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DAVES89

Taillight Refinishing

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The directionals failed again. I think it is due to the issues I had may have shorted out the sequential directional modules. I had an extra taillight harness in back stock in original condition so I installed that and everything [brake lights, tail lights, directionals, running lights, and emergency flashers] now work.

 

While I had the tail light assembly out I thought I would just refinish it as I like how the taillight on the Red looks. So I taped off the letters [glad it is "Buick" and not "Chevrolet" or "Oldsmobile"] and the bottom reflectors, scuffed sanded with 1000 then 2000 wet/dry sandpaper and put one coat of Flecto Exterior Gloss Spar varnish. Tomorrow morning before heading out for appointments I will put on another coat, then when I get back, put on a third and final coat. Then Friday reinstall the taillight and should be good to go.

 It already looks good. 3 coats should give me excellent durability and the gloss sheen means no more after market products to improve the lustre.

 

taillight-1-6-7-16.JPG

 

taillight-2-6-7-16.JPG

 

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I looked at it this morning [about 6 am] and it still felt tacky so I brought it up from the basement to finishing drying. After about 4 hours it felt dry and the varnish film was hard so I snapped the picture and took it back down to the basement for another coat. The only prep beween the coats was to wipe it down with paint thinner. Hopefully it will be dry when I get back this afternoon for the 3rd and final coat.

 I really want to get it installed tomorrow for the weekend. 

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 I used to be a paint salesman as well as a paint sundry representative so I have some experience in this. There are a number of brands that you could try. I recommend a solvent based gloss spar varnish which is what I used. I had the Flecto brand in the house so I just grabbed it.

 The Flecto Verathane Spar varnish is correct. However Flecto is now owned by Rust oleum. I went to their website and saw that they only offer a semi gloss. I did look at Minwax's website and saw they make a spar varnish under the "Helmsman" name. It comes in different sheens in both water based and solvent based. I used the solvent based as I believe it has a more amber look which in my opinion is more desireable. I also think the amber will keep the finish looking better longer. 

 For reference I did the Red just over a year ago. I only applied one coat and it still looks great.

 Remember that you don't have to take the light apart and that you only have to scuff sand. I used 1000 grit followed by 2000 grit wet/dry paper followed by a wipe down with Paint thinner which I allowed to "flash off" about 5 minutes and applied the varnish with a foam brush. I wasn't worried about the paint thinner being dried off or not as the varnish is solvent based and works with the varnish.

 When I did the Red I didn't even take the taillight off the car. However because I did the varnishing in the driveway I did get some airborne dust in the film because of the longer set up time of the varnish which is why this time I took it off and finished it inside. 

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I know that one can buy products that deliver a hard finish. That might be good for wheels but in my opinion not for taillights. Aerosols are products that are fast drying and typically harder finishes then what one can get with brush on products. In the paint/varnish industry the longer a product takes to dry the more flexibility it has to withstand temperature changes. The substrate [in this case the taillight] still has some expansion/contraction due to temperature/sunlight changes. The harder a finish is the more likely it is to crack or check as it wears.

 That is why I chose the oil based brush on product. These products take longer to set up and then dry. However they "self level" very well giving an inexperienced refinisher excellent results. The smoother the film especially in a high gloss can deliver excellent results [high sheen]. The amber in the spar varnish makes the color "pop" and is very attractive in a taillight. The amber in the varnish would not look so good on a headlight as a clear look is preferred.

 The other advantage to a oil based brush on product is touch up/recoat is much easier. As the product wears down [all finishes do] a simple scuff sand to provide "tooth" for the new application and you have a like new finish again. And as it is a softer finish it is less likely to crack or check it will just wear away.

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Since we are having Show & Tell I might as well show mine. I decided to tint it darker before applying the clear coat.

 

SAM_3167.JPG

 

SAM_3168.JPG

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30 minutes ago, Guest of you all here said:

t is totally dry, but not glossy yet.

 

Hopefully it will shine after polishing.

