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TJ LED install

Author: Code3TJ

Instead of replacing my eternally burnt out bulbs in my taillights, I decided to upgrade the bulbs to LED’s. I used LED’s for my TJ made by LEDTronics, Inc. The bulbs I used are supposed to last 100,000 hours and are guaranteed for 3 years by the manufacturer. An advantage of using LED’s is that they are moisture and vibration resistant. They also use much less current, generate no heat, are brighter than incandescents and illuminate nearly instantaneously.

ruler
Here's a sideview of the LED so you can judge if it will work in your particular application. The ruler is 6"

For the TJ, I used an 1157M which has 18 red LED’s and 6 clear bulbs to illuminate the license plate. I used the regular 1157 which has 24 red bulbs for the passenger side. Installing the bulbs is straightforward. Take out the old, put in the new. The only difficulty I ran into with the bulbs themselves was bending the metal tab that the bulbs mount to. I bent it downward so the bulbs would shine more to the rear of the Jeep. The wiring comes through a hole beneath this tab and I was unable to get the tab bent down as far as I would’ve liked.

installed LED
Installed LED and bent tab

The lights will work at this point, however when using the turn signals, they’ll flash rapid-fire as the lower current draw tricks the flasher into thinking the lights are burnt out. After driving around like this for a month, listening to the machine gun flashing was starting to become a little nerve-wracking. TJ's require the use of resistors or alteration of the flasher circuit to eliminate this. I’ve heard you can use a heavier duty flasher on an older vehicle, but I have not verified this. I chose to alter my flasher instead of using resistors which will build up heat. To access the flasher, (and this was the hardest part) you need to remove the plastic panel beneath the steering wheel and the metal panel beneath the plastic one. The flasher is mounted on the right side of the steering column amongst all sorts of wiring.

flasher
Mounted flasher (the part with the Chrysler logo)

If you have small hands, the next step will be much easier. Thread your hands through all the wiring and use a 5/16” socket to unbolt the flasher. Once it’s unbolted, unplug the flasher and pull it out. Next, VERY CAREFULLY (Murphy’s Law prevailed here) pry the 3 tabs on the flasher housing and slide the flasher out. Of course, mine cracked at this point, but luckily it didn’t break.

disassembled flasher
Disassembled flasher

Once you have the flasher out, turn it over so you are looking at the circuit board. Use a very sharp X-acto knife to cut the circuit. Before you cut, triple check that you’re cutting the right thing! I made 2 cuts leaving a small gap between the two ends.

cut where the tip of the knife is pointing
Cut where the tip of the knife is pointing

In the future, I may sink the taillights, but that’s a project for another day. The LED’s are a little pricey, I paid $40 per bulb. But, they’re much brighter and hopefully will last much longer. If I were doing it over, I would probably go with a bulb that illuminates over 45 degrees. The particular bulbs I used direct most of their light straight out which is why I had to bend the tabs down. Also, once you've altered the flasher, it will no longer flash rapidly when you have a burnt out light. Personally, the instant illumination when I step on the brake pedal is worth the price of the bulbs. The added time will (hopefully) give the tailgaters a little more time to react before plowing into me.

This is a good rainy day project that'll take about an hour of your time. The flasher circuit alteration will work for any LED's that you're using whether it be simple bulbs like mine or you're sinking LED's into the body.

comparison
LED on the left, incandescent on the right

I've since found a little more info on altering the flashers.

97-00 TJ
http://www.mesa4x4.com/tech_articles/flasher/flasher.html
01-up TJ
http://www.mesa4x4.com/tech_articles/flasher_2/flasher_2.html

Apparently, the newer TJ's have the flasher mounted on the steering column and are a very different design from the older ones.

Thanks to Stu Olson for the flasher idea.

I got the bulbs from LEDTronics.

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