Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500


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Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:49 pm



Everybody loves LED lights. What's not to love? They're bright, they turn on and off in an instant, and they virtually never burn out. They also use next to no power, compared to an incandescent bulb.

I wanted to switch the bulbs in the trunk and baggage side lights, as well as all the rear brake running and turn signals to LED. I initially did this by using off-the-shelf LED bulb replacements. This is a simple way to do it - pull out the 1156 and 1157 type bulbs, and replace them with 1156 and 1157 type bulbs. However, this didn't really give me the look I wanted. The bulbs still lit up "hot spots" on the lenses, leaving large areas un-illuminated. What I wanted was for the entire lens to light up, evenly, without being able to tell that there were individual bulbs behind it. On the back, I wanted ALL of the red lights to light up as running lights, and ALL of them to light up as brake lights when I hit the brakes.

To do this requires some custom work with LED strips. I bought several reels of LED strips, in both red and amber. I wanted the brightest possible lights for my bike. I won't tell you where I found them, because as is true with a large number of Chinese LED online retailers, they appear and then disappear quickly. I used SMD 5050 LED strips. SMD 5630 LED strips are brighter - however, it's not just the brightness of the chip, it's the density. I was able to find LED strips that had far more chips per inch in 5050 than the 5630 - and the end result was that with more LED chips crammed in there, the end result was brighter looking with the 5050 strips.

The first thing that has to be done is the removal of the light lenses. I won't sugar-coat it, this is a real nightmare of a job. The lenses are stuck together with the nastiest, stickiest, gooiest adhesive Honda could devise. I found the best way to do it was to use a heat gun set on low to warm the adhesive (it's hard at room temperature) until it became gooey. Then carefully use a screwdriver to pry the lens apart from the housing:

Image

This is a tough, tedious job. The lenses are made of a hard plastic that does not bend at all - it cracks. Apply too much pressure, and the lens will crack. These are EXPENSIVE to replace, so you really need to go slowly, and do a bit at a time. It took me about 15 minutes to remove the lens from each light, and about 45 minutes to an hour to fully clean the remaining adhesive from both the lens and the housing. There are 8 lenses to do on this bike - so yes, the disassembly of these lights takes a LONG time to do. Once the lenses were apart, I discarded the internal fresnel lenses, and covered over the light bulb sockets with scrap ABS panels, cementing them into place with ABS cement. We won't be using those anymore, so to keep the lenses weatherproof we need to close them up.

The LED strips I used were weatherproof, and covered in silicone. To gain access to the contacts, this silicone needs to be cut away, to expose the copper contacts.

Image

I then soldered wires to the contacts:

Image

And covered the solder joints with shrink tubing to insulate and strengthen the joints:

Image

I soldered several strips in parallel, making several assemblies like this:

Image

Each assembly was tested to make sure it light up properly. This one is lighting up amber, for a turn signal:

Image

The tape was pulled off the back of each of the strips to expose the adhesive, and the strips were installed into the light fixtures. I fed the wires out through the bottom of the fixtures.

Image

This is the view of the bottom corner fixture, with red brake LEDs in the section on the left, and amber turn signal LEDs in the section on the right.

Image

With the lens installed, the whole lens lights up when the LEDs are activated, which is just the effect I wanted:

Image

Here is the brake light portion of that lens being illuminated from inside:

Image

The upper (trunk) section has one large brake section, and turn signal sections on the ends:

Image

The next problem: I have only one set of LEDs to act as both my running lights and my brake lights. I need a way to make them appear more dim for running lights, and full brightness for brake lights. First, I thought I would light up only two of the five strips for running lights, and all five strips for brake lights. However, this looked terrible - you could see the individual strips in running light mode. So I needed to come up with a way of dimming them.

LEDs don't work the same as incandescent bulbs. You can't dim them reliably (to a preset level of output) using resistors. The level of output will vary from individual LED to LED - and what's worse, this will change over time. The only way you can guarantee a given level of light output is to use what's called pulse width modulation. This is the method used by automotive manufacturers when they put LED taillights on newer model cars. Basically, the LED is flashed at full power, really fast - faster than our eyes can discern. They are flashed in a pattern of ON for a certain percentage of time, and OFF for a certain percentage of time. The longer the LEDs are turned on, the brighter they appear to be to our eyes. I designed and built a pulse width modulation circuit capable of flashing the hundreds of LEDs I now had mounted on my motorcycle. I connected my circuit to my oscilliscope, so that I could see the output of the circuit. My circuit flashes the LEDs on and off roughly 200 times per second. You can see on the screen of the oscilloscope that the LEDs are on for about 20% of the time. This was just about right for my bike.

