Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Detailing C3 Corvette Rear Marker Lights

Detailing (or replacing) the rear marker lights on a C3 Corvette is an easy project that can be completed in less than a couple of hours with just a few tools.

Based on their condition, replacement may be the best or only option, but if the assemblies are in good overall shape, they can usually be cleaned and polished back to almost new condition.

Mine looked pretty good considering they are the original marker lights, and even though the faux chrome borders showed their age, this is something that could be repainted with imitation chrome spray paint, a liquid chrome pen (links below), or even black if you prefer a modern look.


Fortunately, my marker light assemblies cleaned up okay so I did not feel it was necessary to paint the edges. The front marker lights are a different story, but I will detail those in the near future.

When you take a close look, wax buildup and dirt make them look tired and old, but with patience and a few regular cleaning products, they can be brought back to life.



Since marker lights are rarely removed from the car, dirt will accumulate behind them and you may even discover chipped paint (and who knows what else), once you take them off the car.

Removing the rear marker lights is easy as they're secured in place by two 1/2" speed (thread-cutting) nuts each. You will need a deep socket and a small ratchet, although the nuts can also be removed with a regular open-end wrench.


Fortunately, there's no need to lift the car in order to reach the rear marker lights. Space, or rather the lack of it, can make the process a bit challenging. But once you loosen the nuts, it goes pretty fast.

Just be careful when removing the speed nuts as the assembly is plastic and there's always a chance of snapping one of the plastic studs. Mine came off easily and in one piece.


With the speed nuts removed, push the assembly out. As a side note, the right side marker light had two washers in addition to the nuts. I am not sure if that's the way they came from the factory but I reused the washers when I reinstalled the rear right side marker light.


When the marker light assembly is out, you can remove the bulb socket by turning it in the direction of the arrow. Also, notice the TOP indicator during reassembly. And by the way, these are side-specific parts, so keep that in mind if you need to purchase just one assembly.


Years of dirt and grime will accumulate behind the marker light assemblies, and this is an excellent opportunity to thoroughly clean those areas.


If you notice paint chips, this is the time to touch those up. I always keep a can of paint handy for these situations. A small artist's brush works great for touch-ups.


The bulb sockets were not only dirty but also had twenty-year-old overspray when my car was repainted.


A rag and a little acetone made them look great again. I also cleaned the wires while I was there.


Detailing the marker lights is straight forward. I was planning to use a plastic bristle brush to remove the wax buildup but later decided against that approach since I didn't want to risk scratching the lenses.

Instead, I used a Q-tip soaked in alcohol to help soften the old wax and then removed as much of it as possible with a soft rag. This approach worked well. I also used a small flat screwdriver and wrapped the tip with the rag in order to carefully clean the edges.


While I cleaned and polished the marker light assembly, I soaked the nuts in Evapo-Rust. They only had surface rust so they cleaned up nicely.


Once I had removed as much of the old wax buildup as I was able to, I polished the lens and then gave it a couple of coats of fresh liquid Carnauba wax. The "chrome" edge also turned out nicely.



Reinstalling the assemblies is the reverse of removal, and I also tested the parking lights to ensure they were working properly.





If you need to purchase side marker light assemblies, try finding OEM parts in good condition. Also, make sure they are the right ones for your model year. But be aware that they, either OEM or aftermarket units, are not going to be cheap. This is why it is a good idea to restore the original parts if possible.

The photos above show the finished product. I'll just have to remember not to wax them next time I detail my Vette. Masking them would be a good idea.

As someone once said... "It's the small details that count."

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog.



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