How to Work with a Lexan

Headlights are made of polycarbonate.
Headlights are made of polycarbonate. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Lexan is a brand name for polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate is a transparent thermoplastic that looks much like glass. However, it resists breakage and chipping better than glass. Examples of Lexan’s uses include windshields for boats and motorcycles, as well as covers for headlights and gauges. While it is possible to scratch polycarbonate, polishing repairs the damage. You can also bend and shape polycarbonate into desired shapes and angles. With the correct tools, you can work to restore or reshape Lexan.

Things You'll Need

  • Microfiber cloths
  • Plastic rubbing compound
  • Plastic polish compound
  • Plastic cleaner
  • Strip heater
  • Router (optional)
  • Lexan panels

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Apply a plastic cleaner to the material. Do not use an alkaline-based cleaner, as it damages plastics. Use only plastic-safe products. Clean the Lexan thoroughly, removing all dirt. Cleaning prevents scratching while working through the polishing process.

Apply the plastic rubbing compound to the material. This coarse compound rubs out the deep scratches, during the polishing process. Work the rubbing compound over the scratches, at 90-degree angles. Wipe off all rubbing compound before moving to the next step.

Rub on the polishing compound. This finer compound buffs the lighter scratches that remain after applying the rubbing compound. The Lexan surface should be clear and shiny after rubbing away the polishing compound.

Applying plastic cleaner, after the polishing process is complete, conditions and protects the Lexan product against future damage.


Turn on your strip heater. A strip heater is a long thin heating element used to bend plastics like Lexan. The heater comes in various lengths, depending on the size of the sheets you want to work with. You can purchase a thermostat for the strip heater to control the heat output. The ideal temperature for polycarbonate is around 340 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mark the edge of the panel at the bend spot, indicating where to apply heat.

Lay the Lexan sheet on the strip heater. Watch the sheet for signs of flexibility so that it does not overheat. The sheet will buckle inwards at the bend point, and then will straighten again. At this point, it is ready to be worked into a new shape.

Work the Lexan into the desired shape. Bend it quickly because Lexan cools in a matter of minutes. Once it cools, your panel stays in its new shape.

Tips & Warnings

  • The bending technique works best for Lexan panels that are up to 1/8 of an inch thick. Thicker materials may warp during this process. If your panels are thicker, route the bend point so that the material is thinner in that area. This makes warping less likely.


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