Smoked Tail Lights

The one mistake was that I didn’t bring a friend, because flat out, those tail lights are too angular to do this yourself. You need to stretch this film a whole bunch to get it over that big ridge on the tail light without any imperfections. In order to stretch it, you need to apply constant high heat. I found that 2-5 second intervals of heat from a run-of-the-mill hair dryer at about 6 inches was perfect. Ideally, you want to heat, stretch, squeegie, spray, heat, stretch, squeegie… etc. Throw taking pictures for a DIY in there and this is officially a two man job. Rvinyl didn’t suggest the heating or the spraying of the adhesive surface either, those are just tricks I figured out through a little trial and a little more error. That being said, I’ll at least give you guys what I have so far…

Excuse the poor quality images, camera phone…

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Stuff I used
2 2′ x 1′ rolls universal vinyl, 20%
Graphics squeegie
Blow dryer
LED flashlight (night install)
Spray bottle
10mm ratchet
Plastic drop cloth
Exacto knife
70% isopropyl alcohol

MISTAKE:Using a plastic drop cloth for sticky vinyl was the stupidest idea ever… it was a nightmare any time the vinyl touched the surface.

Our first suspect, the side markers.
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Drivers side, with your fingertips toward the rear of the car, slide the entire piece toward the front of the car.
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While holding the marker forward, pull from the back and the clip should clear the skin. Then just pull her out.
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See that tab just below the wires?
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Push it and remove the harness.
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Next, tail lights. Start by removing the two vented panels in the rear. Just wedge the tip of a knife or a flathead screwdriver into the slot on the top of the panels and a little leverage will have them loose in no time. (Images of right tail light)
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This shot is looking up behind that panel into the rear of the tail light housing. You’ll see two bolts on your left. They’re 10mm. Remove those.
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Once those are off, the light will come out. They’re stubborn though, so be a little careful. I had a lot more luck pushing them out from inside the trunk than I did pulling them out from the rear.

Once you have them out, remove the silver plastic panel on the back that has the parking/turn signal light in it. It just pulls off. The brake light bulb in the back screws to the left a quarter turn and pulls out as well.

In a spray bottle, mix two parts water to one part alcohol. Spray the lights… I mean douse them. Drown them. I sprayed the lights and wiped them clean with a lint-free microfiber towel probably a dozen times. You don’t want any oils or dirt on the lights. It won’t allow the vinyl to adhere. This is the same reason why you should use gloves.
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OK, no pictures from here because, well, my hands were tied. Basically I spent 15 minutes trying to squeegie bubbles out of the tail lights. It wasn’t happening… paralleling my original fears, the vinyl wouldn’t bend over that huge ridge in the tail light without making a ton of bubbles. I tried a little heat (dryer on low) to no avail. Finally, I said screw it… at that point I was convinced this was going to be a total loss if not a good learning experience. I cranked the hair dryer to high and started stretching and was finally having some luck. The second light I did came out close to perfect. The side markers are perfect. The first light is a wreck, and even the second light has some bubbles, but again, it was a learning experience at this point.

The proper way to do this would be to have someone standing over you applying high heat to the vinyl at sporadic intervals. In the few seconds after the vinyl is heated, it is extremely flexible and can be formed to anything. A quick stretch with two hands, hit it with the squeegie and you’re good to move on. A couple other imperitives are to spray both the adhesive side of the vinyl and the tail light liberally with your alcohol/water mix often and to NOT work from the center out as you may be tempted to do right off the bat.

So for now, I roll around with my less-than-perfect install until payday on Thursday when I can order some more vinyl and try again. The nice thing is the vinyl was only 20 bucks, so it isn’t like I broke the bank learning the hard way. The next install will be perfect. I’ll be doing it next Monday, at which point I will post it as a DIY. For now its just a LITHWY (learn it the hard way yourself).

Here are some night preview shots of what it will look like. Since it was in pisspoor lighting and done on a low-res camera, you wouldn’t know I screwed up. Haha.
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