Installing Flush-Mount LED Taillights on a 2006 Jeep Wrangler
Hate those funky looking taillights? Tuck these LED units into the tub!
Ask Jeep owners what they think of LED lighting and you'll probably get varied answers. Some love the new technology and updated look, while traditionalists are happy with the utilitarian look of the factory taillights. In any case, we wanted to clean up the tail of our 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon LJ and actually get rid of the stock taillights.
We have seen LED conversions to round flush-mount lights, but we wanted to stick with a rectangular shape. After a bit of searching, we opted to use a set of Truck-Lite combination stop, tail, and turn lights with an array of 24 light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These mount with a large rubber grommet in the sheetmetal and were an easy install with a couple of hours worth of work
We made ourselves a pattern to use when cutting the rear of the tub. The lights need to be positioned at equal height, clearing the license plate mount on the driver side (if retained) and the tailgate hinges on the passenger side. Various tools can be used for cutting the thin sheetmetal, including a sabre saw, air body saw, or combination including thin abrasive cutting discs on a 4-inch grinder for cutting straight lines. However, the latter may burn and lift paint in the process.
The turn signals and flashers on '01-'06 Wranglers are pulsed using a small flasher module mounted on the steering column. The on-off flash rate is dependent on the load current produced by the incandescent bulbs in the turn signals. The new LED lamps draw much less current than the original bulbs, so running the LEDs with the stock flasher module results in an annoyingly rapid flash rate. One solution is to wire some large power resistors (~5 ohms in this case) in parallel with the LED lamps to maintain the current draw from the flasher module. However, a quicker, cleaner way is to simply swap the factory flasher module for one from Gold Coast Distributing that's designed to provide the correct flash rate for LED lamps.
We made quick work of the install and the visual difference is evident. We like the less cluttered look on the rear of our Wrangler, and the total cost of the project was less than $100.
We used Truck-Lite LED (PN 4450) combination stop, tail, and turn lamps for our swap, along with rubber grommets and pigtail wiring connectors. The lamps are epoxy encapsulated and fully waterproof. We measured the current draw of the lamps at 13.5 V to be less than 1/4 amp in stop/turn mode.
We started by removing the factory taillights. The outer lens was removed to expose the three bolts holding the taillight to the tub. The connector was cut off in order to splice on the new harness.
Truck-Lite provides the dimensions for the grommet opening. We drew a pattern on paper and taped it squarely in place. We like masking the area generously with duct tape to avoid scratching the paint. We used a sabre saw with a 36T fine-pitch blade for cutting the thin sheetmetal. Use of coarser-tooth blades risks grabbing and warping the metal edge.
With the hole cut and the edges cleaned up with a die grinder and file, we popped the rubber grommet in. The LED light harness has only three wires. There is one for the running light array, one for the brighter stop/turn array, and a ground wire. We simply spliced and soldered these to the appropriate wires we had cut from the factory connector going to the stock light assembly. Wire color codes can be found in the service manual or online.
Here's the resulting LED conversion once we pushed the new lamp assembly into the grommet. Granted, we no longer have backup lights here, but we will be installing upgraded lighting for that purpose elsewhere. We also lost the license plate light on the driver side, but we've relocated our plate with new lighting to the spare tire. Note that TJ owners may need to slightly relocate the emissions EVAP canister that sits behind the body panel forward of the passenger side taillight.
An LED compatible turn signal flasher module from Gold Coast Distributing is a simple plug-in solution to providing the correct flash rate when swapping over to LED lamps. The turn signal flasher on '01-'06 Wranglers is located on top of the steering column, under the plastic cover.