Re-silvering old headlights on the cheap
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  1. #1
    Fellow Frogger! chris's Avatar
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    Default Re-silvering old headlights on the cheap

    Hi folks,

    My headlights are those crap Marchal jobs with the internal high-beam reflectors, what lose their silver coating as they age (after only 30 years, how useless is that ). My current ones are OK-ish but the high-beam reflector is going on one of them, and seeing as I've got a spare (very rough) pair lying about I thought I'd try and recoat one.

    I'm thinking off just pulling out the separate high-beam bit, rubbing it back a tad and spraying it with silver spraypaint. Has anyone tried this? Did it work?

    I know I could get them professionally recoated but it costs $200 and I'm a broke student...

    Cheers,
    Chris

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    1000+ Posts Gamma's Avatar
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    Yes you could try the sand and spray method.

    This is a cheap and nasty 25X Fix.

    The result are only slightly better than no silvered reflector at all.

    But if you persist---Use a high temprature paint, like the stuff used on Headers/extractors. This will extend the life of your bodgie fix.
    If you are lucky, it might fool MOT/Warrent of Fitness/Pinkslip/Reg etc.
    I have used it when I was a poor and struggling student myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris
    Hi folks,

    My headlights are those crap Marchal jobs with the internal high-beam reflectors, what lose their silver coating as they age (after only 30 years, how useless is that ). My current ones are OK-ish but the high-beam reflector is going on one of them, and seeing as I've got a spare (very rough) pair lying about I thought I'd try and recoat one.

    I'm thinking off just pulling out the separate high-beam bit, rubbing it back a tad and spraying it with silver spraypaint. Has anyone tried this? Did it work?

    I know I could get them professionally recoated but it costs $200 and I'm a broke student...

    Cheers,
    Chris
    Silver will make them look nice, but they'll be hopelessly dull... The headlights themselves will output hardly any light.

    I have a perfect set of GSheadlights in my shed. Maybe I should chuck 'em on ebay

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    Fellow Frogger! chris's Avatar
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    Hey Shane if you do, can you do them in separate lots? 'Cos one of mine is perfect But if that's the car on your website, didn't it have the round headlights?

    Making my crap lights even crapper probably isn't a good idea eh? I might have a play, seeing as the spare ones are no use already...
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    I think you can get "chrome" spray paint... which would be a lot more like the original stuff than silver...

    Give it a go, worse comes to worse sand & get it done properly...

    You might like to ask around a few camera shops or telescope supply places. Thats the way most mirrors are done on telescopes (coating on glass, unlike a conventional mirror), so you might find a cheaper option there.

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    1000+ Posts HONG KONG PUGGY's Avatar
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    FWIW,
    I have never found any paint that will mimic a chrome finish.
    I was speaking to a Sign writer a few years ago(he owned a couple of Renaults so I thoguh he was OK ) and he told me the stuff used on signage would be a good stop gap measure for headlight repair if needed. It's fairly hardy because it's an outdoor quality product. I never found out where to get it, but I am sure if oyu called a sign-writer supplier they'd be able to help.

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    I had the plastic reflectors (the 'kangaroo' part) in my R12 headlights vacuum metallised for $40 for 2 about 7 years ago. However, they only lasted about 3 years then started to look brown again. Now they are totally knackered.


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    You may even find a gloss white will reflect more light than a silver.

    The original finish reflects like a mirror.

    Silver may be closer in colour but it won't reflect as much light as white...

    What about some aluminium foil? Many have a VERY shiny side.

    If you apply a thin layer of contact adhesive, you could stick it down and trim it when its dries. Probably be better than any paint... should be temperature resistant also...being designed for an oven and all

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    Administrator GreenBlood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HONG KONG PUGGY
    FWIW,
    I have never found any paint that will mimic a chrome finish.
    I was speaking to a Sign writer a few years ago(he owned a couple of Renaults so I thoguh he was OK ) and he told me the stuff used on signage would be a good stop gap measure for headlight repair if needed. It's fairly hardy because it's an outdoor quality product. I never found out where to get it, but I am sure if oyu called a sign-writer supplier they'd be able to help.

