Introduction: Innovative Led Truck Bed Lights

Picture of Innovative Led Truck Bed Lights


who has ever had a pickup truck with a toolbox, camper-top, or a bed cover has
experience the pain staking task of trying to retrieve something out of the
back after dark. While most trucks now a day have a “Cargo Light” to light up
the bed many toolboxes, camper tops, and bed covers block this light preventing
this area from being lit. Unless you have spent a lot of money on one of these
with a built in light; this project is for you! With this innovation you will
now be able to see these dark areas with the flip of a switch eliminating the
fumbling around and hurting yourself on a nail, screw, hatchet, or any of the
numerous other items you may have. All for under $20.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
  • ·12 Volt Led Strip ( not to exceed 16. ft / 5 m)
  • ·A 12 Volt switch (you can use your existing
    cargo lamp switch if desired)
  • ·Soldering iron and solder (or other preferred
    method of connecting wires)
  • ·Wire (I will be using 20 gauge)
  • ·12 Volt SPST relay (if wiring two switches)
  • ·2sided adhesive tape if not on led strip
  • ·Led strip connectors (optional)
  • ·“Butt Connectors” and inline wire connectors

Not Shown:

  • Cleaning supplies (soap, water, rag)
  • Drill for mounting switch
  • guide wire (I used piece of electric fencing, you can use 20-16 Ga. solid wire)

Step 2: Step 1: Measure and Cut Led Strip Accordingly

Picture of Step 1: Measure and Cut Led Strip Accordingly

Make measurements and cut led strips accordingly

remember to connect wires to the small positive and negative sections on the strip after you cut.


You may need to cut the rubber coating on the strip to access the connections

Step 3: Step 2: Mounting the Strips

Picture of Step 2: Mounting the Strips

Adhere led strips to desired location making sure that the location is flat and clean beforehand

Note: Try out different spots before committing to placing the strips to one spot.

if you have trouble with the tape, just use superglue ontop of the tape

Step 4: Step 3: Wire Strips Togeather

Picture of Step 3: Wire Strips Togeather

securely wire the led strips together in parallel (red to red and Black to black)

Step 5: Step 4: Run the Wires

Picture of Step 4: Run the Wires

Run wire from the location of the switch to the location of
the led strips allowing ample extra wire for making connections and joining
wires together. Cab to bed. I went out the steering column and ran along the frame following wires that go to the tail lights then used a guide wire to get the wire up to the front left corner of the bed. For going from one side to the other I went through the back of the bed.

only the positive wire needs to run from the switch to the led’s because in a
car the frame is the ground location. This means that you can wire the black
wire to the frame of your Truck.

Step 6: Step 5: Installing the Switch

Picture of Step 5: Installing the Switch

Install your switch (if applicable). This may require using
a screw driver to remove panels and housings. Do this by wedging a flat head
screw driver anywhere you can and pry the panel out. Most should pop right off.


Step 7: Step 6: Wire It All Togeather

Picture of Step 6: Wire It All Togeather

Appropriately wire the strips to the switch and relay as
follows. The blue circuit represents a circuit where the lights will turn on
when the cargo lamp is turned on. The red circuit represents a circuit where
the lights turn on individually. If you prefer one or the other, follow that
circuit leaving out the relay. If you prefer both, wire as shown.

Step 8: Step 7: Turn It On

Picture of Step 7: Turn It On

Flip the switch, turn it on and never fumble around in the dark again.

Attached are some before and after photos from this project. Due to weather I was un able to put lights in the toolbox before I took these photos but I will do that soon and upload pictures if possible. I plan to run the wires through one of the mounting screw holes in the toolbox (picture previously shown)

Special Notes:

  • ·You can mount your lights wherever you want to,
    they can be on the side of the bed or on the underside of the side of the bed;
    they could even be in the dead middle if you want. For me on the side provided
    the most light without the lights being in the way.
  • ·A SPDT relay can be used in the absence of a
    SPST relay, as long as it is it is a 12V DC Relay
  • ·Running wires to different locations is easier if
    you run a larger piece of solid wire through the path you want to take (going
    from start to end). Tape your electrical wire to your guide wire and pull your
    guide wire back in turn pulling your electrical wires back.
  • ·Look around your steering column for a location
    to run your wire into your vehicle.
  • ·Removing your toolbox/ bedcover/ campertop may
    be helpful if possible.
  • ·Please excuse my messy truck. It’s a work truck.

Step 9: Before and Afters

Picture of Before and Afters

No Flash was used for any Photos.

If you have enjoyed this, please take time to go vote for it in the Glove box Gadget contest.

Cite/Disclaimer: Pictures of other vehicles were found on google and are included solely to help you visualize what your vehicle could look like after you complete this project. I would take the photos myself but I do not have a camper shell or bed cover.


JohnSnow87 (author)2015-02-28

I want to put these same leds on the underneath side of my tonneau cover. Do you have any idea how the adhesive tape would hold up on the fiberglass? I assume it would be the same as the camper shell in your pictures.

D-Cantrell (author)JohnSnow872015-02-28

The adhesive itself is decent, I used superglue on top of my adhesive as well as a few locations where the adhesive pulled off the strip. (the nicer strip you get the better adhesive it will come with, Cree ones are the nicest ive found)

My concern would be the texture of the fiberglass since the underside likely is not finished, I have used sand paper to smooth out a channel to set the leds in then clean the dust off before I use Guerilla super glue to bond to the fiberglass. I recommend this, but google how to properly use the guerilla glue. I used it wrong for years before I learned.

Good luck and let me know how it turns out

PS. Put connections close to the cab if possible

steven4872 (author)2014-11-13

I don't see any mention on the needed current rating of the switch or relay. Light strips like the one you installed typically at 1.4 watts per foot. That means for the full spool will draw about 2 amps. If the current rating of the switch is too low the switch may fail after a few uses.

Also the Amazon light LED light strips you purchased are really water resistant not water proof. The rubber on top or the plastic between the adhesive and LED is water proof but the edge is not protected. In very wet conditions the copper conductors at the edge may start corroding. I have seen that happen when the adhesive failed and the strip landed in water. Quality water proof LED light strips are placed in a square rubber tube that protects all sides. Also in many outdoor installations mechanical fasteners are preferred over adhesive. Where the wires connected to the strip should be covered in silicon to waterproof that connection.

D-Cantrell (author)steven48722014-11-13

My apologies, the rating are not given because they are not relevant, the relay is a 40 amp. the switch, unknown because I just had it laying around. the leds draw a grand total of 1.5 amps.
and tank you for informing me about the lights, I assumed that since it said weather proof, it meant proof. luckily unless the rain is blowing more than sideways they should be fine, aside from a car wash perhaps. if they do mess up I don't mind replacing them for 5 bucks. and your right the adhesive is less than great but the super glue I used should take care of it just fine, at least, the ones on my boat are still going strong.

curtis.stanley (author)2014-10-25

THANK YOU. I was literally thinking about installing some kind of lights in my toolboxes so I could have some lights in them. I forgot about these flexible led strips. I was going to end up buying led lights for a boat (about $10 each and I would need about 4 of them).

Your welcome. I am excited that this project will help you. Please take a moment to vote for me in the glove box gadget contest. if you need any help with your project just let me know!

Budweiser143 (author)2014-10-20

With the previous electrical company I worked for, (and my old mud truck) I had a take home truck instead of the van I have now. In both trucks I wired in a photo cell and a "door switch" in the tool box so that if it was dark out, the tool box light would automatically come on when the lid was open, and shut off when the lid was closed.
Also, as The Lightning Stalker said, you need to waterproof the electrical connections, as heat shrink will not cut it.

A good product, "liquid tape" can be found here:

riff raff (author)Budweiser1432014-10-23

There *is* heat-shrink tubing that seals against moisture; do a web search for "adhesive heat shrink."

D-Cantrell (author)Budweiser1432014-10-20

I thought about doing this when I first thought of this project this past summer but I wanted a switch in the vehicle as well. If I had done this when I had better weather(instead of in-between rain storms) and more time. I would have a switch in the cab, a switch in the toolbox , and the photo cell. who knows on my next truck I may do just that.

