February 2006 – Chromed taillights and exterior door handles

Chromed taillights and exterior door handles

Quite a while ago, I sent off some badly pitted taillights and some merely OK exterior door handles to Ricardo Delatorre, the owner of The Best Chrome in San Martin, California. I sent them off in December 2004, and I let Ricardo know that I wasn’t in any hurry. The chrome pieces came back in February, after Ricardo attempted repair of the originals without success. He acquired different taillights and chromed them up, abandoning the ones I sent to him as lost to the scrap heap. (May they rest in peace until they are remelted and made into something useful!)

I am delighted with the newly chromed parts. As a matter of fact, they drew praises from the rest of the family, too, as I unpacked the parts from the box. I ran out to the garage minutes after unpacking the taillights to fetch the rest of the assemblies. I had the taillights on, fully tested, before the sun went went down that Saturday.

The taillight assembly went in quite easily. I only had to retap the holes in the straps on the body to do the preparation at this point, everything else having been completed. I loosely fit the rubber seal onto the taillight assembly and then plugged in the bullet connectors. After loosely fitting the chrome to the body, I positioned the rubber seal. I found that using a razor knife tip (without pressing too hard, of course) made it possible to pull the rubber into place. A little pressure applied to the taillight chrome held the rubber seal in position while I tightened the screws and got the taillight to fit snugly. I was actually a bit surprised that they fit so well, since I had heard that such fittings need often need to be ground when trial testing before plating.

A test of the lights, and that was it!

The door handles, of course, are a bit more challenging to fit together. When we disassembled the car in 2002, we discovered that the left side lock had a broken “retaining case” — the part that surrounds the spring-loaded plunger behind the locking mechanism. I’ve ordered a new one of those. (They are not interchangeable from side to side, by the way). The right door handle went in place after I took apart the entire lock and cleaned the accumulated gunk.

I resisted the urge to lubricate the lock with oil or grease. It seems to me that graphite is a better choice. I recall from cold winters in Minnesota that liquid (or gel) lubricants can get formidably stiff in very cold weather. I hope this car will be spared from that beastly cold.

It took me a while to actually see how the entire mechanism works, since when I first looked at it I suspected that the part might have been cannibalized. There was, it seemed to me, too much “air” in the middle of the part, between the rear end of the lock tumbler and the loosely fitted plunger. I’ll taken some pictures when I reassemble the left side lock, so that others might not be confused. At any rate, the right side door handle went on shortly after the rechromed parts came back to Rougemont, and like the taillights, it is beautiful to see in its final place.

The Best Chrome did very good work for me, and though the parts were in Ricardo’s hands for a good long while, I told him that I wasn’t pressed for time. So I couldn’t expect a fast turn around. I still have some chrome that probably needs to be done, but I don’t know the timetable for that right now. Mainly I have bumpers that need attention, and I’m planning on doing a lot of the preparation here in Rougemont. When I get to the point of sending off the parts for plating, Ricardo will be in mind. I just wish he was on my end of the country!

Ricardo’s contact information:

Ricardo Delatorre
The Best Chrome
13165 Monterey Road
San Martin, California 95046