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Rubi22 08-21-2007 12:22 AM

Cheap Third Brake Light for Over-Size Tires ($2/No Drilling)
***Although the steps I took throughout this modification were thought of on-the-fly, I originally did not think of the general idea myself.***

After putting my LT285/75R16 Trxus on my tail-gate, I resorted to lifting up the third brake light housing with about 5 washers on each bolt, still leaving it barely snugged up above the top of the tire. After seeing some of the other guys on the forum fix the problem differently, I decided to do the same by ridding the third brake light from the back end of the TJ, and replace the center cap on my spare with a 2" marker from Advance Auto Parts. The light was under $3.00, and no extra wiring, glue, tape, or adapter was used to connect it to my wheel. They sold LED lights (same size) but I decided to go cheap, even though the LED was only about $12.

Socket set
Lug Nut Wrench
Wire Stripper/Crimper
Phillips Screwdriver
Torx bits/screwdrivers
Needle Nose Pliers
May need a buddy for an extra hand

Light: Optronics Clearance Light (Red) Product Number MC-53RS (sorry for the glare)

<1 hour

Before starting:

Gotta get my buddy Sasha to look out and make sure I don't screw up.

The first thing I did was check the size of the center cap's gap with the size of the light. I can't explain how perfectly snug the light fit into the hole. I measured the hole 2", so I accordingly bought a 2" light, and it fit PERFECT! All you do is simply push the center cap out and push the light through and it'll fit snug right in.

After removing the spare and checking the fit, the wires were clearly visible. I used a socket set to remove the OE third brake lights housing--there are four nuts attached to the spare tire carrier. You can see here my cheap way of trying to raise the third brake light with some washers.

The cover over the third brake light needs to be removed to get access to the connection of the 2 wires connected to the bulb. Once you remove the cover, you will see the two wires and the rubber plug that holds them in place. I simply pried out the plug with a screwdriver and cut it in half to free the wires. I then cut the wires about 6" away from the OE light, so I'd have enough room to splice them back if I wanted to set the original assembly back up.

Rubi22 08-21-2007 12:22 AM

Accordingly, there are two holes on the new light that you insert the wires into.

You can do away with the entire third brake light housing (I kept mine in case I wanted to save it and go back to the original assembly.)

Now that all of the old housing was gone, it was time to begin setting up the new light. I inspected the connecting pieces that were on the new light and thought hard about how I would keep the wires connected. My final solution was to pry a gap open on the light's rings that were surrounding the wire connection (See pic), insert the wires, then use pliers to crimp the rings together, ultimately holding the wires in place with the connection. (It does not matter which wire goes to which connection).


Before inserting the light into the spare, check to make sure the light illuminates when the breaks are pressed. You could easily do this by having someone watch for you, but because I was alone, and Sasha couldn't help me out here, I used the 10 second delay on my camera and pressed the brake pedal when the picture was taken.

Once the wires both fit snug and the light illuminates, it's time to put everything back together. I (alone :brickwall ) lifted the spare tire up onto the rear bumper at an angle, supporting it with my stomach (finally a good reason for that beer belly), looking over onto the inner side of the spare tire. Then I inserted the light into the center cap's hole, tapped it a couple times with the screwdriver, and put the spare back on.

Once again, use whatever method you want to check to make sure it's working before you tighten everything down. Here are the pictures I used with the delay option on my camera to make sure the light was illuminating after everything was put together.

Tighten everything down, sit back, enjoy the mod, and have a cold one. :thumbsup:

And thanks for reading my write-up. :kiss:

SHAKEnBLAKE 09-11-2008 10:49 AM

nice job! :2thumbsup: i want to do this but i know my wheels have bigger center caps and no matter the size, no light will fit... just my luck

soundersfc 12-05-2008 07:52 PM

I bought the same light a couple days ago and was unsure what wires went to which hole. Seeing that it doesn't matter, I guess I can install it! haha thanks

Pumbaa 01-19-2009 09:59 AM


Originally Posted by SHAKEnBLAKE (Post 5690356)
nice job! :2thumbsup: i want to do this but i know my wheels have bigger center caps and no matter the size, no light will fit... just my luck

Just do what the OP did, measure the hole, then find a red light with a housing thats the same diameter. Good luck! Search for for trailer or marker lights.

