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> Headlight Lenses - Glass Or Plastic?
122-850
post Jan 15 2008, 09:13 PM
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Drives: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon



Hi All,

I seem once again to have acquired a number of small holes and cracks in my 850 glass
headlight lenses. Considering both the monetary cost for replacement of the parts, as well
as the cost to my sanity in monkeying with those accursed @#$^%! clips, I am curious
whether anyone here has an opinion on alternatives to the standard glass lenses.

I'm not looking for an aesthetic change, and I am not unhappy with the light pattens the
current lenses provide - just want something more durable.

Specifically, I noticed plastic lenses listed at both VLVworld.com:
( http://vlvword.com/indexframe.html?850/toc.htm , part #HLPV408 ), called PMMA ( =
acrylic glass, a.k.a. Plexiglass, Lucite, etc. );

as well as at IPD:
( http://tinyurl.com/242ot6 , part #59408E ), listed simply as "plastic" and for ~ 0.5 the
price of the above PMMA.

I like the idea of the acrylic since it's much less likely to shatter, but worry about building up
scratches over time and the lens clouding with age/weathering - since the utility of a
non-cracked but nearly-opaque, yellowed lens seems about as questionable to me as a
cracked, foggy glass one does.

Regards,
122-850
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blakbyrd
post Jan 16 2008, 05:12 PM
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I have rarely seen a case of repeated cracking and chipping on glass headlights. Is this due to road debris and such?

My own personal preference is to stick with glass over the plastics. Having worked alot with acrylics, plexiglass, lexan and such, I personally find them to easily scratched to think they would last well over periods of time for a headlight lens. I guess alot simply depends on where you drive and the conditions there. The good plastic alternatives I know of are very expensive for high scratch resistance and to remain clear, and as far as I know no one uses them to make auto lenses (except maybe for some armored car businesses).

I am sure the cost from Volvo is going to be high, but have you checked much into the salvage yards? I found a guy who largely deals in used Volvo parts, who is great to deal with and really tries to make sure you get what you want. I just replaced all my rear lights with some of his and they looked brand new and of course were original volvo parts. He's very reasonable, friendly and quick to fulfill an order if he has the parts on hand (I believe he has headlamps on hand now, as I talked to him a couple days ago).

If you want to give him a try, here is his information C&A Used Cars and Salvage (405)379-5701, ask for Allen although he will probably answer anyways. He's located in Oklahoma, but he ships fast.

Good luck.
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122-850
post Jan 16 2008, 06:33 PM
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Location: Canada
Drives: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon



Hi Blakbyrd,

Thanks for your very helpful response! :clap:

I'm not certain why I go through lenses so quickly, but I'm sure living in the Great White
North ( Edmonton, AB, Canada ) might have something to do with it: such things as
excessive gravel on the roads, yawning potholes, seasonal temperature variation,
disgruntled* hockey fans ...

That said, I keep the car garaged year round, although it can easily get down below 0F
inside due to very poor insulation.

Appreciate your experience with the plastic varieties; it's just what I was worried about,
especially with the cheap, read: affordable, items.

I recall seeing tons of 240s with dirty, yellowed headlight lenses - did they use a non-glass
alternative at some point? In fact I still see a fair number putting around up here.

Thanks for the link to the salvage yard - I'll have to check whether they ship to Canada, but
in any case it's always nice to have a recommendation based on personal experience. Now
that you mention it, my tail light covers ( '95 850 wagon ) are extremely dull - like someone
took a sander to them.

Many Thanks,
122-850

(* - N.B.: Hockey fans needn't be especially 'disgruntled' in order to wreak havoc! )
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MKC70
post Jan 16 2008, 06:58 PM
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Why don't you replace them with glass lenses and use a clear plastic headlight tint to protect them from road debris.
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122-850
post Jan 16 2008, 07:30 PM
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Hi MKC70,

That's a good suggestion - best of both worlds, perhaps.

I don't have any experience with tinting materials or techniques however. Any good starting points you might recommend?

