One of the things I've never been happy with was the lights on the saddlebags - the way the lights were lit up with the occasional bulb just didn't look good to me. Honda even tried using high-voltage EL (electroluminescent) lights for a while. These lights are like a long, wide bar that light up along the entire surface. The problem is, they don't last, and fade out over time, or the circuitry required to generate the high voltage for them just fails outright.
Some GL1500's don't have lights in their saddlebags at all, requiring the purchase of saddlebag light kits
. My bike had these light kits installed already, however the lenses were in sad shape. I decided to replace my lenses with new lenses
, and at the same time, light them up with strips of LEDs. I bought a 16-foot reel of red SMD LEDs
, encapsulated in a waterproof jacket. These strips can be cut at one-inch terminators, which allows them to be cut to size.
1. To start, I opened my saddlebags and removed the three acorn nuts holding each light in place:
2. To remove the old lenses, I gently pried up the backing over the tabs of the lenses. These lenses are EXTREMELY brittle, and will crack and break with the slightest amount of pressure. It's virtually impossible to remove them without breaking at least one piece. Of course, I had replacement lenses to install, so I didn't care all that much about breaking the old ones.
3. Some of the lenses are also hot-glued in place. After removing the lens, some of the glue can be left in the channel of the base. Take a small flat-blade screwdriver, heat it with a heat gun, flame, or other source of heat, and use it to remove the glue - it will melt and come right out.
The old backs had molded-in holders designed to hold the original light bulbs in place. After removing the light bulbs and their sockets and wiring, I used a Dremel tool with a cutoff disc to cut off the holders. I left the cuts as shown, however I now wish that I had sprayed some chrome spray paint over the black cuts, as they are slightly visible through the lens now that they are installed.
4. Here is one of the old backs, with the four light bulb holders cut out, next to the new lens that I was going to install.
5. Note that the lenses had some "flashing" flaws. Both the flashing (the jagged bit) and the extrusion posts (visible on the right) had to be ground off before installing it into the back, otherwise it would not seat flush. I used a Dremel tool with a small grinding wheel on it to do this.
6. I cut two slots in one end (one slot is cut in this picture, visible on the top right). This was due to the fact that the LED strips must be cut on their cut lines only - which is every three LEDs. In order to do this, the strip ended up just a slight bit longer than would fit. My solution was to cut two small slots in the end, to allow the strips to fit.
7. I slightly enlarged the hole for the wires to pass through.
8. The LED strip comes on a plastic reel. It is encapsulated to make it waterproof, and has 3M adhesive "peel and stick" backing on the back.
9. You can see the "cut lines" on the strip - the strip can only be cut on these lines. The black dots on either side of the cut lines are used to connect the strip to power.
10. After cutting the strips to side, I cut away the waterproof sealant on the top over top of the power connection points. I then soldered positive and negative wires to the connection points, soldered the wires from the two strips together, and connected a third lead. I then covered the soldered connections with shrink wrap tubing as shown.
11. In order to make sure the adhesive stuck permanently, I first cleaned the back of the lights with rubbing alcohol, to remove all traces of dirt and oil.
12. In testing, I noticed that when the LEDs were placed behind the center "reflective" portion of the lens, very little light made it through - obviously because this part of the lens is designed to reflect light back, so that car headlights will light up the lens.
13. Instead, I decided to position the LEDs behind the top portion of the lens, which has little magnification lenses molded into it. A great deal of light makes it through the lens when placed in this position.
14. I peeled back the adhesive strip from the back of the LED strips and slowly applied the strips to the backs, pressing firmly to activate the adhesive.
15. Once the strips were in place, I fished the wire ends through the feed hole. Note where the strips fit through the slots that I cut in the end.
16. the other end of the strips butts up against the other end of the back.
17. I used a hot glue gun to seal the feed hole, as well as secure the wiring in place. As I mentioned with the chrome spray paint on the cut pieces before, due to the fact that this black is slightly visible through the lens, next time I would have used translucent hot glue instead.
18. Connecting the lights to a 12 volt source (make sure you get the polarity correct!). In a pinch, a 9 volt battery will work as well. I checked that the lights were operating correctly.
19. I then snapped the new lenses in place over the lights, and once more turned them on to see how they looked.
20. I'm quite pleased with the end result, and I plan to retrofit all of my other trunk/bag lights the same way. They're bright, and look great!