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Refurbishing a set of rear light lenses.


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I have a spare set of rear light lenses with '73 polished brightwork. I got these in a bunch of 'stuff' I got when I bought the center gauges which I posted about some time ago and still to install (if I ever decide to drill a 1" hole in my firewall!!).

Just for the heck of it and as these are not salable as-is, I decided to find out just how hard it is to disassemble them to a, find out why they always leak and b, to clean off some gold paint overspray some idiot got all over them.

That brings me to the question. These are acrylic so obviously lacquer thinner is OUT. Fine steel wool dose get most of it off the flat areas, but in the crinkly bits and fine lines, not so much. SOOOO, dose anybody have any hot tips on how to clean or polish them up?

I do have experience polishing plastics, but some of this is too inaccessible to be effective.

I don't really need these, but it is just something I'd like to do. Also, the 71 - 72's had a black background, any tips on masking this out effectively?

Not wanting to spend a ton of time on this, but someone may just know a trick or two.

Thanks in advance,

Geoff.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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How about using a fiberglass pen?

 

- Manfred

 

 

 

 There's a thought!! I know what you mean, just got to find one.

 As I said, I don't even need these, but why waste them if they can be salvaged.

Another reason fro ripping these apart, is to find a way to seal them so they NEVER leak. If Ford had added a sealant between the plastic and the aluminum as they were being assembled, we wouldn't have as many quarter panels rusted out at the bottom.

Thanks Manfred.

Geoff.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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Do a test spot of aircraft liquid stripper to remove the paint on the lens. TEST first won't swear to it but I think it will not hurt the plastic. Lacquer thinner will melt it.

If you do need a pair of lenses keep a lookout on ebay for the Carpenter store. He sells his rejects for 1/2  price there. The reject is that the aluminum trim is loose which works out great when doing the 71 72 style. Much easier to tape and spray if they are apart.

I just installed a new pair of them in my 73 also used the Carpenter gaskets which are much better than the old foam Ford ones. The rust in the tail light panel will happen no matter what you do. It is a natural trap for water and with the little paint inside the trunk they rusted out in months sometimes.

On the polish use the headlight lens polish works great. You have to have a slow speed buffer or variable speed drill. Plastic does not like a fast speed it will melt. I use a soft tooth brush to get into the corners and of course the Micro fiber towels.

I use the headlight polish on the instrument panel and clock faces also. The only issue I had with polishing my old ones was all the time involved.

When a man is in the woods and talks and no women are there is he still wrong??:P

David

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Do a test spot of aircraft liquid stripper to remove the paint on the lens. TEST first won't swear to it but I think it will not hurt the plastic. Lacquer thinner will melt it.

If you do need a pair of lenses keep a lookout on ebay for the Carpenter store. He sells his rejects for 1/2  price there. The reject is that the aluminum trim is loose which works out great when doing the 71 72 style. Much easier to tape and spray if they are apart.

I just installed a new pair of them in my 73 also used the Carpenter gaskets which are much better than the old foam Ford ones. The rust in the tail light panel will happen no matter what you do. It is a natural trap for water and with the little paint inside the trunk they rusted out in months sometimes.

On the polish use the headlight lens polish works great. You have to have a slow speed buffer or variable speed drill. Plastic does not like a fast speed it will melt. I use a soft tooth brush to get into the corners and of course the Micro fiber towels.

I use the headlight polish on the instrument panel and clock faces also. The only issue I had with polishing my old ones was all the time involved.

 Hi David. Thanks for your input. I do know full well that lacquer thinner will eat acrylic, but curious about the aircraft liquid stripper on acrylic??. Might be worth looking into. Obviously the paint on it is automotive and frankly these are hardly worth doing, but I was curious on how to clean stuff like this up. I have years of experience working with plastics, but that doesn't mean I know all the tricks, hence my question.

As for replacements, I have another very good original set should I ever get one broken. Another thing I did when I repainted the car was to use black RTV sealer around the entire light on the outside. It hardly shows and really, nobody even sees it and NO leaks from there. I also used a fine tipped clear RTV tube and went carefully around the brightwork, making sure the stuff went well into the joint between the aluminum and acrylic. I get no water at all in the trunk now. Again, the "other" reason I pulled this old set apart, was to look at a better way of sealing these up and yes, it can be done.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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Brake fluid will soften the paint and doesn't harm most plastics. Supposedly Easy Off oven cleaner slowly removes paint, without harming plastic. As with David's suggestion on the aircraft paint stripper I would try just a small area to start with, with either of these.

 

 

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

--Albert Einstein

 

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Hi Stanglover,

I remember taking mine apart in the 90's, I popped off the aluminum trim just to get rid of the black painted areas (which I didn't like) and to polish them. They do come apart, just be careful and lots of patience! Glued them back together and never had any problems with leakage. QUESTION...How do you polish plastic, for example a side marker light.

71-73 Mustangs never die, they just go faster!

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Hi Stanglover,

I remember taking mine apart in the 90's, I popped off the aluminum trim just to get rid of the black painted areas (which I didn't like) and to polish them. They do come apart, just be careful and lots of patience! Glued them back together and never had any problems with leakage. QUESTION...How do you polish plastic, for example a side marker light.

