HowTo: Gen2 headlight housing teardown and painting - Mazda3 Forums : The #1 Mazda 3 Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-13-2014, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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HowTo: Gen2 headlight housing teardown and painting

WARNING: This tutorial does NOT include removal of bumper etc. if you are considering doing this, you should know how to turn a screwdriver and be able to remove the bumper with extreme ease. Otherwise, you probably should turn around now.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS WITH A FRIEND OR TWO! (it will make things more fun, interesting, and far less boring and difficult, especially when pulling these massive headlights apart)... besides, there will be plenty of "that's what she said jokes" to get you rolling around on the floor with friends.

Research what you want to do before you start:
ALWAYS know what you want to do before jumping in! There is nothing more stupid to do than jump into a project and not have a clue what you want out of it.

The owner had other plans, but I took inspiration from mazdaspeedmyk @ M3R who did a very clean looking repaint.



Remember, as much as you may hate it at the time, chrome really brings together a cars' appearance. After having 3 different headlight paint jobs myself, I knew what to go for to keep it very clean and OEM-like.

Time estimate:
4-6 hours minimum. (you can lengthen this depending what all you plan on doing, this tutorial does not include halos), and how perfect you want your paint to be)


Tools you will need:
Flathead screwdriver (medium sized)
Philips head screwdriver (medium sized)
8mm socket (I use a screwdriver style, as all the bolts you see will be only hand tight)
10mm socket
heat gun
floor jack & stands (makes removing the bumper much easier than trying to do it on the ground)
spray paint (we used Krylon fusion with great success)
VHT Engine enamel (if you want to paint the cutoff shield)
painters tape (if you want to block anything off)

Lets begin!
With the bumper removed, remove the lower bumper hanging brackets on the headlights (2x each) on the bottom with the 10mm socket.

Remove the rubber seals, and all bulbs from the headlights.

The smart move at this point is to go inside so you don't damage the headlights in any further fashion (minimize damage always!).



There are 3 phillips head screws on the backside of the headlight that need to be removed to begin the separation process. They are circled here:



Use the heat gun to heat the seam of the plastic front shield to the rear black housing. If you can spot a section of the black butyl tape, see how much heat it takes until it starts to melt, and move along the remainder of the headlight after you have a clue of how much heat you should be putting into it. DO NOT! aim the heat gun towards the clear front shield at all costs! And make sure after heating, you set the heatgun AWAY from the headlight so it doesn't burn a hole in it, as it is very easy to happen!

Images serve no purpose at this point, so once you get one heated, you can use your fingers to move the plastic brackets away from the black housing and clear lens so they are not holding them together, and with a friend, start from the "inside" of the lens (inside being towards the center of the car when on the car).

It will be a slow process, but shouldn't take more than 5 minutes at this point. If you need more heat, don't be afraid to put the gun on it a bit more to get things moving if you get stuck.

You WILL hear some popping noises. It is only the orange reflector on the side shuffling around the parts, so there is no need to worry.

Separate at a slow speed, and try to minimize any / all flexing on any part, as to not damage or miss-shape any part.

Now begins the fun part that you came here for!

Next, there are a few screws to remove to separate the pieces. They are circled.



Remove the turn signal housing and now you can remove an additional screw to remove the low beam section.



At this stage, if you want to paint the cutoff shield, there are 4 more screws that hold the plate in place, and then 3 more screws on the backside holding on the projector glass.



Lay out everything, and begin using the tape to block off any sections.
Remember, PREPARATION IS KEY!



We chose not to paint the highbeam area, if you want, I would hugely recommend taping off the rest of the headlight housing, and keeping it in place as to avoid having to re-align your headlights (trust me, you'll save so much time in the long run it isn't even funny! Unfortunately we never got that option with the gen1!)

Taping up!



Cleaned up of all grease etc. and ready for paint!



First coat! (4 coats total, increasing in thickness each run). This is not a painting tutorial, so no blaming if it doesn't turn out as expected!



Painting of the cutoff shield



Engine enamel dries very quick, and it doesn't have to be perfect as it will barely be visible, nor does it need to go on in multiple layers and thicknesses.
So testing it out!



After 4.5 hours from start, we are moving along and the paint is for the most part dry. I like to push a fingernail in an inconspicuous area such as the tabs on the backside that have been equally painted as the rest to see how stiff the paint is. If it's too mushy, give it more time!

Removed tape and checking out the gorgeousness of the OEM+ look.



All in place with showing the cutoff shield color.




To maximize your chances of not having a leaky seal, heat up the butyl tape on both the housing and clear lens until it melts, and keep them in a near liquid state. (Having 2 heat guns would be PERFECT right now!).

Once that is done, shove them back in place as well as you can, doing the reverse steps as earlier. Put the "outside" (furthest from center of car when installed) in first, and bring the rest in.

Don't forget to install those 3 little screws to hold the clear lens in place and tighten it all up!!!!

Reinstall on car, and admire your long day of work!








Because everyone that hasn't done this before asks, NO, painting the cutoff shield itself does not alter the light in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM. It is ONLY visible from the front side of the headlight at the right angle of reflection, and when the headlight is on, but it does NOT change the color / output of your headlights in any way, making it "legal" if you do paint them red as in this example.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-14-2014, 02:55 AM
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Engine enamel, very slick. You should also add to the writeup that it's one of the more heat-tolerant paints (typically to 500+F), so continuous heat from the HID bulb won't melt/vaporize it.

Besides that, writeup well done.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-14-2014, 03:36 AM
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Nicely done, sir; especially the painted cutoff plate !

work to live

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 11:21 AM
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Damn that looks good. I'd be a little scared at this point to try something like that and fuck up my headlights. Maybe later down the road when i care less.

Great write up Nuse!
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-24-2014, 02:39 PM
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Quick question. Is there any fogging up happening inside the headlamp after you reassembled it? Or is it water/air tight as before?
I'd be worried I'd fk it up or would the regular baking technique be reliable?


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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-24-2014, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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It is possible, but there are many ways to aid the chances of it not happening (there's no guarantee, but ... once you do it once, it isn't too hard to open up and reseal if you wish).

You can get butyl tape, I had purchased some for doing headlights, in these I did not do it, but you can get the stuff, and smoothing out all surfaces of gunky tape, and putting some fresh stuff in (it... kind of melts, so you can tug on it and stretch it out so you don't get too much to where the headlight won't fit together again). I usually cut it to 1/4" thick and stretch it out to where it's thin enough to not cause fitment issues, and lay it on the backside (not clear side).

In the process of getting it together I certainly take the heat gun back to all of the tape again until it starts to want to melt, keep going at it until both sides are looking pretty wet, go at it a touch more, and if you can get help, shove them together as good as possible.

Some people try to use clamps, but I don't believe those are strong enough (it will take quite a bit of force) to insure a good seal. At which point I take the heat gun to it just a bit more to melt it out again, and push on it a little bit more to flush out any air bubbles.

If you're serious about it, you can put a bead of silicon on the seam as well like what I've done to my personal headlights right now (because I'm to lazy to take them apart again). And haven't had issues.

Keeping everything smooth and clean is key.

Once you take the headlights off the car, go inside, definitely keep it away from a yard or worse a driveway, not only for the sake of damaging all of the surfaces or scratching it up, but also avoid getting junk in the tape (as... you won't get it out once it gets in there without cutting it out lol)
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