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Motorcycle Turn Signal LED - Unique situation

Thread starter #1
First, let me apologize by saying that I am just about as ignorant of electrical/electronics as a person can be. My basic skill level is, if you flip the switch and it comes on, great, but if not, call someone to fix it. ;)

Having said that, here's the situation. I recently bought a new motorcycle. One of the "selling points" in the promotional material is that it had LED lighting, turn signals, brake lights, etc. When I took delivery, I was dismayed to find that the existing turn signals in the rear are not connected, although they do have the LEDs in the housing. There are those stalk "pumpkin" turn signals in the rear. So, hooking those up won't be a problem, because the wiring harness has a plug, but it goes to the pumpkins, not the in-body signals.

The front end is the problem. The housings are incorporated into the fairings, but the only working turn signals are in the mirrors of all places. Looking through the clear housing cover, one can see the holes in the housing where LEDs should be, but none are there, so it won't be a matter of just hooking up a plug.

I found a set of turn signals from an overseas parts dealer, but each one costs nearly $200 USD, not counting shipping. So, I had the bright idea (pardon the pun) to make my own.

I can obtain another set of these empty US turn signal housings for just under $35 USD. I have seen on eBay and Amazon, listings for 5mm, pre-wired LED bundles, costing around $8 for ten of them. That would be right at $100 bucks for two sets of turn signals. And if I screw them up, I haven't damaged the existing ones and can still ride.

These LEDs look like this (and I would use Amber ones) :



Since I know literally nothing about electronic specifications of this kind of thing, (and I apologize again, but I honestly consider it mumbo-jumbo designed to confuse people not in the business) I don't have the first clue how to go about doing this, other than simply epoxying LEDs into the holes in the housing, and hooking up all the red wires to a lead wire, all the black wires to another lead wire, and putting a plug fitting on the end of those lead wires to plug into the existing harness, or splicing those into the existing wiring for the turn signals.

According to the published information from one of the listings, the LEDs are:
  • Super Bright 12v 5mm Orange / Amber Pre-Wired LED (Ships from US)
  • 3-6v Working Range for maximum brightness
  • Resistor built in to the pre-wired unit - Simply hook up power/ground for it to light
  • Shrink wrapped connections with approximately 15cm (6 inches) of wire lead
  • 20mA, 10,000-12,000 MCD, 600-610nm Wavelength, Clear Lens, 20-30 Degree Viewing Angle
And the information from the second listing is:
  • Super Bright 12v 5mm Orange / Amber Pre-Wired LED (Ships from US)
  • Works well in automotive applications (12v charging system) 10-15v (not recommended 15v continuous)
  • Resistor built in to the pre-wired unit - Simply hook up power/ground for it to light
  • Shrink wrapped connections with approximately 15cm (6 inches) of wire lead
  • 20mA, 10,000-12,000 MCD, 600-610nm Wavelength, Clear Lens, 20-30 Degree Viewing Angle
Also listed in the information about the 12v ones is the following:

This single setup works well with the following voltages (you don't have to select a voltage when ordering): 10v, 11v, 12v, 13v, 14v and 15v. We recommend that you don't continuously run them at 15 volts, but they will take spikes as high as that without any issues at all. If you are looking for a lower voltage setup then take a look at our 9v or 6v setups that will cover the remainder of voltage ranges below 10v.
Those numbers mean something, and since I do know that I'm working with a 12v DC system, I would think on the face of it that the information is important somehow.

I suppose what all of this information I've posted boils down to, is there anyone who can talk me through figuring out what to do about it (as if I were a 7 year old) without either blowing the entire electrical system in the bike, melting something, or doing some other irreparable harm?

Is this something that could even be done by an amateur working in the garage?

Thanks,

Ed
 
#2
Is this something that could even be done by an amateur working in the garage?
Yes.

Good research by the way.


