Hatch Lights and AntennaX Install

I decided awhile back to finally start documenting the Sebastian Build. While these are both small — I’ve got to start somewhere.

hatch lights

On a recent trip I was introduced to strip LED lights (thanks Jake!). If you’re like me and live under a rock… they’re basically LEDs encased in a waterproof  “rope” (but much flatter). You can cut one end to customize the length and the backside has adhesive on it. One end has a place to plug in a controller that allows you to not only turn it off-and-on, but control the color, brightness, and set various blinking patterns.  Unimpressed with the dome light in the hatch area and in preparation for my next mod (this one is far more exciting… stay tuned), I decided to use them to create a work/kitchen light setup on the hatch.

I did take a couple pictures… but can’t find them. I promise I’ll get better about that. Also, before I start into how I did — if you’re considering this — I’d highly recommend you convert all your dome lights to LEDs first. That’s going to significantly reduce the draw of the system as a whole.

The first thing I did was pull the fuse for the dome lights — it’s marked and in the glove box fuse box. I pulled the hatch panel (four phillips screws and lots of clips), the boot between the hatch and the body (press fit), the D-pillar cover (clips) and the weather-stripping (pull away straight away from the body). I then dropped the dome light in the rear cargo area (use a flat head to pop the lens off, then two phillips screws to remove from headliner) and used hangers to run wire from the dome light to the hatch. Start at the dome light hole and run the wire behind the headliner to the D-pillar, then  up the D-pillar to the exit hold in the body where the boot is. To get the wire through the boot I used some heavy gauge wire I had laying around. Hangers I think would poke a hole in the boot and zip ties were too bendy. Once through the boot, it’s into the hatch entry hole, some more hangers to get it from the top of the window to the bottom and then down and across the bottom of the hatch. With the wires run, you wire it up (here’s some guidance) and put everything back where you found it.

I cut the USB plug off the LED strip and wired it to the newly routed wire using connectors (making it non-permanent and easy to swap if the strip fails). That connection just barely comes out of the hole I have drilled in the hatch cover that allows me to open the hatch from the inside. So if I ever want to change it, I don’t need to remove the hatch cover again. With that stuffed in the hole, I then finally mounted the LED strip across the bottom of the hatch. Put the fuse back in and start the dance party.

LED cook/work light installed on tailgate and switched to factory dome lights.
LED cook/work light installed on tailgate and switched to factory dome lights.

The great thing about wiring it up this way is that the dome light system and cargo area switch also controls the hatch light. Open the hatch and the light comes one. Close the hatch and the light goes out. The downside is that on the Xterra, the BCM times out after 10 minutes (to prevent you from draining your battery if you forget and leave it on)… which means you have to open and close a door every 10 minutes to keep the light on. But an easy work around is to simply put your key in and to ON. This keeps all of your electronics on indefinitely while you’re at camp or cooking or whatever.

AntennaX Off-road Antenna

Months ago I got tired of the stock antenna getting whipped around on trees and car washes. I also hated how it looked with the CB antenna on the bull bar. So I bought and mounted a Stubby antenna from Amazon.


Looks and durability are great, but it diminishes your radio reception down to a point where it’s basically worthless. So I recently swapped to an AntennaX off-road antenna. Much happier with the reception (on par with stock antenna), looks better, and with it’s heavy rubber’ish-plastic (technical term) make-up, it doesn’t whip when hit.