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 LED reverse lights

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cherryz



Number of posts : 677
Age : 58
Location : Chapel Hill, NC
Registration date : 2008-07-02

PostSubject: LED reverse lights   Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:49 am

So I was excited to get a set of LED reverse lights for the Z since I almost always back into my driveway and the stock reverse lights are a little weak. But before you get too excited about an improvement, this is actually setting up for a plan to resolve a design flaw in the reverse lights. scratch

Here are the stock reverse lights, mid-afternoon:

Note that there are 4 openings in the center panel but really only 2 bulbs, one per side. This is where the "design flaw" comes in later...

Access to the bulbs is a piece of cake by removing the middle plastic panel in the back hatch area:


Pull out the old bulb (obviously I'm only showing one of two bulbs]:


Here are the two bulbs side-by-side. It's important to choose an LED bulb that is the same circumference as the old bulb as that is the size of the opening in the center panel. Second pic is end-on of the bulb, but it also sports LEDs pointing out to the sides below the front-pointing LEDs.



Here's a pic with one LED and one stock bulb:


Two LED bulbs:


Impressed? Me neither.

There are two problems with the 300ZX reverse lights:
1. The bulb lines up directly with the black strip separating the upper and lower lenses of the reverse lights.
2. The inside of the bulb housing is not reflective.

I don't think the LED bulb is totally at fault here, though if you look at the bare "bulbs", the LED doesn't appear to be as bright as the stock bulb:


So instead of returning the LED bulbs and going back to stock, I think I'm going to make a project of making two bulbs per side, lining them up with the lenses, and making the inside of the bulb housing as reflective as possible. I want back-up lights, dammit!

I've got a stock center panel that I can pillage and/or experiment with, so plan to dive into this and post my progress here. Not sure when I'll actually be able to get into this, but that's my intent.
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Tony@GZ
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Number of posts : 186
Age : 37
Location : Jacksonville NC and Newark DE
Car Year/Make/Model : 1995 Nissan 300ZX TT
Registration date : 2008-07-24

PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:30 am

I have some extra OEM tail lights and center panel so if you need some extras to experiment with let me know.
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nismo300zr2
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:39 am

sounds like a great plan. going to line the inside with a reflective material or just sand then spray it a mirror/chrome?

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Tony@GZ
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Car Year/Make/Model : 1995 Nissan 300ZX TT
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:58 am

I wonder if the LEDís might look better in J-specs seeing how the inside is already chromed. Also any possibility that some other companies might make a different LED bulb maybe something with a globe shape similar to that of the OEM bulb? I am really that board tonight to be thinking this through so much
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cherryz



Number of posts : 677
Age : 58
Location : Chapel Hill, NC
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:58 am

nismo300zr2 wrote:
sounds like a great plan. going to line the inside with a reflective material or just sand then spray it a mirror/chrome?

Prolly just spray it. One other thought would be to get some reflective housings and mount them to the back side of the center panel rather than trying to move the existing bulb sockets.
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cherryz



Number of posts : 677
Age : 58
Location : Chapel Hill, NC
Registration date : 2008-07-02

PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:00 pm

Tony@GZ wrote:
I wonder if the LEDís might look better in J-specs seeing how the inside is already chromed. Also any possibility that some other companies might make a different LED bulb maybe something with a globe shape similar to that of the OEM bulb? I am really that board tonight to be thinking this through so much

The reverse lights are in the center panel, not the outside panels which have the chrome lining. The only difference in the aspec and jspec center panels (afaik) is the grey vs. red '300ZX'.

They do make different arrangements of LEDs that are side-firing or wide-angle vs. straight-on narrow-angle but since the inside of the housing is not reflective I'm not going to get the light power I want regardless.
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Tony@GZ
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Car Year/Make/Model : 1995 Nissan 300ZX TT
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:21 pm

Goís to show how long itís been since I pulled my J-spec out of the box and just stared at them. Maybe ill actually be able to get everything painted and install them before spring. I did a little looking around and was looking at the different bulb configurations I was thinking something like this might work better then the ones you tried for just OEM replacement.

But do what you do and if it works better prefect your technique and corner the market on it.
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:32 pm

Yes, I think that could work if the housing was reflective. Maybe I'll ask my LED supplier, Scott Clark (scottacc@yahoo.com), if he's got an arrangement like this, then I'll just use chrome spray on the inside of the housing (somehow) and see if this works better.