Have you considered buying a led replacement 'globe' ... like here ... https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-amber-T1...700825?hash=item2ee7b20b59:g:cwMAAOSwq19XBerE


Then all you have to do is fit a socket to suit the globe ... like here ... http://au.element14.com/jkl-components/2964-8b/lamp-socket-wedge-t-3-1-4/dp/2131136

... or here ... http://au.element14.com/jkl-components/294502/lamp-socket-wedge-t-3-1-4/dp/2131132


Edit:

Here are sockets with better images
 
Last edited:

KJ6EAD

Active Member
#3
No. It's strange that your bike is in such a state of incompletion but it's not a good DYI project, even for someone with some expertise.

The lighting needs to be DOT approved, not home made. Even if you made excellent, better than manufactured lights, when you get in an accident and the driver of the car that hits you says "I didn't see him" as they always do and their lawyer finds out you had unapproved signals, you"ll find it impossible to win.
 
#4
Seems to me that he has working and presumably legal front and rear turn signals already ... it's just that they are in the mirrors in the front ... and on conventional stalks in the rear ... and not in the fairing/bodywork like he was hoping.


When I took delivery, I was dismayed to find that the existing turn signals in the rear are not connected, although they do have the LEDs in the housing. There are those stalk "pumpkin" turn signals in the rear. So, hooking those up won't be a problem, because the wiring harness has a plug, but it goes to the pumpkins, not the in-body signals.

The front end is the problem. The housings are incorporated into the fairings, but the only working turn signals are in the mirrors of all places.

I've never heard of DOT ... so I don't know if she'd approve of any accessories ... but in our neck of the woods, modifications are allowed without too much trouble ... especially if they are going to enhance the safety of the machine.
 
Thread starter #5
Yes.
Good research by the way.
Have you considered buying a led replacement 'globe' ... like here ... https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-amber-T1...700825?hash=item2ee7b20b59:g:cwMAAOSwq19XBerE
Thank you! I don't know why it's "good research" but I do appreciate the compliment!

What you suggest would be impossible, without significant and damaging modifications to the housing. The "back" of the housing has these 'holes' spaced throughout it, and into those holes the LEDs would go. There is no place to put a "socket" and to create one would destroy the housing. Hence the idea of putting LEDs in the existing holes.

Here are some not-very-good photographs that show the type of thing I am attempting to accomplish. I wish there were a better schematic showing what the interior of the housing looked like, because I'd post it if there were.

The first photo is the rear of a European version with the rear turn signals lit up. You can see the definitive pattern of individual LEDs in the housing.



The second photo also shows a European version with the front turn signals lit up. Same thing with the pattern.



This was the best photo I could find of the front signal housing that shows sort of what the interior layout/conditions are. Those small cylinders visible inside the housing are hollow. There is a place that an LED can be seated in the end of it, and the wiring run through to the back of the housing. This is where I would like to insert the LEDs I found on Amazon.



Why not? I see literally thousands of after-market lighting components for motorcycles nearly everywhere. Dealers sell them, eBay is swamped with them, and there are no Federal or State regulations anywhere that I know of which prohibit adding lights to a vehicle, providing they're not blue lights, which are reserved for police. Believe me, I've looked.

In any case, the original question wasn't about the legality or wisdom of making the modification. It was about the best method to go about inserting a bunch of LEDs into an existing housing, and wiring them into the existing wiring on the bike, without blowing the whole electrical system. What I do, no one here is responsible for.

It's strange that your bike is in such a state of incompletion but it's not a good DYI project, even for someone with some expertise.

The lighting needs to be DOT approved, not home made. Even if you made excellent, better than manufactured lights, when you get in an accident and the driver of the car that hits you says "I didn't see him" as they always do and their lawyer finds out you had unapproved signals, you"ll find it impossible to win.
Not so. Only lighting on motorcycles sold new or used by dealers has to be DOT approved. A private owner can do almost anything they want to their motorcycle. And in any case, I seriously doubt anyone could ever "win" anything on the claim that they "didn't see me" because I wear a high-viz helmet, and high-viz jackets both summer and winter.



If someone "doesn't see me" it's because they were on the phone.