    Chris.
    The material used by screenprinters and signwriters is generally a bright chrome polyester coated foil self-adhesive, very reflective as you would expect almost mirror like. Trouble with it is that it will not conform to a compound curve (as in a bowl type surface) you would have to cut into suitable strips and lay it into position. The higher grade materials should be able to withstand the heat generated in a headlight though.

    I carry this in stock at work, and would be happy to send you enough to coat your headlights. I can't offer any guarantee, the product was never designed with this purpose in mind.

    I would see this as a short term fix only, ultimately and ideally you would have to re-coat or replace the reflectors.

    Cheers
    Chris
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBlood
    The material used by screenprinters and signwriters is generally a bright chrome polyester coated foil self-adhesive, very reflective as you would expect almost mirror like. Trouble with it is that it will not conform to a compound curve (as in a bowl type surface) you would have to cut into suitable strips and lay it into position. The higher grade materials should be able to withstand the heat generated in a headlight though.

    I carry this in stock at work, and would be happy to send you enough to coat your headlights. I can't offer any guarantee, the product was never designed with this purpose in mind.

    I would see this as a short term fix only, ultimately and ideally you would have to re-coat or replace the reflectors.

    Cheers
    Chris
    I wasn't sure how good an idea it was at the time Chris. It was an untried suggestion. This particular guy was an interesting character to say the least. His R12 sedan was painted in white house paint, thinned and sprayed. I will not even try to find a reason he'd do this other than to be different. (it was an excelent paint job though.)
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    Fellow Frogger! chris's Avatar
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    I might give the aluminium foil idea a go... that reflector isn't really a bowl shape, more like a bent cylinder (probably why the high beams have bugger all spread ), so I shouldn't need to cut too many bits.

    Greenblood, what would the glue be like on that reflective film? I can imagine it getting soft and runny if it's anything like what they put on duct/electrical tape. As funny as that would be it might rather defeat the purpose!

    Chris
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    Administrator GreenBlood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris
    I might give the aluminium foil idea a go... that reflector isn't really a bowl shape, more like a bent cylinder (probably why the high beams have bugger all spread ), so I shouldn't need to cut too many bits.

    Greenblood, what would the glue be like on that reflective film? I can imagine it getting soft and runny if it's anything like what they put on duct/electrical tape. As funny as that would be it might rather defeat the purpose!

    Chris
    Chris, (the first Chris not second - not that I'm not replying to the second Chris, just that the original question was posed by the first Chris - Chris, the third Chris)

    Chris, the adhesive would no doubt be less of a problem than a spray adhesive (which will dry out over time causing the foil to lift), the finish on the material would be far better (mirror like) than aluminium foil. A sign grade permanent adhesive 'should not' weep adhesive - unlike the cheap adhesives used with electrical tape. Again, happy to send what you would need at no cost

    Cheers
    Chris the 3rd.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mistareno
    What about some aluminium foil? Many have a VERY shiny side.

    If you apply a thin layer of contact adhesive, you could stick it down and trim it when its dries.

    The only problem with this is that the foil may be suitableish, but the glue may soften. Also being contact adhesive it adhere on contact, no opportunity to smooth out the wrinkles. It would be interesting if something like a Loctite product or wood glue would suit (after a suitable curing time), it remains soft while drying allowing it to be smoothed to a shiny surface using a soft round shaped firm foam rubber roller.

    I think the initial problem is using “big” wattage headlamp globes. The surface seems to be made for the original 40/45 watt non halogen (headlight as opposed to the H1 55 watt driving light) globe, you start using 60+ watt halogens the silvering just seems to boil off from the heat behind the reflector. Big wattage H1 globes just compound the problem.

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    Administrator GreenBlood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon
    The only problem with this is that the foil may be suitableish, but the glue may soften. Also being contact adhesive it adhere on contact, no opportunity to smooth out the wrinkles. It would be interesting if something like a Loctite product or wood glue would suit (after a suitable curing time), it remains soft while drying allowing it to be smoothed to a shiny surface using a soft round shaped firm foam rubber roller.

