Cleaning the Headlight Vacuum Hoses

I'm guessing that the previous owner decided to "clean up" or "restore" the engine bay—as well as the headlight assemblies (along with anything else that was on his way)—with Bubba's favorite resto tool, the always-popular rattle can of black paint.

Now don't get me wrong; Like many DIYers and pros out there, I use rattle cans quite a bit. But I use them correctly and (most of the time) as intended. I do not have a compressor, so aerosol cans offer an affordable and quick alternative.

Anyway, as I continue to find areas to clean and refurbish, I decided to tackle the headlight assemblies, but this can be a gargantuan project, so I decided to do it in stages, and the easiest one to do first was to clean (as well as inspect) the headlight actuator vacuum hoses.

I think the photo above helps to illustrate the black hole that spraypaint can create in a matter of seconds. Sure, it beats the look of rust any day of the week and twice on Sunday, but the problem is that those hoses are color-coded and this approach completely negates that.

Not to mention how challenging a project this can create should you need to remove then reinstall a couple of hoses. You need to know where the hoses connect and the colored stripes help with that.

Above: Aftermarket CAD-plated headlamp actuator.
Also, as you can see, the actuators also succumbed to the spray bomb that was unleashed in that area, as were the headlamp assemblies, every nut and bolt, springs, and more.

Factory actuators had a nice gold cadmium plated finish (see photo on right). Over time the actuator cans would rust, but there are far better alternatives to flat black paint, in my opinion.

Provided the original actuators are not rusted through and full of holes, the cans can be cleaned up and refinished with a better choice of paint.

Eastwood offers a Golden CAD kit which seems to replicate the OEM finish quite well. I am not sure if I'm going to go that route when the time comes or go with a hammered finish. We'll have to wait to find out.

The actuators can also be rebuilt, and Corvette part vendors offer a kit just for that, which is far cheaper than purchasing reproduction parts. That's always an option, but if you are trying to save a few bucks, rebuilding them is not difficult and is an affordable alternative.

But back to the headlight vacuum hoses...

I cleaned several of them, one at a time so I could reinstall them in the right location. But one thing that really surprised me was to find nice-looking original hoses under the layers of paint.

Since I did not want to damage them, I used shop paper towels soaked in Klean Strip Brush Cleaner.

Fortunately, it did not take a lot of effort for the spray paint to come off and the color-coded stripes were not affected by the cleaning process. If anything, the more I cleaned them the brighter they got.

I'm not going to bore you with detailed pics of every single vacuum hose I cleaned, but they all turned out great and, fortunately, they were in great shape.

This project took less than two hours and it was a step in the right direction.

The next project will involve removing the actuators so I can refurbish them. This will involve paint and I'll also replace the rubber seals and boots if that's absolutely necessary, something I doubt since they are in working order.

Here are a few pics of the now-clean vacuum hoses.

I like how they turned out and refinishing the actuators will definitely make this area look a thousand times better. But there still are plenty of small brackets and other pieces that have overspray from when the previous owner had the car repainted. That will involve time as well as disassembly.

The headlight housings, for example, desperately need to be restored. At least one of them is missing a spring and the amount of dirt, primer, and paint overspray will take some serious elbow grease. But that's a project for some other time.

Thanks for following my '76 Vette Blog!

Product Links... (#sponsored)

1968-1982 Corvette Restoration Guide
• Klean Strip Brush Cleaner
Scott Shop Towels, Blue
Eastwood Golden CAD 3-Step Kit
1976 Corvette Assembly Manual

1968-1982 Corvette Headlight Actuator with Boot & Seal | Left Side
1968-1982 Corvette Headlight Actuator with Boot & Seal | Right Side