DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

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DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Sat May 18, 2013 8:36 am

You will need:

1 can VHT Night-shades translucent BLACK lens paint

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1 can Krylon Crystal Clear GLOSS

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Also:
1 bottle isopropyl alcohol
2000 grit sand paper and dish detergent (any brand)
crescent wrench to remove tail lamps
painter's tape to mask trunk lenses
microfiber towels - regular towels will scratch the lenses

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Here is the two-part video I used as a general guide. The audio is speeded up to save time. Watch the vid and then follow my tweeked version below. Play close attention to his spraying technique for best results.

PART 1: http://youtu.be/OSKA0ElKg1Q

PART 2: http://youtu.be/-8-hZP6-ZY8

I did NOT use paint thinner for cleaning - I used isopropyl alcohol instead. I did NOT mask off the turn signal area or the reverse lamp area ... BUT ...I also did NOT use as many coats as was done in the video over the turn signal area.
Here is my tweeked version to get the look I was going after:

Remove the tail lights from your car - see the FAQ "replacing / upgrading tail lights" for instructions.

After removing the tail lamps, use the 2000 grit sand paper to sand the surface of the lenses - I used a good sized serving bowl filled with water and a very small amount of dish detergent (to aid in lubrication). Splash the lens with water from the bowl and dip the sandpaper into the bowl to make sure it sands over the lens without snagging - you will need to re-dip the sand paper several times to keep it and the lens lubricated - sanding in ONE back-and-forth direction only - do NOT do circular motions. You don't need to use heavy pressure, you're just making the surface rough to help the Night-shades stick to it. After you sand, clean the lens with a clean microfiber towel (don't use paper towels) and inspect it closely - you want the entire surface to have a uniform scratchy, foggy appearance. Re-sand any areas that still have a glass-like surface and re-wipe if needed. Then clean the lens with the alcohol using a smooth soft rag - inspect again to make sure the entire lens has a smooth, clear, uniform surface (it should look like a brand new lens until the alcohol is removed - then remove the alcohol with a microfiber towel and it will return to it's foggy, scratchy surface again. Now you're ready to spray the Night Shades.

Lay the lenses facing UP and as flat as possible. You may need to safely elevate them so the edges of the lenses are NOT touching anything so you can spray the edges horizontally as in the video above. I taped off the the inner sides (the area that will be inside the body after installing) of each lens to prevent over-spray. I did one regular coating horizontally from 8 inches JUST on the edges as shown in the video, waited 5-10 minutes, then one VERY light, very fast pass with overlapping, back and forth motion over the FACE of the lens from over one foot away, waited about 5-10 minutes, then I did one reg coat at normal speed at 8 inches on the edges AND the face of the lens again with overlapping, back-and-forth techique, waited another 5-10 minutes, and did a 3rd regular coat horizontally on JUST THE EDGES from 8 inches away. This makes the outermost sides of the lens darker than the rest of the face - it gives a gradual, feathered dark-to-lighter effect as you look form the edges to the center. Don't worry about the side marker light showing through - It will show just as well as it did before you painted.

I reckon it was total of 1 1/2 coats on the face of the lens and 3 full coats around the very edges. I stopped there because the lens had a sexy black cherry look which amplified the reflections of the inner chrome fixture. If I went on with another coat on the face of the lens, I feared that look would be lost. Personally I think this should be the max coating. If you add more coats, you will begin to black-out the lens (unless that is what you are going for). In the video you can see how blacked-out his lens became after just 3 coats. I feared other motorists (not to mention the Po-Po) may have trouble seeing the brake / turn / reverse lights. You can mask over the turn signal areas and the reverse lights if you like, but it is NOT necessary as long as you don't exceed what I just described. I waited an hour before spraying the clear coat. (that will be addressed below)

I wanted to remove the trunk lenses from the car as well, but for the life of me I could not work out how to do it. I loaded my repair / service manual disc on my comp and looked at the diagrams. It appears you need to dismantle the entire center portion of the rear area of the trunk lid involving clips, bolts, and 3M tape, etc. So I decided to mask a border around the trunk pieces with painter's tape instead. Be sure the edges of the tape are secure around the edges to avoid any over spray (this isn't plasti-dip and you can't remove overspray by rubbing with your fingers). I used a felt covered squeegy to press the edges of the tape firmly around the border of the lenses to prevent any product from reaching the actual trunk lid body.

Image

I sanded and cleaned the trunk pieces just as I did the tail lamp lenses. I sprayed the Night Shades in one very light, very quick side-to-side overlapping coat from a distance of about 1 foot, waited 5-10 minutes, then one regular coat from about 8 inches - same as the tail lamps so they would match.

I waited an hour before applying the clear coat. The clear coat is applied the same way as the Night-shades. Use back-and-forth overlapping motions from about 8 inches just as shown in the video. I waited 10 minutes between coats. I did 4 coats of clear.

