Keep'm Off Your Back...Side
by Dick Zakrzewski
While crusin with my '32 coupe one day last summer, someone pulled along side at a street light and told me that he could barely detect my brake lights when I applied the brakes. See Photo #1.
I decided I better take a close look. I actually thought I might have reversed the wires and had the tail light filament of the bulb illuminating when the brakes were applied rather than the larger brake light filament or might have a poor ground - the body is glass.
After removing the lens from my aftermarket '48 Chev tail lights, I determined they were wired correctly and when the bulb burned brightly, was confident the ground was good. All accessories go to a ground strip is directly grounded to the battery. However, I did notice that what would normally be the reflective surface of the light frame was painted semi gloss black! See Photo #2. Obviously, this was the problem.
The black surface was not reflecting light from the bulb. As I thought about this, I didn't remember seeing any lights on a motor vehicle that didn't have a bright reflector or the back surface painted white at a minimum…the front parking/directional light reflective surfaces for '68 Firebirds were painted white. Even the first motor cars built at the turn of the century had kerosene lights (front and rear) fitted with a reflector See Photo #3. Obviously safety concerns went out the window in exchange for improved profitability for these light manufacturers.
My solution to the problem was to simply create a reflector from aluminum foil. See Photo #4. Make the foil reflector large enough to extend under the lens gasket (Photo #5) and be sure to cut a hole for the bulb to pass through. There is no chance for a short circuit as long as you DO NOT force the foil into the light socket! Don't worry about a few wrinkles, they will add to the sparkle of the light.
I suggest that when buying any aftermarket brake lights, you remove the lens and if you find it does not have a reflector, return it for one that does or use the aluminum foil trick. Just don't leave it semi gloss black, if you want to keep'm off you back-side.