I know the regulations on this. If it were illegal, I would not have posted this inquiry, although in fairness, you could not have known that. Forgive me for stating this, but your reply presumes two things: First, that I don't know what I'm doing WRT the law, and second, that I intend to game the system. If that was not your intent, I understand, even though it does appear that way on casual inspection, and a re-reading. In any case, neither are pertinent nor relevant to my original query.

Seems to me that he has working and presumably legal front and rear turn signals already ... it's just that they are in the mirrors in the front ... and on conventional stalks in the rear ... and not in the fairing/bodywork like he was hoping.

I've never heard of DOT ... so I don't know if she'd approve of any accessories ... but in our neck of the woods, modifications are allowed without too much trouble ... especially if they are going to enhance the safety of the machine.
You are correct. I do not intend to do away with the stock, existing lighting. My only intention is to augment the existing lighting. That is most certainly neither illegal nor unsafe.

The Department of Transportation is kind of funny, in that the regulations they implement are based on 1950s technology, and don't allow for motorcycles that were designed in the 21st century. It is the same in my "neck of the woods" that safety modifications can be made by anyone, as long as they do not interfere with the safe operation of the vehicle.

I've asked two police officers, one of whom is a motorcycle officer about the adding of lights to a motorcycle. State law not only permits, but encourages the addition of lighting for safety purposes. If I already have a working brake light, for example (and I do) and I add another one with a modulator on it which causes that second one to blink for 5 seconds before it stays solid (and I do have such a modulator) then it's considered a safety modification. I even get lower insurance rates for adding safety equipment.

Getting back to the original topic, what I'm thinking is to strip off about 3/4" to 1" of insulation off of all of the wires for all the LEDs, epoxy them into the holes in the housing, sealing them with hot glue if needed, and then grouping four or five of them together, connecting reds to reds, and blacks to blacks. Then, I'd add another length of wire to each of the bundles, connecting all of those together, and ending up with one single wire for each color lead. Then, attaching these single leads to the electrical system of the bike.

Problem is, I don't know what that will do to the electrical system. Common sense tells me that if the bike was designed to have that many LEDs in the turn signals in the first place, that it shouldn't be a problem. Then again, I do know enough about electricity to know that all those LEDs add up, and it might be enough to overload something.

Which is why I decided to be prudent, and ask people who know about this kind of thing.
 
#6
Thank you! I don't know why it's "good research" but I do appreciate the compliment!
If you saw some of the questions here, you might understand why I said that. You've done a decent amount of homework collecting the info you have.



The "back" of the housing has these 'holes' spaced throughout it, and into those holes the LEDs would go. There is no place to put a "socket" and to create one would destroy the housing. Hence the idea of putting LEDs in the existing holes.
That makes sense ... and with the photos I can see why you're heading that way.

I could see that if the holes were in one plane, you could mount your leds on a pcb or flat panel and fit them through the holes from behind ... but they certainly don't look like they are flat ... you'd have to shape something to fit ... so your idea is probably the easiest way to go.



Problem is, I don't know what that will do to the electrical system. Common sense tells me that if the bike was designed to have that many LEDs in the turn signals in the first place, that it shouldn't be a problem. Then again, I do know enough about electricity to know that all those LEDs add up, and it might be enough to overload something.
Your first post contains the specs of the leds you are hoping to buy. They list 20mA as the current draw for each one. To put that in terms you might have heard of ... Watts (Power) = Current (in Amps) x Voltage.

20 mAmp is 20 one thousands of an amp ... therefore = .02 amps

So each led would be .02 amps x 12 volts = .24 watts.

I see the rear indicators use 11 leds ... 11 x .24 = 2.64 watts

Not sure about the front .. 18 or more ... so 18 x .24 = 4.32 watts

So 2.64 + 4.32 = 6.96 watts extra load on your indicator driver unit.

I don't know if that is too much extra load, but I would be surprised if it would create any problems. What is the size of the exisiting indicator globes?

