Improved Engine Compartment Lighting for the Monte Carlo

By Paul Carreiro, December 10th, 2001

This is a very easy, and cheap modification that can be performed to improve the engine bay lighting of your Monte Carlo. Your Monte Carlo may or may not have come equipped with an engine bay light on the right side. This was an option when ordering the Monte. When I special ordered my Monte from the factory, I chose just about every option in the book, including the engine bay light. If your Monte did not have this option, this modification can still be performed, and will be doubly useful to you! I've always been less than enthusiastic about the amount of light available in the engine bay with the stock light assembly. While this modification isn't a "trouble light" that throws off 100 watts of light, it is a dramatic improvement over stock condition. By adding a second light assembly, and switching to more powerful lamps, you can get 4 times the light in the engine compartment from the stock setup (15 candlepower vs. 64 candlepower).

If you look at the engine bay hood of the Monte Carlo, you will see the light assembly on the lower passenger side. If your Monte did not come with an engine bay light, you will see a half moon cut out in the hood liner with two holes visible. In either case, did you ever notice that there is an additional cut out on the driver side? The pre-drilled holes are even present! Gee wiz... sounds like a good place for another light assembly. Well.. it is! Adding a second light assembly on the driver's side dramatically improves lighting. Adding two light assemblies when you don't have any... well, it's like night and day!

Parts: Go down to your local junk yard and find just about ANY 80's-90's GM vehicle. Take a look under the hood. Chances are, you will find a light assembly there. The good news is, GM used the same light assembly from the early 80's up to present! "Shop around" the junk yard and find the best specimen. The older the vehicle (cadaver), the more corroded the light assembly is bound to be. Look for a late model vehicle for the cleanest assemblies. Don't forget to scrounge up some good light bulbs! I suggest you look for the more powerful bulbs (PN 1156, more on this later). You will also want to keep the two sheet metal screws that secured the light assembly to the donor car. Also, don't forget to extract as much of the wire harness as possible. The longer wire you have coming off the lamp, the easier your installation. There will be some black connectors in the harness. These are good for added flexibility in installation. I picked up two good condition light assemblies with lamps and long wire harness for $1.00. Can't beat that! The only other part that you will need is a "Tap-In Connector" that Tees in the new wire harness to the existing wire. Radio Shack sells these (Radio Shack Part Number 64-3052).

Once you have all the parts in hand, installation is a snap. First, clean up the new light assembly and light bulb as much as possible. Secure the new light assembly to the hood using the two recovered screws into the pre-drilled holes. Take care not to over tighten as you can strip the hood sheet metal. Usually, there will be a connector on the wire harness very close to the light assembly. There should be a bracket attached to this connector. Make sure the bracket is secured with one of the two screws. Next, find the existing wire from the passenger side light. This should be a black wire that transverses the firewall, and enters the firewall below the brake master cylinder. Use the "Tap-In" connector to connect the new wire harness to the existing wire. Once you press the tap-in connector together (with a pair of pliers), the new light should turn on.

Just in case you were not aware, these light assemblies have an internal mercury switch which automatically turns the light off when the hood is closed. Again, all GM 80's and 90's vehicles have the same type fixture. They all have the cut off switch internal to the assembly.

If your Monte Carlo did not come with an existing engine bay light, you'll want to acquire two light fixtures with wire harnesses, bulbs and screws. Mechanical installation is as described above.. just repeat for the other side. For wiring.. you will need to find a 12 volt source under the hood.. preferably one that you are familiar with.. and know what fusing scheme is used. Two type 1156 lamps in parallel draw a good amount of current. You wouldn't want a critical circuit burning out from excess current draw. When in doubt, run a wire direct to the battery.. but use an in-line fuse holder and fuse (I suggest a 5 amp fuse) close to the battery connection.

While these light assemblies aren't perfect.. they are better than staring at a dark engine without a flashlight available. I was always disappointed at the amount of light the "stock" light provided... especially on the driver's side of the engine. With the additional light, there is enough illumination to perform general maintenance or trouble investigation and show off your engine to others. Those going from no lights to 2 will notice a big difference.

The stock lamp used is a type 93, which has a rating of 15 candlepower. I recommend switching to type 1156, which has a rating of 32 candlepower. This will give you a lot more light in the compartment. So the net affect with the additional light assembly and 1156 bulbs is a light level 4 times brighter than stock (15 candlepower vs. 64 candlepower).

As a side note, you can perform a similar upgrade of the trunk lamp. The stock lamp used in the trunk is a type 1003, which has a rating of 15 candlepower. You can also switch this lamp to a type 1156, which has 32 candlepower, thereby doubling the available light in the trunk compartment.

A final word of warning... Now that you have two good light sources under the hood, be aware that current drain on your battery is now higher. Don't keep the hood open too long.. or you may find your battery charge state to be very low. If you were really worried about this, you could always install an in-line switch in the wire harness to allow you to disable one or both of the lights as required.

Here's how my modification turned out! It was easy and really improved the lighting situation under the hood!

I hope you found this modification useful and easy to follow. If you have any questions, please drop me an e-mail. If you have performed the modification and are happy.. drop me an e-mail.. if you're not happy.. drop GM an e-mail. :))

Good Luck!

©Copyright 1999-2002,, All Rights Reserved