Mastodon’s “Not-A-Build-Thread” Build Thread

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INTRODUCTION
To this thread’s future readers: I’m starting this thread while my truck is in the shop for repairs. We’ll get to that story later, but it turns out that “Go Fast and Break Stuff” is just a euphemism, and not something they mean literally. Who knew?

B3995352-6624-4A5D-88D8-1E1579DF04D5.jpeg

But this also means that I’m limited to my failing memory and the handful of existing pictures I have. Yes, some of you may have seen these pictures in some of the other threads on here, and some of the things I say may not make sense, or be flat out wrong. One day, months from now when I have my truck back, I’ll likely add some new pictures to some of the existing posts here, and will have fixed whatever inaccuracies you lot call me out on. All that to say, quoted posts from other users may not match what is actually in this thread.

Anyways, let’s begin…

Part 1 - A New Truck
I’ll easily admit I’m fortunate. COVID didn’t really affect me. I work in Cyber, and my job switched to around 90% telework. If anything I realized I didn’t need to be making payments on my ‘16 Mustang GT, not when I still had my motorcycle and my wife’s car. And I’d only put about 8,000 miles on it in the 2 years I’d owned it, so obviously I wasn’t using it like it was meant to be. So, I sold it.
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But, I’m a gearhead at heart, and almost as soon as I cashed Carmax’s check, I started looking for something else.

Mini Coopers, 80’s era F-series trucks, and nearly everything in between. Somehow, I kept justifying higher and higher prices, and once I saw 4-year old Tacomas at nearly the same price as new ones, well, why buy a used truck when you could get the full warranty of a new one for the same price?

Anyways, like I said, I’m a car guy. I’ve had classic Mustangs, a handful of Bimmer M-series vehicles, and various trucks and Jeeps. And over the years, I’ve started moving away from speed and power to simple bullheaded stubbornness. Er, flexibility. 500hp doesn’t do well in snow or ice, and low riders don’t do well with storm debris and speed bumps. And 2-seat roadsters don’t have room to carry anything. But trucks do, and the next thing I know, I’m at my local dealer trying to find a 2020 Ranger Lariat that their website showed in stock.

Now, this was March 2021, and dealer lots were starting to look bare. When they only had 300 of their typical 1100 vehicles in stock, why they parked this truck on the side of their building, unseen from the road and the typical buyer, I’ll never know. But it had sat for something like 76 days, long enough for them to have forgotten about it. So I bought it.

2020 Ranger Lariat FX4
Sport Appearance Package
Technology Package
91 miles
~$38,500 + taxes/fees/etc
Even managed to have them toss in a spray-in bedliner.

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The Ranger was instantly comfortable, and I couldn’t wait to load up the family and take them on a demo ride. And now that I had an off-road capable vehicle, it was time to try out some of the local trails.

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While I wish I could say it was a wonderful ride, it wasn’t. The motor was smooth, and I could tell the truck had no issue moving on the dirt and rock, but the suspension… I felt embarrassed, after touting the “do-it-all”ness of the truck to my wife, especially after telling her that I wouldn’t have to do anything to it, since the Lariat package had everything. But here I was, wondering if I had made a mistake. Clearly something would have to change…
Sponsored

 
Last edited:
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Years back, I used to be a radio operator. Not ham, but professionally. On a Jeep, it’s easy to add all sorts of radios. Even a 102” flexible whip CB antenna was easy to add, and even looked the part, which is important when your buddy worked at a former movie set, and you had a matching tribute vehicle.
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While the Ranger isn’t a Jeep, owning a Jeep (especially one like I did) puts you in touch with Jeep owners all over. And just because I was now driving a truck didn’t mean I couldn’t still go bomb around with those guys. And since they all have CB and GMRS radios, and since I have a background with radios, well…I wanted some in the Ranger. But I had one constraint: The truck would have to look as stock as possible, inside and out. I certainly didn’t want the inside of my truck to look like a cop car.

