HowTo – Clear Coating and Tinting Headlights

Tags: Automotive Detailing · Clearcoat · Project Cars

Be Sociable, Share! vehicle manufacturers changed over from glass headlights which were often just large bulbs held in a bezel back in the 80’s it gave them the opportunity to introduce a variety of different tear drop shapes that better matched the low drag coefficient shapes on front bumpers.

Unfortunately the new acrylics that are used in the manufacture of these headlight housings do not hold up to heavy abuse and elements.

The first solution was to coat the housing or protect it with a film. This caused headaches for owners and restoration shops because the film on the housing would get damaged over a period of time resulting in a undamaged part that basically had to be replaced.

Now that better plastics are being used it is possible to restore headlight housings by sanding then buffing. It does require quite a bit of manual labor and the results are not always perfect especially if restoration has been performed more then a few times or if there are heavy gouges or chips but it does conserve the cost of parts.

Restoring your Headlights first thing you want to do when working on your headlights is to tape them off well.

First follow the outline of the opening with 1 inch painters tape then back that up with masking paper or newspaper. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to apply two layers of tape around the opening so that a slip with your sander won’t result in paint damage.

You can sand the surface by hand or with a DA sander that has a thick soft foam interface pad. DO NOT simply use your standard DA pad to remove scratches or you will end up with leveled areas that permanently cause damage. your sanding with a 400 grit paper if the damage is heavy and move to 800 grit in at at least one step. For final preparation of the surface you should sand by hand with 800 to 1200 grit sand paper.

If you are not tinting the lenses you have two choices you can complete your work by buffing with a foam buffing pad working your way up from a medium grade to swirl remover.

Your second choice would be to clear the lenses with a 2k clear or apply a clear tint sheet.

Tinting Your Headlights

If you want to tint your headlights you will need to go through all the steps to restore them to good physical condition.

Sand and compound the lenses until they are free of defects.

You now have two choices you can apply a tinted paint and then clear or you can apply a colored film.

I would suggest that if you decide that you want to tint your headlights that you use a tint film rather then a tint paint.

The reason you should not use a paint is because you can not control even application of the tint.

Personally I do not suggest that you tint your headlights. The reason being is that you reduce night time visibility however you are also modifying a DOT approved piece of equipment.

At the very least you could be fined. At the most your work could be the result of an accident.

If you or your customer really desires tinted headlight housings then you should purchase them on the Aftermarket but only if they are DOT approved and inspected. This will limit your liability as a shop owner and limit your liability if you get in an accident and the other sides lawyer inspects your vehicle and uses this unapproved modification against you.

Its much better to see where you’re driving then to impress some fool in the supermarket parking lot.

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