long the lenses last, as long as it makes it off of their lot. And the way things are shaping up now, I can't compete.

TLDR: Is it reasonable to expect 100% perfection on a headlight restoration? If so, what am I doing wrong so that there are still ultra fine sanding marks on the lens? If not, how do I compete with someone who makes it look perfect using clear coat?

As always, thanks for your help.
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See how, with the mustang, the light makes the lens very obvious, as opposed to passing through as if it weren't there? And the Jeep had a lot of stress/heat fractures, so it may not be the best example.
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by candyman » August 28th, 2014, 10:30 pm

Good morning. About 90% of my HLRs look like your top photo. You cant expect to get new out of every restoration. I had a detail shop call me because they let someone do the same as the person you observed. They had over spray on a fresh painted vehicle. One of the vehicles lens started fogging within a few weeks.
There are methods you can use sometimes to enhance your results. Be careful using compounds or polish prior to using 4.1 Infiniti. I did a restoration on my son's 2003 red mustang last year. It looked about the same as your photo. I was in San Diego a few weeks ago and they need to be done again. Sometimes its the lens and not what you are doing. Jeep Cherokee, Mustangs, PT Cruizers, Lexus and a few others seem to need a restoration sooner than other models. Look back through prior forum discussions. You will see a few things mentioned that can help you prior to applying the 4.1 Infiniti. For the majority of my restorations the DK method works. Ensuring you sand good is key. Remember, if they want new, let them buy and pay the price. You can only offer them like new in most cases, but not all, but they should be a lot better. That plastic is thin and you could burn through trying to smooth out deep cuts. The other DK clear coat was good at filling some scratches in and I still have some for special situations. Also if you live in a red clay area , the red mud stains don't always come out. There is more than one way to do things in this business.
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by Brent Deines » August 29th, 2014, 12:07 pm

cvilleHR,

I wish I could tell you that every headlight will come out looking like new using the DKI system but that simply is not the case as you have already discovered. I'm sorry if you were led to believe otherwise. Just last week we had a discussion about this in our shop as we did one headlight restoration that came out looking like brand new but the next one lacked the "pop" that we strive to achieve. The same technician did both jobs and the same products and procedures were used. Both restorations were very acceptable to the customer but when comparing side by side the difference in results were undeniable.

Even spraying clear coat will not always make a lens look brand new again but I agree that if done properly it can fill a lot of scratches and provide an exceptional shine. There are a number of reasons a lens does not come out looking like new, some of which candyman pointed out. There are also some problems associated with mobile technicians using a spray on clear coat, not the least of which is the management of over-spray when working out of doors. Not just the car you are working on but cars and anything else in the surrounding area can easily be damaged by over-spray. In addition, automotive clear coats are not formulated for use on headlights so although the headlights may look great directly after application, they may rapidly discolor again. Dealerships and used car lots may not care about that but your individual customers likely feel how long the lights remain looking good is very important.

Have you tried Delta Kits Coat2Protect? It definitely hides scratches better than Infinity 4.1 and provides a shine that compares with an automotive paint clear coat but can still be wiped on rather than sprayed. There are pros and cons to each of these products so if you haven't tried them both I recommend you call and talk with your Delta Kits sales rep.

As candyman stated, Infinity 4.1 provides satisfactory results for most customers on most vehicles, however as he and other forum members have posted previously, if you are comparing to a brand new headlight you may find they still are not quite equal in some cases. Using a rotary buffer and the right polish/pad combo for your last step prior to applying your coating will in most cases take those stubborn headlights to the next level. So why doesn't Delta Kits include these items in their headlight restoration systems?

The answer is three fold. 1) When researching and designing a system for mobile technicians we wanted to use a single random orbital tool, not only to keep the price down but to make the process very simple for everyone, even those who have never sanded or buffed anything in their lives. A random orbital tool is very easy to control and greatly minimizes the chance of damaging a customer's car. 2) We found that our own service customers were always very happy with the results and the vast majority of our product customers were as well. We do sell high end polishers but have found very few of our customers feel the extra expense is justified. 3) Although we found a few polishes that worked well for removing fine scratches from headlight lenses, the ones that worked the best contained silicone, or other polymers, that did not allow coatings to adhere to the lens properly. So just as with clear coat sprays, we were unable to get the desired longevity out of our restorations. We will be introducing a new product that solves this problem in the very near future.

