How-To: Custom LED Tail Light Retrofit - Chevy Cobalt Forum / Cobalt Reviews / Cobalt SS / Cobalt Parts
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-08-2012, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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How-To: Custom LED Tail Light Retrofit

Next LED Project: Tail Light Retrofit

Step 1 - Opening the Lights
Once you have the lights off the car, bake them in the oven at 200 degrees F for about 20-30 mins just like you'd do with the head lights.

Now my sealant was really dried out and flaky, I had to use a flat head screwdriver to essentially chisel it out.
Messed up the sides a little bit but it sealed back up afterwards perfectly fine.
WATCH THE BLACK STICKY CRAP UNDER THE FOAM!!! ITS A PAIN IN THE ASS AND GETS EVERYWHERE!




Step 2 - LED Placement
Space out where you want to mount your LED's. Use a pencil to make a mark around the ring for each one. Drill your holes and pop in the LEDs. For the reverse lights, I decided to glue them in place at the outer lens to throw more light out the back. You can do this with the red ones if you want as well, but the red plastic gives a nice looking glowing ring look...you'll see

Some hints:
- Watch that you dont drill into one of the clips or plastic screws. Space them so they miss
- Calculate home many LEDs to use based on the resistors needed. For example, I use 220ohm resistors. This works perfectly to equal 3 LEDs per resistor for reds and 2 LEDs per resistor for white. So groups of 3 for red and 2 for white
- Mount the LEDs with the leads ALL in the same positions. All - on one side, all + on one side. Doesnt matter which sides which, but the all need to be on the same side all the way around.
- I used 3mm LEDs. Drill the holes with a smaller bit so they stay in place. a 7/64 bit worked perfect. Takes a bit of a push but they stay snug.
- Double check your spacing! As you can see, I screwed up 2 holes on the one ring and 1 hole on the other. You can't tell once its sealed up again, but you'll always know its there
- Add 1 drop of super glue to the edge of every LED. Let it set, then continue.




Step 3 - Resistors
Time to solder!
Choose the right resistors. Solder them in place. Keep a (-) and (+) lead sticking up on each set.

(-)__LED__LED__Resistor__LED__(+) << Just an example





Once theyre all grouped, test each group one by one.
Do the same for the groups glued to the outer lens if youre doing those ones as well.

Step 4 - Wire Them Together
Now that you know theyre all working, solder all the (-) together and all the (+) together.
Add a strip about 8 inches long to one of the (+) and one of the (-) leads Test them again. Now they will all turn on together.





You can tape all the exposed wire with electrical tape if you want. This is isn't needed for the LEDs inside the lens.


Double check theyre all working properly







Step 5 - Seal them back up
Double check them again!
Close the 2 pieces back together and seal them. I use non-shrinking black silicone, the same stuff on my head lights....1 year later and no fogging so it works well.





Step 6 - Tap into you wires
Reverse wires on my car (05 LS coupe) were green and black. Green is your (+), black is (-). Same wires on both left and right lights.



Brake wires on mine were light blue and black. Light blue is (+), black again is (-). I tapped these from the 3rd brake light.



I will get turn signal wires when I do the outer lights and post up pictures here.



Good luck on your build!

Last edited by acoutu; 06-09-2012 at 06:17 PM.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-09-2012, 04:27 AM
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Very well done!!

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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-09-2012, 06:29 AM
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I would suggest you put silicone all over the bare soldered wires to avoid corrosion later on unless U live in the southern most states that have no winters.

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-09-2012, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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UPDATED with wire pics

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coby7 View Post
I would suggest you put silicone all over the bare soldered wires to avoid corrosion later on unless U live in the southern most states that have no winters.
Good point. The rubber does keep all the water out I'm finding, but better safe than sorry! I will be doing this when I do my outer lights just in case!

Also, I recommend using 5mm or 10mm LED's. The 3mm fit well, but the light output is crap during the day through the red lens. No night time shots yet, will snap some tonight!
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-09-2012, 11:27 PM Thread Starter
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Daylight


Night



Brakes Off


Brakes On
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-10-2012, 06:56 PM
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Nice write-up!
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-12-2012, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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A few more pics from behind

Night time running lights




Brakes applied



Next day off: Outer lights and 3rd brake light LED swaps!

(This can probably be moved to the 'How-To' section, I posted it in the wrong spot. Sorry)
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-12-2012, 12:09 PM
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Damn thats bright, what do you do with the side markers?
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-12-2012, 12:25 PM
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Don't forget if you don't dummy load your high brake light you will lose your cruise.

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-12-2012, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coby7 View Post
Don't forget if you don't dummy load your high brake light you will lose your cruise.
Continue..
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