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Discussion Starter #1
Backing up at night really sucks when you have tinted windows.I really wish I had the factory Nav so I could just add a backup cam, but currently, times are tough and my wife would kill me if I spent the money to convert it, or even buy a head unit with a screen (which will happen one day). So my solution is a set of homemade LED lights that are wired into the reverse lights and bolted to the rear bumper. It's going to cost me roughly $30 when it's all said and done.

I'll show you how I made these. I'm waiting for my LEDs to get here. Once they get here, I can get the LEDs soldered up and run my wiring. Each light pod will have 36 superbright (15000 mcd) white LEDs. The pods are made of black ABS plumbing pipe and will be attached to the bottom of the rear bumper on either side of the hitch.

Parts list:
2 qty - 1-1/2" ABS cap (Lowes) $1.88 ea
2 qty - 1-1/2" ABS street trap adapter (Lowes) $1.35 ea
2 qty - 1-1/2" ABS cleanout adapter (Lowes) $1.17 ea
2 qty - 1-3/8 x 1-3/16 x 1 rubber stopper (Lowes) $1.99 ea
1 qty - 3/8" fender washers 4/pack (Lowes) $1.27
1 qty - 3/8" hex nuts 5/pack (Lowes) $1.04
2 qty - #100 o-ring 2 x 1-3/4 (Ace Hardware) $0.79 ea
72 qty - white LED's (eBay) ~$5
24 qty - 120 ohm resistors (eBay) ~$2
1 qty - circuit board (Radio Shack) $3.99
1/8" thick plexiglass already had
1 foot - 3/8-16 threaded rod already had
2 qty - o-ring to seal plexi lens (Ace Hardware) need to get


Here's most of the parts laid out.


The cleanout adapter will be glued into the cap and this will act as the back housing. The circuit board will be cut to rest on the shoulder at the bottom of the threads. The street trap adapter will thread in and "sandwich" the circuit board.


To seal this thing up, I wanted to add a lens. I'll use 1/8" thick plexiglass for the lens. I bored out the threaded side of the street trap adapter on my "redneck lathe" (pics below) to allow the lens to be closer to the end of the adapter and allow room for the LED's. This picture shows the stock piece on the left and the modified piece on the right.

Note: If you have access to a lathe, it would probably turn out much better. I actually have access to a lathe, I was just lazy and decided to try it at home. If it didn't work, I'd just buy another piece.


REDNECK LATHE: (see note above) I used a 1-1/2" holesaw wrapped in electrical tape as a make shift collet. A drill bit through the work piece and the holesaw to keep it from spinning. This was chucked into my drill press. I clamped a sharp wood chisel to the work table and used the drill press quill feed to lower the part onto the chisel. Kind of the opposite principle of moving a carriage/tool post towards the chuck of a lathe. The ABS is really soft and cuts really easily. I had my drill speed set too fast and it was starting to melt instead of cut. After I got the diameter and depth cut the same on both pieces, I actually used a thick steel ruler to square up the shoulder of the bore with the custom collet chucked into a hand drill. Like I said, this stuff is really soft and cuts easily.







Here I've got the circuit board marked for cutting. I drew up the pre-drilled circuit board layout on AutoCAD to figure out how I was going to layout my LEDs on the pre-drilled board.You can see the template I printed out.


I cut of the smooth end of the street trap adapter and sanded it smooth. Here it is threaded into the cleanout adapter with the circuit board sandwiched between the two. Notice the shoulder for the plexiglass to rest against in the first and last pics.





Plexi taped off and marked for cutting.


