TAILLIGHT BLACKOUT TUTORIAL
 

Here's a great way to make your Legend truly unique and stand out from the crowd. By painting over the taillights, you give it an aggressive and mysteriously look by blending the entire taillight housing into a single, uniform color. Whether it's black, blue, green, or red, you have a variety of colors to pick to mask out your taillights. Yet, the red brake lights still shine through, retaining their functionality so Jimmy-Bob driving his Hee-Haw wagon doesn't ram into you.

True thanks to Warren Tsang who gave me his awesome instructions in great detail, allowing me to start this project. These are instructions for a 2nd generation 1991 Acura Legend LS Sedan. Removal of taillights on different model years may vary slightly. Set aside 8-12 hours for this project to ensure the paint dries properly. Since you're car is disabled for such a long period, probably the best time would be to start painting in the evening and let it dry overnight.

And a final note, once you engage in this project, you'll never have your regular taillights again. Because if you change your mind and want to go back to the stock red & yellow, you can't. Once you remove the paint from the taillights with any sort of a solvent, you effectively remove the clear coat on the taillights So your taillights will not be shiny anymore. Instead it will be a dull red. One way around this problem is to make it shine again by spraying clear enamal on it or simply applying wax on a regular basis. But just letting you know the permenant effects of this project.

Materials
You'll want to get the following items in order to prepare for the project at hand. The materials shouldn't be any more than about $20. The rest is patience and skill.
  • 4 cans of spray paint
  • 1 can of clear laquer enamal
  • masking tape
  • nail polish remover (possibly)
  • newspapers
  • wrench or lug wrench

The Paint
I never knew this type paint even existed before this. This stuff is pretty neat. Anyway, go to any hobby store that sells remote control vehicles / models and you're sure to find this paint. It's a semi-transparent tint paint that modelers use to tint the various parts of their model cars (ie- tinted windows). The only brand I saw was either Model Master (product number 2949 - Transparent Black Window Tint) or Testor (transparent red, green, and blue). The price was $4 for a small 3 oz. can.

There are also other aftermarket products out there which are specific for tinting taillights like Nite Shade or Foliotec. I've used Nite Shade, which you can get at most auto accessory stores for about $15 a can. This is almost the same thing as the kind found at the hobby store but it does not have the shine. So after you apply it you will have to clear coat it with a shiny enamal or else it comes out very dull. For this tutorial we'll be using the transparent tint from the hobby store (because it's cheaper and more sensible).

Anyway, get 4 cans, which should be enough for one session. I ended up getting 8 cans because I screwed the pooch the first few times I tried and had to re-do the entire procedure several times. I must have gone through 3 sessions. To avoid this, keep your minimum distance from the surface.

Getting Started
You do have the option of not removing the taillights and covering up the entire rear half of the car while you paint them. But I definitely do not recommend this because the paint tends to drip. And even one tiny blemish will ruin a day's worth of work and patience. Also you might end up with overspray on parts of your car. The best way is to remove the taillights because then you can lay them out flat.

Start by removing the taillight access panel on the inside of your trunk. It's the carpeted panel against the taillight wall. The square panel has a knobbed screw that you twist off. Once off, you can partially remove the other carpet panels around it to gain better access to the rest of the back side.

You should now see 6 bronze colored bolts sticking out of the wall, held in place by 6 hex nuts. Use a wrench or lug wrench to remove these 6 nuts (they are 8mm). Once removed, detach the single wire connection (it's a snap connection) to the taillights and push out the taillights. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.

Once you have both taillights out, clean the the surface with alcohol or some sort of household cleaner. Spread a lot of newspaper on the floor in a room with good ventilation and lay the taillights on them. Don't place the taillights too close together to avoid overspray.

Painting
The most important thing to remember is to keep the minimum distance from the surface and keep the can moving. Not doing so will certainly spell disaster as the paint drips and circular gaps form. Sure, you can cover these blemishes up with another layer of paint, but these flaws will show up when the taillights are light during braking or at night with the parking lights on.

Shake the paint can vigorously. Keeping at least 6-8 inches from the surface, paint with short, even strokes. Our goal here is light, mist coats. On each stroke, start spraying before you reach the taillights, and spray a little past the taillights. Do this because sometimes the nozzle gets clogged and will shoot out a burst of paint that might form puddles which ruin the painted surface. I can't stress enough how important keeping the minimum distance of 6 inches is. Because once you've spent 3 hours painting and are on your final coat, if it pools or drips it's all ruined! The first coat will be very light and hardly noticeable. Don't worry, a few more coats should slowly fade out the red.

Wait about 20-30 minutes for the first coat to dry. Then start on the second coat. Repeat this process for another 3-6 times, depending on the amount of amber you want to cover up. For transparent black, I think the degree of darkness should depend on the color of your car. If you have a white or black car, 6-7 coats should be effective in blacking out your taillights to a very dark black to blend or contrast your car color. Any other color should stick with 4-5 coats for a tinted, but not entirely black, look. This darkens any hint of red but smokes it just enough to nicely blend it in with the car color.

Wait 30 minutes or so and then apply the last coat, which is a clear lacquer enamal. Be sure to buy one from an auto store which has the ultra-violet protection. This way you protect your precious work from the harsh elements and you also prevent fading from the sun's harmful rays. Apply about 1 - 3 coats of lacquer. Once all coats are complete, let them dry for 4-6 hours.

If you mess up at any step/coat use nail polish remover or paint thinner to remove the paint. Unfortunately you will have to remove all prior coats you previous applied and start from the beginning. This can be very frustrating!!!

Finishing Up
Before you start breaking out the party hats, plug the lights in for a quick check. Turn on your lights and see how well the light shines through. Is it too dimmed? Will it be bright enough for other drivers to see at night? Check for imperfections like drips or bubbles in the paint as the light shines through it. Do the same test with the signal lights. All of this testing is necessary to prevent any unwanted accidents. If you're happy with the results, re-install the taillights.

If you held the spray can too far away, the painted surface may not be shiny, and may actually be dull. Hopefully the clear enamal will shine it up. If not, you can try using a polish and wax. If not, cover it with a layer of polish and wax.

Another note is the back-up light may not be as bright as it used to be, so you might want to get a brighter bulb. Auto parts stores should have the 50-watt back light bulbs for a few dollars. Otherwise if you feel they are really important you can tape around the square back-up light area and remove the paint.

Done
Alrighty then! It looks like you're done. Now go strut your car down the street knowing that you drive one very unique Legend! Then log back onto this web site and leave me feedback on how it looks!

If you haven't already, you can take a look at how my smoke tinted taillights worked out