How to Build Your Own LED Tail Lights

by Rachel Moran
tail lights image by cherie from

Vehicle customization can enhance pride in ownership and improve resale value. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can give any car a slick and luxurious appearance. Install custom LED tail lights into a vehicle's existing housing for brighter illumination, longer bulb life and a stronger overall presence on the road and/or at auto shows. Customize the layout and functions of the bulbs for a look that turns heads, catches stares and is entirely one-of-a-kind. Some experience with automotive light wiring makes this customization go faster; each year and model may have particularities, but the results are impressive.

Step 1

Remove tail lights with enough care to replace them properly.

Remove the housing of the tail light from the vehicle. Begin by unscrewing and/or carefully prying it out with a small, straight-head screwdriver. Remove the plastic from the rear of lamp. Leave remaining the mounting points with enough support to re-house the lights after customization.

Step 2

Consider creative options when working with ABS plastic.

Mold ABS plastic to create custom plates that match the existing housing of the vehicle. Contour the plastic to the shape of the tail light with a heat gun. Specific customization options include working with depth to create visual interest or colored plates as allowed by your jurisdiction's traffic laws.

Step 3

Creating a pattern for LED lights lets customizations shine.

Create the grid pattern for the LEDs on the plastic plates. Lay out the grid pattern on the formed plastic plates. Drill holes in the plates that follow the grid pattern. Lay out functions required of the lights for the particular vehicle. This may include brake lights or turn signals. Holes that are 5mm usually allow the most variation in customizations, but any size will do as long as the drilled holes and bulb sizes match.

Step 4

Attach the LED bulbs. Apply a small drop of instant glue to each LED bulb, and place each bulb in a drilled hole.

Step 5

Soldering is a simple way to connect important components of the project.

Secure resistors to the LEDs. Solder one end of a resistor to the positive side of the LED. The positive side is the side with the long leg.

Step 6

Connect the wiring. Determine the wire colors in the car. Use a trailer-hitch wire harness to connect the grounds through a main lead, and connect the wires into the car.

Secure the tail lights in the car. Fit the ABS plastic plates with the LED lights securely into place. Screw in components as necessary for the particular make and model. Seal with black silicone as necessary.