Installing LED taillights

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Installing LED taillights

Postby Hans Efde » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:48 pm

I was already for years fed up with the Opel Ascona (Cavalier) tail lights on my mk3 convertible. It's basically a timeless car, but the lights give it away. I wanted units that could be installed without body mods, for if a next owner wanted to install the originals again.
It is tempting to go for the classic style 4 round led lights, but a) everyone does it, b) it requires extra reflectors which must be installed somewhere and b) I like a bit of modern taste, sort of restomodding.
I found fantastic looking LED lights from a Polish manufacturer and bought them quite cheap on autoleds.pl.
For installation I made a snug fitting wooden base. I glued in 4 bolts that slot in the original holes (just had to open them a bit). To seal off any irregularities I would use foam rubber seals (plenty sorts and styles at the local DIY).
On this base plate I bolted the lights, I only had to install an extra strip of wood to align the lights with the rear of the car.
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Then I had to make a surround. I started building a plug from wood, but after hours of sanding I was disappointed by the result.
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By accident someone had mentioned to make a mesh surround, but thought it was a bad idea because there is no cooling needed (as on Ferrari's). But who cares, I liked the idea and it was pretty easy to make.
For the frame I made cardboard templates and cut them out of a sheet of 1mm aluminium with my Dremel. I bought mesh in a smaller size than already on the car since the grille mesh looked out of place. I cut it to size, then used a piece of tube to make the curve in both parts. When I was satisfied I glued them together with 2-component Bison KombiPower glue, strongest stuff I know. For brackets I folded a 2mm aluminium strip in shape and also glued them to the mesh frame.
The brackets clamp around the wooden base in recesses, so they are locked in place when the wooden base is bolted in the body.
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With the brackets in place, the position of the mesh was locked in relation to the wooden base. The outline of the led light was carefully determined with another template. With the Dremel I carefully cut the hole leaving only 1mm extra for errors or misalignment. Luckily I was close and only needed a few small correction.
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After painting it was just a matter of installing, but I didn't like the look of it. So I decided to use self adhesive matt plastic to blacken out the mid section. It's a taste of the seventies, because cars as the Triumph TR6 and Datsun 260Z had also a black rear section. I needed it anyway to black out the body parts behind the mesh. I bought some cheap DIY stuff, probably have to do it again with professional wrap plastic because it doesn't stick well. A few extra foam rubber strips were added for weather protection and support of the (flimsy) mesh frame.
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I hooked up the led lights without too many issues. There is a problem with the indicators. They have extra resistors to work correctly, but still have to get a more modern flasher relay (modern ones both work with bulbs and leds). The indicator leds are sensistive to the voltage they get, slightly less and not all leds will illuminate. This happens when on alarm setting and with engine off.
Obviously a personal taste but I like the result. From behind the car now has a hint of Lambo/Audi/Volvo making it impossible to guess what car it is.
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I hope this is of some help. The mesh frames are easy to make and this method can be used for other shapes led lights as well. It saves an enormous amount of time compared to traditional adaptor plugs from wood or GRP.

And a few pics of the mod "in the flesh".
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Hans Efde
 
Posts: 1725
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:11 pm
Location: IJlst, Netherlands

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