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My Method to Open the Headlights for Cleaning


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With the holidays, I finally took the time to tackle the hazy headlights that were making my Murci look old. I always tried not to look directly at my headlights because it looked so bad. Now it’s a pleasure to look at them!

Even though extremely little and “hazy” information has been posted on how to open the headlights by the people who have done it before, I had a few ideas on how to tackle it, and here’s a write up with full details so you can see what exactly is involved. You may be shocked that I used a cutting tool to get them open, but hopefully you can learn from my write up and videos and find a better way to do it and document it for everyone to see.

My main goals for this project were to be very careful not to damage the glass, and to make it very easy to open the headlights again when inevitably they haze over sometime in the future.

The haze is very much like the haze that develops on interior car windows from the off gassing of plastics in the car. I am sure the heat from the headlamps being on contributes this off gassing, but I bet most of the off gassing comes from driving in the day and parking in the sun. The heat from the greenhouse effect must get that plastic extremely hot, very quickly. Turning on your headlights won’t generate anywhere near the heat as the summer sun beating down on the car. So in my opinion, feel free to turn on your headlights when you need them knowing they are not the main culprit of the hazing.

I have heard a guy named Nick charges $2K to open these headlights, but not only did I not want to pay $2K to have them opened 1 time, I didn’t want to pay that every time the headlights needed opening for cleaning, so my method below makes it very easy re-open the headlights using a simple Xacto knife, or even a kitchen knife for that matter. Opening them the first time is a big job though.

Special Tools Used for this Job:

Dremel with flex shaft accessory, and a multi-purpose cutting disk (1 disk does the job)
https://www.amazon.com/Dremel-4000-4-Rotary-Shaft-Attachment/dp/B01MAVY0AB/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1546400309&sr=8-3&keywords=dremel+225-01+flex+shaft+attachment

Spudger, and metal cutting shears to cut spudger into a point
https://www.amazon.com/JerryRigEverything-Metal-Spudger-Repair-Professional/dp/B01F1G8YR8/ref=sr_1_17_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1546400463&sr=8-17&keywords=spudger

GE black silicone
https://express.google.com/u/0/product/922842571459891451_14931684530078332295_1183006?utm_source=google_shopping&utm_medium=tu_cu&utm_content=eid-lsjeuxoeqt&gtim=CKrs6rni7c2XExCBlNK1-5iHil8YkJv_BSIDVVNEKKD99OEFMJ6aSA&utm_campaign=1183006&gclid=Cj0KCQiAvKzhBRC1ARIsANEXdgwdcwj8VPI63sjfNlwhkRawA_LpKW3kjNZEFuvgdvlYE-vrMYhunY8aAlqrEALw_wcB

Trim pliers
https://www.amazon.com/Performance-Tool-W86556-Upholstery-Fasteners/dp/B003WZRLZ2/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1546409959&sr=8-9&keywords=Clip+Fastener+Remover+Pliers

Glass polishing kit 
https://mercedessource.com/store/windshield-fine-scratch-removal-and-glass-deluxe-polishing-kit-w-power-tool


Summary of Steps:
-Jack up front, put on stands, remove both front wheels, remove front and top wheel liner, and remove both headlights (couple of hours going slow)
-Cut off and remove the lip around the edge of the light fixtures (takes about 10 minutes per headlight)
-Use a spunger modified by being cut into a point and threaded around the glass to cut the factory silicone (complete pain to do, and can take hours if you aren’t getting the blade in far enough to cut all the way through the silicone)
-Remove the glass (pops right off when you have cut through all the silicone)
-Polish the glass, clean the black plastic housing (about 15 mins per glass)
-Paint the full rim of the glass with black silicone, let dry completely (15 mins per glass, plus waiting time)
-Put thin bead down around the perimeter of the plastic housing (super quick)
-Put glass on top (quick)
-Fill channel with silicone all the way around (15 minutes per headlight, plus waiting time for it to dry before reassembling the car)
-Put everything back (couple of hours going slow). The trick to aligning the headlights is to tighten all the screws in the brackets just enough to hold the light fixture in place, but allow repositioning.

