Balancing Act

DIY: How to Change the Tail Lights On a 3rd Gen Prius (JDM Valenti LED tail lights)

Here’s a new DIY guide on how to remove and swap out the tail lights on your 3rd generation 2010-2015 Toyota Prius. For this guide, I decided to swap out the OEM “double hockey” 2012 Prius tail lights for a pair of aftermarket JDM Valenti Jewel LED tail lamps in clear lens/ red chrome finish. I’ve applied gun smoke Lamin-X protective film to darken up the red a little and to protect the tail lights. I actually love the maroon finish of the tail lights more than the light smoke lens/ black chrome version of the Valenti LED tail lights that I couldn’t find:

Here’s a comparison of stock vs. the new Valenti LED tail lights:

The whole install took me exactly an hour from start to finish, including taking photos. So, removing photo taking in the installation process would’ve probably saved me 15 minutes, shaving the entire install time down to 45 minutes.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Long Flathead screwdriver
  • Socket & ratchet wrench with 10 mm socket
  • Plastic trim removal tool (optional)

Tail Lamp Removal Instructions

To access your tail lights, you’ll need to remove the rear cargo plastic garnish and partially remove the side liners. The chrome hooks (for tie down straps and cargo net) and cargo net hooks need to be removed as well. The rear bumper needs to be partially removed so the rear bumper support bracket on each tail lamp can be lifted out.

Comparison of Valenti LED aftermarket tail lamp with 2012-2015 OEM Prius tail lamp

Comparison of aftermarket JDM Valenti Jewel LED tail lamp (with gun smoke protective film) to 2012-2015 OEM Prius tail lamp

Step 1

Start by remove the rear cargo floor cover and cargo tray.

Remove the side lids and left side compartment (right side holds the 12v accessory battery). The left side compartment has a plastic twist nut that needs to be removed before the compartment can be lifted out:

Step 2

Remove the two chrome tie-down strap / cargo net hooks with a 10 mm socket:

Step 3

Partially remove the weather stripping along the cargo area and let it hang loosely:

Be careful when working around the exposed sheet metal edge where the weather stripping covered. There’s a lining of grease along the edge and can stain your clothes if it makes contact with it.

Step 4

Lift up the interior plastic cargo trim and set aside:

Step 5

Remove the two cargo net hooks with a Phillips screwdriver, one hook on each side of the cargo area, and set aside:

Step 6

Peel back the interior side cargo lining, starting at the lower section and work your way up and to the side. Let the liner hang loosely, you do not need to remove it completely. The lining is secured onto the vehicle by clips. Repeat for the opposite side:

Step 7

Using a 10 mm socket, remove two nuts securing the tail lamp onto the vehicle’s chassis. You may need to use a deep socket to sufficiently reach each nut. Remove and set aside:

Step 8

Remove the single 10 mm screw with a socket or a Phillips screwdriver that’s attaching the rear bumper to the rear fender and set aside. It is the first screw on the rear bumper along the rear wheel well:

Step 9

Carefully pry and pull the rear bumper outward. There are indentation along the side lip of the rear bumper that snaps onto the rear bumper side support bracket:

Step 10

Using a Phillips screwdriver, remove the two screws holding the bumper onto the rear cargo area, one on each side of the car:

Step 11

Pull at the rear bumper just below the tail lamp you are removing, forward and down, just enough to expose the plastic white rear bumper support bracket at the bottom of each tail lamp:

Step 12

Pinch the tail lamp wire connector at the marked point to release the wires:

Remove the tail lamp by pulling it outward. Make note of this plastic push pin underneath the tail lamp on the Prius’ chassis. You’ll need to align the corresponding notch on the replacement tail lamp with this push pin when you re-install for a flush installation:

You can use this time to wipe down the tail lamp area with a wet cloth to clear away dirt and dust from years of driving.

Step 13

Remove the plastic white rear bumper support bracket at the bottom of each tail lamp using a long Flathead screw driver. Wedge the Flathead screwdriver underneath the clip and turn it at a 45 degree angle to release the clip.

Pop the clip as shown below and pull the bracket out:

Re-install the rear bumper bracket in the same fashion on the new replacement tail lamps:

Step 14

Remove the side black plastic tail lamp shield from the OEM tail lamps by removing the three Phillips screws holding them onto each of the tail lamp.

Transfer them to the replacement tail lamps.

Step 15

Repeat the process for the opposite tail lamp. To wrap up, re-install the tail lamps, rear bumper, side liners, tie-down strap rings and cargo net hooks, rear cargo plastic trim, cargo tray and cargo cover in the reverse order of the removal process.

Test out your new tail lamps to ensure they are working properly:

  • Turn signals
  • Hazard signals
  • Reverse lights
  • Parking lights
  • Brake lights

Enjoy your new tail lights! Any questions or comments, leave a comment below.

Tail Light Removal Instructions – Fast Method

If you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer or are strapped for time, you might want to consider removing the tail lights via the fast track method. This method takes about 12 minutes of your time, per tail light, and skips all the step involving removing the cargo trays and liners. The drawback of this fast track method is if you drop any of the 10 mm nuts securing the tail light onto the Prius’ chassis, you’ll need to remove the cargo cover, tray and side compartment to retrieve the nut(s), so be careful!

Step 1

Remove the two cargo net hooks with a Phillips screwdriver, one hook on each side of the cargo area, and set aside:

Step 2

Remove the rear tail light access panel, then carefully peal the rear cargo liner just enough to expose the two 10 mm nuts securing the tail light onto the chassis:

Unscrew the nuts from the tail light and set aside.

Step 3

Peel back the rear weather stripping just enough to access the tail light:

Step 4

Remove the single Philips screw (on each side of the rear bumper) with a Philips screwdriver:

Step 5

Remove the bolt securing the rear bumper onto the rear fender and set aside:

Step 6

Pull the rear bumper out of its side retention bracket, then pull down. Push the tail light outward and lift it up and out of the rear bumper:

Step 7

Disconnect the tail light.

Experimenting With the Stock Prius Tail Lamps

With an extra set of tail lamps on hand, I’ll most likely play around with them when I have a chance. I’ll probably slice them open using a Dremel tool with a rotary cutting disc attachment and black out the chrome in the same fashion I did with the head lights. This will mimic the looks of the Prius G Sport tail lights. To finish up the G look, I’ll look into converting driver side tail lamp reverse light into a rear fog lamp and have it wired up to an extra fog lamp push button switch. I had G Sport tail lights with integrated rear fog lights from 2015 (along with a lot of other Prius parts just lying around), but sold them due to wedding planning and had no intention to install them in the short term.

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