Jeep LED Light Install Project
In this project, I design some advanced wiring to accommodate some new LED lighting into our 2003 Jeep Wrangler. The idea here is to make the wiring functional but nearly invisible to the untrained eye. So, in other words, when you open the hood you shouldn’t see a mess of wires or even relays. Everything is hidden from view.
Check out the videos below and all the resources for the project. The bill of materials and other project resources can be obtained from the links below:
- Bill of Materials
- Window Light PDF Schematic
- Window Light + Grill Light PDF Schematic
- Schematic (Eagle Source on Github)
- Crimping Part 2
- Attach Mounts
- Wiring Techniques
- Adding to the Schematic
- Running Wires
- Wiring Install Review
Looking around Digikey, I wanted to find some connectors that would hold up to being exposed to the elements while keeping the electrical connections for this project protected. I stumbled upon the MX19 Series from JAE and they seemed to fit the bill and also look/operate similarly to connectors i’ve seen in cars/trucks before.
As with all these types of connectors, they do require you (or someone) to connect the crimps, which make the electrical connection, to the wire itself. In this video, I go in depth into how to crimp the female connector crimps. In the next video I will go into detail on how to crimp the male connector ends.
Crimping Part 2
In this video i’m crimping/terminating some wire to the male version of the MX19 Series Connectors from JAE. The process is very similar to the female version in the last video. If you’ve missed that go ahead and click the back button below to check it out.
The two biggest tips:
Be ready and aware on how to pull a crimp out if you put it in the wrong place. Using a dental pick, I was able to remove a crimp that I had put in the wrong position. Anything long, small and sharp (like a long needle) should do the trick.
Pre-bending the crimps, (at least before using my crimp tool) is recommended. That way you get a good solid connection the first time around.
Using a combination of head-shrink, solder and wire you can make any wire-to-wire connection extremely solid and nearly permanent. This is a slower technique (and a bit more hazardous) if you don’t have any crimps on hand but is useful in a pinch. It’s also fantastic when you are restricted by the maximum diameter of the wire.
- Nitrile Gloves
- Wire Strippers
- Hakko Soldering Iron
- Hakko Fume Extractor
- Helping Hands
- Power supply - any 12V power supply that can supply at least 2A is a great fit to test the lights to make sure the connection is solid. Here’s an example. I actually used a 12V power supply from an Apple Airport Extreme that was unusable due to software updates. Finally, in order to interface with the power supply, I bought a cable assembly that mated directly with the supply.
- 2x Pomona Minigrip to Minigrip Cable
Heat Shrink Tubing – Note: When choosing heat shrink tubing, the most important information to pay attention to is the nominal inner diameter and the recovered diameter after being exposed to heat. Make sure that the minimum diameter is less than the diameter of your wire!! The one above is about 3mm in diameter and 1.24mm recovered.
As I had mentioned in the video, I don’t do any soldering anymore without a fume extractor. A cancer free body is a happy body.
Eagle CAD has been my go-to ever since I started designing circuit boards back about 10 years ago (yes, you can call me sensei and/or grandpa). It’s typically used for circuit board design but I’m going to be using it here to show a quick representation of how to represent the project in a schematic format. That way, when you’re knee deep in random wires, you have a better idea what needs to be connected where.
Things are all fun an games until you scratch the paint on your shiny new car. By ordering, tracing and cutting out some widely available neoprene rubber, i’ve protected the interface point between the window light mount and the forward A-frame of the jeep. Hopefully it will provide sufficient protection for years to come!
For this task, I used all stainless steel hardware to attach the lights to the mounts. I went to my local hardware store to buy all the hardware. Here are the items I bought and the quantities:
|Quantity||Description||Unit Price||Extended Price|
|4||Stainless Steel Bolt||0.5||2|
|4||Stainless Locking nut||0.25||1|
|4||Stainless Lock washers||0.15||0.6|
The only other thing that I did for the window lights was add a plastic standoff / spacer to get the light off of the mount. I ended up buying some more from McMaster in black rather than white. You will have to cut it using a saw or a rotary tool like a Dremel.
For mounting the mounts to the windshield itself, I will warn you again here that those Torx machine screws are going to be likely very hard to remove. I avoided the front ones as those seemed like they would strip out if I attempted to remove them more.
- Socket Wrench Set
- Torx Bit Set
Ferrules help your projects in two ways.
- They help protect and prevent accidental shorts
- They help get the best possible electrical connection for high current circuits.
- An added plus is they also play nice with euro style terminal blocks and fuse blocks/circuit breakers.
Butt splice crimps (uninsulated) + heat shrink
By either removing the insulation or purchasing these crimps without, you can cover them easily with off the shelf heat shrink tubing. This will help protect your wiring and help it keep operating for years to come.
