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Old 10/23/2005, 08:03 PM   #1
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Taillight restoration

:)Ladies and gentlemen, I have read many threads on dark tail lights. As many of you have read, I am going concorse on my 390-4 speed car, and I just completed the tail light restoration.
As discussed before, the tail lights become dark and non-reflective over the years as the chrome finish turns to black. I thought about sending the tail light castings out to be rechromed, but at what cost?
I have seen some discussion about tin foil as a quick fix, as I did years ago, but NOT now. I debated on the spray on chrome finish but thought this was cheesey.
Well, I was WRONG!!!!! I recently aquired a set of lights from a 65 T-bird as a spare set. One light was "Black", and the other was near mint chrome. I stripped the lights, removed the sockets, and wireing loom, cleaned the inside of the tail light bodies, and used "Rust-Oleum" bright coat, metallic finish Chrome, #7718. I painted the "Dark" body with the Rust-Oleum, and compared the two, the Rust-Oleum one was brighter than the original, and was very close in reflecticve properties.
For those who are concerned, the Resto went as follows:
The sockets tap out fairly easy, I used a small plastic hammer to gently tap the sockets out of the tail light body. Using 0000 steel wool, I cleaned any corrosion out of the tail light body, then wiped clean with a rag and Laquer thinner. Let dry and than apply several coats of Rust-oleum Chrome #7718. apply several thin coats as to prevent runs. Let dry between coats. Remember to allow at least 24 hours for full cure of the final coat before handling, and reassmebly.
The sockets can be cleaned using a 12 gauge Shotgun Cleaning brush. It fits good and will do a great job. I than used a good electical contact cleaning spray to clean any gunk out of the sockets and connectors. I used compressed air to blow any gunk out of the sockets and connectors. If you don't have access to an air compressor, You can use the canned air such as used on cameras.
Gently re-insert the sockets and install the new light bulbs. Don't forget to use Di-Electric grease on the bulbs.
I hope this helps you folks with a good restoration job. Good luck and keep the SPECIAL looking bright.
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Old 10/24/2005, 11:23 AM   #2
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Location: Weatherby Lake, MO
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Re:Taillight restoration

Great post and great information!!!

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Old 10/24/2005, 12:19 PM   #3
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Re:Taillight restoration

Thanks for the tip, good luck with the rest of the car.
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Old 10/24/2005, 12:31 PM   #4

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Re:Taillight restoration

This is very good information, however, I am wondering about the contact being consistent between the bulb sockets and the (repainted) housing.

If the contact surfaces of both the sockets and housing are cleaned, I think there might be something like a .010" (ten-thousanths) gap between the two. Some of those original sockets can lose their original diameter if they are cleaned by grinding or sanding off 30+ years of heavy oxidation.

The housings' socket holes can also lose their original diameter if the inside surfaces are cleaned too heavily, or if there is so much oxidation, etc., that needs to be removed. Chemical pitting of the potmetal can make electrical contact problems. I'm wondering if the housings' socket holes would be made a bit "oval" by use of a punch sightly tapped on the backside -- or -- to make the sockets a bit oval towards the back of the socket housing, to make a tight fit into the housings.

Did you test the conductivity of all six sockets? How do they work? The biggest problem is the "ground" connection. I've seen some people put jumper wires from the housing to the ground wire from the harness.

What about adding solder to the sockets after they are installed?

In any case--this is what's going into the book -- a good, simple rebuild solution.

Paul N.

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Old 10/24/2005, 09:28 PM   #5
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Re:Taillight restoration

Good Point Paul, I was lucky, The hole in the housing was not oxidized and the sockets went back in as tight as they came out. I used laquer thinner to clean the holes before reassembly. The back of the housing was not painted, and the ground is still good. All lights lit when 12 volts were put to them. I could only test them with a jumper from a car battery since my car is still not wired.
If one did have an oversized hole from oxidation, I think solder would be a good idea, but how would you get good heat without damaging the painted surface on the other side, or to the wires. Another thought would be to leave the sockets in place, clean and tape off the sockets on the painted side. This way you would not interupt the integrity of the continuity.
Mike :-\
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Old 10/25/2005, 02:11 AM   #6
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Re:Taillight restoration

If the housing has that much oxidation, you won't have good conductivity anyway, as oxide is an insulator. I would consider Paul's idea of adding a thin layer of solder to the outside of the socket if you need a tight fit after cleaning. If you're careful, you should be able to avoid damaging the wiring. If it does melt the insulation or something else is ruined, you can use the wiring and springs out of new sockets and splice them in. Use an interweave butt joint when you solder the wires and cover with waterproof heat shrink tubing and you won't have any problems. I'd also use some di-electric grease to keep the contact area from oxidating again.
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