How to Retrofit Headlight Housings on the 5th Gen 4Runner – Full Step-by-Step Walkthrough and Installation Process
When it comes to headlights on the 5th gen 4Runner, you have plenty of options. From the basic halogens to low power consumption LED bulbs and high light output HID bulbs in many different variants, the options for forward-facing lighting are almost endless. Moving beyond just the LED and HID bulbs, you can upgrade your entire 4Runner headlight housings as well.
We’ve covered just about every option that you can go with aside from a step-by-step installation on retrofitting your housing. I’m stoked to say that we’re finally going to show you how to retrofit the headlights on your 5th Gen 4Runner.
There’s a lot of information out there on retrofitting headlights, in general, but no actual detailed process on opening up the 5th gen 4Runner headlight housings. There is absolutely an art and there are very finite details that you will need to know in order to successfully open up your housings and then seal them back up again. We learned a few lessons throughout the process and actually destroyed one aftermarket headlight housing in the process due to a few mistakes. In this post, we’re going to show you how to avoid those mistakes and how to accurately and professionally (well close to anyways) open up and reseal headlight housings.
Pay a professional?
There are many companies out there that will retrofit headlight housings for you. It will for sure save you time and a headache, but be prepared to spend more. BX Built and Kustom 54 Lighting are well-known retrofit companies in our industry. BX Built specializes in really high-end custom retros for many Toyota models and actually owns a really nice 3rd Gen 4Runner. Kustom 54 Lighting specializes in more than Toyota and also sells housings that are pre-opened. If you want to do a retrofit yourself but don’t want to deal with prying housings open, call Kustom 54.
M-LED Bi-LED Lights
We’re going to use a set of Morimoto M-LED Bi-LED Dual-Purpose Headlights. The actual lights are replacing our low beam projector, however, it’s going to act as a low beam as well as a high beam. By default, a headlight housing acts as a low beam, however when you trigger your high beams on, an actuator within the headlight housing triggers, thus opening up more light from the headlight housing ultimately giving you your high beam.
What Morimoto says:
It’s on par with the Mini D2S 4.0 and an XB 45K Bulb / XB55 ballast, and about 20% brighter than it’s closest LED-based competitor – Read more on them here.
What you can expect
This is a very time-consuming mod and can be challenging depending on your experience level. You will need lots of patience and likely a full day or even two in order to focus on this install. If you are just getting started with modifying your 4Runner, this might not be the mod for you. You will need plenty of time to put the headlights into the oven, and perhaps multiple times in order to break the PermaSeal from both sides of the headlight housing.
You can expect about 1 hour per headlight for the opening process and another hour per headlight to remove the PermaSeal. That’s at least 2 hours to open and reseal each headlight (4 hours total). Figure another hour to actually install the new headlights in both of your housings, depending on all of the features and functionality you are looking to add. For this install, we only swapped the LED projectors and did not install any halo rings, demon eyes, or shrouds around the actual projectors.
You also need to remove your entire front bumper, both headlights, and reinstall all the parts.
I would break this installation into a couple of days if you can. Start with retrofitting the headlight housings first. Once you know you have enough time to remove and reinstall your front bumper, you can proceed with the rest of the install.
TYC, Depo, or Factory Housings
I would highly recommend going with a set of TYC headlight housings rather than your factory headlight housing. This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason being TYC housings are supposed to be easier to open compared to the factory headlight housings. The second reason is that if you take off your factory headlight housings and accidentally destroy one of them, you will be left with one headlight or worse no headlights. And if it’s your daily driver, you definitely want to have both of your headlights come Monday morning. Another brand on the market is DEPO, another option to consider.
Regardless, this is a super time-consuming process so patience and a full weekend are both a must.
Time & Assistance
- Hours: 1-2 Days
- People: 1
Tools and Materials
- M-LED Bi-LED Projectors: Check Price
- Large Screwdrivers
- Grypmat Pro
- C-Clamps or Morimoto Compression Clips
- Butyl Tape
- Heat Shrink Gun/ Lighter
- Metric Sockets
- Metric Open-End Wrenches
- Sheet Metal Screws
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Bent Needle Nose Pliers
- Vice Grips
- Air Compressor or Air Gun or Automotive Car Dryer
- Push Clip Removal Tool
- Electrical Tape
- Tessa Tape (high-end electrical tape)
- Drill Driver
- Step Bit
- Plastic Pry Tools
- Shop Gloves
- Replacement Push Clips
Step 1. Getting Started
Start by laying out the basics: housing, LED projectors, your gloves, large flathead screwdrivers, any other tools you need to get started (full list above).
