Willys CJ2A Running Light to Turn Signal Conversion

(Also Running Light Floating Ground Conversion)

New York State requires turn signals on a vehicle, and even if it didn't, I consider them to be a rather important safety feature. True, you can use hand signals, but I don't think I'd trust the average driver to know what they mean (even though its supposed to be required to get a license) and plus hand signals don't do a lot of good at night.

My CJ2A was equipped with "running" or "parking" lights. They weren't actually hooked up, but the lights were there. :-) I decided to convert these clear running lights into amber turn signals, and also take the opportunity to convert the bullet housings to a floating ground.

I pulled the running lights completely apart, drilled out the rivet that holds the bulb fixture inside the housing, then cleaned up everything with a wire wheel, sandblaster, etc. I didn't want to use the original wires as they were in pretty bad shape. I had some broken tractor hazard lights laying around from which I scavenged the positive wire leads. (Ha! Never throwing anything out finally pays off!) :-) With some work on the belt sander, the tractor leads work great. I also soldered a negative lead to the bulb housing prior to painting the entire thing, and ran that wire out along with the positive lead, essentially creating a floating ground for these turn signals. This way I don't have to depend on a chassis ground through the hold down bolt. One catch is that the bulbs for these are a small, interior/courtesy bulb (type 89) and there isn't enough room inside the bullet style housings for a normal turn signal bulb (type 1156). Although it looks like the smaller bulb is still bright enough, they don't appear to be made in amber. So, I bought some "stained glass" spray paint in orange and painted the bulbs. It worked great. My other idea was to cut out a circle of that lens repair plastic and use a couple of dabs of silicone to attach it inside the housing. I may still do that, just to avoid having to paint a bulb every time its time to replace one. I have some of that repair plastic around here somewhere that I bought for another project but I can't find it right now. I'm too cheap to go out and buy some more, so I'll just paint the bulbs until I stumble across the stuff. I bought a couple of cheap can style flashers at Autozone, and drew up a design for the turn signals which also incorporates a turn signal indicator light on the dash. One catch was that my Jeep basically has trailer lights for the rear stop lights (i.e. no separate turn signal filament or bulb). So I needed a way to allow the turn signal to still flash even when the brake was on. I designed a method to do this using a couple of relays, but then when browsing through the automotive section of the local hardware store, I noticed a trailer wiring converter designed to allow a vehicle with independent turn signals (5 wire) to run trailer lights (4 wire). It was only $7 which was less than the cost of the two relays it would take to do the same thing, and a lot less hassle too, so I picked it up. I've bench tested all this stuff and it looks like its going to work. Once all is said and done, I'll try to remember to post a diagram or something up here showing how to add turn signals to a vehicle "on the cheap" in case anyone else is interested in doing it.

You can follow along with the pics below to see the various steps involved to accomplish this modification.

Click on any pic to bring up the full sized version. Note: it may take a little while for this page to load, depending on your browser. Its set up as a table, and some browsers wait until the whole table has been loaded before displaying it. Just give it some time. :-)
001.jpg - 57 KB Thu 9/7/06

This is the bulb socket part of the light. After sandblasting it to clean off the corrosion and rust, I soldered a wire to the body of it and painted it white to protect it from rust and ensure that it reflects as much light as possible. After painting it, I used a file to scrape away the paint in the grooves where the nubs on the bulb get their ground. (You can use dielectric grease here to prevent corrosion and rust in that location.) The orange wire was scavenged from a different light housing. I had to use a belt sander to grind down the circumferance of the black piece at the end so that it would fit into the CJ2A socket. That is the stock CJ2A spring on the orange wire. Of course, the orange wire is the positive lead.
001 - 57 KB
002.jpg - 67 KB Thu 9/7/06

Both wires were rounted down through the bolt.
002 - 67 KB
003.jpg - 80 KB Thu 9/7/06

The socket is placed inside of the bullet housing, then the base was installed and the retaining nut was screwed on. Pictured at left is a fairly decent way to tighten up that nut - a pair of needle nose pliers inserted into the holes and twisted acts sort've like a spanner wrench. I elected not to replace the rivet which connects the socket to the housing, as I figure the bolt will accomplish this purpose.
003 - 80 KB
004.jpg - 67 KB Thu 9/7/06

The glass lenses are inserted into the rubber frames.
004 - 67 KB
005.jpg - 67 KB Thu 9/7/06

Then the lenses and frames are inserted into the housing cover.
005 - 67 KB
006.jpg - 73 KB Thu 9/7/06

Just a pic showing the painted type 89 bulb in place, just before the housing cover goes on.
006 - 73 KB
007.jpg - 75 KB Thu 9/7/06

The finished product.
007 - 75 KB
008.jpg - 95 KB Thu 9/7/06

Light off...
008 - 95 KB
009.jpg - 84 KB Thu 9/7/06

Light on!

The camera doesn't really pick up the color very well, but the light is a nice "turn signal quality" orange.
009 - 84 KB
010.jpg - 103 KB Thu 9/7/06

Light off...
010 - 103 KB
011.jpg - 71 KB Thu 9/7/06

Light on!

Once again, the color is off in the photo. The brightness is very good; it should be more than sufficient. If you look into the housing when the light is on, you will get that little burned-in artifact floating around in front of your eyes for a little bit.
011 - 71 KB
012.jpg - 99 KB Thu 9/7/06

The light is inserted into the hole in the bracket behind the grill. A star washer then bolt goes over the wires and onto the bolt to hold it in place. (There is supposed to be a little pin on the bottom of the housing that goes into a corresponding hole in the bracket, but sometimes it is broken off. If it is, you just need to be more careful about aiming the light to the front while tightening the bolt to prevent the whole assembly from turning.)

Note: It is easier to install these lights when the grill is out of the vehicle (especially the driver's side), but I found that I could create enough clearance by unbolting the fender and prying it slightly out of the way.
012 - 99 KB
013.jpg - 92 KB Thu 9/7/06

The running light is back where it belongs, and nobody knows that it is actually a turn signal except you! :-) The only giveaway is that if you look very, very close at the frosted glass lenses, you might be able to tell that there is an amber bulb installed back there instead of a clear one.

Even if you are looking to keep your running lights as running lights, the floating ground information might be helpful to you. The ground wire can now be run to a convenient good ground. If you are one of those concours restoration type folks, if you enclose the wires in some of that stock type fabric loom, it would be really easy to hide the ground wire; nobody would ever know the difference, except for you, as you enjoy lights that come on when you want 'em, without having to bother with scraping away paint, making sure there is a good metal to metal connection between the grill and fenders/frame, etc.

That's all for now... Stay tuned for the actual details as far as how to wire them up to use them as turn signals.
013 - 92 KB

This page was last updated Fri Sep 8 01:48:57 EDT 2006