As we had detailed in the prior TJ to JK Wrangler rim article (Jeep TJ to JK Wrangler Rims). We recently took the opportunity to upgrade my niece’s TJ Wrangler with new 17” JK Wrangler rims. When purchasing the rims the seller gave us a ton of stuff he no longer needed, including the stock headlights from his JK. Apparently the seller had upgraded to a pair of halo ringed lamps, and as such had no use for the stock OEM units. So, through random luck they found themselves in our hands and we were able to perform the quick upgrade.
The TJ Wrangler originally came with its iconic round sealed beam headlights. When it came time for Jeep to upgrade to the JK they luckily kept the same iconic round design, but replaced them with modern composite units. Thus, the benefit of JK headlights is that they are a modern composite projector headlamps. The net result of this design is a much clearer light source with at a higher intensity. Anytime you can upgrade from a sealed beam headlight to a composite unit it is usually the way to go. Sure, there is a downfall as the composite unit will yellow and fade over time, but if you maintain them they will far surpass the older style in regards to light performance.
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JK Headlights Available for Sale:
Upgrading the TJ to JK style headlights is only marginally more difficult than simply replacing the stock sealed beam units. As normal your first step is to remove the old units. To do this you need to remove the chrome trim ring surrounding the exterior of the lamp. This trim ring goes screwed onto the front grill and is held in place with three Philips screws. Once you remove the screws the chrome trim can be removed.
Next you’ll need to remove the housing ring. This ring is like a shell that holds the sealed beam lamps in their housing. The ring is held in place with four torx screws. When removing the torx screws be careful as it is easy to drop them behind the grill. With the housing ring removed you are now free to pull the old sealed beam unit out and disconnect it from its harness.
With the old units removed we can go ahead and install the new composite units. The new units will slide right into the old housing (make sure you install the correct driver and passenger side units). By my estimation they are fractionally larger than the sealed beam units, but take your time and they will fit. Next you can secure the new lamps in place with the housing ring. Given that the new unit is slightly larger it’s best to lineup and insert all four screws on the ring before you tighten anything. Once all four are in just go tightening them evenly until they are snug. With the housing ring in all that’s left is to reinstall are the chrome trims and you’re set.
Of course we’re still missing the most important part, connecting the lamps. If your new composite lamps didn’t come with bulbs you’ll need to go out and get a pair. We went with these, SYLVANIA H13 SilverStar zXe High Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb, (Contains 2 Bulbs),as the amazon price was much cheaper than the local autopart. To install the bulb you just insert and twist them until they tighten.
Next you’ll need to attach the wiring harness. This turns out to be the main step in making the conversion, as the sealed beam uses a different connector than the composite headlamps. Luckily it turns out to be a simple conversion, as there are no complicated ballasts or modules to install. We picked up a pair of conversion harnesses off amazon (insert link). The harnesses have two sections. The first connects to the bulb, which worked great. The second connects to the original harness, which wasn’t as good as it could have been. The issue at hand is where the new harness meets with the old harness. This is basically a flush connection. As such there is no clip to keep it secure nor is there any weather protection. To remedy this we wrapped the connections in black electrical tape. Not my favorite solution but it’ll do the job.
All we had to do then was wait until the sun went down.
When the sun went down we started the Wrangler up and the new headlights came to life. Not only do the new units look great, they provide so much more light. Quite frankly this is one of the highest bang for the buck upgrades I’ve done in a while. Given how affordable a used set of JK headlamps are on eBay there is no reason why not to do it. (See above for a selection off of eBay)
This upgrade is so simple that everyone who owns a TJ Wrangler should do it. Seeing the road in front of you and being seen by oncoming traffic is one of the most important safety aspects of driving at night. The fact that you can improve that aspect so dramatically with just a simple swap should make its importance paramount.
Let’s rate this upgrade:
- Anyone can do it!
- You’re in too deep! Seek help!
A: “Anyone can do it!” Actually, everyone should do it! You need to see and be seen when driving, and this swap solves both issues.
Useful Parts & Tools to Help you with this DIY Project: