Wiring KC FLEX ERA 3 LED Lights With a Backlight to a Switch Panel on the 5th Gen 4Runner
The long-awaited KC HiLites FLEX ERA 3 pod lights have arrived.
We got our hands on a set and finally put together an install. Introducing a never-before-seen triangular design with 3 high powered CREE LEDs in a compact space — KC dropped a bomb on us with this one.
This is KC HiLites’ new line of off-road lighting that they refer to as the FLEX ERA “ushering in a new era of lighting” which features some pretty outstanding features.
What makes them notably different is that they feature a dual-purpose, all-new amber backlight + full power light. This light comes with a dual switch that lets you toggle between the amber backlight and full power.
Flexibility and Customizability
KC designed this light for extreme flexibility and customizability. You can swap out the lenses with multiple beam patterns along with multiple color bezels and even choose from an array of covers.
For lens options, you can choose between a spot or dual spread with a spot combo. The combo really gives you the best of both worlds in this high coverage combo light. For bezels, you can choose between classic KC yellow, blue, red, and, eventually, they may add black as their first FLEX version offered. For the covers, you can go with the solid black and yellow “KC” covers, that stunning KC amber or clear. Spoiler, we choose amber.
KC FLEX ERA 3 Specs
Designed to race Baja, this new ERA of lighting by KC is going to crush it on tight trails or at speed. I am pretty stoked to outfit the whole build with these.
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on the KC FLEX ERA 3 Master Kit that included all the lens options, bezels and lens covers. Pictured above, you will see all of the additional accessories that you can outfit your KC FLEX ERA 3 with. We decided to run with amber covers over the spot beam pattern, for now, to match our KC Pro6 M-Rack. Plus amber provides much better visibility through fog, rain, snow and many other less than ideal weather conditions.
Find them online:
- KC Website: Check Price
- Independent Amber LED Backlight
- Signature KC FLEX Aesthetic
- Machined Accent Bezel
- Replaceable Lens & Optics
- Thermal LED Protection
- IP68 Rated
Performance Specs (Per Light)
- RAW Lumens: 3,672 lm @5000K
- LUX @ 10 meters: 300 lx
- Candela: 29,553 cd
- Beam Distance (Meters): 385m
- Beam Pattern: Combo & Spot
- Wattage: 40W
- LED Source: CREE® LED
- Amp Draw: 3.4A @ 12V
- Voltage: 9V-16V
- IP Rating: IP68
- Product Dimensions: W – 3.6″ x H – 3.5″ x D – 2.6″
Time & Assistance
- Hours: 2-4
- People: 1
Tools and Materials
- Metric Open-End Wrenches
- Bent Needle Pliers
- Wire Strippers/Cutters
- Wire Crimpers
- Heat Shrink Gun/ Lighter
- Waterproof Butt Splice & Ring Connectors
- Combo Pack of Heat Shrink
- 3/8 Heat Shrink (to cover butt splice connectors)
- 1/2 Heat Shrink (for big sections)
- 1/4″ Heatshrink (black)
- 5/8″ Heatshrink (black and red)
- 10-22 AWG Ring Terminals
- 10-22 AWG Connectors
- Stepdown Wire Connectors
- 1/2″ Wire Loom
- Electrical Tape
- Tessa Tape (high-end electrical tape)
- Extra Zip Ties
- Plastic Pry Tools
- Deutsch Connectors
- Drill Driver
- Plastic pry tools
- Push Clip Removal Tool
- Shop Gloves
- Replacement Push Clips
- Alligator Clips (for testing lights)
Amber or Clear Covers
The KC FLEX ERA 3 can be configured with amber, clear or solid black/yellow KC covers.
Unpack & Cut Wiring Harness
Here is the wiring kit that KC provides for the FLEX ERA 3. This is not their normal wiring kit that you would find on other FLEX series lights or most of their lights for that matter. Because this light features the amber backlight, the wiring harness is a little different. Instead of two wires coming out of the Deutsch connectors, there are three: two power/switch wires and a ground wire.
We are going to wire the FLEX ERA 3 to our DIY switch panel. This is going to be the same installation if you have a Switch-Pros, sPOD or any other switch panel with the relays and fuses built-in. Start by cutting the relay provided away from the main leads that run to the light pods.
Wire Black, Red & White + Stepdowns
The FLEX ERA 3 has three wires running out of the Deutsch connectors. You have ground, the red wire for one light feature (power and switch 1) and then white (power and switch 2). Start wiring these together with stepdown connectors.
Wiring Harness Leads – Black + Red + White
Since we are wiring these to our switch panel, we are connecting the black wires together, the red wires together, and then the white wires together. Then from there, we will connect the red lead to a switch terminal, the white lead to a switch terminal and then ground the black wire on our bus bar.
Cut wiring harness to size
Once you have an idea of how the circuit is to be wired, take the harness over to your 4Runner and measure the leads from both A-pillars along the hood over to both terminals on the battery or to the switch panel you are wiring your harness to.
