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LED Flush Mount Tail Lights


Since I didn't feel like walking inside to get the FSM (so I could wade through the wiring diagrams to identify the wires I needed), I hooked up a voltmeter and did it the old fashion way (turn on the headlight switch and see if the meter reads 12 volts).  At this point, I needed to figure out if I was going to keep the factory connectors in place or remove them during the project.  The LED lights already came with a connector and pigtail so I decided that having two connectors for each light was a bit of overkill (not to mention yet another place to get some corrosion and reduce the reliability of the lights).  Besides, by not using the connectors, I was able to leave the factory connector on the factory tail light assembly.  This means I can sell it for a couple of bucks to one of the local folks when they smack their new TJ into a rock and break the factory light.

The next table shows the wire colors I found on my '98 TJ.  Where two colors are shown, the second color is the tracer (the thin striped line) color.  Note that the LED lights do not support a backup light function.  Likewise, there is no ground wire in the Jeep harness where it connects to the stock tail light assembly.  With all of the various bolts and screws in this area,  there was no problem using one of them as a ground for the LED lights.  The side markers use a two wire harness with a black and white wire. 

Jeep Harness Light Function LED Harness
Purple/Black Backup light -
Black/Yellow Tail light or Side marker light Black
Green/Red Left Stop & Turn Signal Red
Brown/Red Right Stop & Turn Signal Red
- Ground White



Here is the business end of the LED light connectors.  Well made, in my opinion, and not likely to have the wires pulled out of the end of the plugs (like the factory plugs are known to do). 


I connected the tail light and stop/turn light wires using crimped butt splices.  I then wrapped those two pairs of wires with rubber tape (vulcanizing) and put a double layer of regular vinyl electrical tape over the top of it all to protect it.  I've been using this style of waterproofing on antenna hard line connectors for years and have never had one get moisture inside of it.  I crimped a ring terminal onto the end of the ground wire and attached it to a nearby bolt. 


With the mounting grommet put in place, I plugged the LED light into the wiring harness and then taped the connector together in the same fashion as I did the butt splice connectors.  (no reason to waterproof one connector and leave another one untouched)


So, here is the finished product.  Don't ask me why the camera shows the LEDs as yellow....something to do with the CCD pickup (I assume).  In reality, they are red....as red as you can imagine.  Plenty easy to see in broad daylight, no problems there.

The same procedure was used to install the passenger side LED light.  The only difference was that I hooked up the right turn signal wire on that side (DUH!).  Again, be careful when you cut the hole....make sure there is no wiring behind it where your metal cutting blade can get at it.


Update:  3/8/2008

One of the concerns that some TJ owners have expressed over the years is the lack of passive light reflection that most (all?) LED tail lights lack.  I'm sure most of you have noticed that the factory TJ tail lights have a portion of the red lens designed such that it will reflect the headlights of an approaching vehicle when the TJ is parked along the side.  This is a feature (for both vehicles) that provides a measure of safety when the parked vehicle does not have its lights turned on.

Some TJ owners have installed red reflective tape on the rear bumper to provide reflectivity once a rear LED conversion was performed.  There is now another option available for the round 4" LED.  A reflective mounting flange is now available from Gold Coast Distributing Co.  Check it out!

Update:  05/31/2004


So I've been helping my buddy with his LED install and today, he was going to finish up the red side lights.  I changed my mind in regards to the side LEDs I had and opted to install them at the same time we worked on Mike's setup.  Hey, if we have all the stuff out, why not use it.  The above paper and tape is to keep the oil from slinging all over the place (Mike's idea).  We dipped the hole saw into a small cup of oil quite often while cutting the holes.  After all was said and done, the hole saw appeared to be just as sharp as when we started the hole-a-thon. 


A quick wipe down with a paper towel and an inspection with the rubber grommet was done to make sure we had the proper clearance.  I've found that the grommets need to have a little slop when properly seated in the hole.  Just another reminder....don't forget to check behind the drilling spot to make sure you don't have any cables, wires, or hoses that may get cut by the hole saw.


OK, so I forgot to take a picture on the other side but I remembered to do one on this side.  The reflective marker at the top of this photo does in fact reflect quite well.  The side marker is quiet bright and will do a fine job at night.  I spliced the marker lights into the harness work I did for the tail lights.  Just follow the wire colors in the table above.

Update:  12/12/2009

I exchanged e-mail today with a site visitor that owns a metal fabrication company.  They do all sorts of cusomt metal work which includes using hole saws.  He wanted to pass along a good technique used by the techs in his company.  Here is what Chuck had to say:

Hi Stu,
I was reading your installation of LED lights and saw you using cutting oil on the hole saw, which as you know makes a mess.  An alternative that we use in our business ( stainless steel fabrication) is to pack the cavity in the hole saw with crushed ice.  The melting ice cools the saw, flushes the chips from the cut, and allows you to cut continuously, and clean up is much easier.  Just an observation.

I wanted to pass this info along in case you didn't feel like cleaning up the oily mess.  I've not tried it myself but given that Chuck does this for a living, it obviously works.  He would not use such a technique if it caused damage to the product being cut or the hole saw being used.

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