Jeep JK Cargo Area Light0
Jeep Wrangler JK unfortunately lacks proper lighting in the rear cargo area. Any Wrangler owner probably experienced a situation when they were loading or unloading their Jeep after dark and could not see anything in the cargo area behind the back seats.
The interior dome light in a Jeep Wrangler JK is very weak and does not provide sufficient light for the cargo area, especially in a 2 door JK. With the rear lift gate open for extended period of time, dome light turns off after maximum of 10 minutes, unless you set the interior lights to “always on” on the multi-function switch/lever by the steering wheel. This timer is logical for courtesy lights, however it is impractical for overlanding or camping, when you might need to open the back of the Jeep multiple times while the engine is off, and leave the liftgate open for more than few minutes.
You can replace the dome light bulbs with LED to improve visibility a little bit, however it does not completely solve the problem at the back of the Jeep. The cargo area is notoriously dark. There is a clear need for additional light source under the liftgate.
There are several products available on the market, which try to solve this problem. One of them is the iKonic Cargo Light, which replaces the stock wiper motor cover and comes ready to install. It operates on a 9V battery which needs to be replaced periodically.
Another popular product is the Brawlee Jeep Wrangler LED Rear Glass Lift Gate Dome Light Bar, which attaches to the inside of the liftgate and can be plugged in to the rear power outlet or hardwired to the dome light.
You can purchase one of these products and it will most likely work great for you, depending on your needs.
You could also simply get a wireless, battery operated puck LED light and attach it to the inside of your Jeep’s hardtop.
Being more of a DIY person, I wanted to create my own custom solution, which would seamlessly integrate with my Jeep and look like it was there all along.
Inspired by the available products, I decided to combine some of the features together and install my own version of the cargo area light. One that would be integrated into the wiper motor cover and hidden as much as possible, provide just the right amount of light for either the rear of the Jeep OR the interior of the cargo area, and be hardwired to the constant power from the Jeep’s battery, thru the rear power outlet wiring, allowing me to switch it on & off at any time while the Jeep is parked and the engine is off.
I enjoy car camping with my Jeep and while spending the night in less developed campgrounds, I use my tailgate fold-down table a lot.
This post will describe a step by step fabrication and installation of a Jeep Wrangler JK cargo area light, however some of the details might apply only to my Jeep’s model year and trim level. If you own a different model year JK, you are welcome to follow all or most of the steps described below, or adjust anything you find necessary. Use this post as an inspiration for your own cargo area light solution.
Disclaimer: Like I always mention I am not a professional mechanic, I just try to do as much work on my Jeep as possible. It helps me learn more about my vehicle and save some money that can be spent on parts and upgrades.
I take no responsibility for any injury or breakage which might occur if you decide to follow these steps. You have to decide if you’re comfortable working on your Jeep. If you’re not, please have a professional complete this project for you.
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Parts and tools needed:
4. 1/4 in. Fully Insulated Wire Disconnects
5. Waterproof Butt Connector, 16-14 Gauge
8. Wago 221 2-Conductor Compact Connectors
9. Wago 221 3-Conductor Compact Connectors
10. Galvanized Steel Flashing Shingle
11. 12ft 2.1mm x 5.5mm DC Power Adapter Extension Cable
13. ATM Low Amp Fuse Assortment
14. 3/8 inch Flexo PET Expandable Braided Sleeving
15. 1/8 inch Flexo PET Expandable Braided Sleeving
17. Tools: tape measure, wire cutter/stripper/crimper, power drill, hole saw set, bar clamps, snips, putty knife, flat-head screwdriver, scissors, utility knife, heat gun, Gorilla tape, double sided tape, baling wire, T-30 Torx driver, 3/8″ ratchet and 10mm socket, multimeter, zip-ties.
Carefully take off the rear wiper motor cover. Make sure you have all the tools needed.
Prepare all necessary parts. Cut the DC power cable 44″ from the connectors. 12ft extension cable will give you a 44″ piece and a 100″ piece. Strip the rubber insulation to expose about 2″ of the negative and positive wires.
Drill a 2″ hole in the bottom of the wiper motor cover, and a 3/4″ hole in the side (close to the corner, to avoid contact with wiper motor assembly). Use a power drill and a hole saw set with pilot bit, to avoid skating and damaging the plastic cover.
Mark and cut 1.75″ x 5″ piece of the steel shingle, using snips or any other steel cutting tool. Mark a fold line 1/2″ from the edge. Round the corners of the metal plate.
Secure the plate to a table with clamps. Place a ruler or a steel flat bar along the fold line, and fold the plate using a putty knife or a screwdriver.
You can cover the metal plate with duct tape to eliminate the sharp edges (wiper hose and cable might be rubbing against it and get damaged eventually).
Place the LED light in the 2″ hole and push the switch into the 3/4″ hole. Measure and cut necessary wires. Arrange the wires the way you prefer.
In my setup, using two lights and a On/Off/On switch, I connected the positive (white) wire from the extension power cable to the middle pin of the switch, positive wire of the downward facing light to “left” pin (position “II” on the switch), and the positive wire of the forward facing LED light strip to “right” pin (position “I” on the switch). Negative wires from both lights connect with the negative wire of the extension power cable.
