Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

Installing A Retractable Underhood Light - Randy’s Electrical Corner

Posted in How To: Electrical on February 4, 2015
Share this

Earl says I have a mind loop with some things. He says what happens is I sometimes think of something and get stuck on it. Then I restart back at the beginning of what I was saying and go to where the loop started. I guess it happens with stuff that I really enjoy picturing in my head, like Catalina being half-naked.

OK, it took me about five hours to stop thinking about that thing I said above so I’m gonna keep going. I know I’ve mentioned these cool underhood lights before, but I never showed you how I normally install them or showed pictures of some of the cooler parts. One of the best things about these lights is that they are only as far away as your local junkyard. No high-dollar stuff here, and they are super useful.

I am not sure of the exact years, but these underhood lights can be found in late ’80s and early-mid ’90s Chevy and GMC trucks and SUVs. I have better luck finding them in Suburbans than pickup though. The light is durable, has a retractable cord, and an on/off switch. All of that makes this underhood light a great replacement for the light that was under the hood of your Jeep when you got it—That’s if your Jeep even came with one.

This is the factory light that can be found under the hood of TJs, ZJs, WJs, and XJs. It might be the worst light ever put under the hood of a Jeep. The bulb is held in by two spring clips that constantly pull on it. This bulb has been broken on every Jeep I have ever played with. I actually had to buy this bulb for this picture. If that wasn’t enough, the little mercury switch can turn on the light even when the hood isn’t up. If you park the Jeep on a steep hill, the switch can turn the light on and possibly kill the battery. This is the factory light that can be found under the hood of TJs, ZJs, WJs, and XJs. It might be the worst light ever put under the hood of a Jeep. The bulb is held in by two spring clips that constantly pull on it. This bulb has been broken on every Jeep I have ever played with. I actually had to buy this bulb for this picture. If that wasn’t enough, the little mercury switch can turn on the light even when the hood isn’t up. If you park the Jeep on a steep hill, the switch can turn the light on and possibly kill the battery.
After removing that pile of junk from under the hood, I held the new light up to see how it would mount. I usually just mount the light where the factory one was so I can use the wiring. Sometimes, I even get to use the factory bolt too. The GM light has three mounting tabs, and I usually just use two of the tabs with a couple of self-tapping sheetmetal screws to hold the light in. In this case, this Jeep had some underhood insulation that had to be cut out of the way. So, after figuring out where the light needed to go, I just traced the outline of the new light on the hood liner with a silver permanent marker and then cut the tracing with a pair of scissors. After removing that pile of junk from under the hood, I held the new light up to see how it would mount. I usually just mount the light where the factory one was so I can use the wiring. Sometimes, I even get to use the factory bolt too. The GM light has three mounting tabs, and I usually just use two of the tabs with a couple of self-tapping sheetmetal screws to hold the light in. In this case, this Jeep had some underhood insulation that had to be cut out of the way. So, after figuring out where the light needed to go, I just traced the outline of the new light on the hood liner with a silver permanent marker and then cut the tracing with a pair of scissors.
Some Jeeps actually came with a retractable hood light, but it was spring-loaded, like an old vacuum cleaner wire. This light has 15 feet of cord, which means you can get it to the back of your Jeep, over to your buddy’s Jeeps, or wherever. The cord retracts with a hand-crank, so you never have to worry about the spring dying and the light not retracting. Just don’t let the cord get near hot things (like exhaust). The long cord also makes it really handy to work under the Jeep at night. Some Jeeps actually came with a retractable hood light, but it was spring-loaded, like an old vacuum cleaner wire. This light has 15 feet of cord, which means you can get it to the back of your Jeep, over to your buddy’s Jeeps, or wherever. The cord retracts with a hand-crank, so you never have to worry about the spring dying and the light not retracting. Just don’t let the cord get near hot things (like exhaust). The long cord also makes it really handy to work under the Jeep at night.
The manual on/off switch is nice, because you will never drain your battery when the hood is down. You can also see the hand crank to retract the light. Oh, if you do find one in a junkyard, do yourself a favor and take the connector and some of the GM wiring too. While I’ve seen different color wires, the black in factory GM wiring is always ground. I then solder the GM wires to the Jeep wires, and of course, I heat shrink them too. I also normally only use two of the three tabs to mount the light to the Jeep, which leaves the third free to zip-tie any extra wire to for a clean installation. The manual on/off switch is nice, because you will never drain your battery when the hood is down. You can also see the hand crank to retract the light. Oh, if you do find one in a junkyard, do yourself a favor and take the connector and some of the GM wiring too. While I’ve seen different color wires, the black in factory GM wiring is always ground. I then solder the GM wires to the Jeep wires, and of course, I heat shrink them too. I also normally only use two of the three tabs to mount the light to the Jeep, which leaves the third free to zip-tie any extra wire to for a clean installation.

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results