07 November 2023
Rear-mounted work lamps are a valuable accessory. Alisdair Cusick finds it’s an easy job to fit them
Need to know
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Models: Classic Defender, but the basic principle is similar for adding rear lights to any Land Rover.
Tools needed: Screwdrivers, trim tool, soldering iron, fleece loom tape, masking tape, hammer and punch, crimping pliers, drill, step drill.
Parts used: Mobile Centre part no.407DRLK1, £96 – full kit including two lights, two angled brackets, rocker switch and wiring, grommets, factory plug for Td5 and TDCi (2.4 MY2007-2011) and crimp terminals for the switch.
• Always disconnect the battery earth lead prior to electrical work on a vehicle
• Use the right tool, for the right job
• Always be fire safe in the workshop
• Never take risks with electrical wiring
• Get an expert to do the job, if in any doubt.
Thanks to: Tim Consolante and Mobile Centre, Ian Baughan and IRB Developments for their help. mobilecentre.co.uk, irbdevelopments.com
We’ve all known the frustrations of needing extra lighting at the back of a Defender. Whether for manoeuvring, to light an area for work, tow connecting or camping, there are times when we need to fit additional light sources. Electrical work can appear daunting, so it can often be a job we simply don’t get around to, or worse, feel too intimidated to perform. But the job is actually a simple one, requiring only a little electrical know-how, plus the light units themselves. To simplify the job further, Mobile Centre has assembled a ready-to fit kit of everything you need to do the job, using quality components.
We should note that by UK law, any extra rear-facing lighting is for off-road use only, or to use as work lighting, with the car stationary. They are not legal as reversing lights on the road. Because of this, Mobile Centre’s kit uses a three-way switch, meaning we can turn them off for road use, permanently on for working, or as reversing lights when off-road.
The most common query is where to get power from at the rear of the car, but IRB Developments’ Ian Baughan explains that is actually simple. “On Td5 and pre-2012 TDCi models, there’s a factory power connector ready to go in the offside rear corner of the loadspace, meaning you can just plug straight into that, or pick up from it with solder joints,” he tells LRM. On other models he adds: “You’d just pick up power from the towing electrics, which again are around the same area, just outside the car.” If using the towing electrics wiring, you’ll need to confirm a permanent 12-volt supply and earth using a meter, before coming off those with soldered, then insulated joints. Because both options use factory wiring and are on factory-fused circuits, so we don’t need a separate fuse.
Lights, action: This is the hardware we’re fitting. British-made LED light units in angled mounts, and a quality the three-way switch. Wiring them up is a simple affair.
Wiring up: In either case, the wiring is straightforward and involves just four wires and a three-way switch. From the offside of the car comes a permanent 12-volt live and earth. The earth wire comes up to the first light, then carries on to the second, whilst the permanent 12v goes up, across and down to the nearside. Then, we tap into the reverse light feed for a reverse light 12-volt supply and run a wire into the car. We now have three wires that we plug into the switch: 12v, reverse light 12v, and the third is the switch output, which runs up from the nearside to both lights. The switch positions then permit setting the lights on (permanent 12v), or on with reverse (reverse 12v) or off (no supply). Here, Ian Baughan of IRB Developments demonstrates fitting a kit to a 2009 Defender 90 2.4 TDCi.
See the job: First unscrew the two rear grab-handle fixings and remove the handles. Then pull the so-called ‘telephone’ interior trim panel out from above the rear door.
Power source: We’re using the factory power connector here. To reveal that, the speaker cover is removed. If using the towing electrics, we’d be outside the car instead.
Choose position: A decision is made where the lights will fit. Ian uses low-tack masking tape on the bodywork to allow accurate fixings positions to be marked without damage.
Check, repeat: More measurements are taken and marked, which are transferred to the other side and double-checked, for side-to-side symmetry. Ideally, a pair of lights should look identically placed.
Centre punch: Tap a mark using a punch and hammer to help the drill locate accurately for its first bite into the metal. If not, the drill can slip, or move as it first starts off, damaging the surrounding area.
All or nothing: Next, drill the fixing holes. Ian prefers to use a step-drill, for speed and convenience. Alternatively, use a small drill bit to make a pilot hole, then a larger one to increase the hole to its final size.
Watertight: A grommet goes into the centre hole. This prevents water ingress, as well as stopping the wiring chafing against the bodywork over time and causing a short.
Fit the light: The light unit frame is then bolted on, including any gaskets. Ian uses stainless socket-head fixings. Stand back and double-check that it’s level.
Internals in: Now fit the light internals, first threading the wiring through the grommet into the car. Two fixings then hold the light lens unit to the light frame.
Loom starts: Now start the cabling, with an earth and permanent 12-volt supply. Here, Ian pins a connector for the factory plug. Instead, you could do mid-point solder joints.
How long? The earth runs from the connector to the second light. The permanent 12-volt supply cable has to be long enough to reach the nearside, near the reverse light.
Protection: To prevent chafing, causing a short, the cables are threaded into nylon conduit for physical protection. The first run goes from the 12-volt connector to the first light.
First joint: Here we use a mid-point solder joint to link the first light’s earth supply to the new earth loom. The insulation is stripped, then the light’s cable soldered on.
12v, plus Reverse 12v: The solder joint is wrapped in fabric loom tape. The next cable run takes a wire from the reverse light area, soldering that to positive on both lights.
Wiring check: We now have an earth running from the connector up to both lights. The 12v supplies now come from each side of the car – permanent 12v and reverse 12v.
Lamp out: Out comes the reverse lamp, and a cable for the reverse live supply is threaded up into the car, in conduit. This is the 12v feed from the reverse light.
Everything in place: The three wires are now secured together with fabric loom tape. We now need to get a feed from the reverse light, and we’re almost good to go.
Previous bad work: Here we see previous work, probably when the LED side and reverse lights were fitted. The cable colours change three times in a matter of centimetres. Annoying.
Sorted: The way to sort out this mess is to follow up the factory loom, and then go from that. Ian mid-point solders into the white reversing light cable (reverse 12v).
Terminal work: The reverse light is refitted, and three wires now have their terminals crimped on, and insulating covers fitted, before connecting to the three-way switch. Reconnect the battery.
What have we done? We now have two lights connected to both an earth and the three-way switch. That switch now allows us to select between constant 12v, reverse 12v, or no power for an Off position.
Test all three: Test all three settings, meaning you can choose Off for road use, permanent on for a work light, or on with reverse (illegal on a public road, please note).
We can appreciate now that wiring isn’t necessarily complex, it is just a case of picking a feed for each source you need, perhaps confirming it with a meter if unsure. The most common errors are poor joints and leaving wiring loose, or poorly insulated. The way to do a thorough job is by using flexible conduit for long-term physical protection, and being able to perform neat mid-point solder joints, and finally insulating it well. As ever, doing this work to a high standard is neither difficult or time-consuming, and the satisfaction of performing a task to good effect goes beyond that of the end result.
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