Step 2. Remove All Screws Holding Housing Together
It’s very important to remove all the screws holding the backside of the headlight housing to the lens cover. Also, remove any cellophane seal, any additional hardware, and packaging material still attached to the housing.
Step 3. Preheat Oven 260°F for 7 Minutes
You will find many different temperature suggestions on the internet. Some people say 250°F and some say 270°F. I started at 270° F because that is what an “industry expert” told me. It ended up being too hot and I over-cooked a lens. I also overcooked a plastic tab where a bolt connects to the bumper. Maybe I just have an oven that runs hot. Regardless, I recommend starting at 260° F for about 6-7 minutes and going from there. It never hurts to take your housing in and out and put them back in. You may need to repeat this process a few times in order to successfully remove the housing from the lens cover.
Place your headlight housing in the middle of the lowest rack possible. Make sure no rubber components or thin plastics are touching the grates. If any small or thin plastics are touching the oven rack, you risk deforming the plastic. It’s important to check the headlight after 3 minutes just to make sure you aren’t burning or melting any of the housing plastics. If you overcook small bolt tabs or plastic alignment guides on the backside of the housing, you may not be able to install the housing back on your 4Runner again, causing you to buy new housings and repeat the process.
Step 4. Break Housing PermaSeal with Large Screwdriver
As soon as your oven timer goes off, pull the housings out and get to work.
Make sure you are wearing gloves for this step because when you pull the headlight housings out of the oven, they will be hot. Gloves also protect your hands from when the screwdriver slides off the PermaSeal and potentially into your hand.
Start with a large flat head screwdriver and slowly but firmly press in between the lens and housing. Work the PermaSeal in between the headlight housing and the lens cover all the way around. The smaller the screwdriver, the easier it is to break the seal but the harder it is to pry the housing off. I thought the largest screwdriver I had was best.
Step 5. Continue Splitting PermaSeal with Medium Screwdriver
Now grab a medium-sized screwdriver and start breaking more of the tighter PermaSeal off around the inside edge of the lens. Next, start bending the edge of the channel on the housing open but don’t push it too far or too hard or your screwdriver will penetrate the housing causing a hole in the channel.
Step 6. Reverse Plier Splitters (Seal Splitters)
Additionally, you can use a set of seal splitters to split the backside of the headlight housing from the front side of the lens cover. We found this method to work well when just out of the oven. It will not work well once the headlight housing has cooled down.
Step 7. Pry Headlight Housing from Lens Cover
Once you work the PermaSeal a few times, go ahead and throw the unit back in the oven for another 6 to 7 minutes. As soon as you pull the housing out, pry the top corner with a large screwdriver until you are able to pry the lens cover away from the backside of the housing.
Step 8. Pull & Remove Headlight Housing from Lens Cover
Now simply grab both ends of the headlight housing and lens cover and pull them apart.
Step 9. Install New Projectors
Once you have the headlight housing open, you can install the new Morimoto LEDs Projectors and the brackets that come with them. This step is a simple swap.
Step 10. Remove Permaseal from Headlight Lens
There are many different ways to remove the PermaSeal from the lens cover, however, today we are going to use a heat gun, gloves, screwdriver, and razor. Some guys put the actual lens in the oven to heat up the PermaSeal to heat it up before removal, but with this method, you risk overheating the lens cover and deforming the plastics. If you stick to the heat gun, you can heat up small sections and remove 3-6″ at a time.
Step 11. Remove PermaSeal from Headlight Lens (Heatgun & Screwdriver)
Apply high heat back and forth along 3-6″ sections of the PermaSeal. Do not leave the heat gun in one spot for too long because you may risk deforming the plastics. Once you have a large enough section of the PermaSeal hot, pry with your screwdriver and pull the hot permaseal off with your gloves.
Step 12. Clean PermaSeal (Heatgun & Screwdriver)
Continue cleaning the lens.
Pro Tip: Do not use any harsh chemicals like Goof-Off or any other cleaner that may damage plastics.
Step 13. Clean PermaSeal (Warm Water & Microfiber Towel)
Instead of using harsh chemicals like Goof-Off, consider using warm water with a microfiber towel along with an air compressor to finally blow everything out.