I did NOT do the final step in the video - did not re-sand after the clear coat. My lenses did not have a severe orange peel surface or foggy appearance after the clear coat dried. Dunno why, but they had a clear, smooth surface after drying so I didn't bother with those last steps.

*** Examine your lenses AFTER the clear coat is completely dry - if you have a severe orange peel effect, or want a more glass-like effect, sand them VERY LIGHTLY with 2000 grit paper dipped in soapy water. DO NOT wipe with Alcohol as you did before the tinting ! Dry them with a microfiber towel (they will appear foggy and just like the first sanding you did), then apply a polishing compound, rub VERY HARD in one direction back and forth - do NOT use cricular motions. Then buff the lenses with a clean microfiber towel.

I let the tail lamps cure overnight and then re-installed them the next day. I did a light polish on all the pieces and finished with some wax and the surface became smooth as glass and very clear. Here are the results:

BEFORE:

Image

AFTER:

The first picture shows the tail light at dusk, it's even darker at full evening, but in daytime, it's got a black cherry hue and looks deeper and richer than the original tail light.

Image
.
Image
.
Image

NITE:

First picture shows the side marker and the rear light - just driving lights, not brakes.
Second picture shows rear of car - again, just driving lights, not brakes

Image
.
Image


The turn signals light with no difference to other motorists and the parking / brake lights show just as well - the LEDs reflect against the inside of the lens making them appear multiplied with a brilliant dark cherry hue. The view in reverse cam is no different than before the night-shades.

*** If you mess up, or want to go back to your stock lenses, I recommend a product called "Goof Off" which is available at my fav shop: Home Depot. Simply spray it directly on the lenses and everything rinses away leaving the original lens in it's un-touched condition. It also comes in a non-spray and you just gently rub it on the lenses to easily remove everything. I had to re-do one tail lamp at the 3rd clear coat and start over from the very beginning. Fetucini (my g/f), ambled into the garage, looked at the lens, said: wow what a beautiful colour, and before I could say Oi!, touched the surface, leaving a girly finger print behind. That drama aside, this was a very easy project - but as with any paining, its teadious, time consuming prep.
Last edited by Larz on Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:46 am, edited 9 times in total.


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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby TXT » Sat May 18, 2013 9:14 am

That looks VERY nice. That is the exact shade I would do except i would tape off the turn signal area. I'm not sure it would look that great for me since my car is silver compared to your black car. You should take pics from far away during the day time.

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby CPJ LB » Sat May 18, 2013 12:08 pm

Hey nice work Larz!! Looks really good!!! I had my taillights smoked about 2 yrs ago and still holding up!!! Hey TXT, it'll look good on your color, I have diamond graphite and opted for the black cherry look....

Image

Image

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Sat May 18, 2013 5:55 pm

Thanks mates !

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby fat3oy » Sun May 19, 2013 12:47 am

I prefer them darker... but damn good write up...

I also buffed the hell out of mine instead of the clear coat... Makes removal with thinner less messy.

Image

However, I am going back to stock... went overboard on a lot of things and am re-addressing....

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Boonies » Sun May 19, 2013 6:47 am

Great write up Larz. This should be made a "sticky" in the "how to" section.

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby timothy.kelley86 » Sun May 19, 2013 9:54 am

That does look awesome. I have a can of VHT laying around that I have neglected to use, waiting on some nicer weather. Definitely going for that medium dark cherry color. Any tips on masking off the little clear area in the tail light? What would it cost to get this done professionally?

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby fat3oy » Sun May 19, 2013 12:39 pm

timothy.kelley86 wrote:That does look awesome. I have a can of VHT laying around that I have neglected to use, waiting on some nicer weather. Definitely going for that medium dark cherry color. Any tips on masking off the little clear area in the tail light? What would it cost to get this done professionally?
I used frog tape... lots of little straight pieces to make the curves... on the reverse lights I used a rattle can top for the circle... laid out a a flat sheet of tape on metal, traced out with the rattle can top then cut out the circle.... avoid cutting the tap directly on the lights themselves...

I've also seen at shows to get the perfect color, you spray darker than where you want it, let it dry for a day then used cleaner wax to buff to the color you want, then clear... You can get a lot of shades from that.

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Sun May 19, 2013 5:50 pm

Using tape is a great idea if you want those lenses to remain clear. Why didn't I do that?
First, I didn't want clear lens areas in the midst of tinted areas - thats an individual preference and we all have our preferences, and the camera can't do it justice - but when the reverse and turn signals have that slight grey colour, they look FAB!
Second, I was 100% sure the illumination would be equal to the untinted lens even if the outside has a slight tint. I was right. The turn signals and reverse lenses appear tinted, but they light up just as well in daytime and at night and I also saw no difference in the back-up cam view. Just make sure you only do one very faint coat to make the lens sticky, then ONE regular coat to add that greay-ish look. Any more than that and I'm pretty sure you will begin to lose full illumination and lose visibilty on the back-up cam.

Just a thought: If you do want to tape over the reverse and turn signal areas - it's probably best to still sand the entire lens BEFORE you cover those areas, and remove the tape after the VHT but BEFORE you do the clear coat. Otherwise, there may be a difference in the appearance and the surface between those areas and the rest of the lens.
Last edited by Larz on Mon May 20, 2013 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Mon May 20, 2013 7:41 am

Thanks CPJ for posting your pics - not only does it show that this treatment looks brilliant on M's of different colours, but it also does a great job of showing the results of NOT tinting the reverse and turn signal areas!
BTW, it looks FAB with the diamond graphite on your car.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby SmoovC » Mon May 20, 2013 2:19 pm

Just for comparison purposes:

Had mine done by my painter a couple weeks ago; he mixes black and clear together, and then re-clears over the top. They were removed from the vehicle prior to prep and paint.

I wanted to just "tone down" the bright red, and not cut down on light transmittance. These have 2 coats of the base; "blacked out" is 5 coats.

Before:

Image

After:

Image

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Mon May 20, 2013 3:17 pm

SmoovC that looks brilliant! When you loose the bright red exterior colour, the interior of the lamp fixture shines through from the inside for a very unique look. You have that sexy black cherry colour that really sets them apart from regular tail lights. Well done !

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby timothy.kelley86 » Mon May 20, 2013 3:24 pm

Dude that is GORGEOUS! Looks awesome with that blue/grey color. I never expected the white portion of the tail light to get that nice charcoal color. This is a mandatory upgrade for all 3 M's

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Mon May 20, 2013 10:46 pm

I agree Timothy! The slight charcoal effect is great on the turn signals and reverse lenses. In high sunlight, without the 'white' shading caused by clear lenses, you can see the chrome reflector on the inside grabbing the light and reflecting around the interior and you see a jewel-like effect from the inside - out that the camera can't really show. I'm so glad I didn't mask my lenses !

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby CPJ LB » Mon May 20, 2013 11:22 pm

Larz wrote:Thanks CPJ for posting your pics - not only does it show that this treatment looks brilliant on M's of different colours, but it also does a great job of showing the results of NOT tinting the reverse and turn signal areas!
BTW, it looks FAB with the diamond graphite on your car.
Thanks Larz... Leaving the clear lenses (reverse and rear turn signals) was a back and forth decision... I lightly smoked other lenses on my Benz but it matched the theme of the car... Here's a few shots:

Rear tails was also done in a black cherry, and the white lenses lightly done to avoid the chance of being pulled over !!!
Image


Front view: for the headlights I used Stealth Bulbs to remove the amber bulbs, but flashed amber, the side mirror clear lenses was lightly tinted and if you look below the front headlight there is a side marker lense that was smoked black (the side marker lense cover was a bright amber.... Yuk!)
Image

Image

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Tue May 21, 2013 8:33 am

CPJ LB wrote:
Larz wrote:Thanks CPJ for posting your pics - not only does it show that this treatment looks brilliant on M's of different colours, but it also does a great job of showing the results of NOT tinting the reverse and turn signal areas!
BTW, it looks FAB with the diamond graphite on your car.
Thanks Larz... Leaving the clear lenses (reverse and rear turn signals) was a back and forth decision... I lightly smoked other lenses on my Benz but it matched the theme of the car.
Rear tails was also done in a black cherry, and the white lenses lightly done to avoid the chance of being pulled over !!!
Indeed ! You don't want trouble from the Po-Po. Leave them free to do the more important stuff like protecting us from all the bad things out there. God love and bless them for that! The lenses look fantastic and the light coating on the white areas helps to blend the entire lens into a uniform appearance while making sure the reverse lamps do their job letting you see what your backing into. Mercedes always does a great job of making their body designs scream 'posh and powerful' and your Merc is a perfect example. Those lenses add to that effect brilliantly. Can't quite work out if that's a C or and E class but whichever it is, it looks fab!

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby CPJ LB » Tue May 21, 2013 11:41 am

^ black cars have a nice look-- when clean :biggrin:
The car is an 07 E350... Lots of mods to it...E55 AMG exhaust, upgraded sound system, engine tuning, 20"s....