Start putting your wiring harness together in the following fashion. Using 10ga – 12ga step down connectors, merge the black wire into one lead, the red wire into one lead, and using a small step down connectors, merge white wires into one lead.
Make sure to slide on your heat shrink along the way. You can apply heat once you have your final harness.
On the red wire, you want to connect the 25 amp inline fuse. On the white wire, you will have a 10 amp inline fuse.
Testing wiring harness
Once you have all of the wires temporarily hooked up using some alligator clips, it’s always a good idea to test the wiring harness. For this installation, you are going to want to test both of the power/switch leads.
KC provides both A-pillar brackets for a low profile mounting solution for the FLEX ERA 3s.
Starting with the passenger side, remove the clip that is attached to the hood mounting bracket. Once this clip is removed and the wire out of the way, you can proceed the remove one bolt at a time.
Install ditch light brackets
An important note to consider is that you install the ditch light brackets one bolt at a time. If you remove both bolts from the hood mounting bracket, the whole hood is going to lift up and the weight of it is going to pull down to the front of the truck ultimately resulting in you having a bad day. Do yourself a favor and install ditch light brackets one bolt at a time.
After you have the top bolt removed start installing ditch light brackets. Once the first bolt has secured the ditch light bracket on to the hood, proceed to remove the other bolt and put the ditch light bracket in place.
Finally, reattach the clip that is attached to the hood bracket.
Install Ditch Lights
Once you have both of your A-pillar ditch light brackets installed, you can now install your new FLEX ERA 3s. Using a 17mm open-end wrench on the nut and your hand on top of the FLEX ERA 3 light you can simply grab the light and spin down as the bolt is built into the light. This will tighten the light down onto the ditch light brackets.
Hood insulation mat
In order to run your ditch light wiring harness from one A-pillar to another, you need to pull back the hood insulation mat. There are a handful of push clips that hold the insulation mat in place however you only need to remove a few of them to gain access to wires on the backside where you will follow your wiring harness.
Remove the push clips holding the hood insulation mat in place. There is an art to this.
Using a set of plastic pry tools with a hook and fork, you can walk the forks around the clip until the clip breaks free. Once the clip breaks free, you can grab a set of bent needle nose pliers and squeeze the inside tabs and pull the clip out.
Running wires along the hood
Once you have access to the backside of the insulation, you can begin to run your ditch light wiring from the passenger side to the driver side. Try not to pull back the insulation too hard or you will leave permanent creases in the material.
Once you get an idea of how much wiring harness you’re going to need, you can slowly start to zip tie the harness into place on the windshield wiper line running along the hood.
Merge Wiring Harness & Loom Wires
Once you have determined the necessary length of your wiring harness, you can connect all of the leads on the driver side A-pillar.
To keep everything clean, we are going to run some wiring loom up under the hood insulation mat along with the other two directions as well. At this point, and if everything looks good, you can zip tie everything down.
Zip tie leads to ditch light brackets
Once you have the necessary leads zipped down, you can start to zip tie the remaining portions of the leads at the actual ditch light brackets.
Reconnect Insulation mat
Wiring loom coming out of the insulation mat.
Once the ditch lights are mounted and the wiring harness is close to being installed, I typically retest the entire set up one more time. I actually had one of the Deutsch connector barrel pins come out and I had to reconnect it back into its housing. When stuff like this happens, it’s always really important to reconnect and retest everything.
Power and ground
Connect both power/switch leads and the ground as well.
KC FLEX ERA 3 Ditch Light Final + KC Pro6 Light Bar
KC FLEX ERA 3 Ditch Light – Backlight
Ditch Light Full Power Amber at Night
Amber Light Color/Output from Inside Cabin
Passenger Side FLEX ERA 3 – Driver Seat View
Front View – Off
Full Power – Full View
Final Thoughts Review
It’s definitely a new ERA, that’s for sure. KC nailed it with these new lights. We are stoked to be running these lights and many more to come. I don’t have much to say other than this design is killer, and as always KC makes some of the best lighting solutions in the off-road game. I really like how the housing wraps around the front of the design.
The 3,672-lumen output is impressive. You can compare this to many other off-road light pods and find that KC FLEX ERA 3 really stands above most. They are not SAE-approved street legal fog lights, though. If you plan on mounting them in your fog housing, keep that in mind. Fortunately, KC may come out with SAE FLEX ERA 3 fog kits in the future.
The amber caps provide an absolutely stunning amber color. See the light output photo above for the color. The cool part about the KC FLEX ERA over some lights are these caps. If you want to run amber instead of white, you can snap a new color cap on. For other common off-road light pods, you have to take them apart and reassemble them. Running your own color on the clear caps would be simple. All you would need to do is cut a piece of Lamin-X and film over the clear caps.
If this is the future of KC Lighting – I can get used to it.