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Wrangler Buildup - Installing LED Tail Lights : 2003-03-15

In an effort to preemptively prevent the brick tail lights on my Wrangler from becoming, well, mangled I decided to do my first (but not last) sheet metal modification. Buying the Maxxima 4in round taillights and tails from partssystems was painless and I had them in a couple of days.

The first step was to remove the current bricks from the rear end. Four screws on the outside, and three hex headed screws on the inside and they were dangling from the back. I cut the wires and just pushed them inside for now. They could be extracted later after cutting the holes. Using the box one of the lights came in, I cut outlines, modifying them little by little to fit the new lights. Remember to cut them small first because as the old saying goes ďI cut it twice and itís still too shortĒ. It just takes a little time, which I had plenty of waiting for Rob to show up with his sawzall, and lotís of testing fitting. Then itís just a matter of lining up the outlines on the Jeep where you want them. Iíve seen people go crazy with this, but I just used the old holes for alignment and eyeballed it.

As we found out, this modification is easy to do, and goes really fast after a margarita or two or threeÖ

Next is the fun part. Just use the sawzall to take as much of the sheet metal out of the hole as possible. We used a grinder to get the extra metal out left from the sawzall that only cuts straight lines (round hole, square peg). After test fitting the light several time, we ground enough off that the lights fit with only a small amount of play.

By this time it was about 9:30 and both of us were lit. Rob much more so than me and more so than I thought he was. Kenya was exhausted, and Donut had jumped on my nuts 10 times. That dog has great aim, youíve been warned. As I didnít have any heat shrink wire connecters we decided to solder the wires. In typical drunk fashion there was no checking involved before making the first two connections. After finding that the brake lights were on at all times, we took it apart and actually checked which wire was which. Of the three wires (and one way down in there), there were the taillights, brake, reverse and ground and none of which are the same color as the tail wires. We soldered up again, tested the light and screwed it in. The passenger side was a little trickier due to the lack of a ground, but a screw into a spot that didnít look like it was wheel well or cabin did the trick.

These lights are brighter than the old ones, even if the pictures donít really show it. Furthermore I never have to worry about losing my taillights due to a bad departure angle. Now the bumpers on the other handÖ Guess that goes on the list for next time.

The new LED taillight The old brick The screws to remove the brick are inside the light Plenty of room for the new light
The outline cut out of cardboard, matched to fit the new light Both outlines should be measured and attached before cutting The new hole cutout for the light, and wires attached to the light It doesn't look the best on film, but it's very bright especially compaired to the old brick
It may not have round headlights, but the taillights sure are!

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