08+ WRX/STI Headlight Split | DIY Painting | Baking

I’ve decided to give my headlights a little facelift by splitting them and painting some of the inside components. The headlights are out of my 2011 WRX and they are already considered “black housing” as opposed to the 2012+ “chrome housing”.

The procedure will be exactly the same for both versions and the splitting technique will be same for both halogens and HID versions of your headlights. The difference will obviously be the harnesses, ballasts, and bulbs. Please use caution when removing the bulbs, as they are sensitive.

For more information on the complete car, visit my build thread (HERE)

Completed procedure:

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Here is a step-by-step image assisted procedure.

Start the procedure by removing your headlight from the car. You will need to remove your front bumper and unplug the main harness to your headlights.
This is the light before:

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Start by removing all the hardware. If you have OEM HID’s your pile of removed parts should look like this:

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After the parts are removed, prepare your oven’s racks so you can fit the light in there BEFORE you turn it on. Once the light fits, turn your oven on to BAKE on 210-220 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes AFTER the oven reaches temperature. I left the lights in during pre-heat so there is less of a shock to the light when adding it at full temp.

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After the 15 minutes, take them out and use a large flat screwdriver to lightly pry the lens from the housing, starting at the tapered corner (the corner closest to the center grill)
You will notice the glue will start to give enough where the pieces start to separate. Should look like this:

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Once you get it started, you’ll need to slowly pull the rest apart by hand. You’ll need to hold the light, release the clasp tabs, and pull apart, all while trying not burn yourself with a 200 degree blob of plastic, lol

Picture of one of the 6 tabs that has to be released to separate the lens:

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Once you get the lens separated for the housing, it will look like this:

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While the glue is still warm, you will need to remove the inner plastic from the lens if you are painting that section. Remove the small 4 small screws that hold it to the lens and separate it. It will look like this:

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I used Rust-Oleum Plastic spray paint in Satin Black to paint this:

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After I painted the inner plastic, I let it air dry for 30 minutes than placed it in the oven at 150 degrees with the door open for 2hrs.

Next up is painting the side reflector. To remove the side marker, you will see 2 screws that hold it in. Once you remove the 2 screws, you will be able to remove the marker and the turn/park housing.

Here is the before and after painting of the side reflector. I painted the backside only with the same plastic paint as I used with the housing. I painted two coats and baked to dry.

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Next will be painting the Park/Turn housing. I wanted to keep the reflectivity of the chrome but dull it down a bit or convert it to a black chrome look. To do this I used Dupli-Color metal cast “shadow”.
I sprayed two very light coats and let dry. Here is the completed look:

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After the Park/Turn housing was done I switched to the high beam housing. For this I used Dupli-Color metal cast “yellow”. I wanted to emulate the look of the yellow bulbs in a chrome housing but without actually having yellow bulbs in there. For this, the easy way is to leave all the components together and tape off the housing. This way you won’t be messing around with the headlights and their alignment. Like the Park/Turn housing, I sprayed two light coats of the metal cast. Once complete, it’ll look like this:

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Now it’s time to let every dry. Overnight would be best if you can keep them in a clean, dust free environment. If not, you can carefully place each of them in the oven to bake. I did one headlight a night so I was able to place the separate items in the oven to dry for 2 hrs each before I assembled them back together.

Once every piece is 100% cured. You will need to re-assemble. To do so, you will have to carefully place the inner lens housing back in the lens and tighten the 4 screws. Next place the park/turn housing back into it’s spot and slide in the painted side reflector. Replace the two screws for them. Clean or blow off any dust that has fallen on the painted surface. It will be your last chance to do so.

Place both halves in the oven set to 200 degrees for 12-15 minutes to get the glue softened again. Once the glue is soft enough to be slightly tacky or gummy, then it’s ready to be married with it’s opposite partner.

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Take both pieces out and place the headlight housing down with the mating surface pointing up. Put the two pieces together, starting with the park/turn side and work your way towards the tapered side (opposite of removal). Once they are mated, squeeze them together and replace the screws that hold them together tightly.
Let them cool off while you are reassembling the lights, harness and brackets.

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If for some reason you notice you missed a spot, see dust, or left something inside like a cookie or screwdriver. You can put them back in the oven and split again.

Once completely cooled, you should try them out and test all your lights BEFORE you put your bumper back on. If they check out okay, re-install your lights, bumper and enjoy your hard work and new lights!

 

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Chris November 15, 2013, 10:10 PM

    Jason, nice work man. I recently came across your blog and must say that the automotive portion is very helpful! Best step-by-step how-to’s I’ve read for the 2008+ WRX/STI’s. Keep up the good work!

    I have some ideas I’d like to bounce off you if you have time!

    Reply
  • Austin November 24, 2013, 12:12 PM

    Jason,

    Awesome DIY, I just got a new WRX and was looking to get rid of that horrible chrome look. Was curious if you did any scuffing with high grit sandpaper or steel wool before and used a plastic adhesion promoter before spray painting the piece? Also if you used any extra product when you sealed the lights back together or if the amount left on there when reheated was enough to make a good seal, wondering if you had any problems with condensation. Anyway, thanks for the write-up, by far the best I’ve seen!