Step 14. Check Headlight Lens (Final Clean Check)
Ensure the lens cover is completely clean (not one speck of dust).
Step 15. Prepare Morimoto Retrorubber Seal (Butyl Tape Seal)
Pictured above is the Morimoto retro rubber resealing glue, however, some guys use butyl tape. Some think it’s basically the same thing but it’s actually different.
While the RetroRubber butyl and roofing butyl are very similar, the RetroRubber is specifically designed for sealing headlights and has a proprietary glue formula that allows the housing to maintain adhesion to the lens. With the roofing butyl tape, there is no real adhesive material in the butyl which will cause lens separation and moisture issues.
Step 16. Fix Housing Channel Imperfections
Depending on how aggressive you were with removing the lens cover from the backside of the housing, you may have to repair a few sections of the housing channel. None of the channel elements are going to be visible from the front end of the truck, so even if it looks choppy, super glue and clamps will suffice.
Step 17. Prepare Lengths of Morimoto Retrorubber Seal (Butyl Tape Seal)
The resealing glue from Morimoto will stretch out pretty far. You don’t need to use the whole roll. For the 4Runner headlight housing, I recommend stretching the glue about 30% to 40% of its factory size. If you have too much material in the channel, it will be difficult to reseal the lens housing. If you have two little material, you may have air gaps which will cause moisture buildup in your housing. You really need to find that happy medium to fill the channel but not overfill the channel. A good guide is to make sure the glue sits just below (1/8″) the top line of the channel.
Step 18. Place Morimoto Retrorubber Seal (Butyl Tape Seal) In Housing Channel
Feed the resealing glue all the way around the channel.
Step 19. Use Compressor to Blow Out Headlight Housing & Lens Cover
Grab your air compressor and blow out the headlight housing. Be sure to get into the cracks where dust and debris may have settled while the housing was open. If you do not have an air compressor, you can use an automotive car dryer. Some guys personally prefer using this instead of a compressor as it’s easier to work with and it takes up a lot less space than an air compressor.
Step 20. Place Lens on Headlight Housing
Continue blowing out the headlight lens and backside of the housing until you are confident that both sides are 100% clean and free of debris.
Step 21. Seal Lens to Housing Using Heatgun + Optional Oven Heat
As you can see I’m not wearing gloves for this step, but you will probably want to throw some on. This is a fairly simple process, however, it can be hot. Apply heat, press the lens into the housing and repeat until permaseal molds to lens cover.
Step 22. Use Headlight Housing Clamps (Compression Clips) or Vice Grips
Once the resealing glue has reached melting temperature and has molded to the lens cover, clamp the two together. Morimoto offers compression clips that allow you to plant the two pieces together in an easier, more controlled manner.
Step 23. Drill Out Dust Caps with Step Bit
Using a step bit, drill out to 7/16″ (just under 1″). This will allow your grommet to sit nice and tight and will prevent any air moisture from entering the headlight housing.
Step 24. Feed Wiring Harness Through Dust Cap
Start by disconnecting the pins on the female end of the h11 pigtail extension. In order to get the harness clip through the 7/16″ hole, the female end plastic clip has to be removed. To disconnect the pins, use a tiny flathead screwdriver and depress the small retainer clip inside the connector. Both pins should slide out. Once you have the h11 extensions through the grommet and through the dust cap, then re-insert the pins into the clip connector. Clip the h11 female into the factory h11 male and thread down your dust cap.
Step 25. Prepare Removal of Front Bumper
Before removing the front bumper, put down some cardboard or a large blanket. Something to protect your bumper from being scratched.
Step 26. Remove Hood Clips, Bolts and Radiator Cover
Start by slightly pushing back the fender/hood weather stripping. You don’t need to pull it back too far, just enough to loosen the first bolt (circled above). Then, remove the headlight bolts along with the radiator cover and all the bolts holding the front bumper on.
Step 27. Remove Front Bumper
Remove your front bumper and set it to the side. So easy, a 6-year old can help you.
Step 28. Remove Headlight Housing
Remove all the lower bolts holding the headlights into place.
Step 29. Remove Headlight Housing Bracket & Reinstall on New Housing
Remove the bracket from the old headlight housing and install it on the new retrofits.
Step 30. Mount LED Driver
Before you install your headlight housing, mount the driver to the firewall using self-tapping screws.