 

As stated above get you one of the headlight refinish kits. You probably do not need to sand a side marker just use the polish and I would just do by hand to prevent getting the plastic too hot and melting it.

The lights usually do not leak the water gets between the rubber gasket and the steel tail light panel and causes rust then the leak. That is unless you fill up all the gaps like the cracks in a motel bath tub with some type of calk or sealer. I prefer to just not wash the car with water only wet towels and keep the garden hose and pressure washer away from the car. The nuts on my tail lights are tightened finger tight with a socket in hand and do not leak. Getting the gasket and surface for the gasket right is the secret.

When a man is in the woods and talks and no women are there is he still wrong??:P

David

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Hi Stanglover,

I remember taking mine apart in the 90's, I popped off the aluminum trim just to get rid of the black painted areas (which I didn't like) and to polish them. They do come apart, just be careful and lots of patience! Glued them back together and never had any problems with leakage. QUESTION...How do you polish plastic, for example a side marker light.

 

 Like David suggested. He's right on with that. There are several plastic polish compounds out there. I doubt you'll ever get perfect, but you can improve the looks of the lenses.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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Hi Stanglover,

I remember taking mine apart in the 90's, I popped off the aluminum trim just to get rid of the black painted areas (which I didn't like) and to polish them. They do come apart, just be careful and lots of patience! Glued them back together and never had any problems with leakage. QUESTION...How do you polish plastic, for example a side marker light.

 

As stated above get you one of the headlight refinish kits. You probably do not need to sand a side marker just use the polish and I would just do by hand to prevent getting the plastic too hot and melting it.

The lights usually do not leak the water gets between the rubber gasket and the steel tail light panel and causes rust then the leak. That is unless you fill up all the gaps like the cracks in a motel bath tub with some type of calk or sealer. I prefer to just not wash the car with water only wet towels and keep the garden hose and pressure washer away from the car. The nuts on my tail lights are tightened finger tight with a socket in hand and do not leak. Getting the gasket and surface for the gasket right is the secret.

 

   When one lives in our climate in SW Ontario, getting  a car wet is not if, it's when. I was at a show today and it rained hard for several minutes. Wasn't supposed to rain till after the show ended, but.............. It's just part of life here, so we deal with it. The car isn't going to rust away before our eyes overnight. Mine does get a thorough drying before going back in the garage.

Believe me, these lights lenses do leak between the aluminum and the plastic because the glue that is supposed to seal as well as hold it together, may not be a contiguous bead. Any gaps in it will let water through. Both my friend and I experience this issue and stopped it by sealing carefully around the segments. With them apart, it would be easy to seal them.

 Just my opinion, not going to argue the point.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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Brake fluid will soften the paint and doesn't harm most plastics. Supposedly Easy Off oven cleaner slowly  removes paint, without harming plastic. As with David's suggestion on the aircraft paint stripper I would try just a small area to start with, with either of these.

 

 That might also be worth looking at. There is not a lot of paint overspray I'm dealing with, just like a haze, but looks awful and needs to go. Thanks Don

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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  • 1 month later...

Brake fluid will soften the paint and doesn't harm most plastics. Supposedly Easy Off oven cleaner slowly  removes paint, without harming plastic. As with David's suggestion on the aircraft paint stripper I would try just a small area to start with, with either of these.

 

 That might also be worth looking at. There is not a lot of paint overspray I'm dealing with, just like a haze, but looks awful and needs to go. Thanks Don

 

 Don, I finally had time to play with this overspray issue. I tried both brake fluid and trans fluid as both are known to take paint off. The trans fluid did nothing, but the brake fluid took the overspray off easily without any damage to the acrylic. I let it soak for 24 + hrs., then took a stiff brush to it, then a wash with warm soapy water. I'll go over it again if need be and then polish with plastic lens polish. Thanks for the tip, which I'm sure will help others with paint on acrylic plastic.

Geoff.

 

Edit: 9/20/17, 7 pm.

Got 'em done and they look great. There are a few flaws, but if mounted in a car, no-one would notice. I used some Plastex plastic polish and a bristle brush in a dremel to clean out the remainder around the outside edges of the three segments. Great tip Don as I mentioned before. Now I might tackle the brightwork which is okay, but could be better. I was talking to a guy last Saturday night who is restoring a Triumph Spitfire. He has found he can refinish some brightwork by using clear powder coat over a polished surface. Worth looking into as getting parts polished and bright anodized is hard to find around here and very expensive. I would like to do the black-out as well as I might use these on my 71.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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A few pictures of the progress since getting all that overspray off. Pity I didn't take any before pics (at least, I don't think I did!!)

The bright work is going to be a bit harder than I thought. Tiny marks are in fact deep pits of corrosion and I'm not sure if I can get them all out and still have sufficient metal left to polish. If not, I have a second set spare. Worst case, I can buy repops. First pic is the paint free and polished lens. Second is the two parts together, but unfortunately does not clearly show the pits as some refinishing had been done.

More later.

Geoff.

 I learn something new every day!

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