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Lighting System

How to Smoke Headlights with Tint Film & Spray Paint?

How to Smoke Headlights
Last Updated on Aug 16, 2023 By Paul Lucas

Many people choose to smoke their headlights. How you do it is as important as deciding to do it.

Here you will learn two methods to smoke your headlights, the advantages and disadvantages of smoking the headlights, and some helpful advice.

How to Smoke Headlights?

You can reduce the brightness of your headlights by smoking (tinting) them. Before you do this, check the laws in your state to see if it is illegal—there is no sense in doing it if you have to remove it later.

There are two ways to smoke the headlights: a tinted film and spray tinting the headlights. Neither one is quick or easy, so choose the one that works best for you. You can purchase either one online or at the store. To get the best results buy the higher-quality choice.

Method 1: Tinting film

Step 1:  Tools and supplies

  • Razor blade
  • Tinting film: pre-cut or in sheet form
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Squeege
  • Hairdryer or heat gun
  • A needle
  • Soapy water and a microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol

Step 2: Remove the headlight assembly

This is done differently for every car. Check the manual for your vehicle and use the suggested method.

Step 3: Clean the lens on the headlight

The headlights need to be dirt and debris free, including lint. Cleaning them with soapy water and a microfiber cloth works well. Once the lens is dry, wipe the surface with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth to remove any grease.

If you have foggy headlights, you can use a headlight restoration kit, but do it before you do the tinting.

Step 4: Read the instructions that come in the tinting kit

Before starting, read the instructions that came with the tinting film. The film comes in a big sheet,  pre-cut, and some are cut for specific cars. It will save you time, money, and frustration if the film is close to the size of your headlight. Ensure you have the film for headlights, not taillights.

Step 5: Prep and place the film

Once you cut the tinting film to the size you need, take the backing sheet off the film and moisten the headlight lens with the water in the spray bottle. The film is much easier to maneuver with water on the lens as a lubricant.

Step 6: Film placement

Start at the flattest part of the lens. Place the film on the flattest spot, then

work your way to the lens curve. You may have to readjust the film several times before it is on there correctly.

Step 7: Removing air and water

Once the film is where you need it, spritz the side facing you with water. Using the squeegee on the flat part of the lens, press and pull it to the edge of the lens to get any water and air from under the film. Press firmly and use one long pull. Continue until there is no air or water between the lens and the light.

Step 8: The trick to perfect curves

To make the tinting film pliable and easier to work with on the rounder parts of the light,  use a blow dryer or heat gun.

Step 9:Trim the film

Once the film is on, you need to trim off any excess. Sheets of film tend to have more excess than their pre-cut counterpart. Cut the excess first, then do the more precision trimming with a razor blade.

Take your time. Poor razor blade control can cause scratches and cuts in the film.

Once the excess is off, poke holes in any bubbles on the film with a needle and flatten out the film. If the tint needs to cure, do this when you are done. Use the tint manufacturer’s recommendations.

Step 10: Think about changing the light bulb and replacing the assembly

The final step is to change the headlight bulb and replace it with a brighter one if you think the film will dim the output too much. Once the bulb is changed, you can reinstall the headlight assembly.

Make sure to test the lights to ensure you have enough light to drive. You’ll want to be compliant with any state laws.

Method 2: Using spray paint

Step 1: Tools and supplies

  • A can of spray-on headlight tint
  • Masking tape
  • Clear top-coat spray with UV protectant
  • A facial mask
  • Soapy water and a microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol

Step 2: Check the manual and remove the headlight assembly

Check your manual and remove the headlight assembly as you did in step #1 above.

Step 3: Clean the headlight lenses

The headlights need to be dirt and debris free, including lint. Cleaning them with

soapy water and a microfiber cloth works well. Once the lens is dry, wipe the surface with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease.

If you have foggy headlights, you can use a headlight restoration kit before using the spray tint.

Step 4: Read the instructions on the can and choose a mask

Before starting, read the instructions for the spray tint to ensure it is for auto headlights. The tint can be toxic if inhaled, so you will need to wear a mask as you use it.

Step 5: Protecting the parts

Spray tint can be hard to control. Cover any areas you don’t want the spray tint to get on with masking tape. Make sure you have enough room to work, then cover your work surface. If you are spray tinting, be sure the area is well ventilated.

Step 6: Spraying the lenses

Apply the spray in thin coats, with the can about 12 inches from the lens. Use a continuous side-to-side motion to avoid uneven coating.

Step 7: Drying between coats

Let the tint dry between coats since it tends the be darker when it is dry. It should be tacky enough in 15 minutes so you can apply a second coat. You can touch the tint on the masking tape to see how tacky it is. Avoid touching the lens at all costs! Continue this step until you have the recommended amount of coats.

Step 8: Clear coat application

Read the clear coat instructions before starting this process. The clear coat creates a seamless finish, helps prevent chipping, and protects the tint from the sun’s UV rays. Don’t skip this step. Apply the clear coat with the same technique used for the tinted coat.

Step 9: Drying the clear coat

Once the clear coat is on, the headlights will need to dry. Most clear coat needs at least 12 hours to dry. Check the can for your drying time. Don’t remove any masking tape until the headlights have finished the recommended drying time.

Step 10: Reinstalling and checking the headlights

Remove the masking tape. If you’re going to change the bulbs, Do it now while the assembly is off. Place the headlight assembly into place and check the light’s output.

Advantages of smoking headlights

  • Less expensive to tint them than to replace the headlights
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Visually helpful for other drivers
  • You can adjust the headlight’s output

Disadvantages of smoking headlights

  • You may need to remove the tinting if you sell the car
  • Can create safety issues in foggy weather
  • May not be legal in all states or countries
  • May decrease the headlight’s output


1. Is my visibility reduced after smoking headlights?

Ans: Yes, but the degree of visibility will depend on how dark the tinted film is or the number of coats you apply using the spray. Before appying the spray tint or purchasing a darker tinting film, you need to consider this.

2. How does smoking my headlights affect my warranty?

Ans: Most permanent changes to the car affect the warranty, and smoking the headlights is no exception. While spray tint is pretty permanent (the removal involves chemicals and is difficult), tint film removal is relatively easy.

3. Does smoking my headlights cause heat damage?

Ans: Overly dark tinting may cause overheating. The film is heat resistant and only traps heat if they are extremely dark.

About the author

Paul Lucas

I grew up in a classic car-oriented family, and was taught how to differentiate between a Ford and a Chevy by my dad when I was just five years old! With special feelings for anything Italian, I enjoy driving and restoring old cars.

Over the years, I became tired of those cookie-cutter auto blogs that copy content from each other and decided to take matters into my own hands! So, I am here to bring you the latest auto industry news, tech innovations, the hottest cars and their specs, reviews, test drives, tuning, and more.

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