DIY: Smoking Taillights

01-14-2008, 04:06 AM
I did this a couple weeks ago and finally got the pics uploaded, so I figured I'd do a write-up. I don't know if you want to put it in the tech articles or not, but feel free to put it where you want.

First off, I'll start with the materials needed.

- Taillights
- A clean environment
- Masking tape
- Rubber gloves
- Bucket
- Paper Towels
- Scotch Brite Pads (Ultra Fine)
- Wax & Grease Remover
- Transparent Black Paint

For the cleaning agent, I use Dawn ORIGINAL dish soap, it cuts through grease/dirt but doesn't leave any residue when you're finished, as some other "scented" soaps do. It's also sort of a wax and grease remover for thick deposits.

You'll also need a good wax and grease remover. Being as I do alot of bodywork, I have access to full-on bodyshop materials, but any general wax and grease remover will work. If you do have access to materials like this, I suggest Final Clean, works wonders.

Next you'll need something to scuff the lights with. You can either use high-grit sandpaper (about 1000 will work), or you can get the ultra-fine scotch brite pads, which is what I use. They're a little bit easier to work with on something like this. But be absolutely sure they're the ultra fine, if they're not, you'll see the scuff scratches after you spray the lights.

And last but not least, you'll need a transparent spray. I picked up some transparent black at the local hobby shop. They usually use it for tinting windows on model cars, but it works great for smoking tails as well, I used about a can and a half I believe, so about 4.5oz of actual paint.. I believe Testors makes some transparent paint, and NiteShades make something similiar. Or if you're really good with a paint gun, you can take some black paint, reduce the hell out of it (600% or so), and spray it on in very light even coats. I will be going that route on my next pair of lights to see if it's any easier/harder.

For starters, take your bucket and put some warm water in it, and then put in some of the Dawn dish soap. Next you'll take the Scotch-Brite pad and dip it into the bucket of warm soapy water (I cut the pad into 4 smaller pieces with a razor blade because in the box we get them, they're pretty large).

Don't be afraid to get water all over when you do this, as that's the point of the water, to keep the pad lubricated so it does a better job.

Now the point of the scotch pad is to scuff up the lights so the paint has something to stick to. Paint will not stick to very smooth things, so in reality what you're doing is creating millions of tiny scratches so the paint has something to grab onto. You know you're done when you can look at the taillight in a bright light from many angles and not see ANY shiny spots. You'll know what I'm talking about when the time comes. Here's what a completely scuffed light looks like.

After you get them all scuffed up, take your time and mask off the black plastic connected to the red part of the light. I only put one strip around the whole thing because I was careful enough to not get paint on the rest of it, but if you don't trust yourself, completely mask off the whole taillight. Or if you don't care how professional it looks, don't mask off anything being as you'll be spraying black paint on black plastic, but I'm picky, so I taped it off.

Now take the wax and grease remover and a very clean paper towel, dump some wax and grease remover on the towel and wipe down the entire red part that you just scuffed. You may get it clean the first time, or it may take a few wipes to get it clean, but make sure when you're done, you can wipe down the taillight with a clean towel, and get nothing on the towel. Don't worry about getting lots of liquid on the light, being as it drys very quickly. Wait for the entire light to dry before you start painting, otherwise you'll get lots of imperfections in the light. Here's the taillight taped off and wiped down with the wax and grease remover.

Now you're ready to spray. I suggest putting on a rubber glove, because you'll have to hold the light in different positions while painting and sometimes you get a little on your hand. When painting, make sure you make even strokes, and make sure you put the coats on very, very lightly, being as the paint has a tendency to run (worse than automotive clearcoat). You'll probably have to put on about 5-10 coats depending on the darkness you want, but I can't stress enough that light coats are important, and let them dry for about 10-15 minutes between each coat, otherwise you'll get runs/sags. I made the mistake of putting on a couple coats too fast and got a few sags early on, but they were small enough that by the time I was done, they were covered up. Here's one light after about 4 coats. I wanted to go more with a dark smoked look than just a lightly smoked, so I continued to put more coats on.
I believe I put on 7-8 by the time I was done. The final pictures look alot darker than they actually are. The pics make them look black from close up, but they only look black from a ways away, the closer you get, the more you can tell they've been smoked.

Here's a pic with the flash on. As you can see, the reflectors are very visible, so there aren't any safety issues or anything like that.

