Just the other day I was hauling my teardrop trailer to the DMV to get registered when its little door swung open as I was parking and hit my car’s tail light. It caused a small crack to the tail light that’s not much wider than a 32nd of an inch, but is located towards the bottom corner of the light in such a way that it could eventually cause a larger corner chunk of the tail light to pop off.
I’m not trying to replace the part, and in fact the internet tells me I don’t have to. There are a lot of products on the market that can help a DIY-er avoid spending more money than they need to, and DIY-ers with cracked tail lights are no exception to the rule.
Turns out that a lot of hobby stores and maybe even some auto parts stores sell plastic glue that allows you to solvent weld the two sides of the crack back together. Provided you find the right one for the kind of plastic out of which your tail lights are constructed, you should be able to apply the glue to the plastic crack, leave it one the crack for a minute, and then wipe of the glue to see that the plastic of the crack beneath has become somewhat gooey. This is because the plastic has become somewhat dissolved, allowing both sides of the crack to melt back together. Just be sure to only apply the very tiniest amount you need, because you don’t want to melt any of the surface or else you’ll frost up the outside of your tail light.
Wondering what to buy? Anything with methylene chloride in it, or you can probably use something called methyl ethyl ketone. Tubes of the stuff can cost from $3.29-$10.00.
There are also other options for those of you feeling a little intimidated by wielding chemicals and the potential of melting your tail light off. For less than $10 you can purchase lens repair film; this product comes in strips of adhesive that you can to cut to size according to your needs and stick firmly to your tail light over whatever crack or chip you hope to replace.
The film works over flexible and curved surfaces and is made to patch up the rounded body of your tail light, just be sure to put it on right.
Finally, you always can bite the bullet and pay the $100-$300 it will likely cost you to purchase a brand new tail light in the mail. So long as you decide to reinstall it yourself, you should be able to curtail the costs at that point. Tail lights are made to be easily replaceable and should pop in and out with little effort; just check your owners manual to make sure you’re on the right track and don’t force anything that doesn’t feel right.
Either way, a cracked tail light is definitely an inconvenience. That said, there’s a lot worse issues that could plague your car.