Youtube Video:

 

My Notes:

Videos are not a professional production and there’s a lot of rambling because I was figuring it out as I went. Hopefully the videos will paint a better picture for you of how the glass is glued on to the housing so you can figure out a better way and post up.

The plastic that is used for the headlight housing is very strong, and much more like a fiberglass. Just to give you an idea, it doesn’t fold like plastic when bent, it cracks violently. You won’t be able to cut into this plastic with a knife, but the Dremel cutting disk on a medium speed made quick work of cutting it.

I have Xpel clear bra on the outside of the headlight glass, and it’s very nice to have that on as a protection during this job.  You may see what looks like cracks in the glass in the video, but that’s the edges of the clear bra.

I know people are doing this job without cutting the plastic, but I can’t see a way to get a thin cutting tool all the way around the glass to cut the silicone completely. The video shows why it’s a challenge to do the job without cutting. I could barely put any part of the spudger between the glass and plastic before cutting the plastic, and it’s such a tight fit, that I could barely move the spudger. It seemed impossible to have a really long piece of metal and be able to pull it all the way around the light housing. 

If you are worried about the Dremel cutting and breaking the glass, don’t. You can see in the design that the glass is recessed from where I am doing the cutting. If the cutting disk does by accident touch the glass, it wouldn’t put a breaking pressure, but just sand the glass a little bit.

The glass really is like Pyrex dish. It feels about the same thickness, so it’s not super delicate, but like any glass, you don’t want to put any pressure on it with a hard, sharp point.

I painted on a layer of GE Black Silicone with a brush around the perimeter of the glass to paint it black for cosmetic reasons and also to provide a protective cushion for when the glass is placed on top. I let that layer dry completely before putting the glass on top of the housing and then sealing the glass to the housing with more black silicone that filled the channel. This way I can re-open the light with just a flat blade in minutes when it comes time to do this job again.

Even though I cut the lip off the housing and used silicone to seal it, you can’t see any changes from stock once installed unless you remove the front wheels and wheel well liners. Everything looks completely factory stock when looking at the outside of the car.

I hope someone posts a better way to do this job and posts the details. I am happy with the results, but I am very curious how people are removing the glass without any cutting. 

Final Take: 

This job is a complete pain, like replacing the struts so the doors open on their own, but it’s also one of those jobs, like the door struts, that has you kicking yourself that you didn’t do it sooner because it makes such a big difference the enjoyment of your car.
 

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Good post! But you forgot the bit where your bodyshop drops the glass, you have to fit perspex lenses while spending the next two years searching for a replacement that isn't $3000. :face-icon-small-headhurts:

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5 minutes ago, pmdw1 said:

Good post! But you forgot the bit where your bodyshop drops the glass, you have to fit perspex lenses while spending the next two years searching for a replacement that isn't $3000. :face-icon-small-headhurts:

Thanks!

And a result of posts about dropping and breaking the glass, I did most of the work sitting on the ground so I wouldn't be that guy.

You should call your insurance agent. My specialty insurance would cover the cost of an OEM replacement. But really, your body shop should call their insurance agent since they are the ones that broke it.

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Here's a drawing of the before and after cross sections.

You can see how hard it is to get a blade around the original design, which is why I cut the lip off.  And you just don't need that much silicone to hold this glass down. Even if you didn't glue the glass down at all, it couldn't go anywhere once installed in the car. It sits on top of the plastic housing with nowhere to go but up, and when installed, the body of the car is keeping it from being able to go up. 

I am confident there's no way the glass will come loose with the amount of silicone I used to attach it back on, but with the modifications, it will be very easy to cut it open in the future.

