It was the Matchbox car that my son dropped that really did it for me. It sounds silly, but I could not see it, at least not easily. Then it was the time when my daughter, who loves to read, left the dome light on overnight, which drained the battery. That happened like three more times. I therefore decided to order some LED interior bulbs. The idea is that the interior would be better illuminated and in case the light is left on for a longer period of time, the battery would not drain as fast with the LED’s lower power consumption.
I did minimal research. Someone on a 4Runner forums said “oh these are great, get them on eBay here” and that is what I did. Okay, I read the eBay ad, the buyer feedback, and then bought them. Apparently that was enough to separate me from my $44.99.
Few days later a package with some bulbs arrived from a place called Fyre Flys. No real instructions, just some bulbs and a meaningless piece of paper. I figured out that the three large flat bulbs were for the center dome and two cargo lamps. Two tiny ones were for map lights. Two were for vanity lights over the sun visor mirror. Four were for door lights which my 4Runner does not have. The last two were for license plate lights.
It’s easy to replace interior bulbs, right? Any idiot can do it, right? Well, maybe, but not this idiot. I wanted to be super careful not to damage either the lenses or the housings.
Toyota has an interesting way of installing dome lights. In most cases the whole housing has to come out, to which the lens is attached to. The housing is just clipped onto either the roof liner on the paneling. From my experience that is different than in most cars, where the housing is bolted to the chassis or paneling, and the lens just pops off. But whatever, I figured it out.
What gave me the most trouble inside were the tiny map lights. I just couldn’t get the small bulbs out as they were recessed deep in the socket. I googled and found the below video from PrecisionLED, which was very helpful. It was so helpful in fact that I decided to order my next set of LED bulbs from them, should I need another set. Their bulbs are neatly labeled and they send trim removal tools, too.
More annoyingly, Fyre Flys lists the set I bought on their website for $22.99, whereas I paid $45 through their eBay store. Ugh. I emailed them asking about the price discrepancy.
Back in the car, I followed the video’s suggestion of putting tape around the bulbs and yanking them out that way. And it worked the second time around.
In the end I replaced two map light bulbs, one dome, two cargo bulbs, and two vanity bulbs. The map and dome lights make the biggest difference in terms of brightness. The cargo area was always relatively bright but it is the location of the lights, on the hatch, that could be improved upon to illuminate the front section of the trunk.
I did not replace the license plate lights. As soon as I put the screw driver on, the screws just disintegrated. I blame the liberal use of salt on New England roads and cheap Toyota hardware. I also did not replace the flood light bulbs that are in each side mirror. It required taking the mirror apart and in colder weather, around 40F, I did not want to risk snapping any tabs or cracking the lenses. I don’t find those lights very helpful, anyway.
Overall, I am happy with what I got there. The interior is now brighter at night. The color of the light is bluer, colder, but I am fine with that. I can see so much better all around. My daughter has not left the dome light on yet, so I can’t unscientifically test the drain on the battery. It also may be a fact that she didn’t leave the light on because anyone walking away from the car at night would see the brighter interior light more easily through the tinted windows. Whatever the case, job done!
I just want to add that it is rather tricky to take a decent picture of any lights or a relatively dark (even with the LED bulbs) interior.