Project Sportcross: Refinishing Lexus IS300 Sportcross headlights

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I decided to start posting up the occasional project car post for restoration and upgrades I’m doing on our family’s Lexus IS300 Sportcross.  Let’s call the series “Project Sportcross”.

We had a heck of a time finding a decent Sportcross, which is the wagon version of the sporty IS300.  For months every Sportcross we found for sale was outrageously priced for its condition, or more often than not, it had a salvage title.  It’s amazing how many of these cars have been wrecked, salvaged and are back on the market.  The prices are reasonable for those, but who knows if the frame is straight or what electrical gremlins you’ll uncover.

So this clean titled black-on-black one popped up for sale in the San Francisco bay area and we made the 12 hour round trip to pick it up on the very day it was offered on the lot.  It certainly has things to fix, but they’re mostly cosmetic, like paint, fabric dying, trim replacement.  While we originally bought this car for the wife, I actually love putting it through its paces.  Put it in sport mode, take off traction control and use the shift buttons on the steering wheel and it’s a blast to drive.  Being a wagon, it gets looks from those enthusiasts who know, but doesn’t get a second glace from police and other undesirables.

So I’ll be posting up the occasional update on it’s restoration and upgrade progress.  This week, I tackled the fogged headlight restoration.

For this project I used a 3M Headlight Restoration kit ($13 on Amazon), some elbow grease (free!), and finally an XPEL headlight protective film kit ($48 on Amazon).  For far less than the cost of new light housings, I brought the OEM ones back to life.  Basically, the process involved a couple different grits of dry sandpaper to remove the yellowed exterior layer of plastic, which initially leaves the lens extremely fogged looking.

Yellowed and hazy IS300 headlight, before reconditioning with 3M Headlight Restoration kit.

Yellowed, pitted, and hazy IS300 headlight, before reconditioning with 3M Headlight Restoration kit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First step in headlight recondition is removing the outer layer of plastic with rough grit sandpapers.  It looks worse before it looks better.  The whole time you're worried you just committed yourself to shelling out $500 for new headlight housings.

First step in headlight recondition is removing the outer layer of plastic with rough grit sandpapers. It looks worse before it looks better. The whole time you’re worried you just committed yourself to shelling out $500 for new headlight housings.
Then we move to progressively finer grits and wet-sanding to polish the plastic.

Half way through it's looking much better.  I'm convinced at this point now, that I'm at least back to the way it was pre-restoration and won't be on the hook for new housings.

Half way through it’s looking much better. I’m convinced at this point now, that I’m at least back to the way it was pre-restoration and won’t be on the hook for new housings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final step uses a nice 3M polish and foam applicator to really shine the lenses back to new.  I could have left it at that, but the lenses probably would have glazed over again in a few years, so I wanted to protect the investment with the XPEL film kit.  The film is precut to fit the lenses and goes on with an alcohol/water mist, which is then squeegeed out, adhering the film to the lens.  Some areas needed a heat gun to get the the thick film to conform to the compound curves, but it all worked out well.  Now the lenses should remain crystal clear, produce better light projection and cutoff, and stay free of rock chips for a very long time.  Clear lenses make the car look much better and increase its value during reselling.  For $61 and about two hours of work, I’d recommend anyone take it on.
-R

Lenses refinished and protected by the XPEL precut film.  They look new and perform much better.

Lenses refinished and protected by the XPEL precut film. They look new and perform much better.

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