LED Console lights

If you've read the webpages I've done you'll have figured out by now that I like LED's for lots of reasons. They don't blow at inconveniant moments, they use significantly less power than traditional globes, they don't create heat, and they only make the required colour so don't require filters and lenses. Because they're directional pin-point sources they're much more versatile, and can be used for pretty much every light on a vehicle except the headlights (just give them a couple of years and they'll fix that too!).

You'll also know from reading these pages that I really like my bike, however nothing is perfect. One of the few issues I have with the Triumph America/Speedmaster design is that you can barely see the idiot lights on the tank console, and that's at night! During daylight they're completely useless. Putting some modern super-bright LED's in solves all these problems.

Commercial Solutions

Sure, you can go out and buy ready-made LED globes that go straight into the console sockets, and for three of the idiot lights that's a perfectly good solution. If this is your chosen solution then get the brightest ones you can for the Nuetral & Oil warning lights, and a fairly dim one for the High Beam warning light (who needs a bright blue laser beam shooting them in the eye while riding at night?). The turn signal warning light can use an LED too, but only if you're using convential globes in the turn signals! One company who (at the time of writing) supplied some excellent choices at good prices is www.superbrightleds.com. They stock some "globes" with 6 leds in them called "WLED's" which slip straight into the idiot light sockets and will work well as long as you keep standard globes in the turn signals. Don't use the blue one for high beam tho, it's way too bright.

A good commercial solution - within limits

Flash flash flash...

If you're wanting to put LED's into the turn signals you're going to run into two problems - firstly they'll flash at a really high speed. This is because LED's have a much lower resistance than incandescant globes, and the standard flasher unit thinks the LED's are actually blown globes. The fix here is either to put "load equalisers" (big resistors) in parallel with the LED turn signals or to get a new flasher unit designed for LED's. The flasher unit's a much better idea since it's plug & play, and using load equalisers loses one of the big advantages of LED's as they suddenly chew up as much power as traditional globes.

The second problem you'll run into is the reason for this page. Triumph America/Speedmasters only have one turn signal warning light rather than seperate ones for left & right. This light is connected to both the left AND right signals, and uses the side that's NOT turned on as the earth for the other side. With traditional globes this is fine, but as soon as you put LED's into the signals the earthed side starts flashing along with the powered side. This basically means that if you select left or right, you get 4-way (hazard) flashers instead. (If you really want hazard lights, click here!)

If you just want to plug in a couple of LED globes into your signals and don't want to muck about too much with your console lights, there's a simple fix for it. You need to cut the two wires leading to the turn signal idiot light, add a diode to each wire and connect both diodes to one terminal of the idiot light. Then simply provide an earth wire for the other side of the idiot light and you're done. There's a conveniant earth on the tach/clock connector that you can tap into.

Standard turn signal wiring

Modified turn signal wiring, using "isolation diodes".

Huh? Diode? What's a diode?

A diode is a small electronic component that's actually sort of 2/3 of a transistor. It acts as a sort of electronic valve, allowing current to pass through it in one direction, but not the other. There's a bunch of different sorts of diodes such as rectifier diodes, power diodes, signal diodes and zener diodes. In fact LED's are also diodes, as the name is short for "Light Emitting Diode". However in this project we're looking for rectifier diodes which you can get from any decent electronics shop - ask for 1N4007 diodes or similar.

Lookit th' purty lights!

I didn't want to go with the commercial solutions because I can usually come up with a better & cheaper solution that addresses my needs exactly. In this case I've found a single LED that has about the same light output as the commercial solutions with 4-6 LED's, and allows me to add the isolation diodes. I'm not going to tell you exactly which LED you "have" to use for this as different stores will have different stock & brands. There's only a few criteria the LED you choose should meet: It should be a 5mm round LED (bigger ones won't fit, smaller ones won't put out enough light), and it should have an output in the range of 16000 - 20000 mcd (millicandela). You'll also need to know the "forward current" and "forward voltage" for the LED. If your electronics shop can't tell you these details, go find a REAL electronics shop. More about these things later in the page. You can also use the same system to make normal LED globes for the other lights, without the diodes. For each globe you make you will need...

"strip board" (this is printed circuit board with strips of copper and predilled holes in a grid pattern, it's sometimes called vero board)
1 x LED. I've used 20,000mcd LED's for the green and a 16,000mcd red one. The blue I've used a 1500mcd one
1 x Resistor. I'll talk about what value resistor in a minute.
2 x Diodes. 1N4007 or similar. Value's not critical, any rectifier diode should work. (Only required for turn signal light)
Small amount of light electrical hook-up wire, solder & iron, heatshrink tubing, and something to cut the board with (eg a sharp knife, dremel, small saw etc), and a hot glue gun/tube of silicon or similar.