I used the WAGO two- and three-conductor lever connectors, since they provide much more secure connection than standard twist-on wire nuts, and the wires can be disconnected by simply pulling the lever. Also the WAGO connectors can be easily attached to the plastic wiper motor cover with a double sided tape.
Install the braided sleeves on all wires and secure with heat shrink. Arrange the wires so that they are not interfering with the wiper motor and secure with cable clips.
Instead of the round puck LED light and a light strip, you can purchase a set of these marine LED strip lights and install them without the bezel. They produce a very bright 5000K white light (I personally prefer warmer 3100K white light of the puck light).
You will need to mark and cut proper size hole in the plastic cover, as well as a small hole in the folded part of the metal plate, to run the wires thru and attach the forward facing light flush.
In order to run the power cable hidden inside the hardtop, you’ll need to start by running a piece of about 4′ long baling wire thru, following the route of the stock cable and hose.
Pop out the hardtop disconnect plate, by prying it out from the side with a flat-head screwdriver.
Feed the baling wire thru the opening at the top of the hardtop, following the stock cable and hose.
Fish the wire out of the hole in the side of the hardtop.
Secure the cargo area light power cable to the baling wire, and carefully pull the wire thru the hardtop.
Feed your cable thru the hardtop disconnect plate and secure it back in place.
Connect the inline fuse holder (it’s optional, however it’s always good to add a fuse to any new accessory, I selected a 3 amp fuse – you want it low enough to blow quickly in case of a voltage overload and prevent a possible fire) and a short piece of negative wire to the 100″ long portion of the extension power cable.
Install the braided sleeves on the cable as well as the wires and secure with heat shrink.
The power cable will need to be run from the driver side rear corner, under the carpet in the cargo area, to the rear power outlet on passenger side (you could also run the cable along the sport bar, hidden under the dust cover, but it’s a longer distance).
This part can be done with the hardtop installed, however in order to provide easier access and better lighting, I removed my hardtop prior to proceeding.
Lift up and remove the floor tray cover.
Remove the floor storage tray.
Using a T-30 Torx driver, remove two cargo loop bolts on the driver side.
Remove two cargo loop bolts on the passenger side.
Disconnect the Velcro strip and fold the sport bar cover upwards.
Remove the small plastic bezel around the seat belt.
Separate the two plastic trim pieces around the seat belt retractor. Remove the outside panel.
Loosen the 10mm nut securing top of the inner plastic panel.
Pull on the inner panel to separate if from the body of your Jeep. It is held by few clips on the inside of the cargo area.
On the passenger side, the 10mm nut needs to be removed and the panel lifted over the bolt.
Carefully pull on the panel from the inside of the cargo area, paying attention to the wires behind the subwoofer box.
Disconnect the wire harness. Depending on the model year and trim level of your Jeep JK, you might have only one harness with all the wires for the subwoofer and power outlet (which is the case for my 2012 JK Rubicon), or two separate plugs. You are looking for two wires: pink/blue and black. Some model years or trim levels might not have the wires for the rear power outlet at all, or there might be wires but no power. You will need to check what you have, and test the plug with a multimeter if necessary.
In case you do not have the rear power outlet and/or wires necessary, you can hard-wire your cargo area light to the dome light, however it’s going to dim and turn off together with the courtesy lights, even if you keep the tailgate open.
Wire harness in my 2012 JK Rubicon has all the wires for the subwoofer as well as the power outlet.
Disconnect the power outlet plug in the bottom right corner of the panel.
Cut both wires about two inches from the plug.
Splice in or connect the positive wires together and negative wires together. I used the WAGO three-conductor lever connectors. They provide solid and secure connection and are perfect in this situation. DO NOT use twist-on wire nuts for any automobile electric connections.
Install the subwoofer box back into place, with your power cable routed in the corner.
Lay down the carpet covering the passenger side wheel well and tuck it in underneath the sub box.
Lay down the cable across the floor of the cargo area and secure with Gorilla tape.
Route the cable under the carpet covering the driver side wheel well and thru the cutout for stock wires. Zip tie it to the stock power cable.
Lay down all the carpeting and make sure everything fits as before.
Install and secure both plastic side panels and all other trim pieces around seat belts. Tighten all four cargo loop bolts. Put the floor storage tray back in. Re-install the tray cover, make sure it lays flat. Raise the rear seat and return it to the upright position.
You are pretty much done!
In the Jeep JK’s TIPM (fuse box), note that fuse M7 has 2 possible positions (there are 3 holes). Placing it towards the passenger side will make the rear cargo outlet constantly powered and moving it towards the driver side will make the outlet an ignition key switched accessory.
Open your fuse box and check the position of fuse M7.
Connect the two sections of your extension power cable at the hardtop disconnect plate.
Here is the finished product 🙂
With constant power, you have full control of your cargo area lights. Position “I” turns on the downward facing light, position “II” turns on the forward facing light.
The small 110-lumen puck LED light provides just the right amount of light for the rear of the Jeep, including the outside, without being too intense.
The forward facing light strip (6 LEDs) lights up the cargo area just enough to find what you’re looking for.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below.