How To: Station Wagon and El Camino Digi-Tails LED Taillights

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liquidh8

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We all know that the 78-87 El Camino, and 78-83 G-body wagon, have low and difficult to see taillights. Compared to today’s vehicles with high mounted, and bright, LED taillights, these old G-body lights need some help to keep the preoccupied driver behind aware that you are stopping or turning. Spaghetti engineering recently came out with an LED taillight and back-up light conversion, Digi-tails, for these vehicles. Follow along as I install a set on my wagon.

First a few bits of technical information. There are two available conversions available, one covers the 78-81 model years, and the other the 82-87 model years. The difference is the brake lights. The 78-81 have the brake light signal running through the turn signal circuit, while the 82-87 have a dedicated brake light wire and a separate wire for left and right turn. I haven’t verified that this is absolute for every car, so it is best to check you taillight wiring before ordering a set. The schematics and detailed installation instructions are available right from the Digi-tails website.

You may need a no load digital flasher, or you may not. If you are running incandescent bulbs in every other location you may be fine with your factory flashers. If you are like me, I have LEDs in every location, except the headlights, so I ordered two no load digital flashers right from Spaghetti Engineering.

These LED boards have a total or 100 super bright LEDs. The tail lights can be configured for sequential turn and none sequential turn by the flip of the switch on the back of the board. I’ll be using the sequential function.

One other thing to note, if you have a 1978 model, the reverse lights are in a different location than the 79-87 models, so to use these LED taillights, you’ll need to acquire a set of later taillight lenses.

Everything is clearly labeled and neatly packaged. The instructions are clearly written with color photos for reference, and color schematics for the wiring.

The contents of the package are:
· Two LED panels
· 1 orange power wire with T-tap
· 12” pigtail harness for the left panel
· 24” pigtail harness for the right panel
· 2 12’ extension harnesses
· Silicone adhesive
· Crimp terminals
· Instructions

The included wiring instructions are straightforward and easy to follow. My vehicle has a heavily modified electrical system so using my wiring for the article won’t benefit the reader, since nothing is stock. But here is a picture of the supplied wiring diagram.

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I purchased brand new 79-87 taillights from an online vender for this install. The original lenses were cloudy and the reverse lights weren’t clear anymore, but a dingy yellow, so I decided to use new lenses to get the full benefit of the brighter LEDs.

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Since I will be cutting plastic, I it up the local Harbor Freight and picked up the cutting wheels for my Dremel tool.

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Any number of tools can be used, and I will. I have a pneumatic cut-off wheel, a pneumatic saw, hand files, drill, etc., whatever will allow me to get the cleanest cuts.

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First thing I did was mask of the lens face and edge so I did not damage it, these are brand new lenses after all. I used on old beer box and some blue masking tape.

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Using the instructions as a guide, I took my Dremel tool with the cutting wheel and cut off the bulb socket bubbles from the back of the lens. First thing I did was cut around the perimeter of the lens.

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To cut out each "bubble", you need to take your cutting tool and cut in between them, I made a blue line to represent where to cut.

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After cutting along the middle, I was able to take out the largest bubble.

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Continued.....
 
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:popcorn:Verrrry interesting.
 
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Very detailed information, Jim.
I like what I see so far..
 
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Then, to cut out and clean up the middle parts, I used a hacksaw blade without the saw and cut that out. This allowed me to make a nice clean even cut.

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Then I took my right angle die grinder with a 3M Roloc sanding disc to smooth out the perimeter where I just cut. Patience and taking your time is key here. If you don’t have access to air tools, I am sure a Dremel or even a flat file would work.

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After all the cutting and sanding was done, I blew out the backside of the lens real good to make sure there was no debris anywhere in there.

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Here is a comparison of the cut lens and the uncut lens.

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I trial fit the LED panel to make sure that everything I did was flat and smooth, with no bumps to hamper the panel from fitting tightly to the lens. When it all checked out good, I took some isopropyl alcohol and wiped down the surface in preparation for the RTV adhesive sealant.

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The instructions state to place a small bead around the perimeter of the lens, then carefully place the LED panel into the adhesive. Again, a small bead and patience here, you don’t want too much adhesive squeezing out and getting onto the LEDs.

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I made little marks so I can align the black line of the LED panel with the separator on the red part of the lens.

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Continued.....
 
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After applying the adhesive, I carefully placed the LED panel in the adhesive, gently pushing it down so it was tight with the lens. Then I smoothed the little bit of adhesive that squeezed out around the perimeter of the LED panel and lens, making sure to add any as needed to fill in any holes or gaps.

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I used a few cans of brake cleaner as weight to place on the backside of the light to keep pressure on the LED panel to the adhesive cured.

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Here is a view of the front of the lens after the adhesive cured.

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And now for the final product, after the adhesive cured, about 24 hours, I placed the lights in the bumper and tried everything out to make sure it works.

Here are the parking lights.


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Here is the left turn in mid light up (Sequential feature is on).

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Here is the right turn in mid light up (Sequential feature is on).

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Here is the brakes

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Here is the reverse lights

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And the lights off.

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Visit the YouTube link for some video of them in action.


It took me about 3 hours to do this, taking my time. I have a lot of tools and experience with this type off stuff, so your mileage may vary. If you take you time you will be fine.

Thanks for reading.
 
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NICE! I know what I want for Christmas now.
 
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Great write up Jim, very clear and concise with good pics. I liked the step by step format, this should be very helpful to any members looking to do the same.
:-)
Thanks for putting that together for us!
 
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I dig the sequential feature! Oh what fun it would be to rig an over-ride toggle switch to the backup lights to punk a tailgater...
 
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Thanks guys. Any questions, comments, or concerns please post email up so I can fix the write up.
 
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