Cleaning and Polishing the Reverse Light Lenses

The backup light lenses on my Vette looked horrible after almost 40 years of exposure to the elements, so I searched online for replacement parts.

I found several vendors offering new GM-licensed reproduction lenses which looked great, but at close to $100 for a pair of lenses, I decided first to try to clean mine before spending that kind of money on new parts.

The reverse (white) lenses on mine had yellowed enough to make them look bad

But since I avoid driving my Corvette at night, this was mainly a cosmetic issue.

The chrome beauty rings were also dull, so I took this opportunity to polish them as well.

Removing the lenses is really simple as they are secured in place by a couple of Phillip-head screws, so the lens assembly comes right out. I also took this opportunity to clean the base in place, and inspected and cleaned the backup light bulb.

I placed the lens on a towel to inspect it (no cracks) and then washed it in warm soapy water. Then I started wet sanding both the plastic lens and the beauty rings since, upon close inspection, I realized they were polished stainless steel. Chrome pieces would have peeled and rusted by now.

Since I wanted to polish both the lens and the metal rings, I started the wet sanding process with 400-grit paper, followed by 800-, 1500- and, lastly, 2000-grit, which basically removed the layers of oxidation that clouded the lens. I even sanded the backside of the lens, or at least as much as I could, through the bulb socket hole.

After thoroughly drying the lens inside and out, I polished the outside (both plastic and metal) with Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish.

The polishing process not only removed the cloudiness caused by surface oxidation, but also made the stainless steel beauty rings shine like chrome. I finished the job by waxing the lens and rings in order to add a little extra protection.

As the photo below shows, the difference is night and day. I spent about an hour bringing this part back from looking ratty to beautiful at little or no cost.

The brake light lenses, on the other hand, are a different story since the lenses are cracked. But, for the time being, I will keep them clean and—at some point in the future—I think I will purchase a pair of repro brake light lenses.

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Corvette Bubble Taillight Conversion Kit

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