Thank you for the liquid tape suggestion. my dad swears by this stuff! he may have some laying around i can use

aguy12525 (author)2014-10-20

Great idea! I am definitely going to be doing this on my 2005 F250. But I think what I am going to do is wire the switch to somewhere in the bed, like hidden under a rail or in some place that it can't be broken. Again, great idea!

D-Cantrell (author)aguy125252014-10-20

That would be neat! I considered putting the switch in the toolbox, but for some reason I did not.
I am glad that you enjoied it!

spark master (author)2014-10-20

nice project, I only add if you can find red light led strips you can keep your night vision, but many times one must do white to see best.

Consider My Solution (author)2014-10-19

If this were my truck, I would enclose all of those wires in "split loom" insulation and absolutely place a plastic grommet in any through holes where the wires are routed. Minimum. You are asking for blown fuses and/or melted wiring without that wear protection.

Also, you schematic would be more clear if you showed the relay internal contacts and coil. Just showing the "black box" configuration is confusing.

Nice results, though. (Now go clean out your truck! <GRIN>)

Is the split loom look like mini plastic rain gutter drain pipe? if so i ran my wires through some of this that was already under my truck running to the tail lights. and i am going to go back and put silicone caulk around the running points. i wanted to use the rubber gasket type things, but none of my holes were circular. they were just there already.

beer20 (author)2014-10-19

How many LEDs could I expect to run in ten minute intervals? It would be nice to run them down the underside of my pipe rack as most of my bed is filled with materials past your mounting point. The time change coming up usually means working in the dark and a well lit bed would help immensely. (voted!)

D-Cantrell (author)beer202014-10-19

I am not quite sure what you mean by ten minute intervals, if you mean just running the lights for ten minutes then all of them. they draw little current. as far as length. for some reason the packaging said not to use more than 16.4ft on a vehicle. I dunno if this means one strip or total of all strips.
if you mean how many can you do in ten min. once the wiring is done then you are in the home stretch. The strips are just peal and press and take no time at all. I did the strips in between class one day.
also id the underside of your bed rail is not an option perhaps on the flat underside of the side of the bed. unless your material comes up higher than that. I was going to put mine there until I tested how much light would transmit and noticed that how i had them worked better for me.

i hope this has been helpful and if you have any other questions feel free to ask

thanks for your vote,


HaveFunWithIt (author)2014-10-19

This is really nice. Very useful. Like the idea of the lights inside the camper shell as I actually camp in mine. I think I personally would wire a switch in the bed or shell itself. Somehow making it waterproof and in an area where it would not be broken. I suppose you could actually wire a "3 way" switch so it could be turned on and off at both inside the cab or outside at the bed/shell. Very cool.

D-Cantrell (author)HaveFunWithIt2014-10-19

I came quite close to doing this, but established that if i put a switch in my toolbox it would likely be flipped by something sliding around.

If i were camping in a campershell i would for sure put a switch in it just so i didn't have to get out if it were cold!

HaveFunWithIt (author)2014-10-19

Hmm... I wonder if you could just wire them right into the existing bed light and have them all turn on with the same switch. Or find a way to tap into the existing wiring inside the back of the cab somewhere and also use the existing switch still. You got me thinking....

D-Cantrell (author)HaveFunWithIt2014-10-19

follow the blue schematic and this will accomplish what you want. mine will turn on with the cargo light or just by themselves using the rocker switch.
in case there is any confusion, if the bed light is on the the led's automatically turn on, but if i just want the led's i can flip the second switch.

The Lightning Stalker (author)2014-10-19

I can tell you right now that this isn't going to last. All connections must be waterproofed. I recommend applying some RTV silicone carefully and thoroughly over all exposed copper, solder, and using it to seal the ends of the LED strips. The heat shrink won't cut it. Remove it and apply the silicone, then re-shrink once it has cured if desired. Even then, moisture may still find a way. Just reapply in problem areas and it should last a good long time.

I appreciate the advice, this has been my only concern. the wires in the toolbox i figured would be cut eventually by the lid so i will be redoing the foam lining sometime soon. as for the rest of it i am hoping that the toolbox and location of the strips protect it from excess moisture. the strips should be fine with moisture. We put them on my friends boat last year and they are still working fine but we didn't use connectors we just soldered the wires to the strips.

