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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
SAFETY FIRST!!! WEAR SAFETY GLASSES WHEN YOU CUT INTO PARTS, BE AWARE OF SHARP EDGES AND HOT MELTED PLASTIC. I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ERRORS ON YOUR PART

To do this you're going to need to order these LEDs from Alltronics.com. They list the part as #96L001, they cost around $14. There's only a limited supply so get them now or you're **** out of luck.... mostly ( see final statement below)


To put new LED strips into your OEM tailights, you're going to have to remove them. There's 5 10-mm bolts holding them to the trunk, plus the reverse light socket and the plug to the LED itself.

Remove the rear license plate (the plate blocks you from removing the rear reflectors)

Unplug the reverse lights and LED plug. Undo the 5 10mm the bolts holding each reflector to the hood.

Remove rear reflector assembly

Clean rear reflector assembly. Trust me, if you've never taken your rear reflectors off, they'll be filthy. There will also most likely be some dried foam across the top portion of the assembly that has dried out over the years (you can buy foam tape to reapply as this is used I think to stop the flow of water getting into the reflector assembly)

Once the reflector is clean, it's time to mark off a line to follow when you cut. I used a Dremel with a carbide cutting tip (cost about $13 ).
I scoured a line BELOW the "cross" of the reflector mouting points (see below)



Once you have scoured the lines it's time to cut. Take a close look at the pic below to see where I cut and the shape I used. It's important to leave the basic structure of the reflector assembly in its original spot to keep the assembly as robust as before you cut it.


Using my Dremel I cut out the lines I scoured. Go slow here as the plastic will melt and a rain of small plastic bits will shoot off into the air (SAFETY GOGGLES ARE A MUST HERE, IT'S A RAIN OF PLASTIC DEBRIS WHEN CUTTING...RIGHT INTO YOUR FACE!!) So take your time, make sure you are not cutting too high into the assembly so it's visible once installed.
ON MY TAIL LIGHTS, THE LED ASSEMBLY IS HIDDEN FROM VIEW BY THE LOWER BLACK PORTION OF THE REAR REFLECTOR. DON'T CUT ANY HIGHER THAN THE LOWER BLACK PORTION. YOU'RE GOING TO WANT TO CUT BELOW THAT BLACK LINE...ABOUT 1/16TH AN INCH, SO YOUR CUTS ARE NOT VISIBLE WHEN REINSTALLED


As you can see by the shape I cut I didn't go the full length of the LED's themselves. That's not what you want to do. Cutting the full length would compromise the reflectors integrity. Basically you cut out more towards the LED plug than the end of the LED. Doing this will allow you to pry up the LED/cut out part and pull it out in one piece.

Once you have it cut, YOU HAVE TO BE REAL CAREFUL and pull up from the plug side. The LED is actually glued to the bottom of the reflector assembly, so it's not just going to pop out. You may have to use a flat head screwdriver to GENTLY pry up on the lower portion of the LED assembly at the bottom part of the cut you made. Be gentle and apply pressure to the LED assembly to pry if loose from the bottom portion of the reflector. You may hear pops as portions of the LED assembly break free from their adhesion.

Now, prying up from the plug side, GENTLY, you'll pull up on the cut out part/LED assembly and you'll also pull towards the plug side to pull the entire cut portion OUT of the assembly. Don't forget about the plug, it'll push through the hole with some help. Once you have done that, you'll have to remove the LED assembly from the cut portion by unscrewing 2 phillips screws (be careful, they come out easy, but seem to be a bear getting back in, at least in my case)

LED out... time to clean out the reflector assembly. There will be bits of cut/melted plastic in there if you used a Dremel

If you cut below that black portion visible from the front, the you did it right. You can't see your cut lines when you reinstall... Cut straight and make sure you don't cut too high.. The LED assembly is just BARELY below the height of the rear reflector lower black portions....


So you have the LED out, you cleaned the reflector assembly. You've screwed the new LED into the cut out part...Time to put it back in. Here's a real helpful tip to get the plug back through the hole it needs to go through. IT seems EVERY plug on our Tbirds has a way to remove the wire/plug from the plug housing. The LED plug housing has a little flap you can lift which will allow you to pull the wire/connector out of the plug assembly and easily pass the wires through the hole.

From the end of the plug side, you can use a jeweler's flathead screwdriver to pry up a wedge in the plug which allows you to pull the plug wires/connector out.