I also should point out ... that your bike voltage will be more like 14v while it is running ... so the wattages will be correspondingly higher too ... but you get the idea.
 
Thread starter #7
If you saw some of the questions here, you might understand why I said that. You've done a decent amount of homework collecting the info you have.

That makes sense ... and with the photos I can see why you're heading that way.

I could see that if the holes were in one plane, you could mount your leds on a pcb or flat panel and fit them through the holes from behind ... but they certainly don't look like they are flat ... you'd have to shape something to fit ... so your idea is probably the easiest way to go.
Well, the ends of the little cylinders are in fact, oriented in the same direction, but they are on about 6 or 7 different parallel planes. They all point in the same direction but if the bike were parked facing a flat wall, they would all be different distances from the wall, but perpendicular to the wall, if that explains it.

Your first post contains the specs of the leds you are hoping to buy. They list 20mA as the current draw for each one. To put that in terms you might have heard of ... Watts (Power) = Current (in Amps) x Voltage.

20 mAmp is 20 one thousands of an amp ... therefore = .02 amps

So each led would be .02 amps x 12 volts = .24 watts.

I see the rear indicators use 11 leds ... 11 x .24 = 2.64 watts

Not sure about the front .. 18 or more ... so 18 x .24 = 4.32 watts

So 2.64 + 4.32 = 6.96 watts extra load on your indicator driver unit.

I don't know if that is too much extra load, but I would be surprised if it would create any problems. What is the size of the exisiting indicator globes?

I also should point out ... that your bike voltage will be more like 14v while it is running ... so the wattages will be correspondingly higher too ... but you get the idea.
That actually makes some sense to me. Thank you for not explaining it to me as if you think I already understand it.

There are, by my count, 20 leds, so that part of your math would be 20 x .24 = 4.80 watts, added to 2.64 = 7.44

I'd thought it would have something to do with milliamps multiplied by 20. Then again, what do I know?

If I could ask you, would you please translate that 7.44 watts into something I can grasp as it relates to the voltage of the bike? I knew that it could run up to 14v when running, I'd read that somewhere, but fuses aren't rated in volts, they're rated in amps. So to keep the fuse from blowing, and not overloading the system, wouldn't I have to be concerned about adding too many amps or milliamps?

This is where my knowledge base is too small to help me understand things.

If I'm understanding you correctly, It shouldn't cause any problems? I mean, they're turn signals, they're intermittent. They blink. They're not on constantly, thereby draining power and loading the system, right? I just don't know how this works.

If you tell me what specifications for what things I need to tell you in order for you to explain this to me in a way I can understand, I'll go look up everything I can get my hands on to tell you.

Arrgh! I wish I knew what the heck I was doing!

The existing bulbs in the mirror are actually five LED bulbs, those little spade-bottom bulbs, I don't know their specs.

Thank you for your efforts to help me understand this.
 
#8
Well, the ends of the little cylinders are in fact, oriented in the same direction, but they are on about 6 or 7 different parallel planes. They all point in the same direction but if the bike were parked facing a flat wall, they would all be different distances from the wall, but perpendicular to the wall, if that explains it.

Yep, good description.


If I could ask you, would you please translate that 7.44 watts into something I can grasp as it relates to the voltage of the bike?

Ahh ... sorry. To give you some idea (at least in the old days) :) a motorcycle or car headlight might have been 55 watts or maybe 100 watts.

A taillight may have been 15 watts ... and a brakelight 18 or 21 watts ... and an indicator maybe 15 watts.


So for your example ... adding another 7 or 8 watts to your intermittant turn signal is not going to create any significant extra load to your electrical system as such ... fuses, wiring, battery etc ...


BUT ... it may be a significant amount for your indicator control device ... whatever form it is in.


My newest motorcycle is a 1975 Gold Wing ... so I am not up with the latest techniques ... but the old way of controlling indicators in virtually all vehicles ... was via a 'flasher can'.

