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Aftermarket LED tail light MOD (diy sorta)

Old 02-04-2008, 03:18 AM
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Default Aftermarket LED tail light MOD (diy sorta)

well it came time to add a new LED mod for my fellow box owners. I have retrofitted the 3rd brakelight with 2 different styles now and retrofitted the stock XB tail lights as well. the TBL came out great but the tails not so much due to the stock XB lenses being diffused. But I've come across a new needed mod and put it into action yesterday. this is going to be more for people that are interested in just purchasing aftermarket tail lights (what i ended up doing being that i was stuck with diffused lenses to work with).

first off, do you notice how most of the designs for aftermarket LED tail lights for the box DO NOT include the turn signal as LED? there is one set that does and they are $300+ and i just don't like how they look. The ones you see and that most people purchase (because they look the best im guessing) are the ones you see on ebay and other aftermarket parts websites that look like this...


chrome, black, red.

the set i purchased came in a box from a company called Sonar. I got my set for very inexpensive off ebay for like $120 shipped. I purchased the black.





upon inspecting them, they look to be a great deal. the fitment was right on and they appear to be made with the popular LUMILED superflux LED...the REAL superflux LEDs that i use in my 3rd brake light retrofits. Not the cheap crap from hong kong that are not binned and fluctuate in similarity.

but like i knew, this tail light is designed to use a standard filament bulb as it's turn signal and reverse lighting. well i think that is lame. why go through all the trouble to purchase LED tail lights and be stuck with the same turn signal effect as most all the other cars on the road out there. kind of defeats the purpose of being unique in my opinion. i want the turn signal to be LED as well. You know the look I'm talking about, cars like the cadillac escalade and STS and the BMW M3. The turn signal is the best part of the LED look in my opinion. But how would i go about doing that since the XB is designed to use separate bulbs as turn signals? If i just hooked up the turn signals to the LED portion of the light the brake lights would override the turn signal function when i was on the brakes.

The easiest solution i could come up with is an Eletronic tail light converter. Like this...


It's actually advertised as a towing accessory. It's for converting a vehicle's separate tail/brake bulb & turn signal bulb setup into a combination tail/brake/signal setup for a trailer's lighting since most all trailers just have one light on each side in the back. This kit is made by Hopkins Towing Solutions and was about $12 if i remember correctly.

What i did was run the stock rear lighting into the converter, and then from the converter into the new LED tail light. So it's basically like my tail lights are on a trailer. But now you are thinking, well what about the rest of the assembly. what about the place in the tail light for the turn signal? It would look weird to just leave that spot with no function. Since both the turn signal and reverse sections are completely clear, there is no reason why you cannot use a clear stock bulb in both. It just so happens the stock XB tail lights comes with clear bulbs in the brake light and reverse light section so i utilized the 4 bulbs that came with the stock tail lights. What i did was cut the turn signal wire in the led tail lights harness and spliced it into the reverse light wiring. Basically both clear sections at the bottom of the tail light are now clear and used for reverse lighting. The video will explain.

Since the stock XB tail lights are a total eyesore, something had to be done about them, and this is a relatively simple and cost effective way to make all of your rear lighting (not including reverse) the luxurious and safer look of LED. Well i guess that's assuming you have already made your 3rd brakelight LED as well. Very inexpensive to do if you haven't.

Here is a short video of them in action. i apologize that the digicam's camcorder portion cannot accurately depict the LED's lighting characteristics. If you have seen LED tail lights in person, you know how they look, and that is exactly how these look when you view them in person.



My future plans for these is to cut open the back to gain access to the LEDs themselves and retrofit with my own LEDs and possibly build a dedicated turn signal portion in the array but for now I will leave them like this....

I hope this helps anyone else with the same frustration i had that it looks dumb to have LEDs as your running and brake lights but not as your turn signal since that's THE BEST PART of the look of LED tail lights is watching the turn signals. And that doesn't mean throw a cheap "LED bulb" in the turn signal slot as they are practically invisible during the day not to mention illegal. What really sucks about LED bulbs people are using is if someone was to rear end you or hit you at all while you are making a turn or lane change, YOU will be considered at fault if there is any sort of investigation (which insurance claim reps usually do) for modifying your vehicles lighting with something not as bright as from the manufacturer. Is it really worth it? my mod is cheaper than "LED bulbs" anyways and looks 100x better :-)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask or PM.