Heat shrink end caps
That’s right, I forgot to mention in the video that these puppies are head shrink!
You can used them to cap the ends of unused multi-cable wire or you can use it to protect the open end of a multi-cable wire from the elements. For this project, I did the later.
Adding to the Schematic
I went through how to create a schematic a few videos back. I’ve since modified the schematic to accommodate for the LED bar that I attached to the bumper.
The summary of operation for the window lights are the same. That part is unchanged.
The new section involves several relays connected to the same type of switch used for the window lights. The biggest difference is the grill bar draws too much current for the switch in the cab to handle. The relays act like remote switch which can handle much higher sustained currents.
Starting at the bottom, I’ve included a new switch with a control signal (12V_GRILL_RELAY) that will help activate a series of relays to control the grill light.
Moving up, you can see outside the dotted box all the other components that I’ve added to the original schematic. This includes a separate high current fuse that will supply the grill LED bar.
Looking to the left, you can see I added a relay, K3, to control power to the switches. This prevents power being drawn from the battery when the key is not turned to the On or Aux position. I decided to add a relay rather than powering directly off the ignition wire for potential future expansion. Plus, the wiring for the Jeep, though hefty, wasn’t originally intended to be spliced and modified to drive large current loads.
Now for the remaining relays; K1, is used to control the power to the circuit. This is controlled by the switch, S2, in the cab.
The second relay, K2, is used to allow current flow only when the high beams are switched on. This at least doubles the amount I can see on the road at any one time. Though it will blind on-coming cars. I try to avoid that when possible!
At the top, I’ve spliced into the high beam wire in the wiring harness itself. The web is full of information about what wire to tap depending on make and model of vehicle so your configuration may be different here.
Adding some additional protection, a fuse is place in series to protect from any shorts or damage to the wiring should it happen. This signal is then connected to the K2 relay.
Finally, once the relays are connected, a two conductor cable is run from where the relays live (underneath the fusebox in the engine bay) to the mounting point on the bumper. From there they are separated out to connect to the individual wires of the LED light itself.
The fuses and relays make this circuit tricky but they’re both equally important to have. If no relays, the switch inside the cab may burn up due to higher currents than expected. If fuses are not used on the additional circuits and the wiring becomes damaged it could cause more problems or even fire. (You have been warned! 🔥🔥🔥)
Thanks for watching!
Latest PDF file with the above described changes:
Organizing the wiring underneath the cowling is straightforward as long as you keep your wires away from moving parts. There are several areas where you can easily zip tie your wiring to to keep it secure.
Next, I’m organizing the wires that will be living underneath the cowling on the drivers side. I’m clipping together the connectors along with securing the wiring down with some zip ties. I’m also removing the excess zip tie so it doesn’t get in the way later.
The following step involved putting the cowling back where it came from. The process involves getting it back without scratching anything and pushing it against the windshield side as much as possible. That gives clearance for the side that is interfacing with the gasket so it will be easier to screw everything back together at the end.
The windshield wiper arms are a bit of an enigma at first but prove to be easy to remove and re-attach. At the base of the arm there is a latch that gets pulled out when you want to remove and gets snapped in when you want to secure it. The action is very small so there’s no need to put too much force on it.
The best way I’ve found to get the cowling back was to place the it as best I could then pop up the hood. That gave me the ability to get in with something like screw driver (or a plastic spugger) to pull the gasket out from underneath the cowling. Putting the cowling back was more tedious and annoying than getting the cowling off in the first place. Make sure you replace the screws holding in the cowling once you’ve wrangled the gasket.
Wiring Install Review
You can see in my setup the several switches from the updated schematic on the panel in the dash. The only place I was able to find them was online for a staggering price of $18.95. On the upside they do fit directly into the OEM panel of the Jeep. The downside is that the click in the switch is less than desirable.
You can check it out on Ebay using the link below or by searching for “2004 Jeep TJ Wrangler Light LOGO Front Lights Fog Light“
The relays for this project were purchased a loooong time ago. They’re handy because the sockets interconnect. That way things stay a bit more organized when installed. I used the same type of relay for inside the dash panel as well. I believe I got them from Parts Express way back when. The links are below.
I also failed to mention the bumper mount that I ended up using for this project. It’s a Rugged Ridge and, so far, it’s been great. We originally had a KC HiLite version on the bumper but it had rusted so much we forgot what color it was. You can get it on Amazon for about $15 cheaper than what I bought it for here.
Overall the total computed cost, though I used some connectors and hardware I already had on-hand, is about $281.66 + %15 for good measure (and taxes and shipping).
It’s been a great project and I hope you got something out of it! If it’s your first time here click the back button to see the other entries and videos. Also, feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) i’d love to hear how your projects are going.
Created: 2018-04-17 | Last Modified: 2018-08-03