Exploded view of the pieces. The white tube on the right side is the center tube from a roll of taillight lens repair tape. I will cut it down to proper length to sandwich between the circuit board and the plexiglass lens. This will keep the lens sealed tight against the o-ring (not pictured) and spaced off the LEDs. I thought about just gluing/siliconing the lens in, but would like the option to replace the lens in the future if needed. ***Could be adapted to accept a red or amber lens for extra brake or turn signal lighting***


To reduce vibrations, allow for adjustability, and provide enough clearance to get all the way below the bumper, I'm using rubber stoppers. They are 1" thick and provide the perfect spacing. The rubber is fairly soft and will form around the light housing once tightened down. I needed to get a hole in these so I used a piece of 3/8" steel tubing. I sharpened the inside diameter by using a combination of a rat tail file, countersink bit, and a regular drill bit. Once the inner diameter was sharpened, I chucked the tubing into my cordless drill and centered the tubing on the stopper. I "drilled" into the stopper from both sides. I then used a bench vise, a large socket and a washer to "punch" the tube through the stopper. It's not the cleanest hole, but I knew a regular drill bit would never cut through the rubber. This worked better than expected. Besides, no one will ever see the inside of this hole.







Here they are fully assembled. The housing was drilled and tapped for the 3/8" threaded rod. I thought about using a jamnut to keep the rod from backing out of the plastic, but the rubber stopper does a good job acting as a jamnut when installed on the truck. I'm still waiting on my LEDs and resistors to get here, but otherwise they are done. I'm thinking I'll bedline these things before I install them as the trimming/sanding/smoothing didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped.




Here is one of them installed. The other will be evenly spaced to the other side of the hitch. The threaded rod runs up through factory holes in the bumper. A fender washer on top of the rubber stopper keeps the top of the stopper from deforming, but the bottom of the stopper conforms to the curvature of the housing. A fender washer and nut on the top side (inside) of the bumper sets your tension on the stopper. The elasticity of the stopper will keep the threads from coming loose, as well as dampen vibrations.







Hope you all enjoy. Hopefully, the LEDs will be here in a few days. Then I have to try to find some more free time to get them wired up. Damn job always gets it the way of the fun stuff. :)
 

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looks awesome!

I will be watching this thread to see how you wire in the LEDs as i want to do some in the interior of my truck and im not 100% sure how to connect them to resistors and stuff.
 

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This looks great. I might just return those cheapo backup lights I just picked up and follow your write-up.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thanks guys. I'm excited to see how much light output I'll get. Hopefully it will be pretty bright. My only concern is the effective viewing angle of the LEDs is only 20-25° so I may not get the light spread I'm looking for without using a conical reflector.

If they turn out good, I'll probably add a dark sensor circuit so they only come on when it's dark out. I'll also wire them directly to 12v and have a toggle switch in the bed somewhere so I can flip them on for extra light when camping.


looks awesome!

I will be watching this thread to see how you wire in the LEDs as i want to do some in the interior of my truck and im not 100% sure how to connect them to resistors and stuff.
LEDs are really easy to wire up. Positive and negatives. The hardest part is figuring out what resistors are needed. If you're using a 12v led strip, you can just wire it directly to an existing circuit.

There's a lot of online resistor calculators that will help you determine the resistance needed for the number of LEDs you'll be using. Here's the array of LEDs that will be in each housing for my project.



This looks great. I might just return those cheapo backup lights I just picked up and follow your write-up.
LOL. I've seen some backup light kits, but none of them have been cheap. Cheaply made maybe, but would still set you back about $100+. I originally thought about using a set of slim foglights that were driven by a relay, but I didn't want to mess with running wiring all the way to the rear of the truck to deal with the current demand. These LED lights will only draw 480mA so I can run them on the reverse light circuit.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
ramdon idea......if they provide enough light will you maybe willing to make some extra ones and sell them as a kit?
Maybe...hadn't thought about it. I'd have to find a more efficient way of doing things, especially since this was all trial and error. Luckily there haven't been many errors yet. :)

The circuit board I'm using is basically a prototyping board. Soldering all the LEDs to it will take the longest. I had designed a circuit that could be etched. It would need to be drilled, but would still be quicker than going the route I'm planning.
 