Thanks,
122-850
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122-850
post Jan 16 2008, 09:52 PM
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Drives: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon



Hi All,

Just in case anyone else is interested, I searched a bit for more info on clear headlamp protective tint/film.

A couple of examples at random (no affiliation, of course!):
( http://www.xpel.com/products/headlight_protection.asp ) [X-Pel vinyl@~1 mm thickness]
( http://www.cleardefender.com/index.php?pname=FAQ ) [3M Scotchgard urethane@~0.5 mm thickness]).

However the 3M Scotchgard Paint Protection Film FAQ section at ( http://tinyurl.com/yjvnwm ) contains the following interesting Q&A:

"
Q. Can Scotchgard™ Paint Protection Film be used on headlights, foglights or windshields?
A. No, the Department of Transportation does not allow any film of any kind to be put on headlights, foglights or windshields.
"

Haven't found the US DoT citation in question, nor anything from Transport Canada.

:puzzled: ,
122-850
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MKC70
post Jan 16 2008, 11:55 PM
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It is highly doubtful that you will find a headlight tint even clear to be DOT or SAE certified. This is probably the case in that it is not removable. Order the film from a reputable site and give it a try, it is not very expensive.
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blakbyrd
post Jan 17 2008, 08:05 AM
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Being in Canada and having potentially severe weather or occasionally more severe than those of us un the US, may very well be the heart of your headllight problem. ALl that extra gravel and potentially the use of different chemicals than we in the states use, may be compounding the problem for you. Being that it may get colder where you are, moreso than it may here in t he US, they may be using different chemicals. The common chemicals used in the US are largely gravel and salt (at least in Virginia) which only helps to nedgative 20 degrees F. In colder climates other chemicals would have to be used and this may be effecting your headlamps.

I few things I will mentiont. Putting a film on your headlamps is something I have never done or considered. I have done a fair amount of window tinting in the past, and even though the headlamps are small in comparison, stock Volvo healdlamps are something I would find difficult to do, due to the bumps in the glass that exist on them that tint will not properly form to without cutting out holes in the film (only a looks problem possibly).

It is common in the US for most state's DoT to ban the use of anything on the headlamps. In Virginia that is the case as well, not even anything clear is allowed, nor taillight covers, or even crystal clear license plate covers, etc (window tint itself is practically illegal in any shade).

As for t he taillights, it sounds like yours are experienceing the same problem I had. Personally I have never seen any other wagons with this problem and it bothered me, which is why I replaced them. From Volvo they are expensive. Online you can udually find them for about $100 each (although you will need 4, so it adds up). The main problem I had was that everywhere I found only 2 or 3 of the 4, and I didnt want to try to match a 4th light to another 3 in appearance, so I waiting for about 2 years till I found Allen. He sold me all 4 for $140 and they look like new, but came off a 96 850. He specializes in Volvo Parts somewhat, but sells parts for other vehicles too. I dont know if he has another complete set though. He also mentioned that even in h is years of dealing with Volvos he has only ever seen one other with such frosted taillamps. It sounds like an odd and unusual problem.

Back to the headlamps. My 95 850 has glass headlamps, but the two side marker lamps beside them are plastic. They maintain a slightly frosted look at this point in comparison to the headlamps because of this. I would think yours are also plastic side lamps...how to they look and how have they held up? This may best help you to understand how the standard auto lens plastics may look or hold up in comparison.

Another option, may be something you havent looked into. Most windshield places in the states now offer a service to repair windshield cracks and pits caused by thrown rocks on the road. It isnt real difficult to do it yourself, and places like Advance Auto and AutoZone sell the do it yourself repair kits, but but the best and most invisible look, a professional can do a good job with this stuff and possibly breathe new life into your headlamps. Apparently though, this may be a problem you may have to keep dealing with due to your location and road conditions.

Good luck. It's worth giving Allen a call if you are interested. He's plenty friendly and generally quite happy to talk to you and he i spretty good at being able to recall what he has available in parts off the top of his head. Not to mention he is very reasonable for parts.
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122-850
post Jan 17 2008, 03:51 PM
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MKC70, blakbyrd;

Thanks for your replies - I know it must seem like I'm making a lot of a relatively small
problem, so I appreciate your time in responding.

