Upgrading my Defender lights

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Upgrading my Defender lights

Postby Mercury Boy » Wed 05 Apr 2017 8:28 am

I just thought I would share with everyone my 'adventures' when upgrading the lights on my '95 Defender.
So, if you're sitting comfortably I will begin .... (It's a long one, so make yourself a cuppa to drink whilst reading :roll: )

The upgrade was for all the lights on the vehicle, including fitting additional high level brake, reversing and rear fog lights.
The headlamp upgrade consisted of the Wipac Crystal bowls bought by my oldest lad for my last birthday, to which I added Philips x-treme bulbs and the Boomslang loom.
All other lights are LED using the JW Speaker units, the RDX wing repeaters and high level brake light from ebay.
I also had to order some wire and econoseal sockets, because the reversing and rear fog lights came fitted with these plugs, whereas the original units had bullet connectors.

The RDX wing repeaters were simple plug and play and so very easily fitted. The only note of caution being that
because they are LED, you have to ensure they are plugged in the right way round :lol: .


Next I tackled the rear tail/stop lights and the addition of the high level brake light.
Fitting the two tail/stop lamps was plug and play, the only difference being that they are secured internally by M6 nuts.
Fitting the high brake light entailed me having to fabricate a mounting bracket, which I did from a piece of aluminium which I painted black.



I secured the bracket to the door frame by self tapping screws.


I earthed the light to the same point as the heated rear widow element.
I thought I might be able to route the 'live' wire for the light down the same plastic tube that the 'live' for the heated rear window used.
But this was to prove impossible (the new wire would only go so far before jamming) so I just let it follow the same route as the tube but on the outside.



Once plumbed in, it was time for testing.


I did think that I would have to run a 'live' wire across the car for the additional fog light on the nearside.
However, whilst plugging the stop/tail light I noticed a 'spare' red/yellow wire in the loom.
A quick test with the DVM and yes there was a feed when the fog light was on.
Obviously Land Rover included this wire for left hand drive cars, thus making production easier.



Don't worry about the seemingly low voltage, the meter was connected to a rubbish earth :oops: .

On to fitting the reversing and fog lights.
For this I had to drill extra holes for the additional lights. I also had to enlarge the holes for the wires for the original reversing and fog lights to allow the econseal plugs to go through.
As Stated before I had to make new 'tails' for these lights.


Voila! new plugs and cables in the correct colour coding.


Making sure they all worked before fitting.

Mounting the lights was reasonably straightforward, reaching up behind the plastic shield inside the wheel arch.
A bit awkward holding the light in place with one hand whilst trying to locate the washers and nuts with the other as you are working blind.
A heads up for anyone contemplating doing this, a mountain of detritus will fall down onto you as you are doing it!
Whilst there I also fitted the indicators.

The back lights installed.


Next I tackled the headlights.
Obviously I had to remove the originals. This presented the first 'challenge'. The plugs for the headlights could not be pushed through the holes in the plastic bowls.
Obviously the plugs are assembled after the wires are pushed through the hole during production.
Luckily the plugs come apart easily, you just have note where each wire goes for reassembly!
The first task for installation was to fit the Boomslang loom.
This is completely plug and play, with an 'all the time' 12V connection needed (which I took off the back of the alternator) and two earths.
I did not fancy taking the Boomslang headlamp plugs apart, as I did not want to make a botch of it.


The plugs in question

So I just drilled the holes out larger in the bowls





Next up was the sidelights/DRL's
These come with a loom to adapt the connections for the DRL part.
Again it is plug and play with an ignition 12V feed needed to power up the DRL's when the ignition is on.


This is the loom. The yellow wire is for the ignition 12V feed.

This where I hit a snag. Land Rover had wired up the sidelight plugs backwards, so the sidelights would not light up (obviously not a problem to an incandescent bulb!).
Looking in the manual confirmed this to be the case.

Spot the wiring booboo :roll:
As I could not work out how to remove the pins from the plug, I had to fit new ones.
I have not wired up the feed for the DRL's as yet, so the units only work as sidelights at the moment.

It was at this point that I found out that Land Rover had also wired up the front indicators backwards (again confirmed by the manual)

Wiring booboo 2 :roll:
So again new plugs fitted. I am getting very good at wiring up econoseal plugs now!

