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Old 05-01-2006, 08:54 PM   #1
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HOW TO: Trunk/Hatch lighting improvement

If you're fed up with the woefully inadequate lighting in the trunk/hatch cargo area, this is an easy and fairly cheap mod that shouldn't take someone with wiring experience more than an hour or so to pull off.

I used two white cold cathode tubes connected to the wires that usually supply the single lightbulb located under the plastic cowling in the rear of the car. Cold cathodes have been in use in the PC modding community for a few years, they're much much smaller than neon tubes, run much cooler and require far less power. This works out because all of the CCFL tube kits available use 12VDC. You can get cold cathodes from practically any website or retailer that sells computer modification parts, however, white tubes are pretty rare (I got mine here:

I went with white for practicality (so I can actually find things after dark,) however you can get most other colors you'd want as well (red, green, blue, yellow, multi-color, UV.) These are also great for in-car lighting...I already have UV lights in my footwells and I'm going to be putting another set of the white ones in the footwells wired to the dome light so I can have lighted footwells.

Anyways, back on topic:

The supplies you'll need for this are as follows:

Phillips screwdriver (to remove panels)
Wire strippers/cutters
Cold cathode light kit (the white kit I used can be obtained here:
About 10' of wire (optional, see below), any small gauge will do, I used 22 gauge
Additional CCFL inverter (optional, see below; you can obtain another inverter for about $2 from the website I referenced above)
Crimp connectors, solder, electrical tape, etc. (depending on how you want to connect the wiring)

Total: $20-30, depending on what wiring supplies and tools you may or may not need to buy. I really only had to buy the cold cathode kit which was $7 + $6 S&H, everything else I had laying around the house.

Bear in mind these instructions are for a hatchback, a sedan should be easier since the light is already exposed...not sure how it would work on a wagon as I've never seen the cargo area on one.

1)Start out by removing the fuse for the dome lights, etc. On my '02 it was fuse #35, its a 7.5 amp on the top row, sixth one over from the left-hand side.

2)Moving to the back, clean out your trunk/cargo area. If you have a hatch you'll want to remove the shelf and put the seats down so you can sit on top of the spare tire to work. On a hatch, remove the four screws holding the top panel in where the light is. You only need to get it loose enough to reach behind and unseat the lightbulb. Once the lightbulb is loose push it through the hole with the wires behind it. Now snip the bulb off and discard (or hang onto it if you like...although I'd question why you'd want to keep it )

3)Fish the wire down so its hanging out from the panel.

(optional) If you want to run one tube on either side, you'll need the additional inverter and about 10' of wire. You need to run wire from the light wires across to the other side. I ran two lenghts, one connected to negative and one to positive. The kit I bought comes with two tubes and a dual-tube inverter, however the inverter is high voltage (620 VAC, I believe) but extremely low draw, and as a result it doesn't respond well to wire extensions beyond a foot or so. Of course, you could always use both tubes on one side and arrange one so its running perpendicular to the first one, but for the best lighting spread you should put them on opposite sides.

4)Wire the inverter (and optional wire from above, if you so choose) into the wires from the lightbulb by whatever method you choose. I used crimp connectors since they're quick and provide a solid hold. You'll need to clip the molex connector and switch assembly from the inverter, all you want are the black and red wires that run into the box.

(optional) If you're running the second tube on the other side, wire the second inverter into the wires.

5)The cathode tubes will include velcro pads, if you're doing this on a hatch clean the inside of the plastic panel with denatured alcohol or window cleaner to ensure the velcro pad makes solid contact. Stick the tubes where the lighting will be distributed best, in the case of a hatch, under the plastic panels to either side of the shelf.


Since installing, I've found that the supplied velcro pads don't hold up well to heat, and since installing these I've had to replace the velcro pads with 3M two-sided mounting pads. So far its holding, but I'm not sure how it'll do in the long run. I may end up using some two-part epoxy to secure two of those mounting tabs that you use with zip-tie straps.

6)Replace the 7.5 amp fuse and enjoy your much brighter trunk/hatch area.


The supplies you'll need (left to right), #2 Phillips head screwdriver, wire stripper/crimper, wire cutters, CCFL tube with inverter and power supply wires, splice connectors (and stock trunk light, for comparison.)

These are the two wires we'll be dealing with, after the stock light has been cut off. (NOTE: Be sure to remove the fuse that runs the dome light before cutting the wires) They'll want to retract back behind the panel so you'll need to hang onto them.

Strip the ends of the wire to expose 1/4"-3/8" of bare wire. Twist and push inside splice connector and crimp with a crimping tool or pair of needlenose pliers.

Repeat above steps with the power supply wires for the inverter and connect the orange wire to red/positive and the black/blue wire to black/negative.

Completely attached...all that's left to do is push the inverter back through the hole where the stock light was and attach the CCFL tube to the inside of the panel.

One of the cold cathode tubes, mounted beneath the plastic panel.

Overall hatch area. It really is about that bright in person.

Last edited by focusin; 01-28-2007 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 05-01-2006, 08:58 PM   #2
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wow, killer mod
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Old 05-01-2006, 09:05 PM   #3
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awesome!!!!!!! I'm definitely doing this mod. thanks for the write up.
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Old 05-02-2006, 01:37 AM   #4
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The only thing I hate about the Cold Cathodes is that they take about a minute or so to warm up to their full brightness. Other than that, I love mine. I have them in the hatch just as you do as well as one 4" cathode at each "oh shit" handle in the cabin of the car itself.
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Old 05-02-2006, 07:29 PM   #5
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Given how little light the bulb provides, I'll gladly wait for the cathodes to warm up. I don't know how many times I've had to fumble for a flashlight to find what I'm looking for in the back of the car after these white tubes seem to have less of the warm-up time that colored ones do.
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Old 05-02-2006, 07:48 PM   #6
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thats awesome. gonna have to look into this in the near future. thanks for the write up.
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Old 05-02-2006, 08:03 PM   #7
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looks great Geo. i've been thinking of doing the same with mine as my sub box blocks the little amount of light that i have. . .
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Old 05-02-2006, 08:31 PM   #8
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i've got a set of reds in my footwells and i love them......
although im thinking about hooking up another set of reds INSIDE of my sub box and also making it so that all of my cold cathodes will be either off, on, or flash to the music (the bassline specifically) any thoguhts on how to wire it up???
thanks in advance.
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Old 05-02-2006, 10:46 PM   #9
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There are "sound-activation" modules available for PC modding (checks the internet) You would have to wire your inverters' power supply lines into that and mount it on your sub box...which would mean a long wire run to the front from the trunk.
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Old 05-02-2006, 11:05 PM   #10
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looks great, and awesome write-up something i might do very soon. i would like to see pics of your oh shit handle bars as well
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