I left my CB in the Jeep when I traded it for the Mustang, but I still had a Kenwood v71a Ham radio laying around which can cover the GMRS frequencies. The great thing about this radio is that the control head (RCU) can be operated remotely from the radio itself, which opens up lots of mounting opportunities.

Builtright has a nice shelf that fits into the dash tray, with lots of holes for mounting…whatever you want. The RCU has a standard 1/4-20 thread on the bottom, which let me bolt it to the tray. It’s not going anywhere.
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The radio itself is placed under the driver’s seat, with power ran through the firewall directly to the battery. The cable for the RCU is ran into the dash, through a small hole drilled into the dash tray, and out from underneath the center console. Unfortunately that means having to take apart a lot of the interior to fish the cabling through



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That makes it a good time to do any other mods in this area. Even though I have navigation on my truck, I’ve always been a fan of the Garmin’s Montana series GPS. I like being able to load up points on a computer ahead of time, without needing to use the built-in system, or my phone.

I already had a powered mount for my motorcycle so there was no sense in buying a second mount just yet, especially with the Las Vegas summer approaching.
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Using a couple of Ram Mounts, it too bolts easily to the Builtright panel.
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The Kenwood v71a is a multi-band radio, capable of VHF and UHF frequencies. Reading around online, apparently one of the best antennas you can buy for it is the Larsen 270B. It’s just shy of 3 feet, and if you mount it to the fender, it looks like the regular radio antenna found on any other truck. I’m sure a ditch light bracket would work, but I didn’t feel like spending $100 on a piece of bent metal, and for some reason actual fender mount for the Ranger. I could only find it on eBay. It works, but it pushes up on the hood slightly, and it doesn’t take the angle of the hood into it’s design, so the antenna leans forward some. Still, it’s pretty discreet looking.

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Much like the power cable for the radio itself, I ran the antenna’s RG58 cable through the firewall. It doesn’t seem to be well advertised, but there’s a passthrough grommet behind the glovebox (likely for the RHD version of the Ranger.)And from there, under the center console and to the radio under the driver’s seat. Maybe one day I’ll splurge for the third taillight mount, but this is good enough for now.

51D6B18B-21B4-4F67-A83F-48692C1F7B7F.jpeg
 
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People complain about the dated, cheap, and plain interior of these trucks, but I think it’s nicer than some of the competition. And for me, there’s little bits that remind me of earlier vehicles I’ve owned. The Lariat cluster looks identical to the Fusion my wife and I bought as a wedding gift to one another. And the “RANGER” pressed into the air bag cover was just like the raised “Mustang” script that had been in the same spot in the ‘95 Mustang I had for my first car.

FEB0019E-BD8E-4010-8155-D4CD79146668.jpeg


On that Mustang, I painted the script red, to match the paint on the outside. There were no decals or anything of that sort I could buy online at the time, so it was just me with a small cup of red acrylic paint and a thin brush, taking my time. Considering that was probably 20 years ago for me, there are no pictures to showcase my handiwork. I’m sure it looked like crap up close, but I liked it!

For the Ranger, things are easier. Went to TVD Vinyl Decals, picked the color I thought would match best (Deep Red Metallic), paid my $7.99, and waited for them to arrive. And they did arrive, in a small little brown envelope. Surprisingly (probably because of how small the letters are,) it shipped with two sets of letters, giving me a spare in case I messed up. But these are vinyl decals, and they apply the same as any other:
  • Coat the surface in a soapy water
  • Peel the backing off the decal
  • Soap up the back side of decal
  • Carefully place it where you want it to be
  • Squeeze out any air bubbles trapped in the backside
Once done, it added a nice bit of color to an otherwise very gray interior, a color that matched the exterior almost perfectly.

200B702B-58B4-43A4-9BB1-9EAAFAF41D59.jpeg
 
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Seems like in each of these posts, I describe a different vehicle I’ve owned. I wonder how much longer I’ll keep that up. This post, at least.