- Low beam: Long Lead
- High Beam: Short lead
- Projector: To Projector
Step 31. Test New Headlights Before Final Install
As always, make sure you test your lights before the final install.
Before – Morimoto XB LED 2.0 Low Beam
Before – S-V.4 High Beams
Keep in mind, these high beams do not retain usage of the DRL function. Very bright but your DRL will act as full brightness.
Morimoto 2.0 (left) Vs. Morimoto LED Projector Retrofit (Right)
After – Morimoto LED Projector Retrofit Low Beam
After – Morimoto LED Projector Retrofit High Beam Beam
After – Morimoto LED Projector Retrofit High Beam Beam (M Logo)
Tip: Adjusting Beam Pattern of Projector
To adjust your headlights beam pattern, use this screw on the backside of your housing. Threading the screw-in, we’ll pull in the inside of the headlight housing which raises the beam pattern. Unthreading the screw will push the inside of the headlight housing out which lowers the beam pattern.
If you are adjusting it from the top side down: clockwise loosens the housing and lowers the beam pattern. Counterclockwise will raise the beam pattern.
You can also refer to our guide on aiming headlights on the 4Runner for more information.
Tip: Do Not Overcook Headlights
This is what your lens will look like if you leave it in the oven for a little bit too long. In order to remove the PermaSeal from the headlight lens, I placed the lens back into the oven at 270 for about 7 to 10 minutes (recommended by an “expert” on Instagram) and that was a little too hot. Won’t do that again.
Retrofitting your headlights is a time-consuming process and not for the weak-minded individual.
There are a couple of things I recommend before starting the install process:
- Research the difference between LED and HID projectors along with all the accessories (halo rings and shrouds)
- Research retrofitting something cool like pre-built pods (KC FE3 or Baja S2s)
- Consider blacking out your housing
- Research professionals: You can trust BX Built
- Have a good plan
- Understand that resealing housings is never “perfect” (the actual glue between the lens and housing will not look factory)
- Give yourself a full weekend
- Buy a set of TYC or DEPO headlights to retrofit instead of your factory housings (that way you have a backup if something goes wrong)
It’s not an overly difficult install, you just need time and lots of patience.
Is the stock high beam bulb in your housing not connected to anything?
I installed bi Led and headlight correctors
I was told by Osram/Sylvania that led headlights are illegal in the US. It is not approved by the Feds. The only front facing light that can be modified is the fog light. There you can swap in the led bulb and install a load equalizer.
So many cars come with LED headlights from the factory. I am picking one up tomorrow. So many aftermarket headlights with DOT approved rating that are LED. Look at the JW Speaker line-up. Yes, there are a lot of illegal LED headlights for sale but that does not mean that LED headlights aren’t legal in the US.
This is amazing install write up! Thanks for taking the time to document and share all of this. I’ve also watched the video as well.
I was able to pick up someones takes off’s and got a duplicate set of OEM housings for the price of dirt. I’m contemplating doing to same retro fit you have done.
Is it worth doing to the full retro fit process over just upgrading my bulb to an LED High beam and LED low beam bulb? Is there an improvement proportional to the effort of the install?
If I go the retrofit route with my spare set of housings is there anyway you can think of to maintain the daytime running light functionality (maybe a different splitter harness?). It’s not a deal breaker for me but I like having them and use them daily. From my understanding that bulb will still be in the housing would it not?
Thanks in advance. There are SO many options in lighting it’s been hard to decide what to do because of having so many choices.
If you have a second set of housings, I say go for it. It’s not the easiest project but once you break the permaseal, it’s smooth sailing. And, to this day, these are the brightest lights I’ve ever run and I’ve quite a few lights; many LED builds, a few HID bulbs, and at least 4-5 aftermarket pre-built housings.
Coming from living in the t4r.org forum for years. This is nice man, miles above anything documented over there for a true retrofit. Thanks Brenan.
Awesome, thank you!
When upgrading your headlights it is important to note how you will repair or replace bulbs etc. If you purchase or make an upgrade, make sure parts and bulbs are readily available should you need replacement parts. I opted to keep the oem housing and updated my headlights to HID bulbs. It was way cheaper and the lights are super bright. The maintenance and bulb changes are super easy.