I've read some articles on smoking lights where some people will clear the lights after painting, then color sand and buff them, but I don't feel all those extra steps are necessary, so I didn't do them (and this was a trial). The paint is very durable and I think it will last for as long as any regular paintjob would.

I don't have any pics of them on the car yet, mainly because I'm not totally done with it, and I'm waiting to get a center tail light that I can paint to match the car. When I get them installed, I'll get some day and night time pics, both with the lights off and the lights on, so you can see how dark they look while installed.

Feel free to leave comments (both positive and negative), and good luck if you ever get the chance to try this yourself.

01-14-2008, 04:30 AM
Hmmm....Looks like I have a summer project on my hands..... scratch that.. and Spring project on my hands.... thanks for the write up!!

01-14-2008, 08:31 AM
Good write up Garrett. Looks like something I might want to do. Gotta get more experience with the gun:lol:

01-14-2008, 08:51 AM
Good write up Garrett. Looks like something I might want to do. Gotta get more experience with the gun:lol:

The paint is in a spray can.

Excellant write up Garrett, your lights turned out excellant. I tinted mine a few months back but use clear coat mixed with black paint. They turned out pretty well also.

Which car are you putting these on? Car we get a pic of them on the car?

01-14-2008, 10:56 AM
They're going to go on the orange RS, but right now I'm waiting on the center tail light. I'm getting one from MazdaX and next time I get home I'm going to spray it to match the car, and then I will install the lights. And there will be many, many pics of the RS sometime in the near future.

01-14-2008, 01:52 PM
Did they turn out smooth, looks like there is some ruff places in the first pic of them finished.

01-14-2008, 01:56 PM
Did they turn out smooth, looks like there is some ruff places in the first pic of them finished.

I kinda notice it on the 3rd pic though.

01-14-2008, 03:23 PM
I have heard before that this method will need to be wetsanded and buffed to make the paint smooth.

How do they look in person Garrett?

01-14-2008, 07:29 PM
They look pretty good, of course they're not perfectly smooth like a clear would be, but they're also still wet in the pics, the paint did lay down some after the pics were taken. I didn't really want to put all that work into them right away, mainly because I was unsure of how they would turn out. Maybe if I get some extra time when I'm doing the center section I'll give them a shot of clear and buff them.

01-14-2008, 08:59 PM
I think that would be a good idea. Spray some clear on the light when you do the center section.

01-14-2008, 09:13 PM
Yeah when I paint the center light will get the same base/clear that I did the rest of the car with. I got a bunch of little things to paint so I'm going to do them all at the same time.

vanilla gorilla
01-14-2008, 11:02 PM
Yeah I think I'm going to try this on my spare civic tails. But I'm going to do a clear coat on top and wetsand/buff.

06-28-2008, 07:41 PM
Hey... i think i just got me a project for next weekend. They look awesom. Would this wook in a simalr way on head lights? Just with fewer coats of paint? jw

06-29-2008, 06:35 PM
Hey... i think i just got me a project for next weekend. They look awesom. Would this wook in a simalr way on head lights? Just with fewer coats of paint? jw

No it will not work on headlights. Anything you put on the headlights effect the light that shines through them. You wont be able to see shit on the road at night.

06-29-2008, 10:57 PM
GT, have you finished it? I can't remember if it was in your project RS thread or not... Do you have any pictures of it done?


I checked the thread and oh my they look good.

Good job!

06-30-2008, 12:49 AM
:1: You did a hella good job on that car dude, usually not my style but I think it looks tight. I am going to do the 1ga front "bar" lights and tails probably next weekend. I used to be all about how fast it is, but now that I'm getting farther into the mod list I want it to look good too.

vanilla gorilla
07-01-2008, 12:56 AM
I have about 3 or 4 sets of taillights I am going to smoke. Never done it before though. I was wanting to smoke the SRT-4 tails today, but I called every auto parts and paint stores in town and noone has VHT niteshade.
Then I was going to get the paint shop to mix me up some candy black and I was going to do a 2 stage job on them, but all my hardener was dried up in the bottle and I didnt want to buy anymore cause its expensive so I didnt even bother with the candy black. So tomorrow Im going to order up a poop load of VHT niteshade aeresol cans. I'm going to smoke them with this then just clear over with some good aeresol clear.

07-27-2008, 05:18 PM
i'll post some pics of mine, i just used clear coat with a couple drops of black paint mixed to the color i wanted then sprayed and they came out real nice.

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