How The Experts Color Match Factory Headlights

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Attention to detail is what really sets the professionals apart. When we recently featured one of True Bliss Customs’ show trucks (see it here), their exceptionally high level of detail blew us away. So, we asked them if they could walk us through some of the tricks of their trade and their process for color matching headlights.

Every headlight job starts out pretty much the same, with the removal of the factory headlights. True Bliss Customs started with a set of 2008 Ford F250 headlights. After removing the headlights it is important to clean off all contaminates from the lights. Once the headlights are clean, they need to be heated gently to soften the factory sealant for easier removal.

No, this doesn’t mean hit the seal with a torch! Armen Adjarian, Owner of True Bliss Customs recommends using a traditional oven, but did say that a heat gun will work. When the headlights have been heated for the sealant becomes soft, making it easier to separate the lens from the main housing. Anything that can get between the lens and housing will work (like a screw driver) but True Bliss Customs uses a panel removal tool.

(Left) Stock Ford 2008 headlights removed and cleaned. (Right) This is a panel removal tool which definitely comes in handy.

When the headlights have been separated, there are 3 retainer screws holding the headlight bezel to the front clear plastic housing (for this application). Remove the screws and the headlight bezel can be removed and set to the side.

Next, there are 3 additional screws holding the center amber reflectors to the headlight bezels. After the reflector has been removed, the light is completely disassembled. Now is the best time to remove all old factory sealant from both the clear plastic housing and the main rear housing of the headlights. Adjarian, says, “You may need to reheat to soften the sealant for easier removal.” With the sealant removed and all of the parts clean, they are laid out and inspected.

From here, the actual color matching process can begin. For this to be a longterm solution, the first step is to remove the chrome from the plastic. True Bliss Customs usually sandblasts or sands all of the chrome off, depending on the application. The key is to use a fine sand, glass, or plastic to completely remove the chrome.

bOnce the chrome bezels have been sandblasted, they need to be cleaned. Next, it is time for a primer and color of your choice. The choices of colors are endless at this point. For this truck, True Bliss chose chose a black poly primer. This will help to “pop” the jet black finish much better. Once the primer has dried, the paint and a clear coat are applied. The center amber reflector was, also, primed and painted Pueblo Gold metallic to match the darker orange “King Ranch” theme of the truck.

When the bezels are fully cured, apply a generous coat of wax. Next, reattach the center amber reflector to the bezels using the 3 screws removed earlier. This is the last time the insides of the light will be open to the outside air. So take one last pass to ensure everything is as clean as possible. With everything clean, it’s time to reattach the bezels to the clear plastic housing.

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The final step is extremely important. For a water tight seal that lasts, DO NOT use sealants found at your local hardware store. Adjarian says, “it just won’t work properly!” The sealant True Bliss Customs uses is 3M commercial grade sealant, but an alternative would be 3M medium viscosity windshield sealant/adhesive. Lay a bead in the entire channel of the headlight housing, and assemble the two sides together.

Once the two parts are together, run another small bead around the seal and smooth it out by hand. Make sure there is a complete seal all the way around the entire headlight. With the parts back together, the sealant needs to cure for a few hours (depending on the curing time of the specific sealant used and temperature).

After they are cured, clean the front plastic housing one more time and feel free to give it a generous wax again before reinstalling. Now – it’s time to cruise in style!

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About the author

Chad Westfall

With diesel running through his veins from childhood, Chad has more than a decade of experience in the automotive industry. From editorial work to wrenching, there isn’t much he hasn't conquered head-on. When he’s not writing and shooting trucks and tech, you’ll find him in the shop working on turning the ideas floating around in his head into reality.
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