Introduction: Illuminated Automotive Wall Art

A few years ago my son dragged the taillight assembly of a '69 Thunderbird home from a junkyard and hung it on his wall. A few months ago he moved out and got his own place. Being a single guy, he didn't really have much of a decor or anything to hang on his walls. So I pulled down the taillights, cleaned them up and added some LED lights, a better way to hang them and a power supply.

You can watch the video or follow the steps to get an idea on how to create your own automotive wall art for the living room, shop, or man cave.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

This is how I did it and the tools and materials that I used. Your application will be different and may require different tools and materials


- Set of taillights or grille with headlights (my next wall hanging is an old Bronco grille)

- 12V LED lights

- Old 12V power supply

-Aluminum bar for hanging - You could design a different system

- Miscellaneous nuts and bolts

- 22 gauge wire

- Electrical tape or shrink tubing

Step 2: Find Your Tools


- Drill Press

- Soldering Iron and Solder

- 3-D Printer I used a Makerbot Replicator

- Hacksaw

- Digital Calipers

- Tape Measure - My Favorite

- Wire strippers

- Wrenches

- If drilling headlights, use Diamond Hole Saw bits

Step 3: Making Holders for LEDs

When my son pulled the taillights he left the sockets for the lamps in the car. This led to the dilemma of not only not having lamps but also no way of holding new ones. If he kept the original sockets, you could just run 12V power to them to illuminate them. Since I didn't have those, I used LEDs and created my own holders.

I took some measurements of the holes and the LEDs and drew a prototype in Fusion 360.

Since all sockets are different, just use some calipers and measure the holes. They don't need to snap in, just fit the holes.

Step 4: 3D Print LED Holders

Using the MakerBot Replicator, I first printed just one to test.

Since it worked, I then printed the remaining holders.

Step 5: Figure Out How to Hang the Lights

Since it takes a while to 3D print anything, I worked on hanging the taillights.

There were some studs that were originally used to hold the taillights into the vehicle.

I cut a piece of aluminum bar that I found in the corner to span the length of the taillights.

I marked the locations of the studs and then drilled holes to mount the bar.

I used 5/16" nuts to attach the bar to the studs and tightened them down with a 1/2" wrench.

Step 6: Install the LEDs

Once the holders were finished printing, it was time to install the LEDs into them and then install the holders into the taillight assembly.

Thread the LEDs into the hole in the center of the holder and secure them with the nut.

Snug the nut down with a wrench.

Use hot glue to glue the holders into the taillight assembly.

Repeat for all of the holes.

Step 7: Wire the LEDs

I first wired each side of lights together and then the two sides together.

I did this by connecting all of the reds and then all of the blacks together. I twisted the wires together with pliers and then soldered them together. You could also use a solderless crimp connector to secure the wires.

I then wrapped the soldered connection with electrical tape to prevent shorting out.

I ran a long wire from each pair to the center of the assembly where the power supply would be.

Using zip ties, organize the wires and secure them.

Step 8: Add the Power Supply

Most of us have a drawer full of old cables and stuff. I went and found an old 12V power supply from some random dead charger. Make sure the label says 12V DC output.

Cut the end off of the wire. You won't need it.

Most power supplies have the positive wire marked with a dashed line. If not, use a multimeter to determine the positive lead.

I connected the positive lead to the red wires and the negative to the black wires. I soldered the connections and taped them up.

Use zip ties to secure the wires so it won't pull on the connections.

Step 9: Hang It Up and Plug It In

Step 10: Optional: If Drilling Headlights

If you need to drill headlights to install LEDs you'll need a drill press and diamond hole saws

Use the appropriate hole saw and drill very slowly. LOW SPEED & LIGHT PRESSURE

Spray the bit continuously with water from a spray bottle. This works best with a partner.

Indoor Lighting Contest

Participated in the
Indoor Lighting Contest