Last edited by snowromance; 12-11-2009 at 09:30 PM.
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Old 02-04-2008, 04:27 AM
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Very nice write-up, and looks nice. Plenty of brightness with the brakes also.
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Old 02-04-2008, 04:32 AM
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Rob, you never cease to amaze me with your led mods! This is a great idea! I am also using the sonars with the round part for turn/reverse. I stuck an led bulb in the turn signal, but the light output is terrible during the day. Your mod is a great alternative to ripping the taillight apart for a custom led job. Only $12 dollar!? Its on my list.

Two more questions. Where did you purchase it? It doesn't look like the harness on the kit fits the XB harness, or does it?

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Old 02-04-2008, 04:49 AM
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What are your plans for the other half of the assembly though?


I'd take some white vinyl and cover it up until you have a plan for it.
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Old 02-05-2008, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by koalaty2
Very nice write-up, and looks nice. Plenty of brightness with the brakes also.
thank you! i hope it helps someone.

Originally Posted by 1epoXyBox
Rob, you never cease to amaze me with your led mods! This is a great idea! I am also using the sonars with the round part for turn/reverse. I stuck an led bulb in the turn signal, but the light output is terrible during the day. Your mod is a great alternative to ripping the taillight apart for a custom led job. Only $12 dollar!? Its on my list.

Two more questions. Where did you purchase it? It doesn't look like the harness on the kit fits the XB harness, or does it?

yea man LED bulbs are a big no no. they are so invisible during the day and not very bright at night. i just would hate for someone to get rear ended and then get pinned with the blame because they did that. Ya know i think it would look even better for the lights with the round portion at the bottom if you wanted to do this. honestly , i was looking for a set with the round bottom instead of square but apparently they are not on the market anymore. dont know why it switched to this style really.

I was directed to the local wal-mart by a person i asked where to get such a thing without having to go to specialty trailer store and pay alot of $$$ for one. They had them right back in the automotive section.

They obviously do not have a harness for the XB (no towing recommended) so you will have to cut some wiring. it was really easy, just cutting wires and splicing them into the stock harness. simple as following the pretty colors in the directions :-) I would be able to offer assistance to anyone needing help with the wiring. as long as you got a set of crimpers and strippers.

Originally Posted by burstaneurysm
What are your plans for the other half of the assembly though?

I'd take some white vinyl and cover it up until you have a plan for it.
The other half of the assembly has been filled with 2 clear bulbs (instead of one clear, one amber) and they are wired together to both come on for reverse lighting. nice and bright with an extra bulb in there!

you will see at the end of the video if you watched.

Well again, the whole goal of this is helping others so hopefully this can help someone else. it really looks hot in person.
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Old 02-05-2008, 01:51 AM
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Ah, okay, I must've stopped watching right before you did that.
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Old 02-05-2008, 01:52 AM
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Totally awesome mod.

How did you do that third brake light and what license plate bulbs are you running?
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Old 02-05-2008, 02:59 AM
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thank you samhain.

i made the 3rd brakelight. i wrote up a DIY to make a smaller one that fits inside the stock 3rd brake light assembly if you're interested.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:32 PM
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now THAT is bright!

you should manufacture those!
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Old 02-05-2008, 09:47 PM
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good job..I like them
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Old 02-06-2008, 01:11 AM
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i never liked these tailllights due to the fact the blikers were just regular lights. this is a pretty cool mod man. i may get these if i ever have 125 dollars layin around. i have a question for you, do the taillights pop open in a simular fashion to the stock ones, if not, will they pop open easy?
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Old 02-07-2008, 02:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Archngl
now THAT is bright!

you should manufacture those!
thank you. i have been :-)

