How to Tint Your Car’s Taillights

Taillight tint film 1 photo
People say the headlights are like the eyes of a car, but what about the back! If you’re a boy racer, the taillights are what you want other people to be looking at all the time, because that means they’re losing. Obviously, that’s a very bad way of thinking, though quite it's fulfilling at the same time.
Changing the lights on a car has always been popular – headlights, taillights, indicators, fog lights, you name it. Some of you might think that this is a modern tradition for people who like to spike their hair, but it actually dates to a time when people used beaver oil in their hair. Back in the 20s and 30s, some folks used green or yellow colored glass to give their cars a special touch.

Tinting lights has largely fallen out of favor because of state regulations and bad poor quality workmanship, but we think it’s going to catch on again. Some people prefer to buy brand new clusters, but often times they don’t fit as good as the OEM ones. Tinting your own lights is also cheaper to do than a full replacement.

This can be done in one of two major ways. First, there’s actually painting them. This requires cleaning, prepping, sanding, multiple layers of paint and sealer. It’s complicated, time consuming and might not come as cool as you wanted it if not done professionally. Sanding can also leave visible marks on the plastic. Some people are experimenting with plastidip, but again, this might not be up to scratch.

Our favorite way of tinting has to be using vinyl. The process is quicker, easier, reversible and less costly than the other methods. However, you still have to be patient in order to apply the tinted foil correctly and not create creases, which could give away the effect for what it is.

There are plenty of tint films out there created especially for the job available at car accessory stores or online. They work in a double way, permitting the light to exit, but restricting the light that comes back in. Some companies even offer pre-cuts for the most popular car models, but don’t worry if yours is not on the list. While you’re out shopping, you might also want to pick out a no-scratch nylon spatula, a heat gun and a precision cutter like an X-Acto knife while making yourself a solution made of 85% water and 15% rubbing alcohol.

First things first, the headlights need to be cleaned and dried with a microfiber cloth that doesn’t leave lint. Then spray the alcohol solution on the plastic and on the vinyl. This allows you to move the vinyl around but you have to be quick before it dries.

Now, you need to stretch the film to fit the shape of the plastic. This is easier said than done in some cases where the curvature is complicated. Spray some more of the solution over the top and take the heat gun. This helps the vinyl stretch and become more malleable, but don’t overdo it, otherwise you run the of shriveling or thinning in some areas.

The spatula is your friend. Use it to push the vinyl towards the edges. If you need to use a lot of force because the surface is complex, put the tool in a microfiber towel and use it this way. If you bend the material, after it was heated it will retain the new shape and position after it has cooled down.

Once you’ve reached that point, carefully cut the outside edge with the knife, being careful not to damage the lens. Cut a little wide and use the heart gun and the spatula to shrink the edges inwards our of sight.

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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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