The oven method works on many headlight assemblies, just use a low temp and keep checking up on it while it's warming up: It doesn't take long. I've done it on a Civic and just had to keep working around the outer edge to prevent the lens cracking.
You might be able to mask off the chrome you want to keep, and use a super fine sandpaper (or maybe even Scotch Brite... I'm sure others on here know better than me) to remove/ mar up the chrome you want to black over so the plastic primer and paint stick really well. I'm sure removing some chrome is alright, just not any in the recessed buckets.
A lot of folks say you should let them dry for a full week before closing the headlights back up for longest-lasting results. Also, some say to use high temp paint though it actually may off-gas once the lense is closed causing chemical fogging... high temp is not necessary though, again, others might have better tips.
If you do go that route just make sure that when you reassemble them you seal 'em up nice and tight so they don't build condensation on the inside of the lens.
Trying a scrap one like VARIABLE9 mentioned is the best way to go about it and experiment if at all possible, or you could just buy a new/ used set so you could still have your current ones in while the painted ones dry, and then sell off the ones you have. Just a thought.
OVEN cleaner. Removes chrome off of plastic model parts when you want to repaint them. Can't say it will not mar clear though, it works flawlessly on opaque plastics with zero damage though. Simple lye, use gloves with it. Lye, or caustic soda, eats aluminum, which most vacuum applied plastic chrome plating is made of.
I used oven cleaner on the SVT headlights, then repainted them with black Rust Oleum plastic paint.
Used oven cleaner on the Depo version of SVT Mach headlights, and the plastic was fine, came out super shiney and no white spots. But I get what AMC is saying.
The point being there are so many types of plastic you can't really say other than tendencies. I did it on polystyrene and no issues but these headlights are polycarbonate thinking and I haven't used it on that. Why I spelled OVEN like that to make you come back and say it.
Purple bottle 'Super Clean' is same thing, weak lye, and may well do it and found at Pep Boys and others.
I know a little about polymers. Poly carbonates are for lenses that light shines through, with high optical clarity. Sunglasses. The headlight mask just seems to be a polymer that is very rigid, stiff and easy to break.
But I get your point. I just bought a generic oven cleaner at Walmart for about $3 a can. It took 1 can for both mask, and I let it soak for about 30 mins. Used a tooth brush to get the inner angles.
Did taking the reflective material off affect light output? I think it did, much less light now on the road. But I never ran the headlights with the reflective material on. In hind sight, I would just buy a set of stock headlights that are black, too much work to put them back together and be water tight.
I'm leaning towards buying a set of black ST170 lights, and ditching my Mach headlights, put them up for sale on EBay real cheap.
I have a whole bunch of brand new Depo Mach headlight parts that I'm throwing in the trash soon.
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