Headlight covers were first born during World War II when civil and military authorities in coastal cities and areas throughout the globe regularly scheduled blackouts and brownouts at night to prevent enemies from bombing industrial, commercial and military facilities.
During blackouts, absolutely no light was allowed to be used in homes, vehicles or businesses. Brownouts, on the other hand, simply called for a reduction in the amount of light transmitted. Hence, the birth of the first headlight covers.
World War II Headlight Cover
The picture to the right shows a headlight cover used to restrict the amount of light emitted by cars and vans during the brownouts imposed in the war years. This particular cover was used on milk vans owned by the Read family dairy used for deliveries in the Teralba district of NSW, Australia.
Headlight Covers Evolve
By today's standards, the first headlight covers were primitive and inefficient. Made from heavy, metals with downward facing vents, they did little to reduce the amount of light transmitted and needed to be bolted onto the body of the vehicle.
With the advent of plastics in the years following World War II, there was a veritable revolution in the manufacturing of headlight covers. Tinted plastics allowed for the creation of light-weight covers which could snap into place over the existing headlamp and did not required screwing, cutting or bolts of any kind. Furthermore, the amount of light transmitted could be further reduced by the tinted covers than was possible with vent shades.
Interestingly enough, Auto Vent Shade (now owned by Lund International) was one of the pioneers in bringing tinted headlight kits to the market and popularizing them for non-military use. AVS was the first company to see the aesthetic benefits of tinted headlights and were soon followed by a number of imitators. It was at this point that the focus of headlight cover design turned from oe of reducing light output to protection and cosmetics.
Headlight Covers - Protection and Style
In addition to the use of plastic and polymer covers enthusiasts also began experimenting with spray on tints and headlight paints as alternatives to hard, snap on covers. However, the process of "smoking" or "blacking out" a vehicles headlights with paint is both a difficult and permanent process. Although many shops today still specialize in headlight smoking with spray on tint or paint, this is a process that most DIYers or "makers" would avoid due to the potential of destroying expensive, OEM headlights.
Headlight Tint Covers
A more recent development in headlight cover technology and tinting is the introduction of pre-cut film kits. These tints are generally made from thin, self-adhesive and optically clear vinyl film and are marketed primarily by companies such as Xpel, Lamin-X and Rvinyl.com.
Although the designs of each differ based on the experience and preferenes of the installer/designers used, all pre-cut Headlight Covers made by the aforemnetioned companies are cut from tinted vinyl film which is meant to be applied using the techniques pioeneered by PPF installers and designers. The thicknesses of the films used as well as the colors and shades vary widely (e.g., from 3mil to 15mil in thickness) and are dependent upon the manufacturer.