Then it's a LOT easier to bend the LED wires and pass the plug wires up through the hole in the reflector assembly, then you just push the plug wires/connectors back into their slots, put the flap back into its position and you've done the hardest part.

So, the LED is back in place, the plug is all done, it's time so seal it up.. I used a glue gun to hold the reinstalled assembly in position so that I could then put some Liquid Nails glue onto the entire cut to seal it all up and hold it tight.


Once the Liquid Nails had dried, I used a spray on leak stopper/sealant to finish the job. This stuff dries hard and won't ever erode.

Be sure to tape off openings and plugs just in case you overspray

Once dry, nothing will get in there ever again!


You're done... now you have nice rear reflectors which should last years!!!





Final Statement:
Most likely the LED's your replacing aren't totally burnt out. You can resolder the LED's into the position of the burnt out one (if one's out it may take out the others in the same circuit!!)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
NOTES:
I actually wasted 3 tailights to do this...good practice. I found a Dremel to be the best at cutting into the assembly...

To cut the LED's out without being visible from the outside, the opening will be almost the same size as the LED's... Just be careful and press/twist the assembly back into position gently.. If it came out, it'll go back in.

Sealing is vital, these LED's are on a silicon strip that if they get wet, that's it. Make sure you seal them tight!
 

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Looks great! Very nicely done repair and it will be helpful to a lot of people down the road.

From what I have read here it often isn't the LEDs that burn out, its the traces on the circuit board that go bad. That is why they go out in stripe patterns most of the time.

Also maybe this can help someone too incase they goof like I did.... I cut high on one taillight, and like you said you could see the cut because the inside of the taillight is all reflective finish. To fix it I put a little bit of aluminum tape over the cut on the inside; its not noticeable now unless you are really looking for it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Yeah they seem to be in parallel (series... EDIT) ...if one goes out, others will at regular intervals on the strip... like every 4th one.... odd.
 

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not so odd; the leds are ~1.7 V apiece; it takes multiples in series to work efficiently.
 

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Yeah they seem to be in parallel...if one goes out, others will at regular intervals on the strip... like every 4th one.... odd.
Ahem.

THAT would be "series", not parallel.

RwP
 

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Excellent write up! Although, I'm lucky because cougars don't have this problem. :grin2:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Mine won't anymore. Hoping it'll last 10 years... by then who knows where I'll be? :)
 

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Good write up. Does anyone had a pic of the traces that die? I like this brute force method but I also enjoy soldering and component level board repair.
 

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When I do reseal jobs like that, I've learned to use RTV, because it's more easily removable, and won't leak.

I embed a stainless wire these days as a pull cord to take it back apart if I need to; just mark where you leave the end down in the rtv.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
When I do reseal jobs like that, I've learned to use RTV, because it's more easily removable, and won't leak.

I embed a stainless wire these days as a pull cord to take it back apart if I need to; just mark where you leave the end down in the rtv.
I put Liquid Nails silicone adhesive in there, and that spray on leak stopper comes off if you want it to. It's sort of like mega plasti-dip. Trust me, no water is getting in there!

Good idea on the wire!
 

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Digikey has these for 11 bux for 25 of them.

http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/vishay-semiconductor-opto-division/TLWR7900/751-1191-5-ND/1681326

These will be a Lot brighter, as things have changed in 20 years; so all of them will need to be swapped. :)

These have four legs, instead of three; so holes will need to be drilled and soldermask scraped away to fix a set.

They can be repaired, if you want to spend the effort.

I personally would buy a strip of these:

5M 10X 0.5M SMD 2835/5050/5630/7020/8520 LED Bar White Rigid Hard Strip Light | eBay

...And mod it to the reflector; it also acts as a radiator. :)

Also remember: Too bright is a Bad Thing for tail lights; You Do Not want to Blind the guy in the Semi behind you. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
The OEM LEDs are red lights BTW. They shine through clear magnifying lenses into the clear red reflector plastic. I think a white LED would be off color...perhaps pink.
 

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The OEM LEDs are red lights BTW. They shine through clear magnifying lenses into the clear red reflector plastic. I think a white LED would be off color...perhaps pink.
You want red for sure... I saw an old post and someone did use white LEDs, the taillights ended up a more pink color.

I used flexible rope LED that I bought off amazon. They are getting popular and you can find them in parts stores now as well.
 
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