    I think the initial problem is using “big” wattage headlamp globes. The surface seems to be made for the original 40/45 watt non halogen (headlight as opposed to the H1 55 watt driving light) globe, you start using 60+ watt halogens the silvering just seems to boil off from the heat behind the reflector. Big wattage H1 globes just compound the problem.
    Actually thinking about the foil idea, how about the stuff used to coat picture frames, faux chrome (also and probably more common in gold), can be purchased from craft type shops, adhesive is applied to the surface the foil (very, very thin) is laid down in strips and only adhears to the sticky area, this could then be coated with a clear heat resistant paint/varnish. The finish can be almost mirror like??? Maybe a more permanent solution

    Cheers
    Chris
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    "Déesse" Roland Barthes, 'Mythologies', 1957

    The Déesse has all the characteristics of one of those objects fallen from another universe that fed the mania for novelty in the eighteenth century and a similar mania expressed by modern science fiction: the Déesse is first and foremost the new Nautilus.

    (Umberto Eco [Ed], The History of Beauty, Rizzoli, NY, 2004)

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    Fellow Frogger! chris's Avatar
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    I was planning to cover whatever I did with clearcoat anyway. I think it would keep a metal film of whatever sort shiny...

    I wonder if Loctite would work to glue something on with? It has the advantage over contact adhesive that it sets once you take air away, so it would be easy to get everything smooth. Not sure that it really likes heat though. Something like silicone would take forever to set between two non-porous surfaces but would eventually turn into undestructablium

    Chris (the Chris replying to both the second and third Chris' who also replied to each other.... knew I should have thought of a wittier handle)
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    Icon5 How did it work??

    Chris, (feel like I am talking to myself sometimes) ,
    I was at a recycling shop today in Brisbane, and they had rolls of a foil like film that they said was what'sse in CD/DVD production. It is very thin. What type of adhesive would you use to stick it to a reflector in a lense as I am going to buy a roll and see how it goes.
    Any guesses on the glue I should use would be great. May-be I'll paint laquer on first or some type of wall paper adhesive?? How heat resistant would it need to be?


    Cheers, one of the Chris'
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    Quote Originally Posted by HONG KONG PUGGY
    Chris, (feel like I am talking to myself sometimes) ,
    I was at a recycling shop today in Brisbane, and they had rolls of a foil like film that they said was what'sse in CD/DVD production. It is very thin. What type of adhesive would you use to stick it to a reflector in a lense as I am going to buy a roll and see how it goes.
    Any guesses on the glue I should use would be great. May-be I'll paint laquer on first or some type of wall paper adhesive?? How heat resistant would it need to be?


    Cheers, one of the Chris'
    HKP = Chris, If you drop by work (25 Burke St. Woolloongabba) I can give you some auto-grade adhesive, I am pretty sure it will withstand the heat in a headlight housing.

    Cheers
    GB = Chris
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    "Déesse" Roland Barthes, 'Mythologies', 1957

    The Déesse has all the characteristics of one of those objects fallen from another universe that fed the mania for novelty in the eighteenth century and a similar mania expressed by modern science fiction: the Déesse is first and foremost the new Nautilus.

    (Umberto Eco [Ed], The History of Beauty, Rizzoli, NY, 2004)

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    I have to confess I pulled the spare headlight to bits and then didn't get around to doing any more! Anyone who tries this, the rear fastener on the internal reflector is actually a screw fitting, not a rivet.

    It looks like thin strips will be necessary even on the relatively slight compound curve of the reflector "arms", so I'm going to use silicone to stick the foil on a strip at a time; that's my adhesive of choice on headlights after I tried to glue a sealed beam in with contact adhesive a few years ago Unless anyone has a better idea...

    My better half is away next week, so I'll probably have a go then

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  19. #19
    I might be slow... DRTDVL's Avatar
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    what the light cover made of? If you use a metal reflective and i high watt bulb you will reflect the heat also... if it's plastic you might melt it...

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    Plastic covers? High wattage bulbs? I'm living in the (automotive) 70s, my man!

