When you see a car with modern LED tail lights, you can’t help but ask yourself how to convert tail lights to LED.
Is there a way to convert your old-style tail lights and achieve some of the cool look and modern style?
Well, there is and you can do it on your own.
One possible way is changing the whole tail light which is usually expensive and somewhat complicated. The other is that you can only change the light bulbs.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on the other easier and less expensive method, by replacing the light bulbs.
If you’re not in the mood for reading, here’s a video tutorial at the end of the article or you can watch it on our YouTube channel.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED FOR THE LED UPGRADE?
- LED bulbs
The main thing to know about this part is to choose the correct LED bulb. Mainly in terms of voltage and how much light, it emits.
For cars, the voltage is 12 volts while for some pick-ups and trucks it’s 24 volts.
Regarding the light emission, best ask when buying for the correct counterpart for the filament bulb you’re going to replace.
Make sure it’s the right one as this is a matter of road visibility and therefore safety.
Also, you can choose to upgrade all of the bulbs or just some of them but the best effect is if you change all of them.
- Basic tools (optional)
In most cars, you can change the bulbs without using any tools.
But on some may you have to remove the whole tail light in order to access the bulbs. In this case, you might need some basic tools like a screwdriver, an 8 or 10 mm socket and ratchet, pliers, or else.
Also, some tail lights have convenient plastic wing nuts so you can take them off just by hand.
In the example shown here, no tools are needed.
HOW TO CONVERT TAIL LIGHTS TO LED?
The example shown here of how to convert tail lights to LED is shown on a Skoda Fabia but the basic principle is similar and applicable to other cars.
What you’re essentially doing is changing a tail light bulb. If you’ve never done that before, you can read a separate article on that topic by clicking here or checking out the YouTube video.
1. GAIN ACCESS TO THE TAIL LIGHT BULBS
The light bulbs are, in most cases, accessed from the rear side of the lamp, from the trunk.
To get there, you’ll usually need to take off a covering lid that is part of the trunk trim.
It should be easy to spot. Just look to the rear of the lamp, from inside the trunk.
Take off the lid and the bulb holder will appear.
In this example, a side compartment cover had to be removed first and then a lid for the tail light.
Other common systems are:
- The tail light has to be completely removed. It’s usually released from the backside of the lamp after which it can be separated from the car body.
- Only the tail light cover has to be removed after which you gain access to the bulbs from the front side.
2. REMOVE THE BULB HOLDER
The bulb holder is a plastic „tray“ where all the light bulbs are mounted. It has a wire connector at the bottom of it.
It’s usually held in place with plastic clips like in the example shown here.
Move the clips until the holder is released and slowly pull it out.
Have some patience here. Depending on the quality of plastic, it may put up some resistance. Also, be careful when you pull the holder out so the light bulbs don’t get stuck.
Take it easy so you don’t break off any of the clips or damage the bulb holder.
3. REMOVE THE OLD FILAMENT BULB
Take hold of the old filament bulb, press it gently downwards, turn counterclockwise about 1/4 of a cricle, and then pull it out.
The bulb should then come out of the socket without any problems.
On the bottom of the bulb, you’ll notice two small “nipples”, near the electric contact.
4. INSTALL THE LED BULB AND SEE IF IT WORKS
Now take the LED replacement bulb and insert it into the socket. Try not to touch the diodes as much as possible as this may shorten the lifespan of the LED bulb.
Align the “nipples” at the bottom of the bulb with the socket, push inwards and turn clockwise about 1/4 of a circle.
Avoid forcing it in. If you do, this may damage the socket or bulb. Also, it may not have good electric contact.
After this, best turn on the light and see if it works. This way if something is wrong or you don’t like the effect, you can change it back before you return the bulb holder.
5. RETURN THE BULB HOLDER AND COVER PANELS
Align the bulb holder with the holes in the tail light. Make sure they go inside without any resistance.
Press the holder until you hear a click sound made by the plastic clips coming into place.
Once more, try out the light and see if everything is OK.
If it is, return the cover lid (one or more) back into place.
Learning how to convert tail lights to LED is easy and in practice, won’t take much time.
If you have some experience around cars and the bulb holder is easy to access, you can do both tail lights in about 15 minutes.
When you’re choosing the LED bulbs, try to find quality ones from renowned manufacturers. Yes, they may cost more, but they’re well worth the money since they will probably work for years to come.
Besides the aesthetics and cool looks, LED bulbs use much less electricity and put less strain on the engine and alternator (which makes them more eco-friendly), and they last longer. Many good reasons for installing them.
Also, before you do any of this, make sure that installing LED bulbs this way is allowed and legal in your country, and that you can pass a vehicle inspection test.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO CONVERT TAIL LIGHTS TO LED? YOUTUBE VIDEO