All this is my long winded way of saying that we may have a solution that will allow you to get the results you desire without losing the ease of application a wipe on coating provides or the long term benefits that a coating formulated specifically for headlight restoration provides. Feel free to give me a call if I can help in any way, I would be happy to discuss your options with you personally. If you work with either Bruce or Korey they can help you as well.
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by cvilleHR » August 29th, 2014, 1:38 pm

Yeah, I kinda figured that that was the case. I just wanted to make sure that I am doing the best job possible. As far as coat2protect, my understanding is that it fills slightly better and has slightly more gloss, with the downside being that it doesn't protect for as long. Is that the case?

Thanks
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by Brent Deines » August 29th, 2014, 2:44 pm

More or less. Actually I would say Coat2Protect fills scratches considerably better and is far more glossy but we do have some customers who would say the difference is not as dramatic as I think it is. Infinity 4.1 is applied in such a thin coat that it really doesn't improve the appearance all that much but in my opinion but C2P makes a drastic improvement in appearance.

In accelerated weather tests and in my own personal experience C2P does not hold up quite as well as 4.1, but again, I have customers who say it lasts just as long. Difference in climate? Difference in the way we are applying it? I really don't know.

4.1 cures faster. With a fan on it the dry time is only about 15 minutes and a good cure can be achieved in as little as 24 hours. C2P takes a minimum of 30 minutes to dry to the touch and can take up to a week to achieve a full cure.

We use 4.1 in our shop because of the faster dry/cure time and improved durability but whenever we get a light that does not turn out perfectly clear we are tempted to go back to the C2P for the wow factor.
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cvilleHR
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by cvilleHR » August 29th, 2014, 4:49 pm

Brent,
I think that somewhere on this forum, I read that there are a lot of similarities between C2P and urethane. I don't know if that is the case, but that would be a deal breaker for me. I started out that way, and the durability of the work was highly unsatisfactory. How long would you say is fair to expect C2P to last?

Regardless, I just ordered a refill of infinity a few days ago. I mix 4 and 1 rather than 12 and 3, so I usually get about 80 to 90 cars out of it. Maybe when I get through this refill I'll try some C2P and see how it goes.

Thanks again for all of your help,

Alex
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by Brent Deines » August 29th, 2014, 5:26 pm

In our accelerated weather testing the C2P lasted far longer than the Urethanes we tested so I have to assume posts to that regard were made by those who only care what the car looks like when finished, not how long the coating lasts. We have seen the C2P last anywhere from 1-3 years depending on the climate and, how the vehicle is stored when not in use and how the vehicle is cared for. Some customers have also reported getting up to 3 years with it but others only 1 year or even less in a few cases.

On several employee vehicles we have coated one restored lens with 4.1 and one with C2P. Typically the 4.1 starts looking noticeably better after 1-2 years but in at least 1 case it was just the opposite. I'm convinced that the type of material used for the original lens has something to do with it but so far have not been able nail down a pattern that does us much good in that regard. They are all supposed to be made of polycarbonate but anyone who has restored a few hundred headlights knows some sand and polish very differently.

All that said, I have already stated that we use the 4.1 because I in our experience it provides longer lasting protection than anything else we have tried or tested so I understand your concerns and I am not trying to steer you in the direction of C2P in favor of 4.1. I'll shoot you an email with another thought on this subject.
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by salvatoreali » January 8th, 2015, 5:47 pm

Hi
I use the conventional disc. Sanding process you all seem to use but I finish my sanding witha 2000 grit hand wet sanding utilizing an oval shaped foam Velcro pad device I bought at the auto parts store.
I then polish with a foam pad and a Kit product that is a polish only, not a wax. Comes in a yellow bottle and is hard to find but Pep Boys seems to be the only store carrying it. It says right on it that it is ideal for polishing headlights and it really works well.I then wipe it off, admire the shine and smoothing of the sanding swirls now gone!
I then use Delta Kits water based single stage product that I understand is no longer available.I think Corey sold me the last of their inventory. I apply it sparingly from a fresh paper cup using a foam makeup sponge available in a 25 pack from Dollartree. Perfect applicator just experiment with whatever swiping technique works best. I always use multiple coats since it dries very quickly. Hope this helps.

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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by candyman » January 9th, 2015, 1:26 am

When you say water base. Are you referring to DK's Infiniti 4.1 coating?
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Re: Not getting perfectly clear

Post by salvatoreali » January 9th, 2015, 6:56 am

Hi Candyman
It Is a single stage no mix product. No longer made by DK.
Korey could explain what it was.
Works well for fast turnover needs like car lots.
Better reliability at low temps. Multiple coatings with fast tack time makes lense pop!
Please bring it back!

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