This is one of the very first mod I wanted to perform on the Prius when I took her home. I'm not a huge fan of all chrome headlights. Unfortunately because I commuted a lot during weekdays and go on road trips on weekends, this project took backstage. Fortunately, I've acquired a set of used OEM 2010+ 3rd gen Prius headlights to complete this project at my leisure and used the weekend to swap out the head lights. After careful sourcing and patience, the total for the two headlights costed me $110. This route also leaves my OEM headlights intact and allows me the flexibility to swap out the modified headlights back to OEM when it is time to sell or trade-in the Prius. Any headlights from a 2010+ 3rd gen Toyota Prius is compatible, so if you are able to score a set of good condition used OEM headlights from a salvage yard, I'd go with that route, unless of course if you want to use your own headlights. Also, I'd like to add that this is my first headlight black-out project ever.
For this weekend do-it-yourself project, I'll illustrate the steps required to remove the headlights, disassemble them, paint the chrome shrouds black and re-install. While the modification is minor, the end-result is satisfying. This project will require at least 4-5 hours.
The paint choice for this project is just as important for the final result. For this project, I used a can of Krylon Fusion Satin Black for Plastic Paint, about $5.00 for a 12 oz. can at your local Walmart.
This can of paint is designed specifically for plastic surface, so no prepping or priming of the headlight chrome bezel is necessary. The Satin Black color provides a satin black finish resulting in the perfect shade of black for this project - not too glossy, not too solid either. Of course, if you want glossy black of just flat black, you can do that too. Matter of fact, you can even try and color match the headlight shrouds to the body of your Prius if you want. Make sure whatever color you use, it's Krylon Fusion for Plastic (Walmart product code: 0072450402421), otherwise you may need to do extra prep work (i.e. primer, sanding).
Please read through this entire instruction before proceeding.
The entire project between removing the headlights, to baking, to re-installing should take about 4-5 hours total. As with other DIY guides, common sense and judgement should be used. This guide is written solely for educational purpose only. Neither warranty is expressed nor implied. I encourage you to read this guide thoroughly at least once to assess your capability of performing the mod on your own. If you cannot or don't have the tools, I recommend you consult with a qualified installer to help you with the install.
Tools and Materials Needed
- 2x Flathead screwdrivers
- 1x Phillips screwdriver
- 1x Utility blade with spare blades
- 2x Baking gloves
- 1x Baking sheet large enough to hold a head lamp
- 3x kitchen cloths (or enough to cover your baking sheet, leaving no metal surface exposed)
- 1x Socket and Ratchet set with 10 mm socket
- 1x 12 oz. can of Krylon Fusion for Plastic spray paint, Satin Black
- 1 set of headlights (you can use your OEM headlights or a set of donors)
- 1x roll of painter's masking tape
- 9x 2" heavy duty steel spring clamps - OPTIONAL
Decide What You Want to Paint
The Prius headlights are pretty complex to black-out compared to other blackout headlight projects. So instead of jumping right in and painting the chrome bezel completely black, I did a little Photoshopping to gauge where I want to paint and where I want to mask:
As much as I am not a fan of pure chrome headlights, I dislike completely black headlights with no discernible details even more. Might as well just tint the head lights black and save the trouble. The select chrome areas I am masking help create a nice accent to the blacked out head lights. To achieve this, I had to carefully mask out the entire designated chrome areas with painter's masking tape. I started cutting strips of painter's masking tape into 1" x 0.50" trips to mask out the outer ring. I basically masked the conical chrome bezel around the halogen projector and painted everything else black. I left the conical bezel chrome because most blacked-out headlights from factory are designed in a similar fashion; pure black housing resemble too much like cheap eBay knockoffs.
Originally, I wanted to mask the entire upper parking light cavity (aka city lights) and leave them chrome, but that would take too much time and would leave more chrome than I wanted. After all is done, I wished I've invested more time and masked out just the back chrome wall of the upper parking light cavity, so when the parking lights are turned on, a short band of light from the reflection, can be seen. I think when I reopen the headlights to instal Morimoto Retro-Quik kit by The Retrofit Source, I'll epoxy a chrome sheet cut to spec, to the back wall of the parking light cavity to "re-animate" the chrome that was painted black.
