Adding Lights to the Rear Reflectors

by Bob Caruthers -

To begin, gather the following parts:

At AutoZone the part # is 85814. the label says they are for GM/Ford cars.
At Pep Boys the part number is 85868.

These have two wires (black and tan/brown) connected to a cream colored rubber socket.

These are blue plastic tubes about an inch long which you will need to add a short pieces of wire to extend the pigtail wires. This will give you some extra wire to pull out of the side light when you will eventually need to change the bulb. You'll need four of these: two per pigtail.

They are blue and box shaped with a fold-over tab. I used 3M brand. the box came with 20; you'll need four: two for each tail light. Later in the instructions, I'll explain what to do with them.

You'll only need about a foot, but they usually come in rolls of 20 feet or so. You might look around and get the shortest length you can find...

I used 3M Tartan 1710 from Lowes. (part number 49656)
3/4 inch x 60 feet. about 50 cents.

Now for the fun part:

Remove the back side reflectors with a Phillips head screw driver. Back the screws out about a half inch or so and you should be able to pull on them to remove the side reflectors. You could take the screws all the way out.

As you will see, there is a grayish plastic back to the red reflectors into which a light bulb socket could be inserted if only there was a hole there.

To make the hole, you need a drill. I started by drilling a small starter hole. Then changed bits to a progressively larger size--up to a one-half inch bit. BE CAREFUL: you could easily drill through the back of the reflector right though the front red part. That'll require a trip to your local Mazda dealer for a new reflector.

Once the hole is drilled to one-half inch, stop.

Put a #194 bulb in the pigtail.

Check to see how close in size the socket is to the drilled hole in the reflector. I used an x-acto knife and reamed-out the hole a little more until I could get the front part of the socket in the hole. You want a tight fit. I then taped the socket to the back of the reflector with the vinyl electrical tape to hold it securely in place. There is probably a way to get the socket to fit perfectly like the factory ones in the front are, but I was concerned that if i got the socket in there i wouldn't be able to pull it back out again to change the bulb when the time came. Use your best judgment on this one...

Next, I added several inches of extra wire to the end of the two pigtail wires. Four to six inches should do it.

Cut two pieces of the 14 gauge wire and attach them to the ends of the pigtail wires using the Butt Connectors. You'll need a pair of pliers to squeeze the Butt Connectors onto the wires. Be sure to strip away 1/4 inch of wire off only one end of the new wire. Leave the other end blunt cut. Wrap the Butt Connectors with the vinyl electrical tape covering some of the tape on the ends.

Put the pigtail/side reflector assemblies back on the car.

Stick the wires through the holes in the bumper and re-insert the side lights/reflectors.

Let the wires hang down inside the bumper.
Screw the screws on the side lights back in.
BTW, the reflectors are marked L and R.

Open the trunk.

Remove the cheesy trunk liner which covers the tail lights. There are seven black plastic clips that hold the trunk liner in place. The "clips" have a center piece which needs to be pried up. Use your finger nail or small screw driver. Then pull each clip out. Just remove the part of the liner that is directly next to the trunk lock and tail lights. The two clips behind the taillights are stuck in rubber grommets, so they are a tad bit more difficult to pull out. A flash light will help locate the seven black clips.

DISCONNECT THE NEGATIVE TERMINAL OF THE BATTERY!!!!! (it is closest to the taillight. it has a 10mm bolt)

Remove the tail light assemblies from the back of the car. (you would have to do this if you were to ever have to change a bulb back there) There is a picture of how to do this in the owner's manual, too. There is a black Philips head screw on top and two 10mm nuts inside the trunk which hold the tail light assembly in place. Remove the top screw and the two 10mm nuts. Pull the tail light assembly out toward you. There are two short plastic pegs which hold the assembly in place. You may have to do some wrestling with the light assembly to get it out.

When out, let it kinda hang there.

Now, look carefully down between the fender and the wheel well towards where the side lights and pigtail wires are. You will need to sorta hand the wires up from the pigtail to yourself, or someone else, from underneath the fender. It's a very short distance.

Look for the outside light on the tail light assembly. (there is a helpful picture in the owner's manual for reference.) This is the parking light. This is the one you will be tapping in to. There are three wires coming out of the parking light: Black, White, Green.

You will be splicing, with the Quick Connectors, into the BLACK wire and WHITE wire only. ignore the green wire. You can either unwrap the black electrical tape holding these three wires together to reveal enough wire to tap into or tap in to the wires above the tape.

Look at one of the blue Quick Connectors. You will see there is a groove on one side. This fits over the BLACK parking light wire: this is the ground. The black wire kinda snaps in from the side of the Quick Connector.

On the other side of the Quick Connector, there is a hole in which you insert the blunt cut wire extension from the pigtail. The wire can't come out of the other side of this hole because it is sealed closed. Push the wire in until it stops. Take a pair of pliers and squeeze down on the little metal piece which is sticking up out of the top of the Quick Connector. Close the blue tab over the Quick Connector.

Do this again connecting the TAN/BROWN wire to the WHITE wire. (this is the +12v)

If you would like, you could put the negative cable back on the battery and see if the side light works.

BE SURE to DISCONNECT the battery cable again before doing the other side.

Do the same thing on the other side: BLACK to BLACK. TAN/BROWN to WHITE.

Re-install the two tail light assemblies: one screw and two 10mm nuts on each side.

Re-connect the battery. Re-tighten down the bolt.



Put the trunk liner back in.

Let me know if something is unclear.

Bob Caruthers
99 Emerald/Leather
Canyon Texas

Notes from Frank Davis

Adding Lights to the Rear Reflectors:

After reading Bob's instructions, I decided to try adding the lights to my own car. Instead of using a normal light bulb and socket, you can add a LED. A LED will last longer than a bulb (10,000 hours, or over 2 years of continuous-on use), and will give brighter, more consistant light. All you will need is a 3/16" drill bit, and a T1-3/4 (5mm) size LED + items from Bob's install. I used a red color LED. You can get these LEDs at Radio Shack and other electronic stores, and any other size or color depending on your taste. Make sure you add the correct resistor for your LED (see below). If you are unsure about this, you can get the LED on eBay for around 5.99 each + shipping, with the resistor and a bit of wire already added on. If you have some soldering skills, you can do this yourself for much cheaper. A simple formula to use to find the correct resistor is:

resistance= (car volts - volt requirement of LED) / current of LED

In most cases this would be

resistance= (12 - 1.8) / .02

12 is the voltage of the cars battery, 1.8 is common for most LEDs, and .02 is 20ma, the common current for most LEDs. Using this method we would find out that a 510 ohm resistor is ideal. Try to find one around that value. LEDs are tolerant to higher or lower values. You could get by with a higher or lower value, but the light will be less bright with a higher value, or brighter with a lower value (but it won't last as long). The resistor goes on the positive side of the LED (longer lead). Make sure you get the polarity correct, or you will burn out your LED quickly.

Now for installing your new LED, just drill a 3/16" hole where you want the light, and push the light into the hole. If the light goes all the way through to inside the reflector (ie. not a snug fit) then you have too big of a hole. If you did everything correct, the light will be a nice snug fit, and you should be able to remove it with a gentle pull. Next step is just wire the lights using Bob's instructions (positive lead goes to white wire of tail-lamp, negative goes to black). Make sure not to reverse the wires. Now test your light, and if everything works, re-attach all your lights, and enjoy your new reflector lights.

Back to the Garage

15 April, 2003