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito November 24, 2013, 12:31 PM

      Hey Austin,
      Thanks for the inquiry!
      When I do these I usually bake the lights to split them, shortly after they are split they are in the booth to be painted. Since they will be warm from the oven, it helps a lot with paint adhesion. I’ve never had to scuff, sand or prep.
      The inside of the lights are about as clean as you can get so I never want to possibly make it worse by trying to clean them even more.

      As far as sealant, I use a butyl rubber strip that I have a large roll of. There is usually enough left from the factory to reseal, but I have to be on the safe side when dealing with customers lights.
      No condensation or returns to date.

      Cheers!

      – Jason

      Reply
  • will November 27, 2013, 3:14 PM

    just curious if i can use shadow paint directly on my chrome housing and would is hold due to heat??thanks

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito November 27, 2013, 3:22 PM

      Absolutely, the smoke paint will adhere well to the chrome reflector and handle the heat of a standard high-beam bulb. I’m not too sure of high power bulbs, but the standard bulb I can confidently say is fine.

      Cheers!

      – Jason

      Reply
    • Jason Esposito April 7, 2014, 9:03 PM

      Sure can, the metalcast paint is good up to 500 degrees!

      Reply
  • Tahir B April 6, 2014, 10:02 PM

    How well does the metalcast reflect the light? I’m gonna be doing my Blobeye’s headlights and i wanted to metalcast the highbeam in black along with the turn lights (leaving only the low beam chrome). Would that still allow the highbeams to project the light?

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito April 7, 2014, 9:02 PM

      The metalcast will allow most of the light to reflect through the coating. The light output decrease will depend on how many coats you apply. The yellow high-beam reflectors that I have cut about 30% of the high beam output.
      The black will cut slightly more depending on how dark you go. It does get darker each layer you apply. Good luck!

      Reply
  • CJ April 7, 2014, 2:38 PM

    Awesome job! Definitely want to do this after seeing yours. I don’t really like the chrome thate the headlights have as stock. Just two questions, did you sand the plastic down before you painted? I’ve seen a lot of DIY videos and forum postings talk about doing this before painting. In addition, do you recommend using a plasti-dip approach or is painting it the way to go? Thank you and once again, awesome job on your headlights! 😀

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito April 7, 2014, 9:05 PM

      Thanks Chris!,
      I never had to prep any of the light before painting. The inner housing is about as clean and grease free as you can get from the factor so the paint sticks to it like glue.
      I would definitely NOT use plastidip for the paint. The finish is rough and will not hold up to the heat long-term.
      Good luck man!

      Reply
  • AJ Brooks November 7, 2014, 11:14 AM

    Jason,

    I have a 2008 STi Hatch and I wanted to do the turn signal like yours, how much is reflected now? Also, is that a LED bulb in your headlight as the turn signal? Do you get the “hyperflash”

    thank you !

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito November 7, 2014, 8:15 PM

      Hi Aj,
      The reflectivity was reduced a decent amount with the smoked treatment but even without the led bulbs they were still bright enough to where I felt comfortable. The Led turn signal bulb is a 21 led amber 1157 bulb from VLEDs.com
      Great bulb and solid quality. You will get hyper flash if you don’t change your blinker relay to an higher resistance relay made for leds, VLEDs sell them too.

      Cheers!

      – Jason

      Reply
  • Henry May 31, 2015, 5:14 PM

    Great write up. Did have a little confusion when i was dis assembling the wires and hardware when removing the headlights from the car. I was able to remove all wire components except for the one connected to the low beams and runs at the bottom inside the projector housing through this rubber grommet thing. Dont know how to go about removing JUST this one part of the wires. Any help? I dont have hids, just normal halogens- 13′ wrx. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito May 31, 2015, 6:48 PM

      Hi Henry,

      Once you unplug the plug from the low beam, next will be to pull the grommet out. From the bottom of the light, just pull the edge of the grommet until it releases from the housing. It’s held in by anything but pressure.
      If you have any more questions, feel free to email me directly at sales@overland-designs.com

      Cheers!

      – Jason

      Reply
      • Henry May 31, 2015, 8:58 PM

        Gotcha. Thanks boss- much appreciated!

        Reply
  • Mike September 14, 2016, 9:22 AM

    Hey Jason, you finally inspired me to get rid of the horrible chrome housing (I have a 2013). Question about cleaning the inside of the headlight lens – I know you say that it’s clean in there but after a few years the clear lens portion benefits from a mild cleaning. Do you have a better way than just windex and microfiber towels? I cleaned one like this and it came out noticeably clearer when looking at the lens at night with the HID’s on. Thanks for the write-up and info!

    Reply
    • Jason Esposito September 14, 2016, 8:40 PM

      Hi Mike, Glad you are ready to tackle the headlight painting!
      For cleaning, I always try to stay away from any sprays or chemicals unless absolutely necessary. Warm soapy water usually tackles anything I’ve needed to clean on the headlights.

      Good luck!!

      -Jason

      Reply

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