My last truck was an 2007 F-150 Supercab. Great truck and, despite its size, I was surprising capable at parking it in the narrow spots and alleyways of Washington DC. But being that it was in DC, with it’s high crime rate, I couldn’t really use the bed. I needed a tonneau cover. I liked the prices of the soft roll-ups, but I wanted something that was more theft proof. I didn’t like the fiberglass covers and other hard folding covers blocked the windshield. But then I found the Bak Roll-X, a hard rolling cover. It was perfect (but expensive)

That truck was totaled in a freak hailstorm along the Mexican border, and I had been through several other vehicles since then. But, now that I had my Ranger, I felt the need for a tonneau again, if only just because I liked my old one so much.

The Roll-X had been discontinued, replaced with newer variants. I bought the most recent, the Revolver X4s, which like it’s predecessor, was expensive

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Like all of the packages I get, I don’t see them until I get home from work, sometime after 5pm. Add in changing clothes, eating dinner, and putting the kids to bed, it’s usually close to dark before I can do anything. This time, I skipped most of that, and went straight to work.
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Of course, I was rushing and didn’t realize there was a special “Ranger specific” bag of parts to use until I was nearly finished, mostly consisting of shims that help keep the clamps from deforming the bed rail. So I had to undo a bunch of work, just to fix it. But in the end, it was installed.

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One of the things I liked was how they even included an extra seal for the top of the tailgate. Not that it matters for me in Vegas where it never rains.

1F4116A7-CC38-4F0F-A0E1-38D6635330B8.jpeg
 
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With a tonneau cover installed, you quickly find the need to have something that’ll keep items from sliding to the front of the bed. On my F-150, I had a a folding bed extender. It could flip into the bed to act as a divider, and could collapse into the cavity next to the wheel hump when I needed to load up the motorcycle. Great product, and I wish fire had something similar for the Ranger, but they don’t.
1625943251644.jpeg

I had seen many on the F-150 forums use a 2x6 as a divider, but I wanted something less homemade. And, I had seen tension bars that pressed against the inside of the bed, but didn’t want to potentially warp the thin sheet metal.

Firing up my computer I set to work, and ended up with a rod style design that bolts into the middle tie-down points (perfect since the tie downs are absent on my 2020) and the top rail from a chain link fence

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The initial test looked promising, but the color had to change. Since it’s a prototype, I figured plasti-dip would work good enough.
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…except the plasti-dip rubs off fairly easily.
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The setup seemed to work well, until I had to remove it to pick up a palletized delivery at work. Anything bolted in, isn’t quick to remove.

I went back to the drawing board, and designed a V2 version, that proved to be ultra quick to remove and install.

Unfortunately, calamity struck while the passenger side was printing, and I’d wait nearly 2 months before I’d be able to test the full setup again.
——
But continue I would, and eventually I could pull the parts off the backing plate and install.
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The system seems to work fairly well, looks good, and components even remained in place despite a major crash!
 


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I said in the first post, we’d get to this. And I alluded to it in the last post too. Now it’s time.

Long work days sucks. Especially when it’s the first day on a new schedule. You finally get to go home, and you’re tired and you just want to go home. So, you take shortcuts. It’s a risk, and usually pays off, except when it doesn’t. This time, it wouldn’t…

CB00DE6F-3169-498C-B19F-DC826AAAEF3D.jpeg

Of course, in addition to having just come off a 12+ hour shift, it didn’t help that I had only had the truck for a month, having come from the Mustang prior, and was going through caffeine withdrawals.

Took the swerve into the corporate park faster than I should‘ve, and skidded into the yellow bollard protecting the chain fence.

B4166BCE-F6AD-4698-9AC5-49F91B07E972.jpeg

26C7D141-5CFE-46C7-9573-7ADE4FC1B461.jpeg

C2B149FF-8FDF-4C3D-B2AE-6C8F15C517CA.jpeg

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Insurance arranged for a tow truck to take it to a body shop close to my house, and my wife came to pick me up and bring me the rest of the way home. I was physically fine, but I felt terrible. Seeing the driveshaft on the ground didn’t help. But as the night went on, I convinced myself that it probably wasn’t too terrible of a collision. The truck wouldn’t be totaled.