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Excellent post and thank you for sharing. I think the concept of trimming the headlight surround to aid in future servicing is both sound and has no bearing on the operation and fitment of the light assembly. For sure if you use your car cleaning the lights is almost a service item so preparing the lights for future disassembly makes a lot of sense.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest John Rutter

Hey Stimpy,

 

Its been a while since I contacted anyone, its been a busy year. Coincidentally I have just removed the headlamps and lenses on my car today. My issues was very different as my car had aftermarket plastics lenses which were too short and left too large a gap at the bottom of the headlamp. last year I managed to purchase original non used glass lenses from the original supplier (who has now closed). I wish I had purchased a few sets. 

Do you have any photographs of the rear of the headlamps as mine seen to have hand made brackets and one casing is damaged (but its an easy fix in fibreglass.)?

I was looking at the web site as I planned to do a write-up of the same process. In fact I made still do so as I plan to dismantle the headlamp further to resprays the internal body.

My car has a special body as its a Prindiville modified car. I have just done all of the stone chips on the front end as mine is exposed carbon fibre.

I am having to submit as a guest as my password DNF's

 

Speak soon

 

John

 

 

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Hi John!

Your best bet for pics of the housing is to look on eBay or just a general google search. The sellers have all sorts of pics from every angle that I unfortunately don’t have.

Lamborghini Murcielago, RH, Right Headlight / Headlamp, Used, P/N 413941032A https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F292758612569

Do you know if those plastic lenses the ones from Poland?

Good luck with your project!

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Guest John Rutter
12 hours ago, Stimpy said:

Hi John!

Your best bet for pics of the housing is to look on eBay or just a general google search. The sellers have all sorts of pics from every angle that I unfortunately don’t have.

Lamborghini Murcielago, RH, Right Headlight / Headlamp, Used, P/N 413941032A https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F292758612569

Do you know if those plastic lenses the ones from Poland?

Good luck with your project!

Hi Stimpy,

 

Thanks for the quick response and good call with looking for photographs. I cant tell where they were made but I have owned the car for four years and I would say they are a very early manufacture. It may be they are from Poland but hopefully anyone who is supplying them has improved the quality. Goodness I wish I had bought several sets of glass the prices are crazy.

 

John

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  • 2 months later...

I just completed the opening and cleaning of the headlights and very pleased with the results.

First, I want to thank Stimpy for the tutorials.  It made the job a lot easier.  I really appreciate the thoroughness.

 

The tools I used were Dremel, an Xacto knife, 1 spudger that is trimmed short and wide, and 1 spudger that is trimmed long and narrow, 8 wide tip flat head screwdrivers.  I also had the trim plier but didn’t need to use it.

Before cutting the plastic off the housing, I tried to remove the factory urethane by inserting different type of tools, but it was impossible to get very far.  Therefore, I went ahead with the plastic cutting.  The most worrisome part for me was the cutting off the plastic.  It was difficult because I couldn’t see how deep and low to make the first cut since there is no color variation between the layers.  Even though Stimpy said that the glass is very thick and durable, I was extra careful not to damage it and went very slowly.  I cut bit by bit to expose 1 corner.  The first layer is the plastic.  The second layer is the urethane.  After that, it is the glass.  The overall thickness that I had to cut through was 5/32” to get to the glass.  Also, I started the cut at ¾ down on the plastic rim with the glass facing up.  BTW, Stimpy is absolutely right that the glass is very tough and wouldn’t get damaged.  After the first corner was exposed, it was easy to cut the rest since now I could see through the cross sections and knew what I had to deal with.

 

After removing the plastic surround, I used the Xacto knife to cut through the factory urethane on the top edge of the remaining plastic.  Then I used the wide spudger to make the next cut.  Finally, I used the narrow and long spudger to make the final cut.  If you use the narrow spudger right away, it would deform and not cut through all the layers.  That was why I went step-by-step.  By using these 3 different cutting tools, I did not have to recut the spudgers.  They lasted through the entire process.