 

Meguiar's PlastX  will bring out the shine when used with a slow speed buffer. Double sided tape would have been a better choice for installing the letters.. They are getting hard to find. You want to use yours in a different taillight someday.

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Stopped at two coats as the wife wants to drive it tomorrow to work. Looks great. Will send pics tomorrow when there is good light. Tried all the taillight systems and everything is good. Tested the sequential modules and they are bad. Looks like I ruined them when I had my electrical issues.

 I will ask for another set for Christmas and put them on next year.

 This is enough taillight stuff for this season.

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I used Dave's technique About a month ago, Here is what I used. I have one coat on mine but I think the Varnish I used may be thicker. I had a problem with the first coat with bubbles, wrong technique on my part, stripped it and re-applied. here are some pictures. I removed my letters when I did mine that were using the original glue and figured they need to be redone anyway.

DSCF8570.JPG

DSCF8575.JPG

DSCF8565.JPG

DSCF8566.JPG

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Here are more photos of Dave's taillight when he installed it. One is with the lights on and the other is with the lights off. Beautiful cars Dave!!!

 

taillight--6-7-16-ON.JPGtaillight--6-7-16-OFF.JPG

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23 minutes ago, Dashmaster said:

I used Dave's technique About a month ago, Here is what I used. I have one coat on mine but I think the Varnish I used may be thicker. I had a problem with the first coat with bubbles, wrong technique on my part, stripped it and re-applied. here are some pictures. I removed my letters when I did mine that were using the original glue and figured they need to be redone anyway.

DSCF8570.JPG

DSCF8575.JPG

DSCF8565.JPG

DSCF8566.JPG

 

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Look at that reflection! That's what I am talking about. Not too familiar with the Ace product but I am sure it will hold up fine. 1 coat and no special care. Just wash the taillight like you wash the rest of the car and dry. 

Edited by DAVES89 (see edit history)

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Thanks Ronnie. In hind site I wish I would have stopped at one coat. I put the second coat on a bit too soon as I experienced a little "drag" with the brush.Still leveled out good. Then I put the taillight on a bit too early as the second coat was still curing, but I was careful and wiped the taillight down with mineral spirits to clean it up after it was installed.

 I wash my cars with Blue Coral Car Wash and the taillights get washed right along with the rest of the car. I then wipe the car down with old beach towels and that is it. No extra treatments or care. Wash and wear...

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Those reflections are are like a mirror, when you take a picture its sees everything around you and looks like there are issues with the lens but are not.  Thank You Dave, This is a great way to keep taillight looking sharp. Also I used only 1500 and then 2000 grit paper to do the wet sanding before applying the varnish.

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Did you have to do any polishing after you applied the final coat to get that shine?

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I didn't buff out the taillight, no need to. I applied the product, allowed it to dry and that is the look I [and Dashmaster] got.

 Remember when I did the Red I didn't even take off the taillight. I just taped off the lower reflectors and the letters, sanded, wiped it down with paint thinner, and applied the varnish. I did it in my driveway while I was polishing my 7 spoke chrome wheels.

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That's much easier than the process I went through. Good work. Maybe we need a tutorial on ROJ for this procedure. Almost all Reattas have cloudy taillights that could benefit from this.

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The Ace was the only one I could find in Clear Gloss, Listed with Rich Amber color. I tried Lowe's and could not find a Clear Gloss in what they had.

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9 minutes ago, Ronnie said:

That's much easier than the process I went through. Good work. Maybe we need a tutorial on ROJ for this procedure. Almost all Reattas have cloudy taillights that could benefit from this.

The tutorial is actually on youtube. I had bought the Sylvania headlight restoration kit and went on youtube to follow what they did step by step. You just use the 1000 and 2000 grit paper and swap out the spar varnish for their amber liquid [which is where i got the idea to try the Spar varnish because Spar varnish is also amber].

 I can write it up for you if you want Ronnie.

 BTW if you look at the picture of my 'vert you can see the reflection of my house in the taillight. How many can say that about their taillights?

