2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing New Headlights
March 27, 2012
Installing new headlights in a new 2012 Jeep Wrangler (or just installing new bulbs in the existing ones) isn't terribly difficult or time consuming, even though the best approach involves taking the front grille clean off.
I'm replacing the reflectors for two reasons: to modify the light pattern to gain a sharper cutoff and to gain the ability to use any number of widely available DOT-approved H4 bulbs.
The results are amazing. After doing this it seems like I've got twice the coverage and much whiter light, but the new pattern's sharp cutoff doesn't blind oncoming traffic. I'm still trying to quantify the improvement, but there's no question in my mind this was a good move.
Time spent: less than 30 minutes.
Tools required: Thin flat-blade screwdriver, T-15 Torx screwdriver
Cost: $118.77, -- Two IPF H4 headlight reflectors, part number 920HJK, $44.99 each from ARB USA through 4 Wheel parts; 1 pair of Philips Xtreme Power H4 bulbs, $28.79 from Amazon
Let's get started.
Eight of these clips hold the grille in place along its top edge. They're easy to locate once you open the hood. Use the thin flat blade screwdriver to fully extend the center plunger of the each clip, then pry on the base and pull the whole thing out in one piece. Don't worry if the plunger pops out; it can be snapped back into place later.
Next you have to tug gently forward along the bottom in order to detach a row of spring clips (yellow) along the bottom and near each turn signal. Do this with the grille still nearly vertical. The trademark Jeep grille bars make good handholds for this.
Once these are free the trun signal wiring (green) will be the last thing keeping the grille from coming off.
Here you have two choices: unplug the connector hidden beneath my thumb or rotate the light assembly out as if you were changing the bulb.
That wasn't so bad.
Use the T-15 Torx screwdriver to remove the four perimeter screws that hold the retaining ring in place. A skinny one like this is useful because the aiming screw you need to access once the grille is back in place is also a T-15, but access to that one is impossible with any sort of socket or hex-drive multi tool that's much fatter than this.
Once the ring is off the headlight practically falls out. Disconnect the harness thusly: slide the red locking tab back, press in on the green tab behind it and the wiggle the harness off the back of the light.
If you're just changing bulbs in the stock reflector you can do that now and then reassemble everything. In our 2012 Wrangler, at least, the process of removing the grille to get at the back of the headlights this way looks far easier to me than trying to access the back of the headlights from under the hood.
But here we're replacing the reflectors altogther, so these headlights are history.
Jeep's headlight connector won't plug onto to an H4 bulb, so first we've got to install these pigtails that came in the box with the new IPF reflectors.
Also included in the box is a little vial of dielectric grease to protect the connector terminals from dirt and moisture. A little goes a long way.
Make sure the gree tab snaps home fully. You'll know this is the case if the red locking tab slides all the way down until it bottoms out in the locked position. I had to use an exacto knife to trim a tiny amount of flash from the new connector's locking tab to make this happen.
Now we're ready to prepare the new headlights.
The metal retaining clip will hold the new bulb in place. For now we'll fold it out of the way so we can insert the bulb.
Handle the bulb by the base or by the connector -- never touch the glass. This makes getting the bulb out of the packaging a bit tricky, so take your time. If you do touch it, a very soft and clean lint free cloth is needed to remove any oils or fingerprints you transferred to the glass.
The bulb can only go in one way. Once it's seated, fold the retainer over the top of it and engage the catch.
Snap the included rubber gasket into place. The "top" label should line up with the flat center terminal on the bulb. It should also make sense when you look at the front of the bulb with the IPF logo right side up..
More dielectric grease goes on the bulb terminals before they get plugged in to the pigtail harness.
Use the "top" label or the IPF logo to get the headlight assembly in the right orientation, then engage three tabs like this one with same-sized notches in the Jeep's headlight bucket.
The retaining ring goes on next. It's helpful to wear the ring like a bracelet during the previous step so you can slip it on here without letting go of the headlight.
Finally, the four Torx screws go back in. They screw into plastic, so don't tighten them much beyond snug.
Done. Now the grille can go back on. Don't forget to reconnect the turn signals as you replace it.
Now we're really done.
Aiming will have to wait until nightfall.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,310 miles