Introduction: How to Tint Tail Lights With Adhesive Vinyl.
If you like that ninja stealth look, you might have considered tinting your tail lights. It can be done for about $40.00 depending on what tools you already have. Tinting with adhesive film can be difficult. If you do your tail lights in the right order, you will have the practice you need to be satisfied with the end result. This job is done with a roll of tint from Rvinyl. It will be easier if you get the pre-cut kit for your specific model vehicle.
Note: Many jurisdictions have a law which says something like "every motor vehicle must be equipped with at least two tail lamps mounted on the rear, which, when lighted as required by this chapter, emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet". Be sure to check your local laws.
Step 1: How to Remove Tail Light Tint.
If your are removing tint, the best way to do it is with a hand held clothes steamer. As the tint heats up, you should be able to peel it away without leaving adhesive residue behind. You can get one for about 20 bucks from places like Bed Bath and Beyond.
If you try to simply peel it off, it will come off like an evil bar code sticker.
Step 2: Remove the Tail Lights.
You can place the tint with the lights in place but its better to remove them. One reason is because temperature affects how much time you have to work with. Room temperature is always good to work in. Another reason is being able to push down on the tint while you are shaping it. Gravity will help keep the placement.
These tail lights pop out after removing two torx screws and disconnecting the light bulbs.
Step 3: Clean Off Any Dirt and Grease.
You are essentially putting on a big sticker. Stickers stick best when surfaces are clean. I used rubbing alcohol to clean the lights off. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Edges on tail lights often have a rounded edge. If this edge is dirty the film will want to pop up.
Once your lights are clean you can pre-cut your pieces. Make sure the surface you are working on is also clean. This tint can be charged with static electricity so it will pick up any dust or dirt around.
Step 4: Peel Off One Side
This tint has a protective layer on both the top and bottom. Start by removing the layer which exposes the sticky side. Spray both the tail light surface and the sticky side of the tint with Windex. Lay the rough cut piece on your light and begin to squeegee out the Windex with a plastic squeegee. Be careful not to scratch the tint by covering the squeegee with a paper towel.
The same reason Windex is great to use is also it's Achilles heel. Since Windex has alcohol in it, it will dry quicker than soapy water, and allow the tint to stick to the light. However, the alcohol will begin to eat away at the adhesive if you take too long. This will appear as little specs of bunched up goo.
Not using any applicator fluid at all will make it difficult remove air bubbles and contour the film.
Make sure to start with the lights that are flatter. Those will be easiest and will give you the practice for the curvier parts.
Keep a windex wet paper towel over your squeegee to prevent scratching through out the application.
Step 5: Contour the Edges.
Once the film is placed up to the edges, use your thumb nail to push the tint into any seams. This will help the tint to take on the proper shape. You may have to make relief cuts in the corners.
When you have most the tint in place, peel off the upper protective layer. If you leave it on it you will have to fight two sheets of plastic into place.
The tint will not roll over the edges until you form it with a heat gun. You may have already needed a heat gun just to get to this point. You will need it for sure to move on from here. Carefully work the heat back and forth until the film softens. Smooth the film over the edges and hold it there. Remove the heat and let the film cool off while you hold it in place. Sometimes I get a helper to apply an ice cube to the area I'm trying to "freeze" into shape.
Step 6: Trim
After you have gone around the entire light, use a razor blade to trim off the excess. If you have any suborn bubbles, you can make a tiny prick in the film and push them out through the hole you just made.
Step 7: Moving On
Do the same process as you move onto the corner lights. Just make sure to clean off your working surfaces again. You will knock some dust out of the first ones as you work with them. If you are not careful the dust will get onto the static charged film.
Step 8: The Hard Part
If you have a helper this is the time to use them. Otherwise you have to do like I did and hold the heat gun with your chin. This is what you see in the first picture. Be extremely careful if you do this. For these lights I removed the upper film right away. Keep a windex wet paper towel over your squeegee to prevent scratching.
Heat the film up evenly in the section which has the most contour. In this case it's the corner of the light. The film starts out flat but its going on a curved surface. As you heat up the long edge (second picture) apply pressure with your hands so that you stretch the film into place. Work your way outward to the edges of the light. In some areas you will have to stretch the film to fit. In others you have to shrink it together. But in a nutshell you apply it by heating up the film, holding it to shape, letting it cool, and repeating. In the third picture you can see it starting to come along.
I spent about an hour on this light. The second one turned out better because I was able to do that one faster (having practice with the first). You can see in the fourth picture how the adhesive can begin to ball up if you take too long. But I also think some of it is loose dirt that got picked up from my work surface after the first set. As the the film completely drys the bumps reduce in appearance.
Good luck. Thanks for reading.