Edited by DAVES89 (see edit history)

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2 minutes ago, DAVES89 said:

I can write it up for you if you want Ronnie.

 

Thanks for the offer Dave but if it is on youtube there is no need in me re-inventing the wheel.:D

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Proper application of the varnish is needed with foam brush, I at first tried to use it like painting but that added bubbles, I found you do not wipe it on the side of the can like painting to remove excess. I messed mine up so bad, I even tried to add another coat but was bad, stripped it all off with mineral spirits, Then reapplied letting the foam brush drip the excess and all was good. Also mine was setting up fast when I did it. Temps here went from very wet and 50's to 80's the weekend I worked on it.

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Good point on foam brushes [and brushes in general when working with varnish]. Do not scrape excess varnish on the side of the can. You will get bubbles in your work. Also do not shake varnish. Stir it.

 Foam brushes are very similar to a sponge except they have a stick in it. The proper way to use a foam brush with varnish is to put about half the chiseled tip into the varnish. Then apply the foam brush to a dry area of your work and flow it out. Do not over brush. If you need more varnish in an area apply more in that area and smooth it out. If it starts to "sag" [run] touch it lightly with your foam brush to pick up or move the varnish. Varnish is by nature a "self leveling" product. The more you brush it the worse it gets. 

 What I do when I think I have enough on the taillight is a make a very light pass over the entire taillight to make sure I don't have any runs started. If you get hair/ dust, etc in the finish you can wipe it out with your fingers and add a little varnish and then make another pass to flow it in with the varnish already applied. 

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I have successfully gotten the sequential lights to work on the 'vert and I wanted to use this post to finish. So this series of posts will deal with how to redo your taillights to factory original [or better] and then give you a "be aware" in regards to wiring in the sequential wire modules [which is really what all Reattas should have].

 If you have a 1988/89 Reatta use a 1988/89 Reatta taillight harness. If you have a 1990/91 use a 1990'91 harness. 

 DO NOT TRY TO INTERCHANGE THEM!

 It took me trying off and on for two years [and then Kendall about 2 hours today to check my work, try the harness and then trouble shoot] to realize the harness's are different and unless you snip the "C" and "H" wire on the 1988/89 harness the directionals will not work. I believe the difference is due to the 1988/89 having a directional module and the 1990/91 having the time tested common flasher cans. 

 At any rate there are two more wires used on the '88/89 harness then the 90/91 ones. Kendall saw it after we compared the two harness's  but to be sure he had the 1989 and the 1990 manuals open side by side and compared the information 

 Had I just used the 'verts harness on the first go around I never would of had this trouble, but I had an extra harness laying around and thought it would be easier to add the sequential modules on the bench and then just install the harness complete. Good idea but wrong when idea applied 

 But now it is all good...

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2 hours ago, DAVES89 said:

 Had I just used the 'verts harness on the first go around I never would of had this trouble, but I had an extra harness laying around and thought it would be easier to add the sequential modules on the bench and then just install the harness complete. Good idea but wrong when idea applied.

Dave,

Thank you for this info.  I too applied the modules to an extra harness I had while on my work bench.  I hooked it into my '91 Reatta taillight and it wouldn't work.  I didn't realize the harness was from an 88/89.  I will now check my inventory for a 90/91 harness.

Many thanks!

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Dave, Here is how it came down. 

  Kendall looked at the two harness's and noticed that all the sockets were used on one harness and open sockets at the other. So what he did first was scotch lok the two yellows together and the two greens together. Then the directionals would "blink, blink, blink and then stay solid on [in either direction]. We would have to unplug the harness as just turning off the car would not turn off the circuit.  This told Kendall that everything worked as it should but we had power all the time. So we got the book out to see what the 1989 harness called for [all the sockets used] and the 1990 [two fewer sockets used]. So then it was just a case of snipping the extra yellow and green wire and taping them off. We then plugged it back into the car's harness and laid it in the trunk, tried it again and it worked just as it should. We then put the harness into the taillight and installed checked it again. 

 So to recap it is letter "C" and "H" [it's on the plug].

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