UncleEd (author)2014-10-19

Great idea. May try it on my truck.

One place for possible frustration--not danger--is the statement, "because in a
car the frame is the ground location. This means that you can wire the black
wire to the frame of your truck."

This is true and usually works well on a new truck. The bed is bolted to the rear of the frame and the engine ground is bolted to front area of the frame. The electrical continuity depends on those bolted connections, plus the spots where the bare metal of the bed touches the bare metal of the frame. However, after the truck has been in use a few years, bouncing around, sitting in the weather, etc., the points where the bed is electrically "connected" to the frame will corrode and rust just a little bit. Then you'll notice the turn signals start getting undependable or strange. After a while , the people following you will notice the taillights flicker when you hit a bump. If you have the LED lighting on and it dims and flickers when you touch the brakes or use a turn signal, you have this problem.

If/when this happens, the cure is to take the whole truck apart and clean all the rusty parts and....or you could just run a wire from a convenient spot or two on the bed all the way forward to a point with a good ground, usually near the front of the truck.

I actually don't know how this works out on a unibody truck, where it's mostly welded together. It may be that the electrical continuity stays good for the life of the truck.

D-Cantrell (author)UncleEd2014-10-19

This is similar to what I ended up doing, I had more wire than I anticipated so I ran it to the front and grounded it with the grounding post that was installed for the spot light the previous owner had (I cant describe how much I wish it was still there). There was a cable running from the gas lid to the frame (for static electricity I suspect) and I considered grounding it out there... but was afraid of the gas fumes and such.

SSimon (author)2014-10-19

Great idea! I'm disabled, and use an electric mobility scooter for getting around if I have to walk any distance to speak of. I built a loading mechanism for my scooter to put it into the bed of my pickup after getting my first scooter destroyed by a guy who rear ended my vehicle at a stop light, with the scooter on a hitch mounted lift platform. Now the replacement scooter rides between the wheel wells in the truck bed, and releasing the clamps that prevent it from shifting is a pain in the dark, as well as operating the winch. This will help a lot.

stefan.hermannsson.58 (author)2014-10-19

where did you find the led strip? The cheapest I find locally is $10/ft.

I purchased my lights on amazon for like 8 bucks I saw them for 5 later that day

jdunk67 (author)2014-10-15

Lmc truck sells these kits

HaveFunWithIt (author)jdunk672014-10-19

YOu have a link to the page these lights are on?

D-Cantrell (author)jdunk672014-10-16

I have seen many kits in my research, but they were all pods that stick on the side and could be easily broken off. Most of these kits turn on outside the cab as well. these kits were also quite expensive.

rickdf (author)2014-10-19

Very nice. I use battery powered premade LED strips that were made for mounting under cabinets. Certainly not as bright but using double sided tape was a very quick, cheap and easy solution that works quite well.

VraiChevalier (author)2014-10-18

Great idea! Never enough light in the bed of the work trucks in these Northern climes. Thanks for sharing.

Victor Does (author)2014-10-15

Very useful! :)

D-Cantrell (author)Victor Does2014-10-16

Thank you, Please go vote in the Glove Box Challenge. id greatly appreciate it!

gtucker7 (author)2014-10-15

there is no need for the relay. the relay is for a different power source.

D-Cantrell (author)gtucker72014-10-16

The relay is put in so that the lights can be turned on individually without the cargo lamp. If the toggle switch were merely wired in parallel with the cargo lamp switch then both the led's and cargo lamp would turn if either switch was flipped.

crispernakisan (author)gtucker72014-10-15

Yeah, I think I would wire it up a little bit differently, myself. The whole point of a relay in a situation like this so the typically high current, required to power things like lights, starters, AC, etc., doesn't need to go through the switches in the dashboard. Maybe I'm just not looking at the schematic correctly. Regardless, it's still an awesome idea!

crispernakisan (author)2014-10-15

Nice, nice, nice!

PavelT1 (author)2014-10-15

Very handy to have if your working at night.

seamster (author)2014-10-15

Great solution to a common problem! Thanks for sharing this.

About This Instructable




More by D-Cantrell:3D Printer Thermal EnclosureInnovative Led Truck Bed Lights
Add instructable to: