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First off, I swear my intent from the beginning was not to “Murder Out” My Challenger >:). I just have a picture in my head of what I want my car to look like. Look at the Trans Am in my Garage…that was 1980, and I don’t think “Murdered Out” even existed then ;)

In any case, I’ve been imagining what tinted tail lights would look like on the 2015-2017 tail lights. The only thing I see is the vinyl tint for the clear area of the tail light. I actually have those. When I bought my Big Worm Graphix side marker, and rear reflector tints, I go the package that included the tail light tints.

I installed the others on day 2 of ownership, but held out on the tail light tints for several reasons. The vinyl on the small markers looks good, but on the larger tail light it has…texture. And it covers the Brake, turn, and backup light area only. I didn’t want to tempt fate with blacked out markers and reflectors, tinted windows, and no front plate. So they still sit here in the box.

BUT, a light smoke of the clear area, and especially knock down the cherry red of the tail light area…that appealed to me. Surprisingly, I could find little evidence of anything but the clear area blackout. Found one Youtube video of a guy that has completely blacked out the whole shebang, it was dark, dark.

So, I started thinking, what about just tinting the red part, leave the clear alone? After watching a boatload of videos, and reading posts about “How to tint with VHT Nite Shades”, I took parts of the method from those with the best results, and came up with a plan. Yesterday, and today I did it. A write up and some thoughts for anyone considering it.

What you need:

VHT Nite Shades, 1 can is enough
Clear coat, I used Duplicolor Perfect Match (it’s sandable). Some suggest U-POL Clear coat. It has UV protection, but I only found it online, and it’s pricey. The Duplicolor is also listed as UV resistant.
1000, 1500, 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
Meguiars Ultimate Compound
Painters Tape
Rubbing Alcohol
Microfiber applicator (for polish, an orbital polisher would make this unnecessary)
Clean microfiber towels
Terry cloth towels if you don’t have a ton of MF towels
Bucket of water with some dish soap added
Old sheet, plastic wrap, newspaper, etc. for masking

Start out by washing the car. Clean car helps prevent scratches, contamination of new paint, etc.

I’ll suggest putting the can of nightshades in hot water while you get ready. It will flow best warm. Also make sure outside temp is over 60° and not too humid. Instructions are on can.
Mask off the tail lights with painter’s tape. There is a separation where the red tail light ends, and the piano black surround starts. Tape off so just a tiny bit of the black is showing, you don’t want to leave any red untinted.



Mix the dish soap and water in a bucket. The dish soap adds some lubrication for wet sanding. If you use warm water, easier on your hands. Using the 1000 grit sandpaper, sand the entire exposed tail light area (including clear area) to remove any shine. You are just scuffing it up, don’t go crazy. Dip the sandpaper in the water, and keep the area wet/lubricated. Wipe with terry towel to see if it is dull. You can use a sponge inside the sandpaper if you like, or they make sponges with sandpaper on both sides if you want just a one use product.

Dry the tail lights off. Mask off the clear area, and almost all of the black surrounding it. Again, just leave a little of the black exposed to be sure you cover all the red.
Then mask off the rest of the car. I used an old waterbed sheet (lol, I know, waterbed. I used to have one). But use whatever you have chosen. Some use a roll of plastic wrap, drop cloth, plastic garbage bags sliced open, etc. Use your imagination.





Clean the exposed red area with the rubbing alcohol, and let it dry. You want to be sure there is no wax, residue, oil from your fingers, etc.

Shake the can of Nite Shades at least 2 minutes. Spray on the masking to make sure the pattern is right, and no spitting from the can. Now, apply the first coat. Make it a light coat, just to get some coverage of the red. Shake the can often, and do long sweeping paint strokes. Wait 15 minutes between coats



Here I am going to give you some advice. Turn on your headlights after the first coat. Make sure the coat is even. If it is not, wait 15 minutes, and use the 2000 grit sandpaper to even it out. You’ll lose some of the tint, but you can build up layers until you get the darkness level you want. Now add the second coat. This coat can be a little heavier. Be aware, Nite Shades is thin, and can run easily. Don’t overdo it! But, you need some good coverage to keep it even.



If you have even coats, you may decide that 2 coats is dark enough. It will give you different levels of darkness depending on how heavy your coats are. Again, if uneven, sand again, you can always add more Nite Shades. Wait 15 minutes for the second coat to dry, and add the third coat. Depending on how much sanding you have/didn’t have to do on the first two coats, this is likely to be the final coat. It will be mostly black looking, but will still let the light through.



Wait for the 3rd coat to dry. The Nite Shades may have a nice glossy coat at this time, and you may think it looks OK, but I’m suggesting you don’t want to leave it like that. It will scratch easily, it will likely fade, and generally will have a matte/semi satin finish. I can’t suggest leaving it like this, even if somehow it has a nice gloss.

Now you are going to sand for sure, taking down any shiny/orange peel and making it smooth. Use the 1500 sandpaper this time. Don’t go crazy or you can/will remove some of the tint! Keep your sandpaper wet. Wipe with a damp towel and dry.

Now you are ready for the clear. Again, I suggest you have the clear in some hot water until you are ready for it. The Duplicolor Clear has no rattle ball, so be sure to shake at least 2 minutes before painting, and again while painting. Use long smooth strokes, and apply a semi light layer. Wait 15 minutes between coats. I did 6 coats of clear to be sure to have plenty of clear coat to sand smooth before final steps.



At this point, I left the clear to dry overnight. Some say you can sand in 2 hours, but I didn’t want to take a chance. After an hour, I removed the masking from the clear area.



Fast forward to the next day. I finished the clear on Friday at 2:30PM. I started work again Saturday at 10AM.

Now, you are back to sanding, you will have a line where the masking tape was as you have added 8 layers of paint at this point. I went back to the 1500 grit to knock down the line, concentrating on the edge where the line is. Once I had the line mostly knocked down, I went to the 2000 grit sandpaper. Sand the whole exposed area until everything is smooth, smooth, smooth! There is no worry about taking any tint off at this point, you are working with 6 layers of clear, and the 2000 grit is not very aggressive. Remember to keep the sandpaper wet always. I bought 2 of the 2000 grit sponges, made it easy. They are like $5 apiece.

Once you have everything smooth, smooth, smooth, you are ready to restore that shine! It all looks hazy and flat, but no worries, it will soon look shinier then when you started. If you have a rotary polisher, time to break it out. If not, like me, you now need the microfiber applicator. You can use MF towels, but it will be even harder. I will link the applicator I used, it was a freebie when I bought other detailing supplies. There are tons of applicators, but remember, you have to get into the corners at both ends
.
DI Microfiber Applicator Pad - Rectangle | Free Shipping Available - Detailed Image

So, if you have the rotary, have at it. Depending on the size of the pad, you’ll likely have to finish the rounded ends by hand. If you don’t have a rotary, and are using muscle power like me, rub, rub, rub.
Keep the polish wet, and wipe it down with the terry towel when it gets dry. Then rub some more. Put some elbow grease behind it! Again, you are working with the clear coat, and the polish is very fine, and not at all aggressive. Slowly you will see the shine starting to come. There is no secret here, rub until you get good shine, cleaning often. Use the 8 corners of the applicator for the rounded end of the lights, if using the rectangular one I did. Keeping the area clean will insure you don’t rub any scratches in. You can get a mirror shine polish if you just work it long enough.

Once you are happy with the shine, remove the sheet/plastic, whatever masking you used. Now there is a line in the outer edge too. Polish would take forever to knock this down. I’d suggest going 1000grit, 1500 grit, 2000 grit, then polish. My arms were beat at this point, so while I polished the edge, I will knock the line down next weekend, and polish the edge again. I’ll point out this line in a picture below. Be careful as you have no masking at this point.



Here is the finished in the sunlight. Because of what’s under the clear plastic of our tail lights, and the different shades, at different angles, you’ll see different levels of darkness in the sun, when right up on top of it. But to be honest, I never sanded the Nite Shades during the application. Concentrating on coverage. Mine does have some unevenness when the headlights are on, and the tail lights lit. It isn’t bad, and only can be seen when right behind the car. And as I say, there are different levels by angle as well anyway.







The red at the bottom is NOT because that area was not tinted. It’s about the angle of the sun, and the picture. The top edge would have that too if you could get that angle. Here are some pictures in the shade showing that the tail lights are still red. It is now a dark black cherry red.







Here’s the car in shade, looks black in these pics







With the brake lights on



Here are some images showing the shine, the first shows the built up line I mentioned previously. I will get this next weekend.





And here’s a couple just because. Sexy beast >:)





I’ll give this a 9 of 10. I think I’d have given it a ten if not for the slight unevenness of the tint when the tail lights are on. I DID NOT check with the lights on while doing the Nite Shades, that why I advised above for anyone attempting this to do so. It’s not a deal breaker, and only shows when the lights are on, but I’m a perfectionist where my car is concerned. If you are concerned, then a paint shop can mix some black in some clear, and spray it for you. I’m sure they’d happily mask off the clear area. You’ll guarantee the even tint, and the clear is already in there. You’ll have to pay though. I spent about $40 on supplies.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to lay it all out there. Let me tell you, it looks great, I only pointed out any weak points, such as the red in the sun so no one would be surprised. It’s really not an issue. Hope you like it, if not don’t tell me, lol (kidding).

A Guy
 

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Looks awesome. I didn't go all out when I did mine a couple years ago. Wish I would of had you write up then. I plan on redoing mine at some point. Thanks for this write up.


Signing off from somewhere in the Universe...
 

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Thanks A Guy for the Excellent, detailed write up of your project. You are right, you have one Sexy Beast!

From your pictures, it looks Great and not uneven, but it sounds like you are your own worst critic (I understand because my Wife says the same about me).

While I'm not usually a fan of blacking out tail lights, just for the safety aspect, I'd consider doing ours like you did because the lights still look pretty bright when the brakes are applied.

Great job and Thanks again for the detailed how-to. :cheers:
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks all, I'm still digging it ;)

Thanks A Guy for the Excellent, detailed write up of your project. You are right, you have one Sexy Beast!

From your pictures, it looks Great and not uneven, but it sounds like you are your own worst critic (I understand because my Wife says the same about me).

While I'm not usually a fan of blacking out tail lights, just for the safety aspect, I'd consider doing ours like you did because the lights still look pretty bright when the brakes are applied.

Great job and Thanks again for the detailed how-to. :cheers:
Yeah, it looks great, turn headlights on and it is somewhat uneven. I don't drive it a lot at night, or in the rain, so they aren't on that much. That's the thing about this Freddy, the brake, turn, emergency blinkers, and the backup lights are unchanged. They are all in the clear area. Only the tail lights when the headlights are on are affected. And yes, they are still plenty bright.

If I understood this correctly, you left the reverse lights alone?
Yes, the clear area was untouched...well, not quite true, it was scuffed with sandpaper, and polished better than new at the end ;) As mentioned above, that area has the brake, turn, emergency, and reverse lights. I felt it better to leave that alone. They always looked like they were blacked out at many angles anyway.

A Guy
 
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