Btw, what other mods do you have on your M? I thought I saw a post from you indicating you did the complete LED interior lighting.... Was it a complete kit? Sorry if I have you mixed up with another member, but finally looking to do the LED interior.... I've been lazy :bigthumb:

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Tue May 21, 2013 12:12 pm

Yes all bulbs inside and out are LEDs minus the side bulbs in the headlamp and tail lamp assembly, and the kick plates which are all sealed units. I have seen the kits on Ebay but I got mine from Vled. The sizes you need are in the FAQ section and the website for Vled is: http://www.vleds.com/
In the upper right area there is a tab "Bulb#" and I selected the bulbs there. I highly recommend them. S&H is cheap and they arrive in a few days. I think the kits only have interior bulbs but I never really checked. I did a DIY on the turn signals and reverse lamps and they are also in the FAQ section.
If you click on my sig, there is a photo gallery of the mods I've done.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:38 am

UPDATE !!!!!

I got pinched by the State PoPo this morning whilst driving on the Sawgrass Expwy. I saw his black trooper roller hiding in the shade under a bridge and I braked, apparently NOT soon enough though. The trooper had me switch the car OFF and asked Fetucini (my g/f) and I to sit on the guard rail for 'safety' while he ran my info. He looked through the car, even tested my window tints!, and then walked to the rear of the car, staring at my <gulp> tail lights. He asked if it was a film. Fetucini then blathered out: "My Larz did that himself and it's done with paint - doesn't the dark cherry colour look great?".
I was trying to work out the cost of the citation in my head, then I had to leave a blank space in my head for the additional fine she just caused + the speeding, + the tinting!
Long story short ... He told me my info came back clear, the car search went fine, and the tints were withint legal limits, they just 'looked' darker than legal to his eyes. He agreed with Fetucini and said he has wanted to tint his G37 Journey, but all the films he has seen are too dark. He told me he would condiser a warning for the speed (I was down to 81 by the time he shot my car) if I told him what I used and how I did it.

So ...... not only are the Night Shades tints 100% legal, they are approved by the Florida State Police!

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby cruzad3r » Sat Jun 15, 2013 5:14 pm

Lol ahahaha great story. Need pix of the gf :)

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby TXT » Sat Jun 15, 2013 7:42 pm

Glad your run in with the "5-0" turned out well. Expect more stops if you continue to go into hyper drive down the expressway now that you have these visual mods. Fetucini may have saved the day with what seems like an enthusiastic reply.......

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby finikM35 » Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:51 pm

Thanks for DIY! Just did it on mine. F'd up one taillight and had to put em back and drive to home depot at 11pm to get that "Goof Off" which worked great. And now at 1am waiting for it to dry... Gona plastidip whole car tomorrow.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby TXT » Sat Jun 15, 2013 10:50 pm

finikM35 wrote:Thanks for DIY! Just did it on mine. F'd up one taillight and had to put em back and drive to home depot at 11pm to get that "Goof Off" which worked great. And now at 1am waiting for it to dry... Gona plastidip whole car tomorrow.
Your home depot is open at 11pm? That's awesome.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:49 pm

My Pleasure, Finik! Glad to be of service. Best wishes on the dip !

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Ilya » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:53 pm

Adding to FAQ.

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Re: VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Larz » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:08 pm

timothy.kelley86 wrote:That does look awesome. I have a can of VHT laying around that I have neglected to use, waiting on some nicer weather. Definitely going for that medium dark cherry color. Any tips on masking off the little clear area in the tail light? What would it cost to get this done professionally?
I asked a mate of mine who does custom work at a high-end shop here. He told me they would usually use tint film, not Night Shades. However, they would do the Night Shades for $300. That's $100 each for the tail lamps, and another $100 for the trunk pieces. They would keep the car overnight and include a one-year warranty against fading, peeling, etc.

My cost was about $20.00 for the can of Nigh Shades, a roll of painter's tape, and microfiber towels. It took me about 3-4 hours - most of that was spent waiting 1 hour to do the clear coat and the wait time between applying each coat of shade and clear. It also includes removing and re-installing the tail lamps, and all the masking and prep work as well.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Blackzilla » Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:18 pm

great write up man doing this as we speak! couldnt get the trunk lenses off either i thought i was the only one

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby WillV » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:44 pm

Do you all think that this (the LIGHTLY tinted, not super dark) would look good on the pearl white color? I absolutely love the looks of your lights Larz, and many of the new Audis and Lexus cars I see (A6, A8, LS460) have a slight tinted from the factory and it looks great. What do you guys think? In my head, I think that it would look great, keeping the red on white taillights from being the main attention-grabber in the back of my car, but curious to hear your opinions. :gotme

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby Six_Legs » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:27 am

Been contemplating this mod for quite a while and think I'm gonna pass. I'm gonna wrap instead. If I get pulled over and get a fix it ticket then it will be much easier to get the lights back to normal.

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Re: DIY >>> VHT Night-shades on tail lamps

Postby WillV » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:56 am

I am in FL with Larz, and since he got pulled over by an FHP state trooper, I'm assuming the law applies state wide, and that I will be OK as long as I keep it to the same level of tint that he did. Unless the law has been updated or changed in the last three years


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