As I’ve posted previously, I’m an avid DIYer and if I can fix something that’s not broken, I’ll always give it a try. Over the years I’ve ‘fixed’ a number of things on my Nissan Patrol that aren’t broken, but which really have needed improvement and perhaps one day I’ll write about those. That said, one of those ‘not broken’ things is the tail light assembly (or assemblies) in the rear bumper bar of the Patrol. No matter what I’ve tried, they would always go on the blink (or not blink) on one side or the other. The issue with the tail lights is that, due to their location, they are always exposed to mud and water, which invariably leads to one or other globe not working or working intermittently. Even though the globes have seals where they connect to the light assembly, it doesn’t seem to make any difference when it comes to mud and water, it gets in. So finally I’d had enough of this and decided to do something about it.
I’ve had a set of LED indicator/brake light panels lying around for at least 10 years, which I’d bought to install on our camper trailer, but never got around to doing so and, following some cursory inspection, decided that they would be better utilised on the Patrol. After eyeballing the existing light assembly, it looked like the LED panel would be a nice fit and all that was needed was a suitable adapter plate. I did consider using LED Globes in the assembly, like I did with the upper light assemblies, but that would not solve the eternal problem of mud and water causing short circuits etc. There’s a small breather on the left of the assembly (the U shaped tube) that is the only possible inlet for mud and water, but it beggars belief how much mud can pass through this small orifice (more on that later).
Once the assembly was out, I could use it as a template for the adapter plates that were required to hold the LED panels. For this I used some 4mm aluminium plate that I’ve had for years and used for many other DIY jobs on the Patrol, such as an intercooler fan shroud and diesel fuel lift pump mounting bracket. The plates had to be cut with a jigsaw because they were too thick for my nibbler but, in any case, the simple shape meant it didn’t take long to cut and shape; an hour at the most, including drilling the necessary holes for mounting and the cable pass through hole. As a timely reminder why I was doing this, when I went to put the Nissan light assembly back on the bumper, I noticed some soil inside the assembly and had to poke it with a screwdriver to break it up. What came out was about half a cup of, sandy, dried mud.
So once everything was shaped and drilled, I did a test fitting of one adapter plate into the space vacated by the light assembly and everything fitted nicely, quite surprising given the less than elegant method of manufacture. Thankfully, even relatively thick alloy is easy to work with and just required a grinder with a flapper disk and a belt sander to get the shapes looking reasonably neat. I could have spent a lot more time making a perfect fit, but the minor errors will hardly be an issue. I then gave the alloy a good coating of etching primer before the final coats of satin black paint. The LED panels are smaller than the original light assembly, but it would be difficult to fit anything much larger. Anyway, as long as they work, I don’t think the size matters one jot.
The next job was the wiring, something that I hate doing at the best of times. Working out what wire should go where wasn’t an issue, it was more about deciding whether to just cut off the globe holders or splice the wires and leave the globe holders in place. I originally wanted to get some second hand wiring harnesses from a wrecker, but when I was quoted over $50 for each short harness, plus delivery, I thought otherwise. I very much doubt that these harnesses are in any great demand, so why the expense is a bit baffling. These items listed new on eBay were much the same price, so I ended up just cutting off the globe holders and soldering the wiring to the loom ends. And I did test the wires before soldering, to ensure that I had the right ones connected.
Once the soldering was finished and the wires wrapped up, I used a zip tie to gather up what was now quite a long piece of wiring loom, a complete contrast to what was before. The light assembly then slotted right in and the screws fitted perfectly (this was my only concern when drilling the holes). One other concern that I had at the outset was that I’d need a resistor somewhere in the circuit to ensure that the LED panels worked, as some LED globes won’t work if there’s no resistance in the line, but with prior testing, the lights worked fine. I suspect that modern LEDs have the resistor built in so that you don’t have to worry about these things anymore. So once everything was installed, I did a brake and indicator (hazard lights) test to ensure that all was working and the setup came through with flying colours.
This entire effort took maybe two hours at most to complete (add some time for paint drying) and it turned out to be a much easier job than I anticipated. Doing these things in Winter is always a problem, as you never know what the weather is going to bring and you can never rely on weather forecasts anyway; the only accurate assessment is when you look out the window. At least now I should have no further worries about erratically functioning brake and indicator lights. You’ll have to excuse the less than clean appearance of the Patrol but, at this time of year, keeping it clean is nigh on impossible, but I do have to fix those marks.