After the cutting of the urethane, the glass became loose.  I then inserted the screwdrivers as shims and the glass lifted off.

 

The cleaning and reassemble process were easy, and the results are new looking lights.

 

Notes:  1 of the light had way more urethane that oozed all the way up the housing and difficult to cut through than the other.

 

After the repair, if you didn’t know what the lights look like originally, you would think that the lights came from the factory without the plastic edge if you ran a good silicone line in the channel. 

 

Even though the original adhesive was urethane, it is better to use silicone to do the resealing.  Silicone is strong enough yet allows for easier removal next time.  I tested its bonding strength after drying by putting a suction cup on the glass and lifting up the entire light assembly.  It held on well without any issue for 10 minutes.

 

Be prepared to withstand physical pain when using the spudgers.  I even drew some blood when it slipped and cut through my glove.

 

Be extra patient.  You will need an entire day to do this project plus drying time.

 

knives.jpg

cutting.jpg

clean light.jpg

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Thanks for adding the additional info LW Lambo! I am happy some of my info helped.

I continue to hear of people opening the headlights without cutting the plastic, but my experience was the same as yours. I could never see how to open mine without cutting. There was just no room to get a tool all the way through the sealant. 

It makes me think that since these headlights were made in super low volumes compared to other cars, they must be hand made and therefore some headlights are probably easier than others to open without cutting the rim.

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I am in the marine industry and we use a debonder to break and remove urethane,

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/marine-formula--polyurethane-adhesive-spray-cleaner--12222295

If any of you have ever used 3m 5200 you know its some of the most tenacious stuff out there for an adhesive. My headlights are great, but this might be a solution for someone about to do this rather than cutting the plastic. Worth a try first. Thoughts?

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2 hours ago, Old Guy Garage said:

I am in the marine industry and we use a debonder to break and remove urethane,

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/marine-formula--polyurethane-adhesive-spray-cleaner--12222295

If any of you have ever used 3m 5200 you know its some of the most tenacious stuff out there for an adhesive. My headlights are great, but this might be a solution for someone about to do this rather than cutting the plastic. Worth a try first. Thoughts?

Interesting for sure.

The sealant is very deep into the channel and curves around in a U shape. Do you think this product could penetrate all the way through? There's very little gap between the plastic and glass to get any product into the channel, and if there is any little bit of glue that isn't debonded, you won't be able to get the glass off without a ton of scary force.

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I have used it to take parts off that had 1" of 5200 on it.  It penetrates like wd 40 does with rusted parts. It's certainly worth a try, and if it works it looks like it might be a game changer.  I thought I would throw it out there. Cost is about $40. Think of all the time, effort  it would save and no cutting plastic.

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3 hours ago, Old Guy Garage said:

I have used it to take parts off that had 1" of 5200 on it.  It penetrates like wd 40 does with rusted parts. It's certainly worth a try, and if it works it looks like it might be a game changer.  I thought I would throw it out there. Cost is about $40. Think of all the time, effort  it would save and no cutting plastic.

We need a guinea pig!

My headlights are already modified and spotless, so who's next??

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I would also like to know if this product would work for opening the lights.  The gap where you can spray in is literally razor thin.  Plus this removal liquid has to travel horizontally then vertically.  It would be great if this turns out to be the solution.

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2 hours ago, V12noise said:

Please let us know what the name of this product is.  The link is blocked in Europe....

Here's a pic of the can.

If nothing else, this product could be useful after you cut the lip around the perimeter. That would give good access to apply the product and reduce the effort to open the headlights.

Although, based on the reviews, it doesn't work on all adhesives, so it remains to be seen if it will work on the adhesive for our headlights. And who knows if Lambo's supplier changed formulas throughout the 10 year run, so it could work on some and not others.

And in the reviews, some circumstances you have to cut and then spray and cut and spray.  So it may not be as easy as spray and done.

12222295.jpg

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  • 2 years later...

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