Head Lamp Removal Instructions
To remove the headlights, you will need to partially remove your front bumper. By partially, you only need to remove the clips and bolts holding the top of the bumper onto the radiator frame, the side bolt and clips and the single clip and single bolt just beneath the left and right turn signal lamps. For instructions on what clips and bolts to remove, consult this guide: DIY: How to remove the front bumper off a 3rd gen Prius
Your partially removed front bumper should resemble something like this:
Next, remove the two bolts securing the headlight tab to the radiator support frame:
Remove the single resin bolt holding the headlight to the fender:
Next, take a long flathead screw driver and lift a 2cm metal tab near the inner-front of the headlight. This metal tab locks down on a tab on the headlight:
This is what the aforementioned metal tab look like with the headlight removed:
With all 3 bolts removed and the metal security tab lifted, start by lifting the upper two headlight tabs out of their protruding bolt sockets:
Carefully pull the headlight toward you and set aside. Disconnect all bulbs from the headlight. There should be a total of four (side parking light, upper parking light [aka city light], low beam and high beam). Repeat for the opposite side:
Since we will be baking the head lights, you should remove the wire harness that connects from the vehicle wire harness to the upper parking light:
Do so by pinching the gray clip and pulling it out of the lower headlight housing:
With both your headlights removed, push the bumper back to its original position and leave it as is for now:
Head Lamp Baking Instructions
Remove all the screws on the back of the head lamp. I removed the three screws securing the coupler on the high beam cavity. I also removed the coupler.
To expedite the project, remove the screws from both headlights at the same time. You should have removed a total of 9 screws and one coupler per headlight:
Pre-heat conventional oven to 265 degree F.
Wet a piece of cloth and wring out the water, then place the cloth across the baking sheet.
You want to cover all the metal surface area of the baking sheet if you can. If not, like myself, just be careful how you place the headlight onto the baking sheet.
The metal surface of the baking sheet as well as the oven wall will become very hot and if it makes contact with any plastic part on your headlight, it will melt it. Do NOT let any plastic parts make contact with any metal surface.
Set your baking timer to 8 minutes and wait.
Remove your head lamp with your baking gloves and place on solid surface to work on. The cool tiled kitchen floor is a perfect location.
Using a flat head screwdriver, begin prying the black plastic housing apart from the clear head lamp lens. Since the housing has become soft from the oven heat, be careful not to flex it to much otherwise you may run the risk of inadvertently warping the housing.
Take your time but work quickly so the black sealant does not cool and harden up in the process. Avoid getting any of the black sealant on yourself or head lamps. The black sealant is almost impossible to remove so be very careful. Avoid breaking any tabs in the process. If the glue isn't heated sufficiently, it will be difficult to pry the headlight apart. If you experience this, set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 4 additional quick minutes. I had to do this on the second headlight a total of two times. To avoid wasting time, use the second flathead screwdriver to open the remaining headlight.
When you have opened up a good 6 inch gap, use your hands to pry the housing from the lens.
Set the black housing and the lens apart from each other.
Remove three Philips screw on the chrome bezel attached to the lens and set them aside:
Carefully lift the chrome bezel away from the lens and set each headlight component aside:
Pop out the side orange reflector with a clean flat head screw driver and set aside.
If you want to attain the "clear corner" look and retain the chrome appearance, simply remove the amber reflector and reseal the headlight.
Your chrome bezel should now be ready for paint. If you paint over the chrome surface where the orange reflector attaches over, you'll get a dark amber look. If you want to retain the bright orange reflector look, mask off the chrome area underneath the orange reflector using painter's masking tape. I decided to paint over the chrome area beneath the orange reflector. You'll be able to see what it looks like at the finished product below.
Repeat the above baking instruction for the opposite headlight.
Head Lamp Painting and Black-Out Instructions
Thanks to Krylon Fusion Paint for Plastic, drying time takes only 15 minutes and handling time as short as an hour. Take this into consideration when painting your headlight bezels. While you are painting the first chrome bezel, you want to place your second head lamp into the oven to get it ready for disassembling once you are done painting the first bezel. Set the oven timer to 8 minutes so you don't forget.
