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11/21/2002 Running Light Conversion

This is a really inexpensive running light mod that involves removing the existing running lights and replacing them with 55W Halogen fog lights purchased at Autozone for $20 under the Pilot brand. The same light may be purchased at other auto parts stores under different brands, with prices ranging from $20-30. You'll need to purchase a hose connector with clamps from Lowes or Home Depot (about $5) and spend about 30 minutes to make this mod. Since the original write-up, I've had a chance to make some changes that will make things go a lot easier. It's actually easier to do this mod with the grill and front bumper cover removed - that is the main change. I also used shrink tubing instead of electrical tape - a much better, water-tight and neater process than what I've outlined below. Total cost for this mod $25 plus tax. Total time, about 30 minutes (1 hour if you remove the grill and cladding).

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AutoZone and Lowes for Parts
As discussed previously, BigMike and I first went to Autozone and each bought a $19.95 Pilot 55w light set. We then went to the local Lowes and bought a short plumbing Connecting Coupler that fit snuggly on the reflector (we brought one in with us and physically selected one that would fit - about $5 with clamps).

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Make a straight cut
This Coupling has is about 4" long and has a pipe clamp on either end. You will want to cut this in half. This coupling provides both a gasket for a better seal, and also a rubber bracket for the hose-clamps to mount to.

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Gasket anyone?
When done you'll have the materials for both sides.

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Light Removal
Remove the existing lights. You can do this by sliding your hand in the space between the headlight and the front grill. There is some foam insulation that may be moved aside for easy access to the light.

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Turn the lights
Turn it lefty-loosy from both the back and front. You'll then be able to remove the light and disconnect the leads:

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Modifying the existing harness
I sliced the enclosing harness about an inch and gave my self some wire on both ends before cutting the old wires. I then added some spade connectors (the Pilot light has one connector, find a match for it and a male/female for the other wire). At this point you may want to remove the front grill and cladding instead.

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Inserting the coupling
It's important at this point to insert the hose clamp inside the hole, but around the wiring harness. Then insert the rubber coupling, with the inset groove to the outside so that the lip is exposed. This will give you your tight fit. This is much easier to do with the cladding off. You can use a milk crate to lay the cladding on its front end right in front of the frame.

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Connecting the leads
Next connect up your leads. You may want to consider soldering them instead of using spade bits (I used spaces so that it would be easier to take the assembly apart in case I didn't like the lights).

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Sealing the leads
Next tape them up separately, then together with the harness as you see fit. The images shown are of my initial install. Since then I've taken the cladding off and gone through this process only I used shrink tubing instead of tape.

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Inserting new lights
Finally, push the lights into the rubber connector - now a gasket - until the light edge is flush with the cladding. There's a notch at the top of the light that you can use as a guide. This should be verticle in the hole.

The hardest part is to tighten up the hose clamps. I tried using a screwdriver, then a nut driver but just couldn't get my big mitts in there to tighten them up. I finally said to hell with it and started to peel off the front bumper cladding. After removing the 3 screws and 4 bolts in the front grill, I realized that the insulation to the sides could be moved to the side enough for me to get a nut driver lined up on the clamp. A few turns and the replacement of the grill completed the project. If you have taken the entire grill and cladding off, it's really easy to crank down the clamps and make sure everything is right. While the cladding is off, you may want to wipe the frame parts down and remove any big bugs in the radiotor. Replace the cladding and grill when you are done.

Total time, about 30 minutes (increase by 15-30 if you have taken the grill and cladding off). I've run these almost 2 years all night without any noticable melting of the cladding or rubber connector/gasket. The only thing I've noticed is that the backs of the light housing are beginning to rust due to weather exposure. Also, if water gets inside the lights they will rust on the inside (expected from $20 lights). The best thing about this mod is that the lights are so cheap, you can replace them 2 times before approaching the cost of some Hella DEs (saled price on eBay about $60 - retail closer to $120). Note that I did not incorporate an additional relay, trusting on the existing relay for the lights. I have had no issues with the electrical or the switch.

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