The first estimate came back at $6400. Then came the first supplement, taking it to over $10,000. But there was a silver lining: the factory FX4 shocks needed to be replaced, and were quoted at $150 each. Conveniently, Stage3 was selling the Fox 2.0 shocks for $300 a pair. I called up the shop and asked if they’d be willing to swap them out. They were.

Over the next few weeks, parts came in, and work was done. The shop was great at communicating with me, sending messages and even pictures as the work progressed…
53740258-BC02-43F9-820A-4DC66D0B59BD.jpeg

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31B5FF95-C141-416B-948A-BCC3BBAF75B6.jpeg


And then it was done, and back in my driveway, almost 2 full months after the incident…
Crashed: 11 May
Repaired: 9 Jul

FE79E866-B01D-4541-90A0-5E44BF5C7682.jpeg
 

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dondonbabyraptor

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I said in the first post, we’d get to this. And I alluded to it in the last post too. Now it’s time.

Long work days sucks. Especially when it’s the first day on a new schedule. You finally get to go home, and you’re tired and you just want to go home. So, you take shortcuts. It’s a risk, and usually pays off, except when it doesn’t. This time, it wouldn’t…

CB00DE6F-3169-498C-B19F-DC826AAAEF3D.jpeg

Of course, in addition to having just come off a 12+ hour shift, it didn’t help that I had only had the truck for a month, having come from the Mustang prior, and was going through caffeine withdrawals.

Took the swerve into the corporate park faster than I should‘ve, and skidded into the yellow bollard protecting the chain fence.

B4166BCE-F6AD-4698-9AC5-49F91B07E972.jpeg

26C7D141-5CFE-46C7-9573-7ADE4FC1B461.jpeg

C2B149FF-8FDF-4C3D-B2AE-6C8F15C517CA.jpeg

1F4CE754-8354-4A3D-8F30-D21397C5A82D.jpeg

Insurance arranged for a tow truck to take it to a body shop close to my house, and my wife came to pick me up and bring me the rest of the way home. I was physically fine, but I felt terrible. Seeing the driveshaft on the ground didn’t help. But as the night went on, I convinced myself that it probably wasn’t too terrible of a collision. The truck wouldn’t be totaled.

The first estimate came back at $6400. Then came the first supplement, taking it to over $10,000. But there was a silver lining: the factory FX4 shocks needed to be replaced, and were quoted at $150 each. Conveniently, Stage3 was selling the Fox 2.0 shocks for $300 a pair. I called up the shop and asked if they’d be willing to swap them out. They were.

Over the next few weeks, parts came in, and work was done. The shop was great at communicating with me, sending messages and even pictures as the work progressed…
53740258-BC02-43F9-820A-4DC66D0B59BD.jpeg

92CAECA1-3D07-4066-B0C8-41A8D619D0F6.jpeg

FED8FBA7-D3BE-4D3F-9A55-7CAC0AB32ED1.jpeg
A1A8D387-5668-48A6-B2DD-CE187D811660.jpeg

31B5FF95-C141-416B-948A-BCC3BBAF75B6.jpeg


And then it was done, and back in my driveway, almost 2 full months after the incident…
Crashed: 11 May
Repaired: 9 Jul
FE79E866-B01D-4541-90A0-5E44BF5C7682.jpeg
Welcome back home that beauty of a ranger! Very cool design with the poles and pole holder thingy in the middle. Sorry I’m stupid with mechanic stuff. This v2 design is a hidden gem and I bet there are some forum users who would buy this if you ever planned to sell them.
 
OP
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The father of 2 young kids, they bought me nothing for Father’s Day. My wife did, however. Seems not all women like Bluto. Or she just wants to keep the kids safe from a slamming tailgate. Who knows?

