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return to Tech Tips Polishing
Lens and Tail light
Polishing: Materials and Procedure
It's 2001 and tail lights, dash and gauge cluster lenses are discontinued
and not available from GM.
I make no guarantees or endorsements of any type for results or for
I have used these products following advice of people that have been
doing professional body work and restorations for many years.
I have done this many times with excellent results. It is the same procedure
used to restore the rear plastic 'glass' found on convertible tops.
If you doubt these instructions or yourself, practice on an obscure
area or old broken piece of lens or tail light.
Before attempting this procedure read and understand all of this. With
that said . . .
If you have scratched (nasty or otherwise) or stained dash lenses or
tail lights, repair is not that difficult. You will need:
3M Plastic Cleaner, part number 39017,
3M Plastic Polish, part number 39010 (each ~$6.50 / 8 oz. bottle),
one sheet of 2000 grit Wet-Or-Dry sandpaper (~.60 per sheet),
about 8 - 100% cotton rags (nylon, elastic, polyester, wool or any mix
will work against your purpose),
#10 torx tool,
an old towel,
your favorite lens cleaner,
a spray bottle filled with water,
a light touch,
I obtained my 3M supplies from Gwinnett Auto Parts - @ 405 Killian Hill
Rd. & Hwy 29, Lilburn GA (770)-921-5681
Note: Outside temperature was about 80 degrees F when I did my work.
You do not need to remove the main dash or gauge cluster lenses.
Remove the lens covers (trim) using the torx tool.
First, using your favorite cleaner, clean the lenses.
Using a small amount of the Plastic Cleaner on your 100% cotton rag,
lightly rub in small circles and cover the entire lens.
Let it dry and using a different 100% cotton rag and same motion, lightly
rub off the residue.
Repeat this as needed. Two to three applications should work best.
If you have a scratch that won't come out, you only need to get the
lens to a point where the polish will work.
DO NOT TRY TO ENTIRELY REMOVE THE SCRATCH !
Spread your towel under the lens, spray a small piece of the sandpaper
AND the area of damaged lens with water.
In a circle, VERY LIGHTLY rub LIGHTLY!, and while rubbing lightly, continue
to spray the area with water.
Now it really looks like you've ruined it ! Be patient.
Apply the Cleaner again, lightly.
Lightly apply the Polish using fresh 100% cotton rags and follow the
same steps outlined earlier for the Cleaner.
Repeat as needed.
If you have used a light touch, and been patient, you should now be
amazed at the results.
Replace your trim pieces, and admire your work. You've spent about $14.50
(the other stuff is usually lying around the house),
and about 1.5 hours of elbow grease (FREE !).
The same procedure will work on your tail lights.
Unless your tail lights have interior moisture from condensation, you
won't need to remove and disassemble them.
If you do, to reassemble them, you will need stuff body shop guys call
'dum-dum' (rope putty) in addition to the above items.
If you try to reuse the old putty, it will not seal properly. 3M makes
this too ($10 for 20 yards).
FAQ'S: "Why don't I have to remove everything?"
Answer: "How have you been touching the backside of the lenses?".
Disassembly of the dash and tail lights is another story.
I wish you the best of results.