I have written here and here about installed LED headlights on my 44″ snowblower and rear-facing LED lights on my John Deere X500. After seeing the success of these lights and realizing how difficult it was to see my John Deere from the back at night, I decided to add LED warning lights to my tractor. After experiencing a nor’easter that dumped 38″ of snow in less than 24 hours and having to run my snowblower throughout the night, I realized it was dangerous for me to be by the road at night without any warning lights. I also wanted to have the ability to operate on the roadway in the event there was an emergency on our road and a county snow plow had not been by yet – or one of my neighbors needed help getting their driveway cleared.
After spending 18 years in public safety and installing my fair share of emergency lights and sirens, I knew that low-profile LED lights were available that would draw little power and provide plenty of warning for drivers. After looking around on Amazon, I found a great set of low profile amber/white LED lights that I mounted on the rear of my tractor, on top of the rear reflectors. I selected this location because there were already holes in the frame of the tractor and it seemed to be a perfect location to add these warning lights.
This post details how I added two LED surface mounted lights to the rear of my John Deere X500.
This post will probably help with a variety of John Deere tractors, but in case details are needed, here is what I was working with:
Tractor – 2014 John Deere X500
Note – I do not receive any type of benefit if you buy these items and this is my unbiased review of the equipment I purchased.
- Lights. I chose a pair of surface mounted LED lights that were amber/white and could by synchronized. These are typically the kind of lights found in headlights or taillights of emergency vehicles and are very bright. The specific model I purchased from Amazon were $79.99: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072JM5VN9
- Switch. A switch for the dash will be needed and I chose a switch with a waterproof cap: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078KBC5VH
- Quick splice wire terminals: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CP987BN
- Heat Shrink Tubing. I like my wiring jobs to be clean and last a long time, so I always use heat shrink for my connections. I bought this kit and used a heat gun (although most any heat source will work): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089D82FLG
You may have some of the above already and won’t need to purchase them. I had a few things as well and didn’t need to get them, but I will list them below just in case you don’t have them and will need to get them.
- 10mm wrench
- Butt connectors
- Wire strippers (I use these from Home Depot and they are great: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Southwire-Wire-Stripper-10-AWG-20-AWG-64807940/314660228)
- Crimping pliers (I use these from Home Depot and they are also great: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Channellock-9-1-2-in-Crimping-Pliers-909/202304949)
- Drill with 5/32″ and 1/2″ drill bits
Unpackage all of the equipment and get it ready. Each LED light comes with hardware for mounting and several feet of wiring. The good news is that the lights I purchased from Amazon will reach from the rear of the tractor to the front and have some wiring left over, so it makes for an easy wiring job.
I chose to install these lights on top of the rear reflectors of my John Deere X500. I thought about removing the reflectors altogether and just installing the lights in their place, but that would leave a few holes visible and did not seem as clean and installing these on the surface of the reflectors themselves.
In order to do this, both reflectors must be removed and a hole saw used to create the hole for the light to go through the reflectors. To remove the reflectors, use a pair of pliers and pinch the three plastic flanges that can be seen on the backside of the reflectors and then pull the reflectors straight back to pop them off. A picture below shows the tractor with the reflectors removed and what the back of the reflectors look like.
With the reflectors off of the tractor, the next step is to cut the hole in the reflector for the lights. To do this, I traced the light perimeter on the back of the reflector with a sharpie and then used a pair of wire cutters to clip off the plastic molding in order to have a smooth surface (pictures below).
Once I had traced the lights on both reflectors and clipped the plastic flanges, I drilled a 5/32″ pilot hole through the center of the circle I had traced.
With the pilot holes completed on both reflectors, I then used a 1-1/8″ hole saw to make the holes for the LED lights to be mounted.
Now that the hole is cut for the LED light, it can be inserted through the reflector. The LED lights come with a rubber gasket that goes on top of the LED light and then a plastic flange that goes on top of the gasket and screws to the surface that the light is being installed on. Below is a picture of the LED light coming through the reflector with the rubber gasket on top.
After placing the plastic flange on top of the gasket, screw in the two screws to secure the light to the reflector. Below is an image of the mounted LED from the back side of the reflector. Also note that the screws are a bit too long and they will hit the body of the tractor, preventing the reflector from snapping back in place. I used a pair of wire cutters to cut the ends of the screws off and then the reflector snapped right on.