Image

Below is the circuit I designed and built - feel free to use it for noncommercial purposes. (click image for full size image)

Image

I did find that this change caused one unexpected problem that I had to fix - I detailed this in LED brake lights cause Cruise Control to stop working

And the end result? Have a look for yourself:






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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby jenagle » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:04 am

Super job. :D :D :D

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby wing rider 2012 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:46 am

Great job and a nice write up, thanks
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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby SlowTyper » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:41 am

Blurring the LED's so that you don't see the individual dots or rows is easier than one would think...

Go to Walmart and buy something. During checkout, when the say 'paper or plastic', answer "plastic". (Yes, I know they don't offer paper anymore, but now you know what "plastic" I am taking about.)

Cut out sections of plastic (avoiding any markings) slightly larger than your lens. Then insert four layers of your cut outs behind the lens and put it back together. Then take a razor and trim the plastic so that it does not protrude beyond the edge of the lens (which looks pretty bad).

However, don't tell anyone what you did - you don't want folks knowing your Wing employs such a low tech solution!

PS. The further the layers of plastic are located from the LEDs, the more uniform the light output will be.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby kb9lww » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:40 pm

Interesting. The one potential problem I see is that when FETs fail, they fail on. Which means if your PWM circuit FET dies for any reason, you will have bright (brake) lights on all the time. People behind you won't know when you apply the brakes.
Last edited by kb9lww on Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:56 pm

SlowTyper wrote:Blurring the LED's so that you don't see the individual dots or rows is easier than one would think...

Go to Walmart and buy something. During checkout, when the say 'paper or plastic', answer "plastic". (Yes, I know they don't offer paper anymore, but now you know what "plastic" I am taking about.)

Cut out sections of plastic (avoiding any markings) slightly larger than your lens. Then insert four layers of your cut outs behind the lens and put it back together. Then take a razor and trim the plastic so that it does not protrude beyond the edge of the lens (which looks pretty bad).

However, don't tell anyone what you did - you don't want folks knowing your Wing employs such a low tech solution!

PS. The further the layers of plastic are located from the LEDs, the more uniform the light output will be.


I did try using a diffuser (my go-to diffuser solution has always been translucent white plastic cut out of a milk bottle), but it reduced the light enough that I wasn't happy with the brightness - which is why I ended up going without any diffuser.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:02 pm

kb9lww wrote:Interesting. The one potential problem I see is that when FETs fail, they fail on. Which means if your PWM circuit FET dies for any reason, you will have bright (brake) lights on all the time. People behind you won't know when you apply the brakes.


Right - which is why I deliberately oversized that component in my design. It's rated for 55 volts, and 80 amps at 25C. The most it will see is 14 volts, and maximum measured current draw is 6.5 amps. In addition, I have the 7812 regulator to both regulate power to the 555 as well as what the FET gate sees, and the output diode which serves to protect against power or surges coming in from the brake output.

Lastly, FETs are most efficient (and generate the least amount of heat, which means longer life) when either off, or conducting 100% -which is exactly what this circuit does, as shown in the oscilliscope trace.

The only real problem I had with the circuit was noise - it was feeding enough 200Hz noise into the bus that it was picked up by the intercom, and made for an annoying noise. C4 and C5 fixed that problem.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby kb9lww » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:20 pm

Also, according to my knowledge, your drawing of the FET has the Drain and Source reversed. Does the circuit get wired according to the symbol or according to the "S" and "D" labels?

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:39 pm

kb9lww wrote:Also, according to my knowledge, your drawing of the FET has the Drain and Source reversed. Does the circuit get wired according to the symbol or according to the "S" and "D" labels?


Yup, you're right! The symbology is wrong, but the "S" and "D" labels are correct. That's how that component is set up in my electrical schematic software - wonder why? I'll have to see if I can fix that.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:49 pm

WingAdmin wrote:
kb9lww wrote:Also, according to my knowledge, your drawing of the FET has the Drain and Source reversed. Does the circuit get wired according to the symbol or according to the "S" and "D" labels?


Yup, you're right! The symbology is wrong, but the "S" and "D" labels are correct. That's how that component is set up in my electrical schematic software - wonder why? I'll have to see if I can fix that.


I've edited the images to show it correctly - I'm not sure why my software is generating it incorrectly.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby ka4yqi » Wed Oct 01, 2014 2:37 pm

Did you have to put a heatsink on the fet or the Voltage regulator?

Thanks for the drawings..

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:07 pm

ka4yqi wrote:Did you have to put a heatsink on the fet or the Voltage regulator?

Thanks for the drawings..


I didn't bother. The amount of current being pulled through the voltage regulator is miniscule (all it is running is the 555 timer IC and the gate of the FET), and the FET itself only generates heat when it is conducting partially. As I mentioned, it is being switched very quickly between fully on and fully off, so it generates virtually no heat at all.