A small metal cylinder or box with a bi-metallic strip that would heat up depending on the load (wattage) or current through it ... and then disconnect (until it cooled) ... then click on again ... all at the indicator speed. You might have seen older vehicles that had one globe out ... where the one good globe would flash really slowly ... that was because of the wrong load for that particular can.


Of course, being a new bike, there's every chance it has an electronic 'flasher can' ... with an electronic switch ... a transistor or mosfet device ... so there's no doubt you could overload it ... but what constitutes an overload I can't tell you.


Again, in the old days, motorcycles came with an owners manual with several fold out wiring diagrams in the back. If yours has one ... could you take a photo and post it up here? Use the 'Upload a File' button down below.


Otherwise hopefully someone who can answer that will pipe up here ... or you may need to ask a motorcycle mechanic/electrician whether an extra 7 or 8 watts load on your particular 'flasher can' is likely to cause any problem.


If it were my own personal bike ... I wouldn't think twice about it ... I would just add them and see what happens.


It may sound a bit gung ho ... but my reasoning is that a very common fault on any vehicle is a short to earth on any of the wires going to various loads ... and that's what fuses are for ... but I'll bet the smallest fuse in your fuse bank is 5 amps ... and that equates to 60 watts.

You're planning on adding 7 or 8 watts of additional load intermittantly ... that's like hitting the brakes a few more times than usual.



The existing bulbs in the mirror are actually five LED bulbs, those little spade-bottom bulbs, I don't know their specs.

Quite likely they are also only 20 -30 mA each. What's in the rear 'stalk' indicators ... leds or conventional globes?
 
Thread starter #9
Yep, good description.

Of course, being a new bike, there's every chance it has an electronic 'flasher can' ... with an electronic switch ... a transistor or mosfet device ... so there's no doubt you could overload it ... but what constitutes an overload I can't tell you.

Again, in the old days, motorcycles came with an owners manual with several fold out wiring diagrams in the back. If yours has one ... could you take a photo and post it up here? Use the 'Upload a File' button down below.

Otherwise hopefully someone who can answer that will pipe up here ... or you may need to ask a motorcycle mechanic/electrician whether an extra 7 or 8 watts load on your particular 'flasher can' is likely to cause any problem.

If it were my own personal bike ... I wouldn't think twice about it ... I would just add them and see what happens.

It may sound a bit gung ho ... but my reasoning is that a very common fault on any vehicle is a short to earth on any of the wires going to various loads ... and that's what fuses are for ... but I'll bet the smallest fuse in your fuse bank is 5 amps ... and that equates to 60 watts.

You're planning on adding 7 or 8 watts of additional load intermittantly ... that's like hitting the brakes a few more times than usual.

Quite likely they are also only 20 -30 mA each. What's in the rear 'stalk' indicators ... leds or conventional globes?
I think it's regular incandescent globes, but I haven't taken it apart to look. I'll do that tomorrow and report back.

I actually have a wiring diagram.

If memory serves, the flash controller is the modern equivalent of a solid-state electronic relay would be. I suppose I'd have to do a little digging to get the specs on it. Let me upload that wiring diagram.... Maybe you can make sense of it. I also have a copy of the Service (shop) Manual and all it calls the thing is the "Winker Relay" I haven't yet found any of the electrical specifications for the relay, but I'll keep looking.
 

Attachments

#10
If memory serves, the flash controller is the modern equivalent of a solid-state electronic relay would be. I suppose I'd have to do a little digging to get the specs on it. Let me upload that wiring diagram.... Maybe you can make sense of it. I also have a copy of the Service (shop) Manual and all it calls the thing is the "Winker Relay" I haven't yet found any of the electrical specifications for the relay, but I'll keep looking.

Yeah ... the diagram is very helpful.

From the diagram it's clear they are controlled by a seperate stand alone 'winker relay'.

My only hesitation all the way through was whether they may have been controlled by some larger device ... an ECU or BCM style of unit ... and risking damaging that may have been a bit reckless ... but the worst you can do is kill your 'winker relay' ... and replacing that with a gutsier generic one ... or off another bike would be an easy remedy.