Once both lights are mounted to the reflectors, push the wiring from the LED lights through the large center hole in the tractor frame and reattach the reflectors. At this point, both reflectors should be snapped back into the tractor and the wiring should be ready to route from the rear of the tractor to the front.
If you read my blog post on mounting white LED work lights to the back of the John Deere, the next few steps will be very similar. Each of these LED lights have a square flasher as part of the wiring, but even with this box, I could still easily route the wiring from the rear of the tractor to the front. I chose to route the wiring along the right side of the tractor and zip tied these wires to themselves and other wires to ensure they stay out of the way of tires, pedals, and other moving parts. I routed these wires in the same manner as described in the post about the rear work lights, so check that post out if you want some pictures and further information.
The LED lights have several small wires associated with them. Once the wiring harnesses from the rear of the tractor make it to the hood area, they will need to be trimmed. There is a wiring diagram included with the LED lights and I have also included here how I wired the lights:
Red: I combined both red wires into a single side of a butt connector. Then on the other end of the butt connector, I created a red wire that went to a switch in my dash (more on that later).
Black: I combined both black wires just like described above. On the other side of the butt connector, I used a splice connector to a ground wire coming from the battery and connected the black wires to the ground.
Yellow: This is the sync wire, allowing the lights to flash in a pattern between the two lights instead of independently. These two wires just need to be connected together with a butt connector to enable the sync.
White: This is the pattern changing wire. Because I sync’d my lights, I combined both white wires on one side of a butt connector, then added some wire to the other side. With this added wire, I ran it up by the battery and then put a butt connector on the end of it, leaving one end of the butt connector open. The white wire allows the pattern of the lights to be changed by touching the white wire to a ground source. By having this open butt connector near the battery, I can easy use alligator clips or similar to connect from the ground post on the battery to the butt connector and change the patterns if I ever want to.
Blue: Allows the lights to flash in alternating patters. Like the yellow wire, these just need to be connected together with a butt connector.
Here is what it looked like when I had them completed.
Notice in the above picture, I used heat shrink tubing on the black and red wires. I also used yellow butt connectors for these, which was a good size for the two small LED wires to go in on one side and the larger wire I added to connect to the other side. The heat shrink tubing not only looks cleaner, but it also helps prevent the wires from ever pulling out.
At this point, the red and black wires can be touched to the positive and negative posts of the John Deere battery just to make sure the lights turn on. If the lights start flashing, there are just a few steps left to wrap this project up.
The white wire I discussed early that allows for the light patterns to change can be shown below. I simply used a zip tie to secure the wire with the butt connector near the battery. A red arrow can be seen pointing to the butt connector.
The next step is to install the switch. Like in the previous post about installing rear work lights, I selected a spot on my dash that I could easily fit a switch. It happens to be directly next to the switch I installed for the rear work lights. I started by drilling a small pilot hole in the dash at the center location of where I wanted the switch, then used a 1/2″ drill bit to create the hole for my switch. I used the same waterproof switch as before. Pictures of the switch and hole in my dash are shown below.
Since we have already connected the black wires to the ground wire using a splice connector, we just need to create a power cable from the battery to the new switch and then connect the red wires from the LED lights to the other post on the switch. I used a splice connector for the new red wire leading to the switch just like I used for the ground wire. The below picture shows the splice connector on a red wire leading from the battery and also the wire I created that is coming from the switch on the dash. After the picture was taken, I connected these two.
The finished switch is shown below after being installed in the dash.
Now connect the red wire from the LED lights to one post of the switch and the red wire created from the battery to the other post. At this point, if the switch is turned on, the LED lights should flash. By using alligator clips or a piece of wiring, the patterns can be changed by touching one end to the negative battery post and the other to the open butt connector on the white wire from the LED lights. Each time the butt connector is touched, the LEDs should change patterns. Once the perfect pattern is found, simply stop touching the butt connector with the wire and the pattern will be saved.
Below is a picture under the dash of my John Deere, showing the two switches I have installed (one for this project and one for the rear work LED lights) and how I organized the wires with zip ties.
Finally, I made sure all of the wiring was out of the way and zip tied to keep things clean. A video is posted below of the lights in action.