Originally Posted by leov36
i never liked these tailllights due to the fact the blikers were just regular lights. this is a pretty cool mod man. i may get these if i ever have 125 dollars layin around. i have a question for you, do the taillights pop open in a simular fashion to the stock ones, if not, will they pop open easy?
these tail lights do not pop open like the stockers did. they will definitely need to be baked open in the oven. shouldnt be too big of a deal though. take your time though, too much heat for too long and you will have melted ***** of goo ;-)

when i actually get around to modding the tail lights how i want to i will be baking them open and retrofitting new reverse lights while swapping some of the original LEDs for brighter ones and possibly some color changing. we'll see.

im actually surprised this mod isnt catching on more, this looks 100x better in person than using the turn signal function as the little stock filament bulb down there.

to each their own i guess!
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Old 02-09-2008, 07:08 AM
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Hey Ron, I have a couple questions. I bought the kit you have from Walmart. Do I need two of these converters, because they only had one left. Also, do you have a quick diagram of how you wired them up. I am going to attempt it this weekend. Thanks.
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Old 02-09-2008, 12:21 PM
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the converter should have the wireing diagram right on it..???
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Old 02-09-2008, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by 1epoXyBox
Hey Ron, I have a couple questions. I bought the kit you have from Walmart. Do I need two of these converters, because they only had one left. Also, do you have a quick diagram of how you wired them up. I am going to attempt it this weekend. Thanks.
it's Rob lol. no biggy. you will only need one. did you get the one that has the "trailer harness" as well?

the converter has the wiring for input and a plug for output, but you need the plug with the wiring that goes to another plug to hook up to the trailer. get what im saying?

the wiring diagram is right on the back if you flip it over. I'll list it for you to make it easier to just see now.

the XB's wiring at each harness should be like this...
Tail- GREEN
Brake- GREEN/WHITE
R Turn- GREEN/YELLOW (right side only)
L Turn- GREEN/BLACK (left side only)
Reverse- RED/BLACK
Ground- WHITE/BLACK


The converter wiring should be like this...

Input (from car)
Tail- BROWN
Brake- RED
R Turn- GREEN
L Turn- YELLOW
Ground- WHITE


Output (to LED arrays)
Tail- BROWN
Ground- WHITE
R Turn- GREEN
L Turn- YELLOW


that should give you a headstart on things. just takes alot of splicing, its simple as long as you just take your time and get all the wires matched up correctly. you can always post up if you have any questions along the way.
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Old 02-09-2008, 07:14 PM
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Sorry about the name Rob, It was late when I posted.

Here is what I bought:



I hope this will work. I am going to try it today and see if I can get it going. Thanks for all the help, and I will let you know what happens.

Al
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Old 02-09-2008, 11:06 PM
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yep that's exactly what you need. that kit is a little bit different from the one i got. they all have the same main piece. by the use of transistors the logic makes it all work. they make them for all different makes and models but all you need is the main "brain" and respective plug that goes into it.

looks like you will be using the converter and the plug on the far right. you will obviously need to splice more wire onto the short existing wires from that plug. i would just cut the wires from the plug in the middle that you dont need (with the long wires) and use as much of that as you can. might as well.

definitely keep us posted!
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Old 02-10-2008, 02:10 AM
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Ok, I hooked up one side to test it. It almost works, but not quite correctly. I tried it with no resistor and the turn signal was hyper blinking. I put on the resistor I had for the previous led turn signal bulb, and the blinking was fine. But when I have the brake and turn signal on at the same time, it hyper blinks.

So my question is how many (or what type) resistors are you using to get the correct speed on the turn signal.

Also, are you using both electrical harness from the XB, or just the one side to power both led tails.

I going to try again tomorrow. Thanks.

Here is how I hooked up the left side:
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Old 02-10-2008, 02:21 AM
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the converter doesnt have anything to do with the reverse lighting. in fact...the reverse lights are the only thing still running through my stock connector. i will post up more in a minute with my diagram but that should help for right now...
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Old 02-10-2008, 03:37 AM
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ok here is what i came up with. excuse my unfinished look of the diagram. i made it quick in paint.



now this is just identical to the way mine is wired. as long as the connections are made it's going to work. this is just how i wired mine. also, i used different load resistors on the brakes and turn signal circuits because that's what i had on hand. anything large enough to "trick" the flasher until will work. or just buy an electronic flasher and you won't need the resistors in the turn signal circuit. you will however still need them for the brake circuit to "trick" the ECU.
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