At this stage all the front lights were just hanging on the wires, as I wanted to test everything before final fitting.
Good job I did.
Sidelights worked, headlights worked, main and dip. I also took the opportunity of disabling the stupid dim dip feature.
This was achieved very easily by simply unplugging the dim dip resistor under the offside wing (econoseal plug)

Testing the indicators threw up a very strange state of affairs.
Hazards worked fine. However if I put on a left or right turn the indicators would flash once and then go out with no subsequent flashing.
Now, I had made use of the RDX flasher relay, so adjusted the potentiometer on the top from end to end, but it made no difference.
Refitting the original indicators at the front and normal service was resumed. I could even adjust the potentiometer on the relay such that the trailer light went out (as per the BoB instructions)

I rang Bolt-on-Bits and their opinion was that the JW Speaker lights did not provide a high enough 'load' to enable the relay to work correctly. This seemed to be borne out by my experiment with the original lights. (So much for the bold claims by BoB that the flasher works with any LED lights! :evil: )
I got straight onto Mobile Centre and ordered the relay they normally supply.
Fitting this and the indicators initially seemed to work as normal, albeit with no 'tick-tock' noise from the flasher unit itself. I assume this is because this unit is totally solid state and not electro-mechanical.
Another 'drawback' to this flasher is that there are only 3 pins on it and so the feed to the trailer 'tell-tale' light on the dash is no longer present. This means that it would no longer work as the warning light for when you have the hazards on.
However, all was still not quite right with the indicators.

At first I did not notice what was happening, but I did notice that the 'tell-tale' bulb on the dash was not lighting up as brightly as usual.
I then realised that the indicators were, in fact, not operating correctly. What was happening was that if you were 'indicating' right, the left lights were coming on very dimly (kind of like hazards) and vice-versa if you 'indicated' left.
Studying the circuit diagram for the indicators gave a clue as to what was happening.
My 300 Tdi Defender has a single 'tell-tale' bulb for the indicators (later 300 Tdi's and TD5's have two 'tell-tale' bulbs, so this issue would not occur).
In order for the 'tell-tale' bulb to light up it uses the opposite indicator bulbs as an earth return, so a very low current flows through these bulbs.
Because of the current level is so low the bulbs cannot light up. However, LED's work at a much lower current level than bulbs so they do.
Removing the 'tell-tale' bulb altogether stopped the opposite bulbs lighting up. The problem now was that I had no indication whatsoever that the indicators were operating (not even the audible 'tick-tock' noise).
Not ideal. However, in order to get a working vehicle again I decided to live with this situation for the moment. (Resolved as below. Bear in mind that no tell tale for left & right indicators or hazard warning lights is an MoT fail https://www.mot-testing.service.gov.uk/ ... 000401.htm)

I proceeded to carry out the final fit of the front lights. This threw up the next challenge.
As the sidelights and indicators now fix from the back my plan was to fit these first by reaching through the hole where the headlight goes.
I quickly realised that doing it this way it meant I would have to fit the plastic headlight surround first. This meant that I would not be able to fit the headlamp (luckily I checked this before I started).
So the headlights were fitted first and then the sidelights/indicators.
Now, fitting the sidelight and indicator is very easy if you have arms like an orang-utan.
Having an assistant on site makes it easier as you only need one orang-utan arm then!
The nearside is fairly straightforward, just make sure you do not drop any of the washers or nuts!
The offside is more difficult and you will need to move the fuel filter out of the way first.

As my front grill and the nearside sound were broken, I treated the Jalopy to new ones.


Looking good.

Getting back to the indicator problem, my solution was to make up a new 'tell-tale' bulb using two LED's and a current limiting resistor.
These I rather niftily fitted to the original bulb holder (with one small adaption). I now had a 'tell-tale' light and the same light also acts as the warning light when you have the hazards on (so at least that problem is solved)
Using the two LED's prevents the 'leakage current' flowing back through the opposite indicators, as the 'earth return' is now through the current limiting resistor.
I will do a separate write up detailing my solution, so that others in this position can fit a solution.
Here: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=98624

I have to say that I am very pleased with the results.
All the lights give a better light output, bringing the vehicle up to 'modern day' standards, with the headlamp upgrade being the biggest revelation.
The light output is far better than the original setup. If you do nothing else to your car, do the Boomslang loom/crystal upgrade.
Adding the extra reversing light makes reversing in the dark easier as there is obviously more light to see by.

1995 300 Tdi 90 - It's now obvious I am bringing it back from the brink

Disabled Toilets: Ironically, the only toilets you can run around in.
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Re: Upgrading my Defender lights

Postby paintman » Wed 05 Apr 2017 8:41 am

Good write-up & copied to the Defender Tech Archive.
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Re: Upgrading my Defender lights

Postby paintman » Tue 11 Apr 2017 8:23 am

For the tell-tale fix see: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=98624
Remember, if the tell-tale either audible or flashing light on the dash doesn't work it's an MoT fail.
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