Akstraw

Preserving Headlamp Reflectors

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I had the headlamp reflectors re-silvered for my '22 Marmon.  Is there something I could or should do to preserve the new luster?  I imagine that regular polishing will eventually wear down the new silver.

The headlamps will probably see little to no use on this car for the foreseeable future.  Has anybody experimented with waxing or clearcoating silver reflectors?  Any other ideas?

   

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Andrew,

A good quality automotive paste wax without any abrasive in it, and a soft cotton cloth to buff it. Rub from center to outer edge, not in circles.

 

Then make sure that the lens seals to the reflector very well to reduce chances of moisture getting to the silver. 

 

Paul

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On ‎8‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 9:09 AM, PFitz said:

Andrew,

A good quality automotive paste wax without any abrasive in it, and a soft cotton cloth to buff it. Rub from center to outer edge, not in circles.

 

Then make sure that the lens seals to the reflector very well to reduce chances of moisture getting to the silver. 

 

Paul

 

Thanks, Paul.   I will try it.

 

BTW, Dick e-mailed me yesterday that my Gemmer steering box is finished for the 145.  I am excited about putting that car back on the road!

 

Andrew

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36 minutes ago, Akstraw said:

 

Thanks, Paul.   I will try it.

 

BTW, Dick e-mailed me yesterday that my Gemmer steering box is finished for the 145.  I am excited about putting that car back on the road!

 

Andrew

  Very understandable, it's such a pretty car. If it runs as well as it looks your jaw muscles will get tired smiling so much.

 

Paul

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The moisture seal will work as long as the air trapped inside the headlamp does not go below its dew point, when condensation will occur.

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12 minutes ago, Spinneyhill said:

The moisture seal will work as long as the air trapped inside the headlamp does not go below its dew point, when condensation will occur.

 The manufacturer of Andrew's 1930  car used cork gaskets to seal all the lights. The cork kept out even wind-driven rain, but allowed any trapped moisture to be forced out through the cork by vapor pressure caused by the heat of the bulbs or sunlight. Rubber seals would have trap that moisture.   I've never seen moisture damaged reflectors if the cork seals were still good. 

 

Paul

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9 minutes ago, Spinneyhill said:

So the modern rubber-impregnated cork might not be a good idea?

 I don't know how well the rubberized cork gasketing would "breath" with vapor pressure. I only use plain cork when I make new reflector gaskets.

 

I don't know what Marmon used but cork was very common for light reflector gaskets  so they might have also used it.  

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)

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4 hours ago, Akstraw said:

Re-silvering  done by Steve's Auto Restoration in Portland, Oregon. 

 

Thanks. I was considering sending mine there.

 

I have never heard of clearcoating silver, As I understand it the bare sliver is what does the trick. UVIRA coating (instead of silver) is a tarnish-proof alternative, but I am still leaning toward real silver.

 

On 8/30/2018 at 1:05 PM, Spinneyhill said:

So the modern rubber-impregnated cork might not be a good idea?

 

Some say the rubber outgasses and tarnishes the silver. I asked Steve (of Steves Auto Restoration) about that and he had never heard of it causing a problem. He had pure cork gaskets, so thats what I bought.

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I don't see why clearcoating would not work.  Some brass-era owners coat their brass to eliminate regular polishing.  I think the main risk would be the elevated temperature damaging the coating if you actually operate the headlights.

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The trick is never touch the silver on the reflectors. Any contaminates such as the natural oils in your skin will tarnish the silver. Do not use rubber-impregnated gaskets. The oils in the rubber will tarnish the silver too. Put on white museum gloves when handling them for installation. I have never used any products or done any cleaning on mine and they look as good as the day they were installed 18 years ago.

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I had the UVIRA coating done over the new nickel and they look great , my guess is that they can do it over the silver 

They do dental reflectors 

They are in Merlin Oregon

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Explained to me by my plating shop that does nickel plating for Uvira to do their coating process - the reflectors have to be nickel  plated because the Uvira process is done with aluminum over nickel, not silver. Then the aluminum is coated with glass to prevent it from tarnishing. Apparently the aluminum process adheres best to nickel.

 

Pail

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3 hours ago, rickb said:

Dental reflectors for the lights, you know the ones that shine in your eyes

Um, that didn't help!  :lol:

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I had the Uvira process done on one of my cars as well. Reflectivity is comparable to silver and the end result does not tarnish, although I still wouldn't go touching it or rubbing it with a rag or anything like that. 

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Seems like a lot of bother and expense.  I had my original reflectors re silvered forty five years ago by a local silverware shop..  Have polished them three times in the last 300,000 miles.  Pretty simple to stay with original technology.  At night I can stop from 50mph in the distance of my headlight beams.  What more could you want.

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I'm with Tinindian on this, I had my '34 Packard reflectors resilvered perhaps 45 years ago and have polished them 2 or 3 times since then, they still provide acceptable illumination.

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Just a guess, but I'll bet Trinindian and Owe_Dyneto use cork gaskets.  The reason rubber gaskets are bad is that sulfur is used in the vulcanizing process. Sulfur is great for tarnishing silver. Ask anyone who has propane or natural gas for central heating. That said, I think there are numerous new gasket materials that might work. My one late 1930s classic has cork gaskets, and they work well - over decades -  with minimal care.

P

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Had my 32’ Olds reflectors done by Uvira. Cost including shipping was $75 and turnaround was 3 days. I think that’s pretty reasonable and the service was excellent. My reflectors were worn and showing lots brass so my neighbor polished them perfectly for me and his plater nickeled them for no charge so my cost was about $90 including my shipping to Uvira. They sparkle much better than my resilvered ones on my 31’ Chevy.

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