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Home >> Resources | Support >> Guides to PC Modification >> 

Hooking Up a Neon Light

By Lee Penrod

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends


Got Windows? No I'm not talking about the operating system; I'm talking about a window on the side of your PC. These days even case manufacturers are adding windows to their cases so that you don't have to take the time to pull off this slightly tricky mod. A window helps show off your hot new video card, ultra fast processor, and rounded IDE cables but if you just have a window you're missing something. What is that you say? Yes. No case with a window is complete without a light to give your hardware that ominous look that strikes fear in the hearts of all those unmodded cases at your weekly LAN Party.

But now the question comes: How do I hook it up? That's where this article comes in.

Automotive Knowledge

Most Neon lights were originally intended for the automotive industry. For years people have been "ricing" (modding) their cars with all sorts of neon lights ranging from under the dash 10-20 inch lights all the way to custom shaped license plate tubes that give the cops an extra incentive to pull you over. Since such lights are meant for cars, they often don't have the type of wiring you would need to hook them up to a PC, but that can be fixed.

Automotive neon lights are going to come in one of two ways: tailed with a 12V car adapter (also called a cigarette adapter) or with bare wires to wire into a car electrical system. The latter bare wire form is most common on very large lights or special application neon lights, while the former is common on the type of lighting one might want to use in a PC.

Now a car's electrical system runs on 12V DC, which can also be supplied by a PC's power supply quite easily. You just need to know how to hook it up.

Wire Coloring and Voltages

There are a few standard color schemes for wiring. First off in a PC power supply your 4-pin connectors should always have the 4 following colored wires. Yellow - +12V Black - (next to yellow) 12V Ground (0V) Black - (next to red) 5V Ground (0V) Red - +5V

Now voltage is always the difference of potential between two sources. We can get +12V by using yellow and black, +5V by using red and black, and +7V by using yellow and red.

Neon lights need a 12V connection so the yellow wire from a 4-pin connector must be attached to the 12V wire on the light, and the black wire (next to yellow) must be connected to the ground wire on the light.

Now, that sounds all well and good, but lights don't always follow a coloring scheme and it's not always easy to tell which is which.

There is a fairly simple way to figure this out.

Coverting a car adapter

When looking at a car adapter the round point on the end is always your 12V connection, and the side is your ground.

A car adapter can be opened by taking a flat head screw driver to the end cap, unscrewing the tip, and carefully pulling plastic sides apart. This will yield you a wire with a spring soldered to it, a wire with one of the metal sides soldered to it, and a fuse.

The wire that is attached to the spring is your +12v and the wire attached to the metal side is your 12v ground.

Cut off the spring, pull the wires apart a little (if joined by thin connecting insulation) and strip between 1/2" and 3/8" of insulation off the wire.

Take a 4-pin extender or 4-pin Y-cable and cut between the connectors.

Strip both the yellow and black wires in a similar fashion to the positive wire from the light.

Connecting Wires

Now there are many ways to join wires but one quick and simple way is via the use of crimpable butt connectors. There are several ways to use these but I'll describe a method that will provide a lot of room for wire tension.

Note: For more indepth wire connection information please see the Wire Connection Guide.

Take the +12V wire from the light thru the connector:

Twist the yellow wire together with the +12V wire from the light. Pull the light's wire back thru the butt connector so that the join is roughly in the middle. Crimp the middle of the butt connector and then any additional places you see fit to help wire tension (once on either side to hold insulation helps a bit).

Repeat the process for connecting the ground.

Once this is done you can use needle nose pliers to pull out the extra Red and black pin and wire.

Try it out

Now just hook your newly tailed light to a 4-pin connector from your power supply and see if it works.


If everything worked then go ahead and install the light in your case and enjoy!

If not, go back and make sure that your connections are secure and that you connected the correct wires to the light.

Good luck and enjoy!

Related Items | Lighting | Automotive Neon, 10" | Automotive Neon, 15" | 4-pin Y cables |

Information in this article is provided as a reference only. We are not responsible for damages due to intentional use or misuse of the above information. It is provided on a As-is basis.

(c) Directron.com, All Rights Reserved 2002-2003

If you find this article useful, please create a link to it from your website or tell a friend about it. If you have any comments or suggestions about this article, please email information@directron.us

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