FAQ: Mustard’s Tail Lights

For today’s post we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the modifications on Mustard, but not a new one; rather, one that has actually been on the car for a little while and that people keep asking me about – the LED tail lights. I thought that given the number of questions that are sent my way, a proper FAQ/review was in order to shed some more light (ha) on them and serve as a resource for fellow Mk3 owners who are researching their options.

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These were originally installed for Driven Calgary last year but very shortly afterwards Ketchup was hit so our focus immediately switched to that. As such while the lights were shown on the site and discussed briefly they never got the full attention that they perhaps should have. So today, that is what will happen!

I’ll have the most common questions listed and answered below in this post, but I suppose before I get to that I should touch on why exactly I decided to switch my tail lights out for these in the first place!

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My desire to change out the tail lights initially came from me not being completely satisfied with the factory pieces – not from a styling standpoint, because I think they looked rather good – but from a technology point of view. The fact that they used bulbs and not LEDs was specifically where my disappointment came from. Especially as more and more cars received LED tail lights from the factory I found myself wishing more and more that the Focus had too.

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Originally I actually waited for the facelifted sedans to be revealed in the hope that the updated lights would fit the bill, but while the style was good they still weren’t LED, and more crucially they’d require changing the trunk lid and bumper as well. I had been hoping that like with other facelifts the lights would keep the same shape and size to avoid that, but it was not the case. So, I went back to looking at the aftermarket options and ultimately as Driven 2016 began approaching I decided I’d finally pick up a set for myself. It would give me one more new change for the show and given that the body of the car had already seen many updates, new lighting would be a nice finishing touch.

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There are numerous styles of lights but these ones specifically won for me as I feel they look the most OEM out of all of the options and keep with the design language of the car a bit. I originally saw them fitted to Kyle Deyoung’s car a few years back and had kept them in mind since then.

WHERE CAN YOU GET THEM?

Naturally, one of the first questions is usually “where can they be bought?”. The answer, which may be a bit surprising, is eBay.

eBay is where Mk3 sedan owners usually have to go just because it’s basically our only option for aftermarket tail lights. There are usually various sets for sale at any given time and prices will vary; when comparing keep in mind to also include shipping costs in the totals as sometimes the more expensive lights end up being less expensive overall when shipping is included. Regardless, expect to spend a few hundred dollars. You could of course always look for used sets but seeing as not many people seem to have these, that can be hard. I’ve only ever seen a couple of used sets for sale between forums and Facebook.

HOW’S THEIR FITMENT?

Now, fitment. Especially as they are from eBay this is something that people wonder about. I’ll say it up front that fitment is not on par with the OEM lights but don’t think that means they’re bad either. They’re actually rather good, but in my case a tiny bit of tweaking was required to tidy the gaps and even them out. I’d say it’s certainly close enough but it doesn’t quite match that of the factory lights. For eBay products I’m impressed and unless you know exactly where to look you won’t notice anything off about them anyway.

ARE THEY PLUG AND PLAY?

This may potentially be a deal-breaker for some, but these lights are not fully plug and play. The outer housings are, but the connectors for the reverse lights don’t match those of North American Mk3s so you have to cut them off and individually connect the wires. You could simply twist and tape or solder I suppose but I opted to not hardwire the lights in. I instead used spade connectors, allowing the inner housings to be easily removable – a wise idea for obvious reasons.

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Additionally, while it’s not a plug and play comment it’s worth noting that there’s additional wiring to run as the inner lights have extra functionality over the OEM pieces. From the factory, each inner housing only contains the reverse light and the rest is a reflector. Since the LED strips continue over to the inner housings there is an extra loom to run to provide power to them. It’s easy to run alongside the factory loom across the trunk lid and down the passenger side arm, but just ensure that it or any of the other wiring doesn’t interfere with the arm or spring when the trunk lid opens and closes.

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To hide it all one could even pick up the OEM trunk lid liner found on SEL and Titanium sedans; yes, that really is one of the things that S and SEs didn’t get to keep costs down. I picked one up as one of my first ‘mods’ to the car in fact.

As a final note on the wiring and functionality, there are also built-in rear fog lights which I personally haven’t activated, but I know Kyle Deyoung has set his up as extra brake lights. After seeing them in action, I’m thinking that I might just do the same when I get a chance.

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In closing, am I happy with them? Yes, very. These lights are easily one of my favourite modifications on the car, especially as not many sedans around here seem to have aftermarket tail lights (or MK3s in general for that matter) so they really stand out. I like the twin bar look, I like that the strips run all the way across, I like that the turn signals are still amber, and I like that they just update the look of the car.

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That said, if I could change anything about these (beyond being fully plug and play of course) it’d be the tint on them. When I first swapped these in it took a little while to get used to them being darker and while I have since, I still think they’d be better if they were a bit lighter, or maybe a lighter version could be offered alongside as another option.

Regardless I have been very happy with them and would recommend them to any other Mk3 owners looking to change out their tail lights!

-Bill

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