Cut a piece of strip board 5 tracks wide & 6 holes long. Solder all the components except onto the board as shown:

Things to note: The tracks are on the back of the board, they're shown simply for clarity. Diodes have a stripe indicating the "cathode" end - the two cathodes must be towards the top of the board. The resistor can be used in either direction.

Next step is to cut three pieces of hook-up wire. Ideally you should have two colours (I'm using black and red in my example). You'll need two pieces of red wire approx 3 inches long, and one piece of black wire approx 5 inches. Strip approx 1/4 inch of the insulation from each end and tin the ends of the wire with solder.

You need to identify the anode & cathode of the LED. As you'll see in the picture below the anode has the shorter leg, and the cathode the longer, with a flat side on the body of the LED to also identify the cathode. Spread the LED's legs to mount it as shown, trim the legs to fit and solder into position. Finally solder the three wires into place as shown.

You can test the thing out at this point simply by connecting the black wire to the negative terminal of a 12V battery (like the one in your bike!) and either red wire to the positive terminal. It should work regardless of which red wire you use, and if you measure the voltage between the negative terminal of the battery and the unused red wire it should be 0V or very close to it. If the LED doesn't light or you're getting 12V on the unused wire you've done something wrong - go back and check your connections again. Note: Do not try connecting the LED to a battery without a resistor to see if it works. Even if it worked before you did it, all you'll get is a very bright, very momentary flash and then you'll be left with a sad little piece of silicon & carbon that doesn't do much of anything anymore. You can test LED's with multimeters or a battery with the correct resistor in line with the LED.

If it all works use the hot glue gun/tube of silicon etc to reinforce the LED so it doesn't vibrate on it's wires. While you're at it you can seal the entire board in the glue to make it weather proof. While that's drying let's have a look at the bike. Remove the three screws holding the console onto the tank. Unplug the connector. Locate the turn signal warning light and cut the two wires leading to it, as close to the socket as possible. Remove the globe and socket terminals from the rubber socket. Take your new LED globe and feed the two red wires through one hole and the black wire through the other hole. Seat the LED globe into the socket as deeply as possible. Solder the two red wires to the two turn signal wires you cut earlier. Locate the brown earth wire on the tacho/clock connector and connect the black wire to that. Note: Some consoles contain a variety of wire that it's impossible to solder to due to it being coated with an enamel. If yours is one of these I recommend using "crimp on" male & female connectors to attach the two red wires, and a "scotchlock" to attach the black wire. Test and reassemble your bike if all is working correctly. You should now be able to burn holes in your retina with your turn signals.

Resistance is futile!

Speaking of resistors I said I'd tell you how to choose the correct resistor. You need the resistor because an LED will quite happily pull as much current from a power source as the source can deliever, however the LED will blow itself up in doing so. The resistor limits the amount of current to that which the LED can use safely. To find the appropriate resistor you need some information about your LED. The retailer should be able to provide you with this infomation, usually on their webpage, though sometimes LED's come with a specs sheet. You need 3 pieces of information, the supply voltage (13.8 volts for cars & bikes, not12 volts!), the LED voltage or Forward Voltage (usually shown as Vf on spec sheets and measured in volts (V) eg: 2.3V) and the Forward Current (shown as If on spec sheets and measured in milliAmps(mA) eg: 20mA). You can do the maths yourself with the formula R=(V-Vf)/If or you can simply plug the values into one of the many online calculators like this one.

Showing a prototype of the turn signal LED globe with two LED's.
I later found that it won't fit in the socket with two LED's.

One down, three to go.

While that works for the turn signals, the Oil, Nuetral, & High Beam idiot lights are much simpler and don't require the diodes so the design changes slightly. They also don't need to have wires cut etc, you can simply unplug the standard bulb and plug these ones in. The boards for these are 10 holes long by 4 strips wide, and require only the LED and 1 resistor, as well as the solder & iron, hot glue gun etc. On the back cut one of the strips as shown using a sharp knife or similar. Solder the resistor across the cut, then solder the LED as shown. Use the offcut legs from the resistor to make two bridges across the tracks on the rear of the trackboard, so provide a solid connection for the socket. Check all connections and test on a 12V battery. If it works as intended reinforce the LED and seal the entire board with hot glue or similar, then remove the appropriate globe from the console and replace with the LED globe. If it doesn't work remove and plug it in the other way round.

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Board layout and front & rear views of complete project before hot glue.

Finished product, as it went into my bike.