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I was just asking since I read this --> I could just add a backup cam, but currently, times are tough and my wife would kill me if I spent the money to convert it, or even buy a head unit with a screen (which will happen one day).

that way those kits will help you meet that goal sooner
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I was just asking since I read this --> I could just add a backup cam, but currently, times are tough and my wife would kill me if I spent the money to convert it, or even buy a head unit with a screen (which will happen one day).

that way those kits will help you meet that goal sooner
Hmmmm...now you've got me thinking. I think I'll need to do a double sided circuit board just to make it look well thought out, which is not a problem, just a bit harder to etch but could be done in batches of 3-4 at a time. Definitely going to need a different setup for boring out the cap - but got a few ideas on that as well. A couple good quality holesaws will be needed as well...

Look out, the gears are a turnin'...but I got o see if these are worth a crap first. LOL. I guess technically, these could be adapted to any vehicle...
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
After talking with a friend, he was concerned about not having the proper resistance since a 12v system is actually 12.8v-14v when the alternator is spinnin'. I had figured everything for 12v. I pulled off one of the taillights and backprobed the reverse light socket. After starting the truck and setting the parking brake, I put it in reverse. Voltage at the reverse bulb measured 11.6v-11.8v, even with the brakes applied and backup sensors off or on. I'll be good running the above configuration.

Here's the circuit board. It's just under 1.75" diameter. the center pad will be ground and the pads at 6 & 12 will be positive. All components are through-hole (LEDs & resistors). The resistors will come through from the backside and the LEDs will go through from the front. Now to try my hand at toner transfer etch masking...

 

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Discussion Starter #12
Still waiting on the white LED's, but I got the housings bed-lined. They look a whole lot better IMHO. I unmasked the plexi and threw a few random LED's in for visual effect. I got o-rings for the lens, but they don't fit very well. I'm planning on cutting some new plexi lenses with an adjustable circle cutter. The cuts I did on these are really jagged. I'm going to try to get them cut so they fit really snug. I'll attempt to create an integrated o-ring by placing a very small bead of clear silicone on the shoulder that the lens butts against and let it dry before inserting the lens. Hopefully I'll get a snug enough fit that they wont leak. If they do, I'll just unscrew the cap and try something different.

You can see the white plastic tube that was cut to support the lens in a few of the pics. I don't really like this because its a little smaller diameter that the lens and wont stay centered. I guess I could wrap it in a layer or two of electrical tape, but I think it may actually interfere with my LED placement on the PCB. If push comes to shove, I can always cut reliefs in it to clear the few LEDs on the edges if the friction fit lens doesn't work.







HURRY UP LED'S!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I did a few small revisions to the circuit board just to eliminate the chance of short circuits. Here's a paper copy that I glued to some thin cardboard then drilled for the LED's. I used every LED I could find in my box. Once they are soldered to the board, they will all be pointing straight up, these LEDs are just slid in place. I wanted to be sure that I had designed the board so the LEDs would fit inside the lens cap before I etched out several boards.

Unfortunately, the LEDs were not in the mail today...:(

 

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Discussion Starter #14
Still no LEDs but I've made some progress.

Circuit layout that has been laser printed on glossy paper. Laser print toner is resistant to the etching chemicals. This will be placed face down on the copper clad board and ironed on like a t-shirt transfer. Then I cut the board out before etching.






Etching process: you can see the black stuff running off the board in the 3rd pic. That's the copper that is being dissolved by the chemical. The 4th pic you can see a ring of copper that has not dissolved yet.






All that is left is to clean/sand off the resist material (toner transfer).







Next is the eye-straining task of drilling all those tiny holes for the component leads. I might break out my magnifying glass for that step.
 

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wow nice detail.... it looks like alot of work IMO
 

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Dude. Seriously impressive. Subscribed.

Sent from my HTC Glacier using AutoGuide App
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks guys. I'm really enjoying making these. I hope I get the light output I'm expecting, but if not, I may fall back on using some high power LEDs instead and swapping the regular reverse bulbs over to LED replacements as well.

Now if the dang LEDs would get here already...
 
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