Scared of importing headlights from Japan, to get the darker headlights styling? Don't like the offerings available in our Western counries? Here's the solution.
If you're anything like me, you will know that chrome only looks good on some cars. On other cars, chrome looks fake and disgusting. Melons' Better Driving author and student, Andrew Hughes, agrees that chrome only really looks good on some cars. I jokingly asked him "does chrome look good on any cars?"
"Only some," he replied.
"Yeah, only 1970s muscle cars." I jokingly added. Ever since the end of the 1970s, chrome has been a high-risk modifcation that no one wanted on their cars, except the people who wanted to mimick the style of 1970s muscle cars.
However, the popularity of chrome within the USA, and Canada, in the 1970s, really changed the way that Japan and other Asian countries think about North American automotive styling. Asian coutnries were, and still are, convinced that Western cultures love everything to be chrome and "blingy." Even the word "bling" fell out of favour in the late 2000s. The idea of still having chrome everywhere on cars nowadays? Horrifying! We don't want that.
So, when I found out that my friend agreed, that chrome was tacky and out-of-place on modern cars, I agreed to help him paint the internals of the headlights housings. ...The first step, however, was convincing him that you could - in fact - open up the headlight housings and pull them apart.
The plan my friend had concocted, was to save for many weeks and replace his headlight housings with aftermarket headlights, or import some different headlight housings. The ones we get in Canada and USA are horrible, but you can't exactly open up the headlight housings, can you? They come as an assembly.
Well, no, they do come as an assembly, but that can be disassembled. All you need is a Phillips screwdriver and an oven. Remove the entire headlight assembly from the car, preheat the oven to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 60 degrees Celsius, remove all of the Phillips screws, and stick the headlight assembly in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Seriously. This melts the glue that seals the headlight housing, meaning that it can be pulled apart. The glue is malleable, thereafter, meaning that you can peel it apart, too, and reshape the glue, if you need to.
While you're pulling them apart, work slowly. If things start to grip together, put the assembly back in the oven. Keep the temperature low, to prevent damage to the headlight housing. Never go above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you peel the assembly apart, you're greeted with more screws, all of which hold different coloured pieces of the headlight together. The reflective bulb housing parts should be put aside and not painted. You can only paint the bezels safely. Everything else will make your headlights stop working. Don't let that dissuade you, though. Just use caution. Ask yourself which parts are vital to the function of the headlights, and which parts are there as decoration?
Pull every part aside for painting, and paint them to your desired colour choice separately. We chose a nice gloss piano black, which makes these headlights look perfectly factory fresh, while still making them more appealing. The chrome had to go, and the black paint makes it blend nicely with the pre-existing gloss black of the headlight housing, as well as the paint of the car itself.
The amount of chrome is now sincerely diminished, and the special-edition effect we are hoping to create with this car is underway. This still looks like it came out of the factory this way. However, it isn't how it came from the factory, and only those who really know about the cars will understand why it looks so good. It flies under the cop-radar, by being legal, while still being stylish.
But this doesn't mean that you're limited to just doing black. You can do whichever colour you want... It just looks less factory-fresh when you use red, as in the photo below.
And this isn't specific to any one particular type of car, either. I pulled my headlight housings apart on my old 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, in order to retrofit some HID projectors for rally/rallycross things. I needed much more light output, but without any aerodynamic drag, and I also needed to keep it legal. So, the HID projector retrofit meant that the HID system would be kept legal, while still allowing me to have auxiliary lights for extra rally lighting. Those high-beams emitted from those factory housings were incredible. They were on par with the full rally systems that rally cars use, but without the aerodynamic drawbacks. They also looked very amazing.
At the very end, once everything is bolted back in place, when it's time to reseal the housings, put them back in the oven, repeating the process of heating them, so that the glue will settle. Screw the housings closed again. You're done! It's as simple as that.
In summary, you don't have to worry about that trip to Japan to find rare headlights, if you don't want to. Instead, just grab a can of paint, stuff your headlights in the oven, put in some elbow grease, and work slowly. Thin coats always work better, in regards to painting. The results might be better, and easier, than importing JDM/KDM lights. Plus, DIY always gets more street cred, right?