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LED Taillights (Ver.1.0)

One of my longest lasting car projects, I believe is this one.

I decided to make my Glanza more… modern looking. So I purchased off eBay plenty of high power 5mm red and orange LEDs, and started experimenting on a new taillights look.

After taking my taillights apart, I discovered that each taillight is separated in 3 chambers, with a single 25W bulb in each:

  • lower part – always on when lights are switched on
  • middle part – the indicator
  • upper part (2-filament bulb)
    • 1st filament is always on when lights are switched on
    • 2nd filament switches on when braking

I measured the available space, decided on the desired look, and started planning and building LEDs circuit for this purpose. In this LEDs project, the lower bulb of each taillight was replaced by 19 red 5mm LEDs.

The mid part with 28 amber 5mm LEDs, to match the front full LEDs indicators. The LEDs are placed on cable tights, due to lack of components the weekend I was building them. I was so anxious to get this project done I couldn’t wait until Monday 🙂

And the upper part with a total of 36 red 5mm LEDs. 24 of them are always on when the cars lights are on and the rest 12 of them turn on as stop lights.

Finally the designed circuits were fitted in the taillights.

The upper part, didn’t go as well as I was hopping. The fit wasn’t the expected on…but I ran out of patience long time ago, so this was the final design (for the time being) 🙂

Some tips for people who plan to do something similar… always remember… in car electronics mods, your biggest enemy is the car’s ECU 😉

From my experience, the ECU detected the extremely low load of the LEDs (eg: a 25W load bulb, replaced by 4-5W load of LEDs), and in the case of the brake lights, the ECU started warning me of burnt bulbs by flashing the ABS (Antilock Braking System) light on the dash.

After ignoring the warning for some time… the blinking light went solid and I was shocked to find out that I actually had NO ABS!!! The ECU disabled the ABS for safety reasons and also to force me have my bulbs replaced! So annoying!

This problem was solved by placing a load resistor in series with one of the brake lights, to fool the ECU that I still have a single working brake light and stop bothering me.

A similar problem was also faced with the indicators part. Luckily In this operation ECU does not get involved. When a bulb is burnt, indicators blink twice as fast, due to their (ancient) operation method (2 metal plates touching each other, when current passes through them, they heat and retract from each other until they cool down some miliseconds later…causing the blinking of the indicators).

Some minor electronics were replaced with a blinking circuit in order to make the indicators work independently to the provided load.

Updated: April 21, 2008 — 2:28 am
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