    Seriously though, metal-bodied reflectors and glass covers. One day soon I shall lash out and update the bulbs from the candle-bright 40W standard jobbies (I think the high-beam halogens might be as bright as 55W actually).

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    Hi Chris,

    If you are using silicone make sure it is neutral cure - any acid residue from the normal silicone will corrode right through the reflectors. Might be worth looking at the high temp stuff they use for oxygen sensors, though it's not cheap.

    I will be interested in your results, as my GS lights are not that good!

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    1000+ Posts HONG KONG PUGGY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBlood
    HKP = Chris, If you drop by work (25 Burke St. Woolloongabba) I can give you some auto-grade adhesive, I am pretty sure it will withstand the heat in a headlight housing.

    Cheers
    GB = Chris
    Thanks Chris. If and hopefully when I drop by, I'll have to bring the metal film with me so you can OK it's use with that adhesive, as I'd hate to stick it on and come back hlf an hour later and see a shriveled mess because the stuff 'melted' the film. It's drom the "recycled garbage" place at West End. Have you ever been there, it is amazing. Thread needed for it alone.
    Cheers mate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris
    One day soon I shall lash out and update the bulbs from the candle-bright 40W standard jobbies (I think the high-beam halogens might be as bright as 55W actually).
    Just for fun try putting a 60 watt halogen globe in as the main globe rather than the stock 40 watt globe on one headlight, and the re-silvered repair on the other headlight (with 60 watt main globe and 55 watt H1 globe for the kangaroo). I reckon you will get a similar output of light just from replacing the old 40 watt globes and save silicone and cut fingers from the repair.

    Don’t go ludicrous with the wattage though, as the silvering then starts to boil off the actual metal reflector from the heat (this may not happen on a GS light like it does on the top of a a Renault 12/15/16 light though because of the GS light shape). 60-80 watts seems to be a reasonable compromise for the main globe.

    My experience comes from a Cibie Kangaroo equipped Renault 12. Originally it had the stock 40 watt globes with H1 halogens in the kangaroo. The kangaroo reflectors were in good nick at the time, then I replaced the stock main globes with 60 watt halogen, which effectively killed the silvering on the kangaroos fairly quickly, but the lights were better. I then obtained some new Cibie headlights which took H4 base halogen globes but had no kangaroo light. With 60 watt globes, the output of light from these I reckon was fairly similar to when I changed to halogen globes with the original lights, penetration was better, but it seemed to lose the fill in effect of the kangaroos.

    I’d say Renault thought the same thing too, as on the later (overseas) models they replaced the kangaroos with the non kangaroo but halogen bulb equipped lights.

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    Simon,

    It sounds like maybe the wiring is different? On a GS the "kangaroo" reflectors are the high beams, with the main bulb only active for dipped beam (it's possible to change this of course). Also the main bulb has a great big base... I haven't seen a halogen with the same mounting.

    I only need to do one headlight anyway, and not urgently, hence the fiddling. The other one is like new.

    The hands-down best GS lights are the late-70s setups with 4 round lights. 4 new sealed beams sets you back about $100 for a total of 320W on high beam -- enough to take the paint off road signs and fry incoming moths I don't think they'll fit in a series one front though, and I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about not butchering this car.

    Chris
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris
    It sounds like maybe the wiring is different? On a GS the "kangaroo" reflectors are the high beams, with the main bulb only active for dipped beam (it's possible to change this of course). Also the main bulb has a great big base... I haven't seen a halogen with the same mounting.
    Ooo, it does sound like it is a different thing. The 12 has the normal double dipping globe, with the H1 globe as a separate driving light. There is a separate switch that allows the kangaroo part to be switched on/off when the main lights are on high beam. I must admit I've seen the GS light, but just figured it must have been a separate reflector for the the kangaroo lights in addition to the main beam.

    Also is the main globe like the pic? This is the P45t base, sort of an old Euro spec, the bulbs are available in halogen form from decent bulb places. I got my last lot from Super Cheap.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Re-silvering old headlights on the cheap-p45t.jpeg  

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