As you and your car graduate and navigate through the different types of racing NASA has to offer, it means you also need to navigate through the multitude of rules sets that NASA has created over the years. For the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, held annually the first weekend of December, there are separate supplemental rules and regulations that detail specific statutes regarding how that race is run. One rule that can be easily overlooked is rule 4.3 Headlights, which details specific placement and color of headlights for the long 25-hour race through the darkness.

Since 2016 the 25 Hours of Thunderhill has mandated exactly where headlights may be mounted, vertically and laterally, on each competition vehicle. This is important to note because it differs from the rules set of the Western Endurance Racing Championship, which allows for light bars across the entire front of a vehicle.

Additionally, in the headlight rules for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, there is a subsection that deals with the color of the lights for certain classes. “4.3.5: All ES and ESR vehicles shall run amber tinted headlights.” The reason for this rule is because of multiple classing and differential speeds at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. There are eight classes of cars running in the event: E3S, E3, E2, E1, E0, ENP, ES and ESR. ES and ESR cars are generally the fastest on the track. In fact, they are getting their own qualifying session this year, which is a first. For the slower cars to be able to tell which cars have quicker closing speeds, NASA has mandated the ES and ESR cars have yellow-tinted headlights.

This car has stock white/clear headlamps. To comply with the 25 Hours of Thunderhill supplemental rule 4.3.5, it will need yellow tint over the headlights.

Having to modify a car’s headlights from stock to a yellow tint doesn’t require finding a different headlamp assembly in an amber color. We were able to apply a yellow tint — similar to a vehicle wrap — over the headlight, which fulfills the rule requirement. This project only set us back $20 worth of supplies from Amazon and only took about 30 minutes to install. Easy and cheap, just how I like it.

Twenty dollars’ worth of yellow tint vinyl wrap from VViViD, scissors, a razor blade and a plastic applicator, which came free with the vinyl, was all we needed to get our headlights the legal color.

Take the time to thoroughly clean your existing clear headlight lenses to ensure the vinyl will stick to the headlight assembly. Next, rough-cut some vinyl to a more workable shape, similar, but slightly larger than your existing headlight.

The first step in headlight tinting is to cut some of the vinyl to a smaller workable shape similar to your headlamp.

Once your headlight is clean and you have a rough-cut piece, remove the backing paper and apply the vinyl to the headlamp. Ensure you are placing the center of the vinyl piece to the center of the headlight so the entirety of the headlight will be covered in one piece of yellow tinted vinyl.

The next step is to peel the adhesive backing of the vinyl and apply it to the headlight. It will look a little crazy at first, but use the applicator to squeegee any air bubbles out and lay the vinyl down flat.

We found that starting with a little bigger piece of vinyl, applying it, and then slowly trimming down the edges to get the shape closer and closer to the actual shape of the headlight saved us from having to start over with an entirely new piece of vinyl.

Use a razor blade to trim the vinyl down to a closer shape to the actual headlight shape. Then continue to use the applicator to get the edges stuck down to the headlight.

We chose not to use any water under the vinyl because we have found that we can never squeegee all of the water out and then the water expands later creating air bubbles under the vinyl. The adhesive was just the right strength to make the vinyl easy to work with and still remain on the car at high speeds.

The free squeegee applicator came in a great small shape, which made it easy to get the edges down exactly where we wanted them.

Once we had the vinyl laid down precisely where we wanted it, we used a razor blade to make the final trims to make everything look tidy. We worked on the smaller driving lights first as a practice before we took on the larger, oddly shaped main headlight assemblies.

For the main headlight assembly, we started with a much larger piece of vinyl and patiently squeegeed and trimmed until the entire light was free of air bubbles and completely covered with the amber tint.

This project turned out to be easier than we expected, namely due to the flexibility of the vinyl wrap. This stuff was easy to work with and conformed to the odd shape of our main headlights easily. We had some concerns that the tint would diminish the brightness and effectiveness of our headlights — which is not what we want at 3 a.m. at Thunderhill. We completed some nighttime testing and found the lights were nice and bright. The vinyl didn’t seem to dim the headlight.

This car’s headlights now comply with NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill supplemental rule 4.3.5 amber tint for ES and ESR cars.

Project completed. Now for anyone who sees yellow lights coming at them from the rear, you know what to do … get out of our way!

Image courtesy of Rob Krider


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