I think that regarding the headlight coating, I'll just try to go with the self-service repair until
I have time to look into the federal and provincial statutes. It seems like such a great idea,
notwithstanding possible complications in installation as blakbyrd mentions.

In response to blakbyrd regarding the scuffed taillights, it's interesting to note this car was
originally purchased - not by me - in Newport News, VA - and driven there for the first ~100K
miles of its life. I bought it in NC after it reached 'middle age' @ 200K, and the seller
mentioned the taillights always that scuffed appearance since he had purchased it @
~150K.

Maybe something special in the air of VA? Salty mist, perhaps? Raleigh/Durham is far
enough inland that we never directly experienced the ocean air, except for the occasional
hurricane...

Regarding the side marker lights, yes, they are both quite dull - not rough like the taillight
covers, but just clouded. I wouldn't like to have headlight lenses in that condition.

Anyhow, you might be interested to know my wife's theory on why I have such bad luck with
breaking lenses: I wash them too often.

Thanks again,
122-850
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TheGreekMason
post Jan 17 2008, 04:11 PM
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Here is my two cents, but it is only worth one. I've got the 3M film guard on mine and have seen no ill effects. When I bought my first 850, the lenses were scratched and I used jewelers rouge on them. Bascially it is an abrasive mud-like lotion that is used to buff out diamonds and such. use it sparingly since it will scrtach the glass even worse than it already is. I know this by experience. Anyway, once it was clear, I bought this film guard and cut it down to size. It can be used to cover the front of the hood and bumper to protect from debris in the road that is kicked up from the cars in front of you, something like a clear bra that sticks to the car. As long as the DOT doesn't know, hey what the F, you know. I have seen no distortion of the lights since I've put this on. It is clear,not tinted. And the best thing is, that in comes in huge sheets and I can cut as many as needed in case they do go bad. The only thing that I have seen is when washing the car, it comes off since it is held on by static cling, like saran wrap but thicker. Also, like blakbyrd had mentioned, my 850 also has the plastic corner lights. They have also clouded up and the rouge can, and has been used to clear them up. It takes a seriously light hand to buff them out. Hope that helps. Keep us updated. Good luck.
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122-850
post Jan 17 2008, 05:15 PM
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Drives: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon



Hi again TheGreekMason!

Great post as usual - definitely worth much more than $0.02 - even with the USD/CAD
exchange going the wrong way again!

Very interested in the jewelers rouge you mention - what kind of applicator do you
recommend? It is something for which you should use ( or avoid using ) a electric drill?

Wonder if it would work to clean up my 'fuzzy' taillights? Could save a bundle there, too.

Surprising the 3M film is not permanently stuck on. For some reason I imagined making a tiny
mistake in application and then spending hours scraping the junk off with a razor.

So - thanks again - lots of good ideas in this thread.
:beer:

122-850

PS - TheGreekMason: is that a modified 850 in your avatar photo?
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TheGreekMason
post Jan 17 2008, 07:51 PM
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How is the weather up there? Is it sunny :grin: Anyway, you rub it on. I have seen people use an electric buffer, but I didn't want to chance it. I do have a heavy hand when it comes to something as delicate as that. As my wife can attest to when it comes to the good china :haha: It will work on plastic, since I have done the corner turn signals, just go easy on the rouge and the buffing. it just sticks on like static cling. They have a more permanent version, but why leave it on forever and when it starts to scratch up, like they always do, then you will have to scrape it off or remove and replace the whole unit anyway. This is a stop-ga[p measure for now until we all get loads of money to re-do everything at once on our cars. and no, that is not an 850, it is one of my old toys. A '32 ford highboy that I bought like that and kept like that. it was loud, crude, obnoxious and man did I love that POS. it leaked gas and oil, it stopped like crap, turned even worse, but it went straight REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY FAST. and my then new bride hated it on sight. so I got rid of it, but not the harleys, hey, I have some morals. anyway, stay warm and I am glad to see your posts. You have been missed. stay safe brother.
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