Sunday, January 3, 2016

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.

They 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. I try not to drive my Corvette at night, so this was mainly a cosmetic issue.

The chrome beauty rings were also dull, so I would take 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 (#sponsored).

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 will purchase a pair of repro brake light lenses.

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