Many an, ahem, monetarily challenged Jeeper will recognize the feeling: You’ve got the itch to do something with your Jeep, but lack the funds or the time to make any substantial changes. That’s where I found myself this weekend. I’d been working from home, trying to cram some last-minute writing for an upcoming project, and I needed a break. I couldn’t afford to spend hours away from my computer and, barring an unexpected corporate sponsorship, my Jeep budget is going to remain pretty low at the very least until Uncle Sam begrudgingly agrees to return a little of my money in the spring.
Hmm … There’s a mostly full can of Plastidip, that most-useful-ever-elixir for Jeep enthusiasts. Now, what to do with it?
Ah ha! Those chrome rings around Smokey’s stock headlights have bugged me since Day One. And, with a little age on them, they were losing a little of their chrome luster, anyway.
Time for a little spray-on upgrade!
- Small-to-medium flat head screwdriver
- T-15 torx driver
- 11-oz. can of Plastidip
- Clean surface on which to apply Plastidip
Step 1: Remove the grille
Taking off the grille of a JK is a simple job. First, remove the blinker bulbs from their housing by reaching behind the grille on each side and twisting the bulb base one quarter-turn, counter-clockwise on the driver-side and clockwise on the passenger side, and pull out the bulb. (Use care not to break the glass bulb, especially if you’re running Teraflex sway bar disconnects, as the bar park is in just the right spot to contact the bulb if you aren’t careful.)
Next, open your hood to expose the six plastic push-pins holding in the top of the grille. Use a small or medium-sized flat-head screwdriver to gently pry up the head of the pin, then again to work up the pin’s base. Pull the entire pin assembly, and repeat for the remaining five pins. In the unlikely event you break a pin, don’t worry. They’re available very inexpensively at most auto retailers. Pull forward on the base of the grille to release the three tension pins securing the grille to the radiator cross-member. Set aside the grille in a safe place. (I took advantage of having the grille off to repair my gutter-guard mesh inserts. Four of the zip-tie bases had become dislodged over the last year. This was my own fault, as I hadn’t taken the time to remove the adhesive from all of the square bases when I did this inexpensive mod last year and, you guessed it, those were the ones that had come loose.)
Step 2: Remove the headlight trim rings
Using a T-15 torx bit, remove the four screws securing the headlight and trim rings. Be sure to secure the headlight with your hand to avoid its falling out of its housing. While the wiring harness should prevent it from falling and breaking, it always is best to gently lower it to a resting position. With all four screws removed, separate the headlights from the trim rings by applying gentle pressure on each headlight with your thumbs while grasping the trim.
Step 3: Apply Plastidip
Lay down some newspaper or other suitable material to protect your work surface from overspray, then begin spraying Plastidip on the outside surface of the headlight trim rings. To achieve the best finish, apply three or four very thin coats, allowing at least 20 minutes’ drying time between coats.
OK, now, here’s the really difficult part. Allow the coated trim rings to dry for a couple of hours before attempting to reattach to the headlights.
Step 4: Reassembly
Once the trim rings have had time to dry, push them back onto the Jeep’s headlights, using care to make sure the mounting tabs line up with the screw holes in the headlight wells.
Next, line up the three tabs at the bottom of the grille with the corresponding holes in the cross-member and push until each tab snaps audibly into place. Finally, push the six push-pins into the top of the grille and return the marker lamps to their assemblies.
That’s it — this is about as easy as Jeep mods come! It might not be the most noticeable change one can make to his or her Jeep, but it’s the attention to minor details like these that help make a standout Jeep!
Total time to complete
About three hours, including drying time
Total project cost
Free, since I already had the Plastidip on hand. If you have to purchase a can, expect to pay about $5 plus tax.