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HOWTO: Rear taillight gasket fix / replacement

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Old 11-15-2013, 06:51 PM   #1
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Default HOWTO: Rear taillight gasket fix / replacement

So my taillight gaskets were basically disinigrated after 12 years and looking ghetto as hell. Chunks missing etc. I looked all over the net for replacements to find that I had to buy new taillights in order to get a new gasket.

I found someone mention 3m "strip caulk" for fixing his tailights. Pre-made 1 foot strips of caulk (comes in black)that never hardens or shrinks. It's messy stuff and I went through some trial and error to get my system down. I'll re-up my photo bucket or something and hopefully take some pics doing taillight #2 tomorrow.

Basically you need:
3M caulk strips
some kind of lubricant (I used some 3m teflon and silicone stuff I keep the rust off my tools with)
Something with round handles. I used these I bought these IPA SWAB-EEZ from northern tool... They have different radius sticks.

1. I took the light out in the cubby holes there are 2 ***** that have teeth on the end of them so you can get a grip. Unscrew and push the light out from the inside. There is a post that pressure fits into a hole so it will pop, not just slide out.
2. Pull the old gasket off. Mine came off in my fingers.
3. Take the caulk strips and roll them in your hands and jammed them in the little slot in the back of the light where the old seal used to live. (I don't know if this inner part of the seal makes contact but better safe then sorry.) In hindsight you can probably omit this step.
4. Put the light back in (reverse step 1)
5. take your lubricant and wipe a 2 inch strip along the seam on both the taillight and the paint. Wet is good, just not dripping into the seam itself. This will help keep the caulk from sticking to it because its a pain to get off when it does so don't skip this step. Painters tape would do the job as well.
6. Role some caulk in your hands a couple inches at a time to get it where its just small enough to fit in the seam.
7. Lightly press the caulk into that part of the seam with your fingers so it's in the crack.
8. Find a size stick that is small enough to fit in the seam but you want the largest one possible for a clean look.
9. spray the stick with your lubricant. (That caulk loves to stick to wood.)
10. At the same time press the length of the stick against the caulk which rotating it and dragging it along the seam. This is important because the seals look stupid if you just jam caulk in the gap and fill them in flush with the exterior of the panel and light (trust me I tried.) This method actually ends up looking like a rubber seal that's folded outward under the surface. IF there are flaws in your caulk line they are more hidden in the shadows of that crack.
11. Repeat steps 6-10 the length of the seam. You can then go over the entire length of it with the lubricated stick to smooth the pieces together and it looks like one seam, Add some more to missed holes, etc.
12. You can clean up the edge with one of the large q-tips and some lubricant running along the seam (use a little elbow grease and the little overflow will come off the corner of the light and the corner of the body panel. The better you size your caulk pieces to fit the less to clean up from the edges when your done. With the painters tape you could just pull it off and be done. I just didn't think of that until now.

That's it. I'm pretty happy with the results without having to spend a couple hundred bucks on ebay for new lights since I'm getting rid of her this spring anyway. Just wanted to get this documented because it doesn't have to be an expensive repair for something stupid and none else gave any kind of detail to what they ended up doing.

I got the caulk from "mechanics tools and bits" online for about 18 bucks shipped as opposed to 25 at orielly auto. The Qtip deals were 8 or 10 bucks for the pack. With the lubricant your looking at less then 40 dollars to spruce your car up a bit and maybe keep your car from flooding. Hope this helps someone else!

Last edited by BetterThanVW; 11-15-2013 at 06:58 PM.
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