You’ve probably seen them around town – Toyota Tacomas, 4runners, and Tundras with 3 amber lights in the grille. Want to know what they are and what they’re used for? You’ve come to the right place!
Raptor lights have been made popular by the Ford F150 Raptor. The US Department of Transportation requires any vehicle over 80″ in width to have certain lights on the front end to warn oncoming drivers that an extra wide vehicle is coming their way. At more than 86″ wide, the Raptor must have them.
These lights on the front end have added to its iconic appearance and because of that, copycats are everywhere. First, owners of regular F150 models were adding them but now it has spread to other brands like Toyota.
Where Raptor lights got their name
These 3 amber lights in the grille of a vehicle have been widely known as “Raptor” lights because that’s where most people first noticed them. There are a few interesting misconceptions here though:
Ford Raptors have 5 lights, not 3
You might be surprised to know that Raptors actually have five of these DOT indicator lights, not three. Apart from the obvious 3 in the center of the truck, there is also one on the front of each front fender.
If you were to look at these as a pattern, it would be 0-000-0. People tend to only install the center lights when adding aftermarket ones to their non-Raptor.
Ford Raptors also have lights on the rear
The federal mandate for wide vehicles doesn’t only apply to the front end. These trucks also have to have the same lights in the rear but instead of being amber in color, they’re red. The other big difference is that the middle 3 are tied into the 3rd brake light so the “Rear Raptor” lights only consist of an LED on the rear of each bedside.
Some generations of Ram duallys had 3 “Rear Raptor” lights in the tailgate just like the Raptor grille.
Ford Raptors aren’t the only truck to come with Raptor lights
The Ford Raptor wasn’t the first truck to use these lights either. After the Raptor had already made them popular, newer trucks like the Ram TRX and the 2022+ Toyota Tundra TRD Pro were also required to have them. The Tundra shares a similar design with the Raptor but the TRX has them mounted inside the hood scoop rather than the grille.
But let’s backtrack a little. The Raptor definitely wasn’t the first truck wider than 80” to be sold to the North American public. There have been plenty of heavy-duty pickups, duallys, and even commercial vehicles that required these DOT indicator lights as well. Why don’t they have Raptor lights?
They actually do and you’re probably already familiar with them – except we typically refer to them as “Cab lights”. That’s right, the amber lights on the roof of the Silverado dually you saw the other day serve the exact same purpose – and they were using these lights for decades before the Raptor was ever designed.
You’ll notice that Cab lights are also laid out in the same pattern – 0-000-0. In a way, these were the original Raptor lights. People like to retrofit those on trucks that didn’t originally come with them too, but that seems to be much more accepted in the truck community.
The regular version of the Ford F150 is actually 1/10” less than 80” wide. Building an off-road version of the truck with long travel suspension required the control arms to be longer and in turn, pushed the wheels out far enough to need wider fenders to cover them up.
This extended the width well beyond the legal threshold. They wanted to maintain a sleeker, sportier look for their new off-road race truck so rather than mounting the lights on the top of the cab, they put them in the grille.
|Vehicle||Width (without mirrors)||DOT Indicator lights required?|
|1st Gen Ford Raptor (2010-2016)||86.3”||Yes|
|2nd Gen Ford Raptor (2017-2021)||86.3”||Yes|
|3rd Gen Ford Raptor (2022-Present)||86.6”||Yes|
|Regular Ford F150 (2023)||79.9”||No|
|Ford F250 (2023)||80”||No|
|Ford F450 Dually (2023)||96”||Yes|
|2nd Gen Toyota Tundra (2007-2021)||79.9”||No|
|3rd Gen Toyota Tundra TRD Pro (2022-Present)||81.6”||Yes|
|3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma (2016-2023)||75.2”||No|
|5th Gen Toyota 4runner (2010-Present)||75.8”||No|
So why do people put Raptor lights on Toyota trucks?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That is literally the only reason to mount Raptor lights on any truck that’s narrower than 80”. This is a dumb, pointless, and non-functional modification that people do to mimic the hardcore off-roader vibe of the Ford Raptor.
And I’m allowed to roast the people that have them because I myself, put them on my 4runner. People have made fun of me ever since.
I trash-talked Raptor lights on 4runners for the longest time but when Trail Runner Customs offered me one of their TRD Pro grilles, it included a set of Raptor lights. The installation was so easy, I had no reason not to give them a chance. Don’t knock it till you try it, right?
Well they’re on, and I have to admit, they look kinda cool sometimes. Looks are the only thing they offer though. Raptor lights are nothing more than a government mandate for wide vehicles and the 4runner and Tacoma are nowhere near wide enough to require them.
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They don’t put out any useable light at night, they don’t add 20hp, and they won’t cause anyone to confuse your Tacoma SR5 with a Ford Raptor. But that’s ok. If you like the way they look, go for it.
Keep in mind, the hood scoop on your Sport or TRD Pro model isn’t functional either, so even Toyota themselves has been known to add things to the front end purely for looks.
Are Raptor lights illegal?
This is a tricky one and it really depends on your specific state or province. In most cases, as long as they’re amber in color, the police won’t hassle you. Some people like to use different color lights though and that could potentially be a problem.
Typically, the only color you’re allowed to have on your front end is white or amber. So putting red Raptor lights in your grille might be considered “imitating an emergency vehicle” or something to that effect.
Some jurisdictions might have laws against adding any additional lights to your front end. This seems a little silly but then again, so does having to put covers over auxiliary lighting. I’m not sure how strictly that one is enforced but it’s worth looking into.
Wiring for Raptor lights – the easiest way:
So what’s the easiest way to wire a set of Raptor lights on your Toyota? Well for starters, get yourself a kit that’s intended to fit your vehicle in the first place. This will save you a ton of time building brackets and trying to find LED lights that are the right size to fit your grille.
Many aftermarket grilles will include a set of Raptor lights. This was the case for the grille I got from Trail Runner Customs. The LEDs snapped right into place and it included a wiring harness that connected the lights together.
As far as the actual wiring, you have to decide how you want your lights to function. Some people prefer to power them with a switch in the cabin so they’re able to control whether they’re turned on or not.
For my own 4runner, I chose to have them function the same way they do on the Ford Raptor – after all, that’s the look we’re copying, right? The lights basically function like running lights on the Raptor so they’re illuminated whenever the vehicle is running.
You can see how I install my Raptor lights in this video:
The easiest way to do the wiring for this was to tap into the fuse box with an “add-a-fuse”. I used the cigarette lighter fuse because that’s powered only when the vehicle is turned on (at least it is on the 4th gen 4runner).
Other than that, it was just a matter of finding a bolt on the body for a ground and running the wiring through a grommet into the cab and behind the hood insulator. FYI: be careful when messing around with the hood insulator. These 4runners are getting old and the material is super brittle. It’ll crumble in your hands if you’re too firm with it!
So why are Toyota truck owners putting Raptor lights on their grilles? Despite how badly some might try to justify it, this is strictly for looks. Their trucks aren’t wide enough to require them and they don’t produce any sort of functional light.
The more interesting question here is why did Toyota put them on the 2022 TRD Pro Tundra from the factory? Obviously, at 81.6”, it’s wide enough to require them.
But there’s no way Toyota hadn’t taken note of all the Raptor lights people were putting on their 4runners, Tacomas, and Tundras – so did they make the Pro fender flares a bit wider on purpose so technically, Toyota owners would be copying the Tundra rather than the F150? I suppose we’ll never know.