Here is your opportunity to mask off the areas you do not want to paint black. As mentioned earlier, I masked off the chrome conical shape surrounding the halogen projector with 3M painter's masking tape:
If you masked off any areas on the bezel, ensure that the tape makes 100% contact with the bezel. If any air holes exist, the spray paint will surely get to it, resulting in an uneven finish. Keep in mind that masking will take up additional time. With my case, I added 30 minutes to the project.
Work in a well ventilated area, with minimal wind interference.
Shake the can of Krylon Fusion spray paint vigorously for 2 minutes. Spray 3 initial light coats over the chrome bezel to sufficiently coat the entire bezel. Spray the coat in a sweeping motion to ensure even coating.
Allow a 2-minute "cooling" period per coat.
Finish off with a thicker coat; this final coat should be thicker than the previous three but not to the point where you see paint drips.
According to the can of Krylon Fusion, you can handle the painted object in as little as 15 minutes and fully put to use in an hour. Set the painted bezel aside while you work on the second bezel.
Once the second bezel is completed, wait 1 hour for the bezels to dry then carefully remove the masking tapes.
If you are not careful, you may run the risk of ripping off chrome from the bezel, like I did. Remember, these are chrome plated plastic headlight bezels (fortunately, the affected area is rather hard to see):
Bake the bezels in the pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes to cure and dry the paint:
Once you have cured the painted bezels, remove them from the oven carefully. The bezels become especially flimsy from the 350 degree baking temperature and will bend easily. Set them aside in a ventilated area and let them cool for 30 minutes.
When the bezels are cool to the touch, re-attach the orange reflector.
If you want to install a custom Audi-styled LED strips inside your lens, the time to do so is now. Wipe all chrome surface clean, removing any traces of finger prints and then place the painted bezel back into the headlight lens cover. Re-install the three screws you've removed from the bezels.
Re-attach the lens cover to the black housing by pressing them together along the seams as hard as you can. If you aren't able to match the lens cover to the housing 100% because of the hardened glue, don't worry. When we bake them a second time to seal the headlight, it'll be easy:
Place the head lamp back in the oven pre-heated at 250 degrees F. Bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat for the remaining head lamp.
Remove the baked head lamp from the oven and inspect the seams where the lens meet the housing. Ensure that the seal is properly set, i.e. no gaps or air bubble. If you spot any irregularities, now is the time to use your hands to work the irregularities out of the seal. This step is crucial because an improperly sealed headlamp will mean condensation when it rains.
Press the lens and housing together along the edge with as much force as you can but avoid using too much force such that you would cause permanent warping to the heated plastic:
Ensure all the clips from the lens cover pairs up with the housing:
If you are able to re-attach the six screws you've removed from along the perimeter of the housing, then your headlights are aligned correctly and should be sealed:
Re-install the high beam coupler and its three screws if you've removed them.
If you have the optional heavy duty spring clamps, it is time to use them. Clamp the lens and housing together along the edge. Let cool for half an hour. Repeat for remaining headlight.
Re-install the head lamps onto your Prius. When re-installing the headlights, remember to push the metal clip down to lock the headlights:
Finally, enjoy the new look:
If you want to salvage your flat head screwdriver used to pry the head lights apart, use a utility blade to scrape off the residual black sealant.
If you like the looks of blacked-out headlights but rather pay for a set of pre-blacked out headlights than do-it-yourself or sacrificing your own OEM lights, there are manufactured ZVW30 Prius blacked-out headlights available for sale in Japan:
The manufactured blacked-out Prius headlights sell for $320-$350 on Yahoo! Auctions Japan.
This mod can be used to blackout any headlights, including Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Prius LED headlights. It also encompasses other car makes and models as well.
Retrofitting a pair of Prius Five LED head lights crossed my mind a while ago. As I look at the blacked out composite head lights, I am pleased with the way they look and I think I'd keep them instead of spending extra cash on LED retrofits. I'll probably upgrade the projector optics by retrofitting HID projectors in them some time down the line. Maybe restore a set of used JDM Prius PHV headlights (G's headlights).
Next mod would be to acquire a pair of G's blacked-out taillights with integrated rear fog light (DIY wiring to follow) to match the new blacked-out headlights:
And some 17" black Drag-38's to complete the exterior. Still waiting for my OEM tires to wear down!