It is fed 12v via Fuse A which is 15 amps!! ... so I wouldn't think twice ... just add your leds. Virtually zero risk in my opinion.


.
 
Thread starter #11
Yeah ... the diagram is very helpful.

From the diagram it's clear they are controlled by a separate stand alone 'winker relay'.

My only hesitation all the way through was whether they may have been controlled by some larger device ... an ECU or BCM style of unit ... and risking damaging that may have been a bit reckless ... but the worst you can do is kill your 'winker relay' ... and replacing that with a gutsier generic one ... or off another bike would be an easy remedy.

It is fed 12v via Fuse A which is 15 amps!! ... so I wouldn't think twice ... just add your leds. Virtually zero risk in my opinion.
Well, to be perfectly honest, your opinion is, in this case, better than my guess!

All of this depends on what I find when I order the empty housings. Unfortunately, my cheap self will have to buy two empty turn signals for around $80 + ship to see what all that stuff looks like on the inside.

I can clearly see the leds in the rear turn signals, but I can't in the front. I don't want to have to take any of the body panels off until its absolutely necessary, but I certainly will come back to let everyone know what I did and how it worked!

Thank you very much for your very kind help.
 
#14
I can clearly see the leds in the rear turn signals, but I can't in the front. I don't want to have to take any of the body panels off until its absolutely necessary, but I certainly will come back to let everyone know what I did and how it worked!
Fair enough, I can understand that.


Thank you very much for your very kind help.
You're welcome. I hope it goes well ... good luck.
 

audioguru

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
#16
I do not know about motorcycles but here in Canada it is illegal to tamper with the lighting on a 4 wheel motorized vehicle. You will have the problems caused by kids modifying the lighting on their cars with cheap Chinese after-market lights:
1) The light beam is too narrow and cannot be seen at the sides.
2) Too bright or too dim.
 
Thread starter #17
The Department of Transportation is kind of funny, in that the regulations they implement are based on 1950s technology, and don't allow for motorcycles that were designed in the 21st century. It is the same in my "neck of the woods" that safety modifications can be made by anyone, as long as they do not interfere with the safe operation of the vehicle.
Dealers cannot alter DOT-approved lighting, per DOT regulations. Since the US is 50+ years behind in terms of safety lighting technology, my only option is to connect the standard, designed-in, safety lighting myself. The dealer is not permitted to do it.

So, your response is, frankly, unhelpful.
 
Thread starter #18
I do not know about motorcycles but here in Canada it is illegal to tamper with the lighting on a 4 wheel motorized vehicle. You will have the problems caused by kids modifying the lighting on their cars with cheap Chinese after-market lights:
1) The light beam is too narrow and cannot be seen at the sides.
2) Too bright or too dim.
If you'd read the thread from the beginning, you would have seen that A) I'm not in Canada. B) It isn't a "4 wheel" anything, it's a motorcycle, and C) I'm connecting up the OEM turn signals.

Thanks anyway.
 
Thread starter #19
You're welcome. I hope it goes well ... good luck.

Well, I've run into another issue. I hope I can get some answers directly to this question, without all the "Oh, you can't change the lighting, it's illegal/unsafe/improper" type responses that aren't pertinent to the issue.

I finally took the rear bodywork apart, only to find that there are, in fact, no leads from the existing turn signals in the rear. After some research, the US models were modified so that the cover panel where the lead comes through to the wiring harness has no hole in it for the wiring! Stupidest thing I've ever seen.

Anyway, the issue is this: There is a small (around 1/4") plug connection with two prongs in it, for the connection to the wiring harness.

Here is a photo showing the plug:



There are two parts to this
.

1) First, how do I identify exactly what kind of plug connection fits there, so that I can obtain the correct plug fitting to go into it.
2) Where would I even purchase something like that?

Wow, this is getting more and more interesting!
 

Inquisitive

Super Moderator
#20
Tried to zoom into your picture to get a better look and got this error message.

Motorcycle.PNG

If you would upload your picture to ETO we could solve that problem

Thanks
 

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