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If you're building an off-road or overland vehicle, lighting upgrades are almost certainly on your to-do list, and for good reason. Stock headlights can usually illuminate a dimly-lit road just fine, but if you're out on a treacherous trail in total darkness, the quality and placement of your vehicle's lighting becomes much more important. A good set of ditch lights could be the difference between staying on the road and getting stuck, and a forward-facing light bar can outperform the best factory high-beams. However, there's one type of lighting that's often overlooked: tail lights. They ensure your vehicle is visible to other motorists, signal lane changes, serve as hazard flashers and reverse lights, and most importantly, tell the car behind you when you're braking. With this in mind, I recently upgraded my 2022 4Runner overland project with a set of new “Gen 2” Morimoto LED tail lights.
As one of the biggest names in aftermarket vehicle lighting, Morimoto is well-known for their LED headlight upgrades, auxiliary light pods, retrofit kits, and individual bulbs. They've offered a replacement tail light for the 2010+ 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner for many years, but they recently went back to the drawing board to develop a completely redesigned Gen 2 version. In my opinion, it's a dramatic improvement.
Above: Here's a comparison between the Morimoto 4Runner Gen 2 light (left) and the older Gen 1 design (right). The new Gen 2 lights are available in red (pictured) or smoked versions.
The Morimoto Gen 2 4Runner tail lights ($650 MSRP) feature a sleek, horseshoe-shaped running light that creates a unique visual signature. In contrast to the factory lights — which have a simple grid of individual LEDs — I think it gives the truck more of an upscale look, along the lines of a modern Lexus, BMW, or Audi. It also separates the running light from the brake light, making it easier to distinguish the two functions at night.
In addition to the running light, there's a set of three brake light/turn signal LED arrays. When I hit the brake pedal, all three illuminate bright red immediately. But when I flip on a turn signal, the three segments illuminate sequentially in a one-two-three pattern with an orange hue.
Above: Here's a comparison between the brake light color (left) and turn signal/hazard light color (right).
This sequential operation is common on newer luxury cars as well as sports cars like the Ford Mustang, and it adds to the upscale, modern look of these lights. It's a big step up from the old-school bulb-and-reflector design of the stock Toyota lights.
Lastly, there's a clear strip with a line of extremely bright white LEDs that serve as reverse lights. These, too, are a big improvement over the single bulb inside a reflector that the 4Runner came with from the factory. For those who want even more light for backing into dark areas, Morimoto offers an optional Backup Light Boost Bar ($77.50 MSRP) that can be installed above the license plate. It plugs directly into one of the taillights, so there's no need to run new wiring to the battery or tap into factory harnesses.
I chose not to buy the Boost Bar since I already have two extremely bright, rear-facing Baja Designs lights on my roof rack, but it's a great option for those who want to preserve a stock look.
If you want to upgrade your 5th Gen 4Runner's visibility or just want to give it a more modern look, a new set of tail lights is a quick and easy way to do both. It only took me a few minutes to install them using the included instructions, and I'm really happy with the results. As someone who remembers the “Altezza tail light” fad of the late 1990s, I'm not a big fan of ostentatious tail light designs, so I appreciate the understated and classy look of the Morimoto Gen 2 lights. Put simply, they're a functional and aesthetic improvement.
Stay tuned for more updates on our 4Runner build, and for more information about the new Morimoto 4Runner Gen 2 tail lights, go to MorimotoHID.com.