Hapkido and Headlights

My daughter Alison (and occasionally Jenny) has been learning Karate for years from Mike Agoff and his daughter Sarah at Bay Area Martial Arts Academy. They are based in Burlingame, CA but give classes in two places in Portola Valley near where I live (Alpine Hills and the Town Center). The kids think that they are learning to fight and defend themselves (and they are) and us parents like that they are learning respect, perseverance and follow-through to commitment (that they are too. Don’t tell the kids though….)

Alison is now an advanced blue-belt, and it’s taken her years to achieve this honor. And over that time, I’ve gotten to know the Agoffs pretty well. Mike, the dad and head of the family business, is a fairly strict and very conservative individual (with me being a tree-hugging liberal, you can guess that this has lead to friction from time to time, like when I let my girls dye their hair bright colors) and his daughter Sarah is is a total dream. She’s in her twenties, and is just as dedicated as her dad but without many of his harder edges. Anyway, when I’ve been around people I like for a considerable amount of time, like I have the Agoffs, I do things for them from time to time. I guess one would call these “acts of service”. If you don’t know what that means, read this post I wrote a while ago. This is Ali getting her latest belt from Mike.

The Agoff family is very active. Mike is a bee-keeper, they have horses and are very outdoorsy. Mike and Sarah both drive trucks a lot of the time. I’m a fairly automotive guy, and it’s always bothered me that both of their trucks headlights are pretty badly fogged. Every time I see them, I tell myself I’m going to do something about it. Well, I finally have, at least for Sarah. She has a 2003, Chevy Silverado 2500 HD 4×4. One day at Karate Camp this summer, I showed up with a headlight restoration kit and went from this:

to this:

This is a pretty easy job for anyone with hand-tools and initiative. This is what it takes: First buy a kit. They are available at any auto parts store and go for about $20. The Meguiar’s kit I bought was $21, I think. But in hindsight, I should have bought a different one that came with it’s own microfiber towel. If I’d done the work in my own driveway, it wouldn’t have mattered as I have a drawer full of rags and the like for detailing cars, but doing the work at the Karate studio, I wish I’d spent the extra $5 to get the kit with the microfiber.

You MUST have some blue tape to protect the paint around the headlights, and a cordless drill for buffing the headlight. This kit contained the following:

The tan and red discs are 3000 and 1000 grit sand paper. Sarah’s lower headlights were so bad I wish I’d had some 600 grit as well. The Plastix is a plastic polish, and the little bottle is something you put on at the end to coat the headlight and fill the last of the little cracks. The yellow buffing wheel is used with the Plastix to polish the lenses. Anyway, start by cleaning the dirt and dead bugs off the headlights and mask the paint to protect it. He’s a close up of how bad her headlights were:

Haze and fog for sure. Polishing anything is a process of making finer and finer scratches. The big scratches remove material faster, but leave, well, smaller scratches. This action of material removal is called “cutting” and doing it fast is good, but leaves a more uniform damage behind. Then you use a finer grit (going from the 1000 grit to the 3000 grit). Eventually the polish leaves tiny scratches so fine that they aren’t optically active. That is they don’t scatter the light and it looks smooth to the eye. The coating one puts on at the end fills the last of the scratches, and the liquid forms a very smooth surface as it dries to really polish off the job.

This is a close up of one of the finished headlights. I did pretty well at on the top, but the lower lights needed more help than I could give with the tools and the time available. Really, if I’d had a power disc to do the sanding with the drill, I think I could have made them look like new, but that wasn’t part of the kit.

Sarah said that she really noticed a difference driving at night. I’m not bothered by seeing her fogged headlights when I see her truck. And she thinks that they look so good that she’s been shamed into maybe getting the truck washed and waxed (the paint needs a lot of help. Job for another day!) Anyway, check out your headlights. If they are fogged, $25 and an hour or two of time can really help a lot. This isn’t just about looking good, but functioning headlights are much safer when driving at night. Go for it!

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