Friday, July 24, 2009

Third Brake Light Fun

This fun time mod evolved from a discussion I raised on the E39 forum found here:

I wanted to customize my third brake light by making and installing a blackout. Joe M suggested an elaborate LED setup. This got me thinking about these scrolling LED belt buckles and name tags you see at disco clubs and Tokyo. So, I researched it out a bit and bought one hoping it would work.

Common handtools
Rachet set
Scrolling LED License Plate Frame

2 hours working time

The frame I bought is a Flash Frames brand. It was the cheapest and most prolific model on eBay. There is also E-Frames, Roadmaster, and other brands with different features. My model boasts 5 message @120 character storage capacity, wireless remote, and a $20 price tag- shipping included. Got it in the mail yesterday; did the project late tonight.

Let's get started...

Get your package and beautiful 8 month pregnant wife to open it -I love her.

On my model, the LED assembly just pops right out of the frame. Discard frame- it's crap.

Disassemble your car to get to the rear deck per these instructions:
Once that's done (95% of the project), getting the brake light module out is very simple. Just go into the trunk, remove the nut shown here, and slide the module back to unlock it. The module is now free.

Undoing this harness will release the module for working freedom.

I pulled out the lens (just unclipped two clips on the bottom of the module) then the parabolic reflector; but the latter ended up not being necessary.

I like to use this indoor/outdoor automotive trim tape (available at all auto parts stores and Wally World). It holds well but will come off clean when desired. I have used it on many projects, especially those which I want to remain reversible. I put it on the backside of two edges of the LED module where they contact the parabolic reflector.

All put back together.

LED module wired directly to the battery for programming.

I just smashed the leads into the harness for ease and reversibility. They are so tight, they aren't going anywhere. Brown is ground. Black/yellow is 12v + switched. The only downer of this project is that the LCM doesn't at all like the fact that I pulled the filament bulb and replaced it with a 500 ma LED module. It kept cycling on and off trying to establish resistance, so the message would start then restart and so on never getting through all the way. So, reluctantly, I have the filament bulb also in right now. I plan to get a red bulb (since my red lens is gone) and insert it behind the message board in it's normal place to give the needed resistance and backlight the LED module in a cool way. Utility AND functionality!

Wire path.

One cheap video to complete the write-up:

The message is programmed via a wireless IR remote control, so I'll just be changing the message through the back window... Now put your car back together and enjoy!

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