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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Toyota Highlander Door Panel Lights

I was driving the other night down a dark road and I tried to adjust the mirrors of my Toyota Highlander. I couldn't see the mirror adjust switch, I know more or less where it was but it was so dark I couldn't find the switch. A similar experience happened to me after I got in my car in a parking lot and wanted to lock the doors, I couldn't see the door lock rocker switch and although I knew where it was and I pressed it I wasn't sure if I had locked or unlocked the doors. The Toyota Highlander switches aren't lighted! Today I fixed that by adding a couple of small lights to illuminate the dash area to the left of the Toyota steering column and the drivers side door panel. This little project was a pretty straight forward thing to do and it turned out pretty nice. I only wish that Toyota had added lights to these switches on the base model so I didn't have to do this.
The first thing that I did was lift up the switch panel in the drivers door using a guitar pick to pry up the panel. A guitar pick (or a the corner of a credit card) works nicely to lift up car trim because it won't mark of mess up the plastic panels. The switch panel lifts up and unsnaps from the rear.
2009 Toyota Highlander Drivers Switch Panel
Once I had the switch panel lifted up I removed it and released the harness from a plastic retainer inside the door. Releasing the harness didn't disconnect it from the switch panel, it just freed up some slack in the wired so I could pull the panel out. The switch panel has a bunch of wires of various gauges going into it and I probed around with my meter to find a couple that had power when the engine was running.

The two wires that I choose were the white with a black stripe and the solid black wire. The solid black one turned out to be the positive. After stripping back some of the insulation of both wires I soldered in my own wires and a 4.7K ohm half watt resistor. I added the resistor because the lights that I choose for this project were just too bright for what I want. I used a half watt resistor because of the poser that is has to dissipate.

Power in a circuit can be a tricky thing. Ohm's Law says that power is equal to the current squared times the resistance. In this case the LED's are drawing about 0.01 amps. I'm using a 4700 ohm resistor to dim the lights so 4700 * (0.01^2) = 0.47 watts. That's almost a half a Watt!
Highlander Door Panel Wiring Modification
Above is a picture of the wiring harness of the switch panel dangling down out of the picture. The two thin black wires are the LED wires that I added and in the upper right you can see the lights themselves. I drilled a small hole in the door panel to route the LED wires through. The LED's are Winplus lights that I bought in a kit that had 4 lights and a cigarette lighter adapter to power them. I got rid of the cigarette adapter and two of the lights (I'll use them later) and soldered the wires into the modified harness.
Toyota Highlander Night Lights
Above is a picture of more or less what it looks like at night. The lights have adhesive on them so I can stick them where I want them. I'm going to wait to do that until I have driven around in the dark enough to figure out right where I want them. I'm a little worried about adhesive in the summer when the car gets hot so I might  attach them a bit better once I'm sure I know where I want them to go.
If you have any questions about what I did please let me know in an email or leave a comment (or both!). Check out some of the other projects that I have build HERE. Thanks for checking out my blog!


  1. Interesting project. I like it.

  2. Sam P.

    Thanks - I'm glad that you like it! Do you have a blog? I couldn't find it in blogger?


    1. Actually, I do have a blog. It's on wordpress, though. Here's a link to it:


  3. Otto, the bladeless fan brought me in and I've been enjoying reading a whole bunch of your posts.

    I have found the same problem with dark car interiors. My thoughts on your arrangement: would you get enough "leakage light" if you just placed the LED under the switch panel? That way you would have an outline of each switch, with minimal chance of glare or having another piece of equipment mounted somewhere it can be knocked off of. I'm tempted to try this myself.

    Thanks again for sharing your projects.

    (Another) Sam

    1. Sam,

      Thanks for the suggestion, that is a great idea! I'm glad that you enjoy my blog, I might be moving to another blogging platform at some point because I am very disappointed with what Google has done to Blogger - essentially ruined it :-(
      I have several more car modifications that i have done recently but because of the above reason I haven't written about them. If/when I get a new blog going I'll post the link on this blog and I hope that you continue to enjoy what I'm writing about.
      Feel free to email in the future if you have questions or suggestions.
      Thanks again,