How to Paint Tail Light Lenses


Tail light lenses can be painted for several reasons, including to change the color or to renew the existing color. When changing the color of the tail light, make sure you check with local laws and ordinances, since some areas don't allow colored or smoked-out (blackened) tail lights. Red tail light paint can be found at any automotive store. Specialty colors may need to be ordered through a catalog or online. Regular paint won't work because it won't allow the light to be seen through the paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Wrench and screwdriver
  • Masking tape
  • Sharp knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Tail light paint
  • Clear paint
  • Open the trunk or the tail gate to get to the bolts securing the tail lights to the vehicle. Use a wrench or socket and ratchet to remove the tail lights. Some tail lights on older vehicles may be attached with screws. Remember to disconnect the wiring connection.

  • Place the tail lights on a piece of cardboard or other flat surface that can be painted. Make sure to paint in a well-ventilated area.

  • Sand the tail lights with 1,200-grit sandpaper and water if they have been painted before or have thick or flaky residue on them. If not, you can skip this step.

  • Wipe the tail lights down with paper towels and rubbing alcohol to remove the sanding residue and clean the surface so that the paint will adhere properly.

  • Place masking tape over any areas of the tail lights that don't need paint, such as the reverse light or turn signal if those are built-in with your tail lights. Place the tape over these white or amber sections and then use a sharp knife to trim around them and remove excess tape.

  • Spray two thin coats of paint on the tail lights, waiting about 10 minutes for each coat to become tacky. Once these are dry, spray another two thin coats of clear coat paint. Allow all of the paint to dry for a full day before reinstalling the lights on the car.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear a protective mask when spraying paint.


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