Tinting Your Taillights




in this instuctable i will show you the proper way of tinting your car's tail lights. I'm sorry for the lack of pictures but i did this over a year ago, and since then lost most of the pictures. I'll try to be as detailed as possible

Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible to any damage that may occur in this process. and as always follow your local laws on the tinting of tail lights.

Step 1: Materials Needed

materials needed (not all shown)

About two (I used three) cans of tinted window hobbies paint $4 per can (any color would work)
a can or two of VHT nightshade

Painter's tape (use the blue tape)
Rubbing alcohol $1
one can of high luster lacquer $4-$5
400-800-???? grit wet/dry sand paper (i had some lying around)
Paint thinner (in case of screw ups)
A clean bucket or sink ( I already had a bucket)
dawn dish soap $1
Paper towels $1
tack cloth or swifter pad $2

Step 2: Removing the Lens

this method of tinting the lenses require that the lights and lenses be removed from the car.
 before you start removing the bolts or nuts, be sure to pull the carpet back as much as you need, its not worth the hassle of trying to do it by touch.
remove all the bulbs and harness (I left them attached).
pull the nuts or bolts and keep them in a safe place remembering where they went.

Step 3: Masking Off the Lens

masking off the lens:
before you stat masking off with all your creative glory, it most likely that  the lens is covered with dirt, using the alcohol and the paper tower, wipe off all the dirt and road grime. Using the tape, mask off anything you don't want to be darker. most people just tape off the trim, but i didn't want to affect my ability to back up at night  so i taped off the clear as well. plus it looks cooler ; ). In this step, it doesn't have to be prefect, because its all just gonna come off later.

Step 4: Wetsanding

sorry its not time to start painting yet. the surface of the lens way to smooth along with the dot lettering on the bottom. for the lettering on the bottom i used a razor and carefully shaved off the letters. time to start wet sanding. in a five gallon bucket filled about half way with warm water add about a 1/4 of a teaspoon of dawn liquid dishsoap.
with a sheet of 600 grit wet/dry sand paper saturate the entire sheet, along with the lens (you don't have to dunk the lens) palm sand the entire lens (everything you don't have masked off). Warning: do not finger sand with the paper wrapped around any point of your hand, use you entire palm with gentle even pressure (this avoids and low spots). be sure to keep the lens and sandpaper wet at all times and remember to rinse them off often.

Step 5: Cleaning & Retaping

at this point most of the tape is pretty much soaked. the reason for taping it off before is so that it wouldn't get scratched from the wet sanding. when you wipe off the light with paper towel it should appear to be wight and streaky, don't worry it mostly just the soap. your lens will scratched badly, this is normal. take off all the tape and re-wipe the lights with the paper towel and alcohol  thoroughly followed by the tack or swifter cloth to remove any fuzzies. 
this is the time to be really anal about the tape. reapply the tape being sure to get in to any groove that paint might possibly get in to. for this step i suggest that you also tape off the side/back of the lens about a few inches to protect against over-spray. after taping run your fingers along the edges to insure a good tight seal.

Step 6: Painting

its finally time to paint.
******as with any other type of paint you want to apply in a well ventilated area free of wind that will carry contaminates. ******
with your ares all set up, its time to check and re check for any contaminates on the lens.
read the directions and follow them to the tee, they know what they're doing. apply paint in light coats instead of heavy coats. use your judgment on how dark you want them. holding them up to a light is a good quick test to see how much light is shining though.
******Warning: if your light is curved, do not attempt to cover in one continuous spray. see proper illustration below.******

Step 7: Clear Coat

if you are at this step and the paint isn't smooth or if you have runs, let dry completely and wet sand with a very high grit sand paper (900+).
For the clear coat, let for full dry time and whip every nook and cranny clean for contaminations. follow the the directions on the can, and  step 6.
For this step i applied two coats of clear with the paint still on and two more with the tape off except for the flexible rubber seal.

Step 8: ENJOY!

after full dry time, install the lights and marvel in your handiness!
For additional shine let dry for a week and wax for a more durable finish.

