Get Yourself Some Porch Lights!
How to Wire up a Pair of “Porch Lights” on Your Truck
OK, first things first….what are porch lights? Truckers call the lights that are on the back of the cab of the truck that they use to see their hookups and such porch lights. They usually use white lights to light up the back, though sometimes they use a weird color like red or purple for less visibility to other people. Now, I wanted to install a pair of porch lights on my truck because my driveway is fairly narrow and does not have much room for error. On one side of the driveway, I have my daily driver, a Saturn ION. On the other side is a ditch, which I obviously don’t want to fall in to. Backing up the beast of a Suburban into the driveway at night takes some skill, since I only have maybe a foot of play room on each side of me. Normally at night, I can’t see a thing behind me because it’s so dark, and I have to have my roommate help flag me in. Now, I don’t need him because I can clearly see what’s behind me. They are also very handy if I’m pulling a trailer, and want to hitch up at night, or do other things on the side of the road at night. So, without further ado, let’s get into the chevy parts list…
PS: THE LIGHTS I USED IN THIS PROJECT ARE OFF-ROAD LIGHTS ONLY. PLEASE USE THEM AS SUCH.
DISCLAIMER: This is the standard disclaimer. I can't be held liable for any damages done to your vehicle etc. Don't kill yourself while you're working...You know, the standard.
Materials (all prices in US Dollars):
- 2 driving lights (I found these tractor lights at AutoZone for $15 a piece that produced 55 watts, so I bought 2)
- About 40 feet of wire (Since each light pulls 5 amps, I went a little beefy with 12/2 stranded in a jacket. It’s technically speaker wire, and I bought it at Home Depot for about 90 cents a foot)
- Lighted LED switch rated at 20 amps (bought one at RadioShack for about $4)
- Inline blade fuse holder rated for 30 amps (again, RadioShack at about $2.50)
- Misc heatshrink, crimps, electrical tape, tie-wraps, etc (probably about $10 worth of this stuff…)
Total cost: $86.50 (I could have cut the cost down if I had the wire already, or had only gone with a single conductor, but I wasn’t thinking when I bought the wire)
Mount the lights. I have 3 holes in the bottom of my rear bumper on each side of the hitch that were the perfect size for the bolt on the light. I used the middle spot since it looked like it would give the ample coverage without spilling over too much. You now want to find a good ground spot. I didn’t have any self-tapping screws or the such handy to make a good ground at the back of the truck, so I ran my ground all the way up to the battery. Wire the lights in parallel. I ran my crossover wire from the drivers side light through the receiver hitch, so it’s not as visible. I ran my wire up to the battery on the passenger side of the truck tie-wrapped to the frame rail and body to chassis mounting bolts/bushings. Make sure that you steer clear of anything that moves, get hot, etc. such as exhaust, suspension parts that are not stationary, steering rack ,etc. Now here comes the interesting part.
The lights can be wired up a number of different ways, but I will outline the method I took. I wired up a switch in the cab of the truck to a section of 12/2 and ran it to the battery. The way I wired everything up in the engine compartment goes like this: from the positive terminal of the battery, I put a fuse holder in line with a 10 amp fuse. The power then goes through the switch, and then back into the engine compartment by the battery. Then, the return of the switch runs to the lights. The ground runs back up the side of the truck to the negative terminal of the battery. The LED switch I have needs a ground. Since I couldn’t find a handy one I could connect to with what I had, I ran a chunk of 22/2 from the ground of the switch to a bolt in the engine compartment.
There’s a few things I could have done better. I could have just used single conductor for everything except the switch line. If I had some self-tapping screws, I could have grounded the lights to something like the trailer hitch receiver in the back and had an easier ground point. I could have actually mounted the switch, instead of propping it between the ashtray cover and the dash, but I’m going to build a wood console where I plan to mount the switch, so this could just be considered a temporary setup. I’m very pleased with the light it produces, it’s a good pattern and plenty of it. I’m considering putting another pair on the front, as driving lights. However, since they’re off-road use only, I can only use them on the country back-roads where I would need them. At factory ride height, when I go up steep hills where my rear bumper is only a few inches from the ground, the lights hang down enough that the mounting angle gets knocked out of alignment. No big deal, since it’s made to be adjustable anyway, I just angle them back down. The angle I chose was straight up and down. Since the lights have a trapezoidal light pattern that spreads well, there was no need for me to angle them down to see the ground close to the tail of the truck, it lights it up anyway. I’m very proud of my lights, as I got the “trucker seal of approval”. My uncle drives an 18-wheeler for a living and he likes them very much. :) If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.