This is a retrofit, totally different than mashing re-based HID bulbs into halogen assemblies. Keep in mind that the reflector bowls are not engineered to tolerate the high amount of UV light that HIDs blast out, so many people notice that the reflective coating will dull and flake off after a few years. The lights will dim accordingly. Best to keep halogen bulbs in halogen assemblies.
The newer 4Runners are equipped with projector headlight housings, they are quite capable of handling HID lighting, no silver coatings here my friend 😉
Do you feel like the single Bi-LED per headlight is good enough for most situations? I am debating putting two Bi-LEDs in each housing but don’t want to go through that effort if it isn’t really worth it.
Two Bi-LED projectors? Wait for what? You can run the Bi-LEDs as low beams and high beams and then in the high beam reflector bowl – run another high beam if you want or even retrofit an off-road specific light with crazy lumen output like an S2 or even FE3. Why would you want two Bi-LED projectors?
More low beam light. I’ve tried Alpharex Luxxs but those are washed out and don’t illuminate very well past the foreground. I’ve seen too many issues with the Morimoto housings. LED and HID drop ins don’t work well because the projector wasn’t meant for them. In your opinion, does a single Bi-LED in each housing produce enough light down the road for night time driving without feeling the need to use aux lights? I am assuming by your response that they do and you think adding another one is silly. The options I have narrowed it down to are two Bi-LEDs in each housing and DD SS3 pros in driving pattern behind the grille or a single Bi-LED in each housing with the DD SS3 pros in the high beam spot inside the housing.
Kevin, did you ever get around to doing this? I am having the same debate and would love to know how this turned out. Thanks!
I’ve spent some time tinkering with it. The issue with 2014-2020 4Runners is that the DRL and high beam are the same thing. The vehicles uses PWM to dim the high beam which is normally also how you dim LEDs, but the way that Toyota has engineered it, you get flickering full brightness high beams if you use LEDs (like DD SS3s). You’d have to divorce the DRL and high beam functions. FBC has a way to do that if you want to use the 2021+ headlight housings for the OEM bi-LEDs but the 2014-2020 do not have the extra high beam only wire. Morimoto has a way to divorce them as well for 2014-2020 but I am not sure if it’s done in the module outside the headlights or if it’s a combo of the module outside and some wiring inside. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far but my current thought is to use the FBC harness and try a 9005 anti flicker (sometimes called Canbus) harness as well and then add a smaller pod light as a DRL. Would be a lot of rewiring and re-pinning of connectors as well as running another wire from the FBC harness to power the dedicated high beams. Of course, if you don’t care about having DRLs, this all becomes moot since you’d have just a low beam and high beam by disabling the DRL pin in the relay. The performance of DD SS3 is awesome though! I have them as aux high beams right now and they blow the OEMs out of the water. If you have a 2021 Pro or Limited or a 2022+, it would be very very easy to add the SS3
Ahh gotcha, no I get it. Just the BI-LEDs are huge and take up a ton of space. At that point, I would rather go with something more compact with brighter output overall. The projectors we swapped in are super bright on-road, by far the brightest low beam I have run. To answer your question, yes – I feel like the LED projectors are plenty bright on-road, which is hard to say for any low beam. These are seriously impressive. If you want even more light, you can opt for the HID low beam retrofit. To add another low beam projector would really pushing it on space. I like your idea of adding a single Bi-LED in each housing with the DD SS3 pros in the high beam reflector bowl inside the housing. That would be a kickass setup!
Yes! This is a great article and a very deep dive on a true retrofit. It is leaps and bounds better to incorporate real LED optics instead of the silly ones that try to emulate halogen bulbs. But as you’ve shown, the work is far more involved (which is why many are tempted by the drop-in bulbs, even though they are poorer performing than factory).
Did you elect to keep the factory high beam reflectors working? Reflectors are many times more efficient than projectors, which is why you may find the projector high beam underwhelming. Most of the bi-LED or bi-HID retrofits I have seen also include the factory high beam reflector for more light. The 9011 halogen bulb is a great upgrade over the 9005 bulb for this too.
Tory, yeah it was a process, to say the least. I am not using the factory 9005s, no. They are still slotted in but do not function. I opted to run the Morimoto driver that connects the projector to both the H11 and the 9005 harnesses. So I am running the true Bi-LED right now. I may switch back to the Supernova V4s or maybe retro some HIDs. I do agree with you that the reflector bowl combined with what I was running before we’re superior in output but the cutoff pattern on the M-LED projector is sharper and more precise.