Very nice and cheap fix/ "upgrade". Could probably find an LED one too.

BigPoppaG 01-19-2009 06:04 PM

Just followed your directions. Worked like a champ. Thanks.:2thumbsup:



deltabravo 02-06-2009 10:25 PM

If you use an LED lamp, it will matter which wire goes where as LEDs are polarity sensitive, just posting this as a heads up. There is also a pigtail available, which is a far more reliable way of making the connection tot the light.

NEI10 02-27-2009 01:24 AM


Originally Posted by BigPoppaG (Post 6389650)
Just followed your directions. Worked like a champ. Thanks.:2thumbsup:



what a simple and effective idea/upgrade. looks like you kept your factory 3rd brake light. did you just tap into the original wires?

GoldenP51 04-09-2009 12:09 AM

Here's mine.

I used the led light and kit from worked like a charm. I soldered the wires together and also put a rubber grommet in the hole I drilled so that the wires didn't get cut...also put some foam around the back of the light to help keep it in place in case it happened to bounce loose (but I doubt it will...just a precaution).

myrddin 04-18-2009 03:42 PM

28 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by BigPoppaG (Post 6389650)
Just followed your directions. Worked like a champ. Thanks.:2thumbsup:



What light did you get? I have the 3 inch or so opening in my wheel... I dont know if I can find anything like that...

I like the idea, I just cut mine and have nothing at all.

let me know.

myrddin 04-18-2009 03:45 PM

28 Attachment(s)
I have an opening of like 3 inches... do they have a light to fit that area?

I like the idea... my 3rd brake light is just gone, I had to cut it when I added the ward rock crawler rear bumper.

I may take a trip to the parts store...


I ran down to the auto store and picked up a trailer light (was a round LED light in a rubber boot. I took the light out of the boot and fliped it around (I cut the bottom of the boot out) and put the light in backwards do I could pop the boot in the center of the rim opening and it fit like a glovs... I used a bit of black ATV on the edge of the light when I slid it back in. Its not a factory fit but it looks OK. THe swing out make it hard to hid the wire but I will work on that later. Here is a shot... thanks for the write up...

OH: if anyone is looking the white wire is the hot one, black is ground. (when splicing the light in)

TimeConsumer 09-10-2009 12:08 PM

Kinda old thread but this was one of the first things I did for my jeep.

Heads up, if you dont use a pigtail or some male connectors, fuses will blow. and it gets rather annoying almost getting rearended during a storm or explaining to the local law enforcement why your tail lights dont work more than once.

jeppson 05-11-2010 07:47 AM

So you can just remove the tire if you need it and the 3rd new brake light stays in its position? I am doing the fix myself soon..


bkings5 06-06-2010 03:56 PM

Looks great! Im going to do one of these in a couple days

Disconnect 02-22-2011 05:49 PM

Exactly the post I needed this afternoon :)

Doing it now, but I need to drill. When I crank the spare down, it pinches the wires badly enough that the light flickers or goes out completely. Just gonna drill a 1/4" hole in the back plate for the wires. (Maybe it is different for others, but the moab wheels push flush against the mount.)

Also, a tip - if you are paying attention, there is a lot more slack out the passenger side than the driver's side. More room to work that way if you aren't drilling :)

Gonna hit it with hot glue to hold the wires in and to help hold the light in place. I'm planning to include the spare in the rotation, so it will be on and off periodically. The glue should help stabilize it a bit..

(Update: There is something else going on, they went out even after drilling the passthrough. It isn't shorting, it just hates me.. Gonna start over tonight with a different 2" light.)

Final update: The flicker was nothing to do with the new light, wiring, etc and everything to do with the tires - the lower bumpstop was pushing the door out and breaking the electrical connection to the body.. doh! I'd still recommend drilling though, the rims are designed to push completely flat against that plate and they will eventually cut the wire..

The time now is 12:36 AM.

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