I hope you enjoyed my first instructable: feel free to leave any helpful feedback



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    12 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice instructable on HOW to do this.

    C'mon folks, there is no reason to question WHY, or any or your own state's laws.

    Nice job.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    ... what's the box inside the box say? i can't read it.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    in some places this is actually illegal because its modifying a specifically designed device for alerting other road users


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I've used both VHT and Testor "window tint" to do tail lights and side markers.  One thing that I've learned is that most people apply too much paint.  The paint needs to remain transparent to allow light to be seen.  I always do this with the light "on", in a well lighted garage.  If done correctly, in some ambient light situations, you still can see some "red" and "amber" colors.  It takes a few times to get the coloring correct.  If you see that you have applied too much paint, you can remove the paint before it dries with lacquer thinner. The plastic may get hazy, but will be transparent when the paint is applied again.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Some cops are pricks and will definitely get on you about this. To prevent the heat, I taped off the reverse light, which is white to make sure that it shines through. VHT works great though at letting light pass right through anyway. Nice instructable


    9 years ago on Introduction

    If you've ever seen this done properly there is not really that big of a difference. Most taillights put out more than the state laws require as far as light output. So to dim them down a bit will not hurt.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just out of curiosity, why would anyone want to do this?  The taillights are for warning other drivers.  Under normal clear condition, this might not cause huge problems, but at night, when its foggy or raining, your car will appear much further away than in reality.  If you slam on your brakes, you increase your chances of getting struck from behind.  Not a huge big deal in Florida, since the car in the back is considered automatically at fault in a rear-end collision, following too close.  I've got a hunch this might be illegal in many areas, just as there are some pretty strict requirements on window tinting, which probably aren't enforced, until after an accident.  People driving these days, just do take it serious enough.  They play with cellphones, GPS units, laptops, and a bunch of other gadgets while in traffic, and the car is in gear.

    A good presentation, but a very dangerous idea, not mention could be very costly in the end.  I would fight an accident in court very hard, seek to recover damages as well.

    2 replies

    >  It is illegal in several states (although not in all county's of each state due to some strange loopholes...), but I agree, it is a poor idea for anyone who drives at any time other than bright daylight, zero weather, and zero traffic.  I personally hate drivers who refuse to use turn signals, tailgate, or swoop in front of me in heavy traffic and have to slam on the brakes - if they want to kill themselves, fine by me, but by ignoring the law AND intelligence they are purposely trying to kill me.  I live in NY, where they're beginning to seriously crack down on every traffic violation, and frankly I say kudos to them for it.
    >  I guess for people who live in very low traffic areas or never see another car in their life, this is fine, but I wouldn't hesitate to call my cops if I saw this on a neighbor's car.  In my village, it's totally illegal to have any tint on taillights - the brake lights have to be visible 500ft away in full sun, and even 5% tinting has caused major penalties.

    I forgot to mention - before doing a project like this, it is HIGHLY advisable to ask a state police office about the legality state-wide, and learn the laws of any states you wish to travel to.  If you drive into another state in violation of their visibility laws, when a judge asks you if you knew the local laws and you reply "no", your fine will mostly likely triple, at minimum.  A college classmate had tinted windows and taillights and drove from NY (70% tint MAX on windows) to Massachusetts (~30-40% MAX) without knowing the laws, and the judge increased his fine by 5x for negligence.  Don't take the same chance.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    From an instructable standpoint:  Great writeup.  Good pictures, good instructions, and warnings... Good job :).

    On the other hand:  As a driver - I drive a lot.  Too much in fact.  <opinion alert> People who do not upkeep their traffic signals and headlights (turn signals, light bulbs, replace broken housings, etc) should be fined as badly as speeders and drunk drivers.  People who INTENTIONALLY make their signals more obscure should have their cars crushed.  :)

    Possible solution:  Find a brighter light source so that a sufficient amount of light gets emitted from the less-transparent housing.  Uuber led upgrade maybe?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    For not having more pictures, this is a great instructable. Very detailed. And very understandable.