Written By: mtm
Discussion Thread: How-To: Tinting taillights without painting (reversible)
I have had several of you ask me if my taillights are night shaded. Actually, they are not. A year or two ago I decided that I wanted to tint my tails but since the cops around here can be...well cops, I figured they would write me a ticket for them. So I decided to try something new. Instead of using a coating like black/clear mix automotive paint or nightshade paint, I used the cling wrap type of window tint that you can buy at the local auto parts store. It doesn't have any residue or glue and it's held by "clinging" to whatever you put it on. That way, it can be peeled off and removed any time and you have your perfect stock tails back. It also has a nice glossy sheen to it so it looks painted. I had it on my taillights for a year and a half with no problems what so ever. Washing, waxing, buffing, whatever. No peeling, no wrinkles, no bubbles, etc. It is very durable and works very well. I only removed it because I wanted my stock tails back. Anyway, here's how I did it.
Get some window tint from the auto parts store. I got mine from Advance, but everyone even Wal-Mart sells this stuff. It has to be the kind that is "static cling" or else it won't work. It's like vinyl which will allow you to stretch it around the contours you need. I tried 30% but it wasn't dark enough for me so I went with 20%.
Now before you start, take some alcohol and clean your tail light really well. Get off all of the dirt and just make sure it's nice and smooth.
Take your window film and cut out a section big enough so that it drapes over the whole tail light and has some hanging over. 3" overhang should be enough (mine is a little less because this is just a demonstration).
Now, you don't need any water or chemical to apply this stuff. Just lay it over the tail light and use your fingers to push out bubbles and wrinkles. Don't worry about the edges just yet. Just try to get the main part of the tail light smoothed out. By the way I'm using newer taillights which have 2 grooves made into them. Don't worry about getting the tint all the way down in the groove. If you just push it down to where it stretches and touches the bottom of the groove, it will be more than enough to define the shape.
Once you get to the edges, then it gets a little tricky. There are many compound curves you have to deal with, but if you take your time it will come out fine. A hair dryer or heat gun will work well to help soften the tint up so you can pull it over the edges. Make sure you don't pull to hard because it will rip. Continue this all the way around the edges until all of the wrinkles are gone and it's nice and smooth. Using the heat gun on the wrinkles slightly will help remove them as well. Just make sure you don't hold it there too long or it will crinkle up from the heat.
For the overhang you can either just tuck it up behind the tail light when you re-install it, tape it, or do like I did and hit it with the heat gun so it draws up and tightens down. Now you can take a razor blade and make 2 small incisions over the holes where the screws go on the outside. You will be able to tighten them down and then the slit will close back up when you remove the screwdriver.
Your good to go. And now if you get hassled by the cops or decide you want your stock taillights back like I did, just grab a corner and peel it off. No residue, no glue, no problems.
Here are some finished pictures.