Polishing Tailights

2000 Grit tailightThis article is about how to polish the ridges off of the Mk2 Scirocco’s tailights to give them a smooth, glassy finish. It makes me want to eat some candy! 

ATS logoThe following is inspired an old ATS Technote 

This is the original text from the ats technote… 

After seeing someone else do this, I decided to try this mod myself, so I never had the original idea myself. But as with all my other tech notes, here is how I did my smooth taillights, rather an easy process.

You need an orbital sander, I used my Black and Decker mouse, but any orbital sander will do. do not use an rotation belt sander, because the friction of the belt sander will heat up your lenses to quickly and you will create cracks in your lenses.

I used different grit sand papers and supplies to achieve my goal:

  • 80 grit to take the ridges off

  • 120 Grit to plane the surface

  • 220 to fine sand the planed area

  • Dry 400 Grit to remove almost all scratches made

  • Wet 600 Grit by hand to begin the first rough polishing

  • 1500 Wet Hand Sanding to get a nice smooth surface

  • A can of Clear Coat Gloss can of spray (Testors or other that are designed for plastic will work)


More recently, Carl Maxwell, known as ginster86roc on the VWVortex did this with his tailights. I will post the text, and  those pictures right here.

Polishing tailights 1

What you’ll need:

  • a pair of uncracked tail lights
  • an uncluttered, well lit work area…preferably where you can sit
  • a d/a or ‘mouse’ type sander
  • pads for said sander
  • sandpaper #8o/12o/22o/4oo/8oo/15oo/2ooo
  • a small pail for wetsanding
  • grubby clothes
  • and, patience!

After talking with mr lee having seen his lovely smoothed lights, i gathered the supplies and equipment to take on the job: a mouse sander, plenty of paper and refreshments.
I happened to be working on a pair of ecode tail lights that i’d just received from a fellow texer. not wanting to bugger them up, i decided to do a test run on a broken t/light that i happened to have around…to get a feel for the task before doing “the real mccoy”.

Cracked lensthis was after using #8o on the mouse on the reverse lens of my practice piece. see that ginormous crack in the pic to the left? yeah…that’s what you’ll see after you sand the ridges off if you have lenses that are “less than perfect”.

Feathered edgesan end-on view to the right, showing the feathered edges of the ridges…

the thing to remember here is to take your time…there is no rush. let the tool do the work.

Work slowly and evenly with the sander, making circular motions. the idea here is to knock the ridges down. stop often to check the wear on the sanding pad. rotate the tool to expose a fresh part of the sanding pad. and every so often, it helps to clean the ‘teeth’ of the sandpaper to unclog it of plastic residue. this also helps you get a little more mileage from each sanding pad. 😉

and yes…it *will* take a while with the #8o grit.

being satisfied with my results on the test lens, I decided to do the ecode units. I again started @ the reverse lens and worked my way across. the key is to work slowly, let the tool do the work…rotate the sander ever’ so often, switch hands…and vary your pattern of rotation.

 (top pics) after knocking off the ridges with the #8o grit…

(bottom pics) sanded unit up top for comparo… 

 80grit 80grit2 

Compro2 Compare80grit

220gritrepeat the process with the sander moving up in grit…i used #12o followed by #22o. this is what it looks like after the #22o at left…

now the fun part (by hand) begins.

I went up to #4oo grit next. at first I tried using a sanding block…but due to the curvature of the lens face that proved futile. so I abandoned that and went bare-handed. the thing to remember here again…is to use light pressure. you shouldn’t be pushing down on the work surface. turn your paper around to a fresh surface often. when the paper gets clogged, it’s time to rotate it…or get a fresh piece. i cut mine down to maybe 4×4 squares for ease of handling.

400Shineyou’ll know you’re starting to get close when you start to see a ‘shine’ coming back to the surface.

this is after the #4oo…

light swirls are to be expected. the #8oo wet-sand will take care of that.

I has a bucketSoak your paper in a bucket for a few minutes.

keep the work surface wet and work small circles ever so lightly…finger pressure only. dip the paper in water frequently to rinse it out and continue. take your time. After wet sanding

Here’s what it looks like afterwards…I moved up next to #15oo grit next.

1500 Grit Tailight

took it over to the kitchen sink, under running water to flush away the sanding residue as you go. take your time. remember: light pressure. This is what we get…startin’ to look mighty fine.

though it might be overkill for some…i went on to #2ooo grit… ’cause i’m persnickety like that.

2000 Grit tailight Dust

now…go clean up your mess!

there will be dust everywhere…along with scrap pieces of sandpaper…and drippings from your wet sanding. bust out the shopvac

note the *gleaming* finished product.

Stay tuned for partII: tinting and painting.