Legal Lighting: Baja Designs RTL-M Review

When it comes to modifying your 4x4, some upgrades can tip the scale from want to need. Take for example our 2008 Toyota Tacoma. Far from stock, the truck has been outfitted with a slew of upgrades to make it a better ‘wheeler and adventure rig. Out back, you’ll find a swing-out tire carrier that holds our 285/75R17 Nitto Trail Grappler along with our license plate.

While the carrier functions perfectly fine, it’s lacking one small feature that is a must-have in many states — rear plate illumination. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor infraction. However, given the long distance travels we like to do with the truck, we thought it best to come up with a proper fix. A quick Google search will reveal there’s an assortment of tag light options. Some clearly nicer than others.  

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The one that stood out the most to us was from Baja Designs. It’s called the RTL-M and it’s a bit more than a basic tag light. It’s a compact 6-inch-long led light bar that, in addition to offering tag illumination, has a brake, running and cargo light. While we highlight the unique light in the video above, we’re breaking into the details of the RTL-M in the article below.

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Our RTL-M setup shipped with the light, bracket and necessary mounting hardware. You will need to provide your own post-light wiring as it’s meant as a universal lighting solution. Weighing in at just 1.1 pounds, the lightweight RTL-M has an IP69K rating, meaning it's waterproof up to nine feet and pressure washable.

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There are four wires extending from the tail of the light. We used the old trick of clamping our wires in a drill to have a long and tidy wiring bundle. Once we had the correct length, we loomed and attached the assortment to the tire carrier.

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We tapped into the Tacoma’s stock wiring harness, which we accessed behind the passenger-side taillight. Given the low watt demand (listed below), we were able to do this without any issues from the stock harness.

Taillight: 0.75w

License Plate Light: 2w

Brake Light: 5.5w

Cargo Light: 8.5w

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The RTL-M license plate mount kit allows you to attach the light bar using the bolt-hole locations on any conventional U.S. license plate. For those looking to use the RTL-M on a Jeep Wrangler JK tire carrier, there’s a specific bracket (SKU: 107003) that allows you to attach it via the two lugs nuts on the 5-on-5 wheel bolt pattern.

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In terms of brightness, the brake and taillight LED’s nearly outshine the truck’s stock tail lamps. The plate light is also more than enough to make our tag readable at night, thus solving our little infraction issue.

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We wired the cargo light feature to come on when our truck was placed in reverse. At 312 lumens, we now have a much more usable light spread to keep up from bumping into things at night.

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Want to learn more about LED lighting? Be sure to read up on the science of lighting.

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