In the end, I want blindingly bright back-up lights w/o having to drop some spots under the rear valence. Wink
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Tony@GZ
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:09 am

Well if you want to get the thing apart to do that you will have to do this

http://www.twinturbo.net/nissan/300zx/tech/illrp/illrp.html

Now I was also thinking if you really want to have some supper bright back up lights here is what you can do. Modify the bulb socket to support an H3 bulb. Using an HID setup back there will give you the larges amount of light possible. Plus you can always run a toggle switch in the event someone in a big truck or SUV wants to ride you ass at night just give them a taste of what your getting.
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:22 am

Tony@GZ wrote:
Well if you want to get the thing apart to do that you will have to do this

http://www.twinturbo.net/nissan/300zx/tech/illrp/illrp.html

Now I was also thinking if you really want to have some supper bright back up lights here is what you can do. Modify the bulb socket to support an H3 bulb. Using an HID setup back there will give you the larges amount of light possible. Plus you can always run a toggle switch in the event someone in a big truck or SUV wants to ride you ass at night just give them a taste of what your getting.

Ha, I like the switch idea. I used to own a Cavalier with a manual tranny and you could bump the gearshift over to the left w/o actually dropping it into reverse and the backup lights would come on. I used it a couple times!

Luckily, disassembly is not required to get to the reverse light housings, that part is modular and easy to take off. Illuminating the '300ZX' requires disassembly.
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cherryz



Number of posts : 677
Age : 58
Location : Chapel Hill, NC
Registration date : 2008-07-02

PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:37 am

I took apart the reverse light housings, fairly simple to get to. Found out the housing is partially chromed - back but not the sides so I did try chroming the sides to see what would happen.

Take out one screw:


Housing lifts off easily:


Some chrome at the back:


But I went ahead and tried painting:


But here's the real problem, which is what the bulb sees:


So anyway, I jiggered me up a wiring harness using my old center panel:


The housing with the additional chrome on the side panels is on the right. I don't think it helped much as the LEDs I bought are mostly front-firing so the output is still going to be blocked by the crossbar.


In desperation before I start some serious modding, I tried a reflective "tent" across the crossbar to try to reflect the light out instead of brightening the backside of the lens assembly:


VERY marginal results:


So now I'm going to do some serious looking at multi-bulb arrangements since the housings are so easy to access and experiment with. Scott Clark is also checking into side-firing LEDs like the one Tony showed to see if there is any benefit.

I'm thinking it really needs more LEDs, and I've looked at superbrightleds.com to see what arrangements they have. Because you can actually remove the housing and place a large LED array right at the lens, then plug it in, I'm really wondering if something like this might do the trick. Get four of them, splice two into a single 1156 tip, mount the arrays right at the lenses, feed the tip through the housing hole and plug into the standard socket. One array per lens might just get the brightness I'm looking for!



Only problem is the white arrays are $17 each! $68 for brighter reverse lights? Probably getting into HID range now...
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:46 am

Another idea - This set of lights are $20 for two. Two sets for $40, mount one per lens.

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nismo300zr2
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:32 am

looking better!




but i wont say you have BRIGHT back ups till they match the KT taillights
Twisted Evil

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa2ModWMqLU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vngTWNvoTU4&feature=related

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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:41 am

So I went and got a set of the $20 LED "driving lights" (yeah, I know) to see what I could do with them.

Out of the box, not very impressive:


They are totally worthless as "driving lights" by any stretch of the imagination, so I removed the plastic lens and things improved quite a bit (same f-stop on the camera):


So I thought "heck, it's worth a shot". The LEDs are mounted on a narrow circuit board so I took that out of the housing and proceeded to mount it in the lower half of the stock Z32 housing. I cut a rectangular slot on one side and pushed the end of the circuit board through, then zip-tied the other side to a tab on the housing:


Solder the old pigtail to the ends, and you pretty much have a drop-in replacement (LEDs are off):


Here's how it looks, with the 24-LED bulb on the left and my 6-LED "driving lights" on the right:


Not too bad. Seems more directional vs. diffuse, and since I use my right (passenger) side lights more than my left when backing into my driveway, it'll be interesting tonight to see if there's any improvement over the stock bulbs. Tonight will also be a good test because it's wet out and that's when the reverse lights really need to shine.

It's also possible to put a second strip on the top half so they both light up, not too hard to splice it in but mounting will be a little harder because there's less clearance inside the housing for the LED bulbs on the top half. Then I can have two strips on each side if I buy another set of LED "driving lights".

Either that or get one of the 36-LED arrays I mentioned above from superbrightleds.com and mount one of those inside the housing for comparison.

Will let you know if it was worth the time tonight....
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:47 am

One other bizarre thought.... Mount the rectangular LED "driving lights" just above the muffler tips on the lower valence? Hmmm....
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:37 am

Update: Not bad, but not a real improvement either. I think I'll add the second set of LEDs to the passenger side and see if I can double the output from that. One problem is that the lenses in our center panels are designed to diffuse the light so it dampens the effects of any directional narrowp-beam LEDs.
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:35 am

Been looking on the autolumination.com web site. These two look interesting:

Eagle Eye 5 ($19.99)
Wide-Angle 180 degrees High-Powered 5 Watt Led + 4x super-powered SMT Leds


and this 50W Xenon superwhite bulb ($3.99):


The Xenon bulb comes with a disclaimer:
"Caution: This bulb is bright and hot. If using for constant-on applications they can damage plastic parts that are too close."

