Rewiring a Willys CJ2A Headlight Pigtail

The headlight wiring on my CJ2A was very ratty, wires were fraying and cracking, the conductor inside was visible in places, and it just wasn't a good situation in general. Fortunately, it is easy to completely replace the old wiring with new. This page documents how I did that, using 14 gauge stranded wire.

Note: When I say "headlight pigtail", I am referring to the connector that the bulb plugs into and the wires which are attached to it.

Click on any pic to bring up the full sized version.
001.jpg - 159 KB Wed 9/13/06

This picture shows where the ground, low beam and high beam wires should connect on the wiring harness plug. If you look at the back side of the plug, you will probably find that it is labeled with ground, drive (low beams) and pass (high beams). I just figured I'd label this pic in case yours doesn't have the markings or is unreadable.
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002.jpg - 94 KB Wed 9/13/06

Rewiring my pigtails was really easy because the plug itself is in great shape, its just the wires that are frayed and falling apart. Just stick a small screwdriver in to the back of the plug to the side of each terminal you want to remove, then pry in on the terminal as you pull on the wire, or lever it out of the hole with the screwdriver.
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003.jpg - 82 KB Wed 9/13/06

As you can (sort of) see in this fuzzy picture, the wire is simply soldered to the terminal, so all you need to do is heat it up with a torch or soldering iron to remove the old wires and solder on brand new ones. The terminal then just snaps right back into the plug.
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004.jpg - 95 KB Wed 9/13/06

All you need is a slight amount of heat from a propane torch to melt the solder...
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005.jpg - 106 KB Wed 9/13/06

...and the connector comes right off.
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006.jpg - 78 KB Wed 9/13/06

This is how I held the wire and connector in place for re-soldering.
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007.jpg - 85 KB Wed 9/13/06

After it was soldered on, I put a short length of heat shrink tubing on the wire just to protect the base of the wire where some of the insulation was melted from the heat of the torch.
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008.jpg - 75 KB Wed 9/13/06

Next, position it properly in the plug...
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009.jpg - 79 KB Wed 9/13/06

...and snap it into place.
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010.jpg - 84 KB Wed 9/13/06

After installing a spade terminal on the other end of each wire, I wrapped a little colored electrical tape around the wire for identification purposes. (More about that below...)
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011.jpg - 79 KB Wed 9/13/06

Then I put some heat shrink over the terminal, leaving some of the electrical tape exposed.
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012.jpg - 102 KB Wed 9/13/06

This is a shot of the ends of the pigtail.

As far as the colors go, I used green on the ground wire (since that is a fairly common color for ground), yellow on the high beam wire (since yellow reminds me of bright lights), and red on the low beams (since red reminds me of positive voltage, and the low beam wire is the one which one would expect to be energized the most). The meaning of the colors isn't actually that important, the only reason I paid attention to them is to make it easy for me to remember them while I am re-wiring the Jeep. As soon as I get the vehicle side of the wiring harness done, I will be putting matching colors on the corresponding wires, so in the future all I will need to do is match up the colors.
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013.jpg - 109 KB Wed 9/13/06

I (very carefully!) put the connector in a vice and braided the wires.
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014.jpg - 106 KB Wed 9/13/06

Then I wrapped electrical tape around them.
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015.jpg - 125 KB Wed 9/13/06

Finally, I put a piece of 1/4" split loom convoluted tubing on it.

1/4" is technically a little bit too small, but the next size up, (3/8"), was too big to fit through the headlight grommet.
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016.jpg - 58 KB Wed 9/13/06

A view of the completed pigtail.

As you can see, I staggered the spade terminals; this makes it easier to fish through the grommet in the headlight housing.
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017.jpg - 104 KB Wed 9/13/06

Here is the pigtail, installed in the headlight housing. If you re-wire your headlights in this way, you don't actually have to make pigtails as I did, you can use this same method to just run the wires from your wiring harness directly to the headlight plugs. I created pigtails instead of wiring them directly to make removing the headlight housings or grill easier in the future; all I will need to do is unplug the wires; I won't have to bother with having to fish several feet of wiring harness through the grill, etc.

Another deviation from stock which you no doubt noticed is that my headlights are using a floating ground. (I ran the ground wire out with the high and low beam wires instead of connecting it to chassis ground via the screw in the back of the headlight housing.) The reason I did this was so that I could connect the ground wire to a known, good ground without having to rely on a potentially troublesome chassis ground. I am doing this with pretty much the entire Jeep since I am re-wiring everything anyway. Obviously, you don't need to do this; you can simply install a ring style terminal on the ground wire and screw it to the inside of the headlight housing, just like stock.
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This page was last updated Thu Sep 14 01:59:12 EDT 2006