I have similar FETs used in the circuit I built for my heated clothing - it also does PWM to regulate the heat output. Those FETs are switching upwards of 15 amps of current, but do not get even slightly warm, for the same reason.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby Oldbear » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:49 pm

And since I know next to nothing about what the rest of you are talking about... awesome job.

And of course, I'm going to be reading all your posts in your correct voice now, rather than the one I had assigned for you in my head.
My wife is the greatest - she won't let me sell my bike - I'm less grumpy when I ride...

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby OldBrit » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:37 pm

Found the article very interesting and was impressed with the result. No intention of pulling apart my lights though at this time.

What I was impressed with in the video was the modulator used on the spoiler brake lights, this really grabs your attention, can you advise how this was achieved?

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:59 pm

OldBrit wrote:Found the article very interesting and was impressed with the result. No intention of pulling apart my lights though at this time.

What I was impressed with in the video was the modulator used on the spoiler brake lights, this really grabs your attention, can you advise how this was achieved?


That was fairly simple, and can be done to any bike. I bought this little flasher module, from Amazon, for $9:

Flash Strobe Controller Flasher Module for LED Brake Tail Stop Light 12-16V



I inserted this module on the green/yellow wire shown below:

Brake light circuit
Brake light circuit


This wire feeds the brake light signal to the module that switches the trunk spoiler from dim to bright when the brakes are applied.

I disconnected the module, located behind the left saddlebag:

Brake light module
Brake light module


I then pulled that three-pin connector off and made my own harness that inserted the flasher in between the bike's plug and the brake module. The red wire on the input side went to the incoming green/yellow wire. The red wire on the output side went to the module where the green/yellow wire used to connect to. Both grounds were connected to ground, somewhere else on the bike (there is no ground available on that connector).

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby OldBrit » Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:18 am

Thanks for the prompt response. I'll get on line and get myself one of these and give it a go.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby GlimWas » Tue Oct 07, 2014 4:25 am

Can I adopt this great article for use on my 1200? LED's are much more alternator friendly..........
If so, since i do not have an intercom on my bike, can i skip the c4 an c5?

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Oct 07, 2014 9:29 pm

GlimWas wrote:Can I adopt this great article for use on my 1200? LED's are much more alternator friendly..........
If so, since i do not have an intercom on my bike, can i skip the c4 an c5?

Greetings Willem, Holland


I'm sure it would work fine on the GL1200. And yes, if you have no audio system on your bike (no CB, radio, intercom, etc.) you can skip C4 and C5 with no harm.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby GlimWas » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:28 am

Thank you for the response, i wil give it a go this winter. Probably with the c4 and 5, i do not want to disturb any radiotraffic from my Goldwing buddies over here :lol:
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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby ronjr123 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:05 pm

Nice write up and winter project. Can you provide details or maybe a few pictures of the pwm unit? What size, shape, protection and location did you place it?

also for those of use without an o-scope, about what value is R3 set at to achieve this effect?

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:00 pm

ronjr123 wrote:Nice write up and winter project. Can you provide details or maybe a few pictures of the pwm unit? What size, shape, protection and location did you place it?

also for those of use without an o-scope, about what value is R3 set at to achieve this effect?


I don't have pictures of the PWM unit built, unfortunately - never thought to take any. The board I built it on was about 1 inch square, and I mounted that inside a small plastic box about 1.5" x 1" x 0.75". The box is sealed with aluminum tape, and mounted underneath the trunk, inside the under cover.

You don't need a scope to set R3 - it simply adjusts the PWM duty cycle, and is used to set the brightness of the lights when in tail-light (non-brake) mode. On mine, I just turned it until it looked "about right." :) The scope trace is from when I was doing the prototype development, confirming that the PWM frequency was in the range that I wanted.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby ronjr123 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:50 pm

I dont want to keep asking questions, but I have scoured the internet for last couple of hours and cannot find C4 and C5. Are you sure they are 2500uF as drawn?

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:27 am

ronjr123 wrote:I dont want to keep asking questions, but I have scoured the internet for last couple of hours and cannot find C4 and C5. Are you sure they are 2500uF as drawn?


The ones I used were, yes - but that's just because that's what I had hanging around in my parts bin. A single cap of around the total of those two would work as well, such as this one:

http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Pan ... GV8g0ng%3d

You want it rated for at least 25 volts (for safety). Basically I just took a high-capacitance electrolytic with sufficient voltage ratings, and put it across the input as shown to knock down the AF noise. It did so, but not entirely, so I added a second one in parallel, which all but eliminated it.

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:09 pm

Just for fun, here's an early version of the circuit, when I was still driving the FET with a 2N2222. I later got rid of the transistor, the 555 was more than capable of driving it directly.

PWM circuit
PWM circuit

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Re: Retrofitting LED Brake, tail and turn signals to GL1500

Postby ronjr123 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:01 pm

Are your front turn signals also LEDS? How did you overcome the auto cancelling function?




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