Regardless, I was now the owner of a tailgate damper. @AzScorpion would be proud!
8A203301-1B9D-47D3-88E9-FC409C0F9C96.jpeg


Las Vegas is hot, a high of 114 currently, so doing much to the truck isn’t possible in the middle of the day. And the heat persists into the night too. Luckily dampers are quick installs!
463093D2-C1EC-4B76-8F09-6DB6D86BF157.jpeg



Eventually I’ll add the Velcro to the cable to keep it from being pinched, but since it looks like it’s already fraying on one side (before even installing the damper) I’ll probably wait til its replacement.

620E5F7C-3E4C-4D99-B2C8-6F5D6FA94377.jpeg
 
OP
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Welcome back home that beauty of a ranger! Very cool design with the poles and pole holder thingy in the middle. Sorry I’m stupid with mechanic stuff. This v2 design is a hidden gem and I bet there are some forum users who would buy this if you ever planned to sell them.
I’m definitely glad it’s back home!
And now that I know V2 works, I am looking at options on how to best get it to the masses. Because of issues with shipping 5’ long steel poles, I’ll likely just sell the mounts, and let individuals pick up the top rail from Home Depot or Lowes themselves. 10’ of it was maybe $15, and cutting doesn’t have to be precise.
 
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While the truck was in the shop, I found my self using the wife’s 2020 Explorer to get around, since it’s just too hot for the motorcycle.

One of the features it has that I was disappointed in Ranger not having, was auto folding mirrors. Power fold is cool, but I don’t see myself remembering to push that little button. I want a $40k truck to do it for me. Besides, I like the visual indication of if I’ve locked my doors or not.

Luckily, sometime ago @RCMUSTANG did the legwork to figure out how to add that feature to the Ranger, and offered the solution to the forum. I jumped at it, ant waited for the truck’s return before I could install it.

The instructions work, but could’ve used better technique. Rather than reaching up to the mirror switch from the bottom, it’s quicker and easier to pop the whole panel off

A8609A1F-A806-4E23-9229-6FE6398E2B86.jpeg


The instructions also listed two ways of wiring it: the first folds the mirror in on lock, and unfolds them on unlock. The other unfolds them on ACC or engine start. For me, and knowing how the Explorer works, I went with the first option.

CDAC941D-6547-4FBC-94E8-C758B94AD065.jpeg

The wires connected, the truck works like it should, had Ford not cheaped out in so many places.

 

AzScorpion

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The father of 2 young kids, they bought me nothing for Father’s Day. My wife did, however. Seems not all women like Bluto. Or she just wants to keep the kids safe from a slamming tailgate. Who knows?

Regardless, I was now the owner of a tailgate damper. @AzScorpion would be proud!
8A203301-1B9D-47D3-88E9-FC409C0F9C96.jpeg


Las Vegas is hot, a high of 114 currently, so doing much to the truck isn’t possible in the middle of the day. And the heat persists into the night too. Luckily dampers are quick installs!
463093D2-C1EC-4B76-8F09-6DB6D86BF157.jpeg



Eventually I’ll add the Velcro to the cable to keep it from being pinched, but since it looks like it’s already fraying on one side (before even installing the damper) I’ll probably wait til its replacement.

620E5F7C-3E4C-4D99-B2C8-6F5D6FA94377.jpeg

Jacob, I'm glad to see you got your truck back. Welcome to the club and for all you had to go through I wish this at least could've been a real shirt. I'll have to work on this for certain new victims I mean customers. lol ?



The Kool Damper Klub.jpg
 

Tracy Bowman

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I said in the first post, we’d get to this. And I alluded to it in the last post too. Now it’s time.

Long work days sucks. Especially when it’s the first day on a new schedule. You finally get to go home, and you’re tired and you just want to go home. So, you take shortcuts. It’s a risk, and usually pays off, except when it doesn’t. This time, it wouldn’t…

CB00DE6F-3169-498C-B19F-DC826AAAEF3D.jpeg

Of course, in addition to having just come off a 12+ hour shift, it didn’t help that I had only had the truck for a month, having come from the Mustang prior, and was going through caffeine withdrawals.

