Get Yourself Some Porch Lights!

Discussion in 'GM Electrical Tech' started by Crawdaddy, Sep 19, 2007.

  1. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    How to Wire up a Pair of “Porch Lights” on Your Truck

    Purpose:
    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)

    Procedure:
    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.

    Final Words:
    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.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  2. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    As soon as I can get photobucket to start cooperating with me, I will be uploading about a dozen pics related to the job...
  3. Cableguy

    Cableguy New Member

    Nice job :great:! I have seen those on trucks from time to time.
    Thanks for the nice write up. You'd make a fine Cable assistant with me :rofl:
  4. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    Installed lights during the day
    [​IMG]

    View of the lights on at night…bright eh?
    [​IMG]

    View of the Wiring in the engine compartment
    [​IMG]

    Another view of the wiring in the engine compartment
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  5. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    The wiring going from the front to the back tie-wrapped to the frame rail
    [​IMG]

    Switch “mounting”
    [​IMG]

    Closeup of the switch wiring
    [​IMG]

    The next 2 pics are taken from the back corner of the truck

    View from the street
    [​IMG]
  6. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    The light cast on the shed in the truck’s parking spot
    [​IMG]
  7. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    Now what are you implying by that? ;) Am I good, or and I bad?

    With the 2 pics of the driveway....without the lights, you can't see sh*t back there. It's pitch black. I probably should aim them down a bit, as it's not getting the ground right at the truck as well as I was expecting...not a big deal though
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  8. TrailLeadr

    TrailLeadr New Member

    Very nice!

    Yeah, I'd be wondering what exactly Jamie is implying too. :p
  9. Cableguy

    Cableguy New Member

    No thats great! Git 'R' Done! :great:
  10. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    offtopic: just remember that Jaime...I may be running up there if the imminent invasion of "undocumented visitors" occurs.... :shocked:

    now....back on topic
  11. GM_Guy

    GM_Guy New Member

    nice install, your burb is the same color combo as mine :)
  12. Duranged Mike

    Duranged Mike New Member

    I like it, looks good. I would definitely shorten up the ground wire when you can. Rule of thumb, no ground should be longer than 6 to 8 inches.

    Yes! Very nice!:sign0173:
  13. Trask215

    Trask215 New Member

    Another tip, if you want brighter light, buy the tractor lights and remove the bulbs. Go down to your local napa or guessing mostly any parts store and pick up a set of aircraft landing lights. Yes, the same bulbs planes use for landing. They fit in the tractor light housing and work good. I used them for offroad lights in place of KC Highlites or any other high priced brand.
    1 person likes this.
  14. Chevytrucknut

    Chevytrucknut New Member

    Great info, I never knew they were called porch lights.
  15. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    I have since converted the lights to go through a relay so I don't have to run all that power through the switch in the cab. I've also added 2 pairs of lights on the front of the truck as driving lights...
  16. tlperry68

    tlperry68 New Member

    Man that looks great!
  17. bassalive

    bassalive New Member

    That's the "cat's ass" I'm doin that to the Tahoe he he he he he he
  18. Bigmacnchez

    Bigmacnchez New Member

    Did know if anyone knew but most 86 and up but not all gm have a white wire in the rear that is used in the trailer harness that is a reverse light wire. I will get a picture.
  19. Bigmacnchez

    Bigmacnchez New Member

    It's a ground trigger
  20. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Moderator Staff Member

    Definitely, please get a picture and details of that. I've actually had a new and improved circuit for powering my porch lights in my head that involves a SPDT switch and a trigger off my reverse lights to automatically turn the lights on when I go into reverse. With my circuit I'll also be able to turn them on on-demand or force them to stay off.

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