Well as most folks, we wanted the taillights tinted black. We wanted to go with something that was professional looking and good enough for the shows. The option that provided the quality look we wanted was to either send ours to a shop to have them painted, or order some that were already done. With the high dollar price tag we were finding, this was not going to be in our budget. Many use VHT nite-shades and tint their own. This allows one to adjust the darkness to the exact amount you want. Problem is that none of us are expert painters, and a rattle can will never spray like a gun. So, 99% of the nite-shades paint jobs I have seen have not looked good closer than across a parking lot. They are either dull/cloudy or they end up VERY textured. The worst don't match or are splotchy. I have seen a handful that sprayed theirs, wet sanded them back smooth, and then coated them in clear from a gun. They have finished the light out with another wet sanding and buff job. Those look great, but do most have the skills to get them slick enough? NOPE. I was not going to chance messing up our factory lights.
Then came the thought of buying a cover like GTS or the like. We wanted to retain the steps the factory taillights had and this was not an option with the more reputable cover companies, as all of theirs were made smooth. We found a stepped version on ebay, but the quality was not up to par. The long and the short of it was that the piece would not fit properly and rubbed the bumper cover upon installation. Rather than deal with trying again with another pair, we thought hard about the fact that these covers would probably get stolen anyway.
So, on to plan 3. On eBay, we had seen different versions of taillight tint. Some was actual film like window tinters use and the other was a removable cling. It got us thinking. The cling would be totally removable if we got harassed by the police and would be easy enough to reinstall at shows. It was half the price of the plastic covers, so why not give it a try. We had successfully installed our own vinyl graphics, so how hard could this be? So, we ordered darkest smoke version they had.
First impressions: The tint was cut with a cutter, so the lines were sharp and professional. The tint itself was strong and the visibility through it was clear and even, without any clouding. There were 3 pieces for each light, one for each step of the lights surface. All points indicating this a good quality piece.
First and foremost, the tint was not hard to install at all.
The process we used was exactly parallel to that you would use when applying graphics. The most important part is to be sure the surface you are applying the piece to is CLEAN. I chose to wash the area with dish soap to be sure to cut any old wax, oil, or gooey debris. Normally the next step would be to use alcohol on clean paper towels. But for some reason, the alcohol started to leave white marks on the plastic lenses, so I would skip that. Fortunately, the white mark that it left was in a hidden spot, so we got lucky. The same thing happened on a friend's lights when he used alcohol, so just stick to the soap. If you really want to be efficient, clay bay the taillight to remove all contaminates.
Now that the area is clean, get a a spray bottle with water and a SMALL bit of soap added. You spray the install area down with the soapy water. This will help wash away any lint or dust that has landed. It will also stop the tint or vinyl from grabbing and sticking prematurely in the wrong position. The soap in the water lubricates the surface just enough that you can actually slide the piece around and into the position you want it, before it's stuck permanently (semi-permanent as this is cling).
Next, you peel the tint off the backing. For an extra measure, I always spray the contact side of the piece as well.
Now you take the wet tint and apply it to the wet light.
You can slide it around until it's where you like it. These pieces were cut a touch too small - they were actually intended for you to stretch them slightly as you install them to get a perfect fit and even slicker install. I noticed the factory light has a dark ring around each light anyway, so the stretching is not really needed. I opted against this method as you would need to apply heat and I did not want to risk damaging the taillight.
Now its time for the squeegee, it will push the excess water/soap out from between the tint and light.
To avoid scratching the tint, I sprayed water on the cling before I used the squeegee. Now the tint is floating on the water trapped beneath. To keep the cling in place as you squeegee, you hold the center tightly in place and lightly and evenly squeegee outwards from the center. You start squeegeeing from the center outwards, this way you are pushing the water outwards toward the edges.
As the water is moved out, the tint will start to stay in place on its own. You continue to work the piece over and over, until it starts to stick on its own. You can then apply a bit more pressure as you are squeegeeing. You want to be sure you get out as much of the water as possible between the tint and light or you will get bubbles. Just don't squeegee the tint when it's dry, as you will scratch it. I keep applying small amounts of the water mixture to the outside of the tint as I am squeegeeing. Be careful though, if you are too aggressive the tint could still slip, or stretch. Again, always squeegee from the center outward. Time is the only way to have 100% of the water removed. The tint has the potential to slide until all water has evaporated.
When you are satisfied with the first piece you can move on to the next, and so forth.
Once each piece was installed, I LIGHTLY cleaned the residual soapy water off the surface of the tint and car to avoid water spots. Again, they can still be disturbed until the water is 100% evaporated.
Here is the finished product..
Some close ups to show you how nice they really are in person. They reflect better then most paint jobs… LOL!