How to polish cloudy plastic screens to a brilliant shine

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1995 Lincoln Mark VIII interior restore
Sajeev Mehta

Be it gauge cluster lenses, windows into your HVAC or stereo control panels, or gloriously fake woodgrain, automotive interiors have relied on highly finished plastic surfaces since the 1970s. I’ve restored lenses dating back to 1972 (in my Continental Mark IV) that were scratched, stained, and foggy. My work culminated in a handful of poorly aged lenses on my 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII’s gauge cluster, trip computer, stereo, graphic equalizer, and automatic climate control module. (NOTE: The following advice does not apply to touch screen or anti-glare screens inside newer cars.)

Here’s a before and after of my Mark VIII’s clear plastic interior screens: Note the haziness on the HVAC controller and the horizontal scratches/spots on the Kenwood graphic equalizer in the before pic. My camera phone in the afternoon sun doesn’t do the final product justice, but believe me that just a few minutes of polishing with the right products makes a huge difference.

All you need is a clean microfiber cloth and a plastic cleaning liquid. There are numerous brands available, but suffice to say that anything marketed to clean foggy plastic is gonna work a treat.

After removing the modules from the dash (very easy on a 1990s Ford product), I dabbed a drop of plastic cleaner on the lens and used mild-to-medium pressure to polish using a microfiber cloth. I applied it three times, in three directions: circular motions, then horizontal and finally vertical motions. Let the cleaner dry to a haze between each directional polish, buff it clean, and visually inspect trouble areas that aren’t turning brilliant before reapplying the plastic polish. Make a mental note of the spots that need extra polishing before you go back to it.

Most trouble spots will disappear with the three applications/polishing motions, but those circular spots on my graphic equalizer were stubborn: Focused polishing in a circular motion were needed to clear them up. But honestly, I was rather sloppy in my restoration, so have a look at AMMO NYC’s instructional video for the best in plastic screen refurbishment.

Oh yeah, he totally did a better job than I did! It pays to sweat the details, so perhaps I should have given my modules to a local paint correction specialist to receive a far superior product. But no matter how you restore your interior plastics to a brilliant sheen, the end result will bring a smile to your face every time you slip behind the wheel, twist the key, and watch them come to life.

1995 Lincoln Mark VIII interior restore
Sajeev Mehta
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