Higher Stop & Signal Lights

Comments are often made that the VW Vanagon does not have visible enough tail lamps. One possible cure is to use higher wattage bulbs, however, the taillamp cluster is still mounted very low on the vehicle. With most modern vehicles having higher mounted signal and stop lights, people become accustomed to looking higher than the VW's bumper bar.

These are my attempts to make my van a little more visible.

Click on the image to see it full size.

Signal Lights

Layout for Cutting

The feature crease across the rear hatch looked like a suitable location for raised signal lights.

The layout for the left hand lamp is drawn on the white stripe, which will not get replaced when the van is repainted.

This layout suits Ford pickup sidemarker lamps - the only ones I could find at a local wreckers.

The Holes Cut

With a couple of different sized drill bits, a jigsaw, a round, flat and half-round file, the hole was shaped to suit the sidemarker lamp.

Yes, it is a long hole, but the ridge on the back of the sidemarker lamp will recess into the slot. A rubber seal fits between the lamp and the hatch to provide water proofing.

Left Lights by Day

The bulb may not be the brightest, but with both the original and the higher position lamp flashing, it should catch people's attention.

Right Lights at Night

Night photos of small lights is not my strength. But perhaps it gives an idea of the effect.

Most of the length of the lamp is reflector, which can only help increase visibility of the back of the van.

Extra Tail Lamp

Plastic Weld Removed
The left and right taillamp assemblies have been removed from the lenses and laid side by side. Half of the black plastic spot that holds down the track to the unused socket has been cut on the left unit (red arrow) but not yet on the right unit (orange arrow). Alternately, the track can be bent more up sharply just above the plastic spot.

Track Bent Up
The metal track has been bent up.

Lying to the right of the socket is the bulb contactor removed from a donor taillamp unit - in this case a VW Jetta - they are more prevalent and expendible than Vanagons!

The end of the contactor will be fitted into the hole where the track end was lifted out and worked across under the empty socket. When it is in place, the track end can be pushed back down into the split end of the contactor piece.

Fitted and Wired
The track has been pushed back down and the black plastic blob has been reheated with a soldering iron and spread over the track.

The bulb has been fitted and a jumper wire soldered in place.

The jumper is soldered between connector pin 5 (the one we've just modified) and pin 6 (the small taillamp bulb immediately to the left). Use a very hot soldering iron which will heat the track quickly without melting the plastic around it. Then cool the area quickly as soon as the solder sets.

Alternately, the jumpering could have been done outside the taillamp unit, using wire connectors or splicing into the wiring - but that requires more parts and work.

More Tail Light
The bulb fitted at the moment is a #67,which is not as bright as the original bulb to the right.

However, the extra bulb does provide extra light and an extra measure of safety in the event the original burns out and isn't noticed immediately.

High Level Stop Light

The Ingredients
At the top is a 12V high-intensity 9 red LED unit from a national sign company. These types of devices are used instead of neon tubes in new sign manufacture. They cost about $12, but this one was given to me as it is an outdated model. It is a US-LEDTM model LL01-9-R, 12" long and it is VERY bright.

In the centre is a piece of lightweight plastic 14" X 1/2" thick and 1 1/4" wide with a channel milled out of the centre to fit the LED unit.

At the bottom is a strip of clear polycarbonate to cover the LED unit.

Held to the back window with two suction cups. It doesn't appear very bright in this photo due to sunlight, but I think it will improve visibility in the dark.

The author takes no responsibility for anyone else making these modifications.
Photos provided by owner. Contact the postmaster for permission for use.

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F. Griffiths

Last updated September 7, 2018

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