Last year we covered the introduction of the Rugged Ridge Third Brake Light LED Ring. It’s a great little upgrade for those Wrangler owners who needed to delete their stock third brake light due to the addition of a larger wheel/tire package. It’s cheap, simple, functional, and looks awesome. But as The Engine Block’s resident FJ Cruiser owner, I felt a bit left out. FJs never had the aftermarket support of a Jeep, especially since their tragic demise in 2014. But while this LED Ring is intended to be Wrangler specific, with a little modification it can work with anything featuring a rear-mounted spare. That’s the mindset I had when tackling this project one recent afternoon. Here is the process:
THE PREP WORK
Firstly I took my Mickey wrapped Grid GD-7 off the rear door. Simple enough. At this point, I saw the first obstacle. The OE spare tire holder features a metal lip that prevents the spare from falling right off when the lugs are removed. For the Rugged Ridge LED Ring to sit flush on the carrier, it needed to accommodate this piece of metal.
I placed the Ring on top of the carrier and using a silver Sharpie, traced the outline of the metal piece onto the back of it so I knew where to make my cut. You will be using the pre-cut holes at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, so make sure you line up the bolts from the carrier before to make your marks. Using a Dremel and an angle grinder I cut the half-football shape into the plastic center portion of the LED Ring. Don’t expect to get this right the first time; it took me a good dozen or so test fits to get it to fit correctly. I also drilled a hole at the 6 o’clock position to accommodate the lowest of the three bolts on the carrier. Since the Rugged Ridge LED Ring is made for the 5-lug pattern of the Wrangler, this hole is needed to work with the 6-lug setup of the FJ.
THE TEST FIT
When you get it right, this is what it looks like…it’s like finally getting that straight line in a game of Tetris.
Now that that’s finished, it’s time for the wiring. Firstly, disconnect the battery…safety first! Then open the rear window of your FJ and open the hatch. Pop off the tabs on the interior of the rear door and use a 10mm socket to remove the bolts. Then you can pop off the entire cover. Be sure to remove slowly and carefully; you don’t want to break off any of the plastic fastener tabs.
To the right of the orange box, near the door hinges, you’ll see a group of four wires colored in white, black, green, and yellow. The larger wires you don’t wanna mess with (defroster), it’s the thinner gauge wires–green w/yellow stripe + white w/black stripe–of the third brake light that you’ll be tapping into (there’s a closer look at these HERE). Snip and strip these wires–not too close to the plug so you’ll have room to splice.
Now take the wires from the LED ring, snip off the supplied connector and remove the plastic shield. Strip the ends and route them into the interior of the door however you find most efficiently. I was able to route them through the rubber gasket that houses the rear windshield wiper (see the left of the below picture), but you can route them at the bottom of the door near the bumper if you find that works for you. The supplied wires from Rugged Ridge are a bit too short to reach all the way to the third brake light wires of the FJ, so I added about a foot of wire to each of them.
Now reconnect the third brake light wires you snipped and add in the wires from the LED Ring—red from the Ring to green w/yellow stripe and black from the Ring to the white w/black stripe. Use a wire connector of your choice to tie everything together.
Before buttoning everything back up, step on the brakes of your FJ to see if everything works. Once verified, reinstall the rear door panel and LET THERE BE LIGHT!
REMEMBER: Check all your state/country laws and regulations before installing any auxiliary lighting