Took the swerve into the corporate park faster than I should‘ve, and skidded into the yellow bollard protecting the chain fence.

B4166BCE-F6AD-4698-9AC5-49F91B07E972.jpeg

26C7D141-5CFE-46C7-9573-7ADE4FC1B461.jpeg

C2B149FF-8FDF-4C3D-B2AE-6C8F15C517CA.jpeg

1F4CE754-8354-4A3D-8F30-D21397C5A82D.jpeg

Insurance arranged for a tow truck to take it to a body shop close to my house, and my wife came to pick me up and bring me the rest of the way home. I was physically fine, but I felt terrible. Seeing the driveshaft on the ground didn’t help. But as the night went on, I convinced myself that it probably wasn’t too terrible of a collision. The truck wouldn’t be totaled.

The first estimate came back at $6400. Then came the first supplement, taking it to over $10,000. But there was a silver lining: the factory FX4 shocks needed to be replaced, and were quoted at $150 each. Conveniently, Stage3 was selling the Fox 2.0 shocks for $300 a pair. I called up the shop and asked if they’d be willing to swap them out. They were.

Over the next few weeks, parts came in, and work was done. The shop was great at communicating with me, sending messages and even pictures as the work progressed…
53740258-BC02-43F9-820A-4DC66D0B59BD.jpeg

92CAECA1-3D07-4066-B0C8-41A8D619D0F6.jpeg

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And then it was done, and back in my driveway, almost 2 full months after the incident…
Crashed: 11 May
Repaired: 9 Jul

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Boy, that hurt my heart seeing that beautiful Ranger in such a state. Glad you are okay and that it is now repaired. They did a great job. Still is Beautiful!
 
OP
OP

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Well-Known Member
First Name
Jacob
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
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Location
Las Vegas
Vehicle(s)
2020 Ranger Lariat FX4, 2020 Explorer Limited
I’d been going back and forth on how modded I wanted my truck to look. On one hand, I think Ford nailed it, and I’m glad it doesn’t look like a baby F-150. I could make it pretty capable, and still look like any other Ranger out there. But I really like the look of the Raptor grille too, which hints at capabilities the truck should have.

Oh well, it’s only money, right? I can buy it and can return to stock if I don’t like it.

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But there is one thing I don’t like about the Raptor grille, and that’s the standard light kit you see it marketed with. The lights are just too small for the space they’re mounted in. Now I don’t have to be Sid, but sometimes more lighting is better. And since this grille is about looks, this is one of those times.

I bough a set of thin LED marker lights, 6 pack for about $15. Once they arrived, I broke out the 3D printer once again, and designed a U-shaped mount for them.
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Once mounted, I wired them up in parallel, for maximum brightness, then wrapped the wires in Tesa tape.
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And just to make sure everything worked like I planned, I plugged it into a custom 12v harness I had for a cigarette adapter.
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With the lights out of the way, it was time for the install. I followed the Stage 3 instructions, but found a couple of discrepancies on my truck. A set of torx screws had now become a 7mm. Minor, but took a moment to find the right tool. The biggest issue was removing the center tab in the grille. Many complain about the side tabs, but a screwdriver makes those easy. The center one has no room to stick anything larger that what was on my leatherman. Angled.

But I got it, and best of all, no broken tabs!
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The new grille fits well, although it’s a hair high on the drivers side, making it rub against the headlamp slightly, and leaving a slightly uneven hood gap. Oh well.

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Wiring the lights was relatively easy, just following the wrteup @Msfitoy put together. Positive cable splices into the top left wire in the headlamp loom, which is green/orange for me, and the negative connects to any available ground. When all said and done, they’re powered by the side marker lamp. Maybe I’ll switch to having them on with the engine, dunno yet.
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