Intriguing!
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fairladyaffair

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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 10, 2009 10:36 am

Im not technically inclined but i find reviewing the pictures, when you place the diffrent bulbs in the housing they all, some vary in brightness all look completely ugly lol but i do agree in the need for bright backup lights, its hard enough to see out the back of the Z at night, why cant there be some kind of lighting system, is there a way to hook up some hids to some kind of bulb to improove the brightness, plus the reflective material inside the housing perhaps??
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:23 am

HIDs have been suggested but I think that would probably require running a separate 12V source and a relay as the circuit for the reverse lights probably won't handle HIDs, plus you'd probably melt the enclosure which is why I'm a little scared of the xenon bulb also but I'm going to try it.

I'm not concerned about ugly when it's on, just brightness. As long as I don't make it ugly when it's off (99.9% of the time), I don't really mind.

I'm hoping to put the 2nd LED strip in the pass side today and see if a double row will help, while I wait for the other bulbs to come in.
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fairladyaffair

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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:34 am

sounds like you got it under control, i just thought id suggest a few things.
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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Fri Jan 16, 2009 9:18 am

Here are comparisons of a stock reverse bulb to 24-LED, 5W LED, Xenon, and an adapted set of "LED driving lights" on my Z. Note I have added a second LED strip to the upper lens on the right (passenger) side from the "LED driving light" kit I bought for $20. I would have to buy another $20 kit to do a similar treatment to the left side.

So in the following pictures, the variations of bulbs are on the left (driver) side, the adapted "LED driving lights" (2x 6-LED strips) are on the right (passenger) side as "control". When I took these pictures, the car was running (with parking brake on and block behind one wheel) so had full battery voltage. The camera was set on aperture priority and fixed at F4.0.

Here is the stock reverse light (on left):


Here is the 24-LED bulb:


Here is the 5W LED bulb:


Here is the Xenon bulb:


From these pics, it's hard to beat the stock bulb which is unfortunate as I was really hoping to crank up the intensity of my reverse LEDs and it doesn't seem like there is anything out there that will do it. Even my attempt to adapt the "LED driving lights" really didn't bear much fruit, even after I added the second strip to the upper lens.

Further, the Xenon bulb at $4 out-performs any $20 LED bulb combo I can find, and I'll probably buy another Xenon bulb and be done with it. I didn't notice that the Xenon got incredibly hot or anything so I'm not too concerned about it melting the housing or lens or anything no longer than my reverse lights are on.
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nismo300zr2
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat Jan 17, 2009 2:32 pm

i like the xenon over the stock glaring one. too bad, cant get that more natural HID look/brightness. thanks for doing all this writeup for everyone though. esp with PIX!

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New Jersey Z



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:57 pm

Hello,

Although I'm new on this forum, I think I may have a solution to your liking. I recently installed a pair of 1156 Halogen bulbs from PlanetBulb.com. They are much brighter than the previously mentioned Xenon 1156 (blue tint) ... I know, I replaced them with the brighter bulb in my wife's Integra, which by-the-way, like the Z doesn't have a reflective backing in the housing. You won't believe the difference, and they're only $4.99 at PlantBulb ... most other places charge $10 each for the exact same bulb. The only problem is, you must use their search feature to find the bulb on their site, I can't seem to locate it from their regular listings ... here's the proper page:

http://www.planetbulbstore.com/h1156.html

And here's the best part ... they plug right in, no modifications necessary. Just make sure you don't get any finger oil on them when installing (they come with a foam wrapping that you can use to hold them when twisting them into the fixtures).

Good luck.

PS: You might also want to look into trying their halogen tail lights (1157's) for the rear ... you'll certainly get noticed when you step on the brakes.
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Mr Z
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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Thu Apr 22, 2010 7:42 pm

Ive actually thought about doing that myself Steve . I'm the same way when it comes to the backup lights on our car. i think I'm gonna try the under-mounted driving lights before any major reconstruction. Maybe just wire the driving lights into the reverse lights??

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cherryz



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PostSubject: Re: LED reverse lights   Sat May 01, 2010 4:30 pm

Mr Z wrote:
Ive actually thought about doing that myself Steve . I'm the same way when it comes to the backup lights on our car. i think I'm gonna try the under-mounted driving lights before any major reconstruction. Maybe just wire the driving lights into the reverse lights??

Yeah, I need to take a look at this as well and find a good mounting position that doesn't mess up the back view. The driving lights I have on the front of my car would actually work quite well, just have to tap into the reverse wiring and hope that a relay and +12V from the battery isn't needed!
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