How to Tint Your Taillights
- "Night Shades" Tinting paint - or any other brand you can find. Available online from Summit Racing.
- 800 & 1500 Grit Wet/Dry Sandpaper
- Clear Coat Spray Paint
- Masking Tape
- Contact Paper - if masking shapes
How To Do It
Remove your Taillights. To remove the corners, unscrew the big nob holding the carpet down. Pull back the carpet and remove the thumb screws holding the light fixture in. Once it is loose, pull the lense out and twist off the connector holding in the light bulb.
For the inner lights, the whole thing is one long piece. Unscrew the thumbscrews on the inside of the decklid, pull the lights away from the car, and twist out the bulbs.
Now that you have the lights off the car, clean them up with some water or windex or whatever is convenient, if they are really dirty.
Notice how there are raised letters saying DOT something on the backup lights, and on the corner lights. Screw the DOT, lets get rid of this lettering. Break out the 800 grit sandpaper and start wet sanding (yes, that means get the paper wet) on the letters. They will come off surprisingly quick, but it does take a little time. Keep sanding until you can't see any remains of the lettering. With the lettering gone, the final results will look much better.
Now you have probably scratched the lense all up with your sanding. Go over the entire lense with the 1500 grit paper (wet sand) to get rid of the big scratches left from the 800 grit, and to scuff up the surface slightly for better paint adhesion. The lense will begin to look slightly cloudy, but it will look clear again once you apply the clear coat.
Clean all the sanding dust off the lenses, and clean them thoroughly with rubbing alcohol (no, not the same stuff you use for your drinking games!) to remove all dirt and oil. This will help the paint stick much better.
If you are going to make nifty shapes masked out in your lights, like the ovals on mine, now is the time to do so. I cut my shapes out of clear contact paper, then carefully applied them where I wanted on the lenses. Be creative. Ovals are only one option of what you could do. You can also just tint the entire lense and be done with it.
Now you need to mask off the edges of the lenses, and the license plate area, where you don't want to get paint. Masking tape and paper works great for this.
It's now time for the painting. Find yourself a well ventilate area, or an enclosed area if you love the smell of paint fumes.
We will start out with the tinting paint. This stuff is REALLY translucent. You will need to apply a LOT of coats of it to get the desired darkness. I ended up using nearly the entire can on just my taillights and side marker lights. You need to be extra precise when using the tinting paint, because if you get more in a certain area, it will show up as being darker, unlike with regular paint. So be sure to use an even, slightly overlapping motion, and apply exactly the same number of coats to all pieces, or it will look funky, and we don't want funky.
I think I used maybe 15 - 20 coats of the tinting paint! The can says not to apply more than 2-3 coats, but what do they know?
After you have let the tint dry for a few hours, it is time to clear coat the lenses.
If you applied contact paper masked shaped on the lenses, you will want to remove that mask now, before you spray on the clear coat, so the entire lense will get coated. Don't remove the rest of the masking yet though.
The clear coat will protect the tint from scratching off (it isnt very durable by itself), and it will also give the entire lense a nice shine. Spray on a few thin coats of clear coat to all the lenses.
Once the clear coat is good and dry, you can remove all of the masking you applied and marvel at your results. The picture below shows my finished corner lense. The flash made the reflector light up, so it appears that the bottom half isnt tinted, but it is. This just shows that people will still be able to see you at night. Darn.
Now haul those babies back out to your car and install them in the reverse of disassembly. Now is a good time to check that all your bulbs are working and replace them if need be.