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Tailights Not Working, FJ-40, Q/A

Question: Repainting the bumper and decided to replace the tailights. We've always had intermittent problems with these lights (sometimes no brake lights), but generally they work. Bought ccot medium quality lights, they look okay, but had to replace the clips.

Now, the passenger side lights just barely come on (extremely dim) and the drivers side is okay (turn signal and back-up lights). The taillights (both sides) quit working while we were testing them (nothing I did that I know of). I switched the lights, same problem, so it's not the light assembly. I have a "new" headlight switch I need to install (the current one is not stock). I cleaned the connections as good as I could.

Anyone have any suggestions for an electrical idiot where to start looking for my problem? Please use small words, if possible none ending with "meter". Thanks

Marty

Answer: Marty, I've got a few gray hairs from dealing with problems like these but if you're patient, you can work them out (knock on wood). First off, dim lights are often the result of poor ground. If I recall, the FJ40 tail light housing is itself the ground for the bulbs which means its connection to the frame cross member must be free of paint, crud, and other non-conductors. There are 4 screws that hold the lense to the housing and after removing these, you will find two screws, one on each side, that mount the housing to the frame. You know all this I just realized since you put in new ones from CCOT. I use stainless screws, nuts, and washers for the mounting with a star washer under the screw head and the nut, and a regular lock washer under the nut on top of the star washer. Use a Dremel tool or sand paper to remove any rust/paint/crud under the nut. Star washers help to give a good ground.

The socket plugs should be cleaned (you did this already I think you said) with electrical parts cleaner and carefully inspect between the socket plug and the lights for any broken wires, and ahead of the socket plugs too for that matter. If you find any, solder them back together and protect with heat shrink tubing. The rear of the tail lights and the socket plugs and wiring are right where they get bombarded with mud, snow, ice, salt, rocks, water, you name it that gets thrown back from the rear wheels. Considering all this, it's amazing that they work at all. You can help the situation by trying to get the sockets and wiring up along and into the frame rails and cross member (they're channels) and secure all the wiring and plugs with wire ties so they aren't flapping in the breeze.

Oh yeah, while you've got the lenses off, clean all the sockets real good, and make sure the spring-loaded bottoms are free to move to give a good contact with the bulbs.

Hope this helps.

Pete

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