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E36/7 Z3 (1996-2002)
E36/7 Z3 Roadster, Z3 coupe, Z3 M Roadster and Z3 M Coupe talk with our gurus here.

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  #1  
Old 09-03-2003, 05:20 AM
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LED conversion update

I'm still forging ahead here, but there have been some part delays. Still waiting on bulb sockets from Bell BMW, more bulbs from LEDTRONICS and load resistors from Auto Indulgence. In the meantime I've done some more research...

I looked in the ETM for the location of the flasher module. I pulled it out of the fuse/relay box. It's a Siemens, and without tearing it apart, I'm guessing it's solid state (MOSFET or the like instead of eloctromechanical relay). I managed to find a Siemens application note for automotive flasher relays. It looks like the flasher measures voltage drop across low ohmic value sensor resistors (one per side) to determine current in the circuits, comparing against a reference voltage. The IC does all the driving (after an initial RC discharge), not a bimetal strip. If the voltage drop across one of these resistors goes low during the 'on' part of the duty cycle (due to a bulb being burned out), the IC drives the flashers roughly twice as fast to let you know a bulb is out. The problem with LED is that it's low current, so as soon as you replace a turn indicator bulb with an LED cluster, the voltage drop across the sensor resistor goes low due to the low current, and the IC doubles the flash rate.

I'm going to tear apart a flasher module and see if I can find these resistors, and find replacements that will work with LED bulbs (in all 4 corners, not sure I'm going to do LED in the side lamps yet). If I do, I'll post a write-up on how to turn a Siemens flasher module into one that works correctly for LED bulbs (hopefully it'll even detect a dead LED bulb, but that might be asking too much).

I'm going to do load resistors in the interim, but I've spent enough money testing LED bulbs now to justify getting the full benefits, which would include significantly lower current draw.
If possible, I don't want load resistors (turning current into completely useless heat).
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  #2  
Old 09-03-2003, 01:39 PM
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I took apart my flasher module during lunch. It's not all solid state, it's the hybrid type (has IC instead of bimetal strip, but has electromechanical relays instead of MOSFET or the like).

The bummer here is that everything is surface mounted on a single PCB. Looking at it closely, it won't be easy to swap out resistor(s). I might be stuck with load resistors until I can find someone that makes a load-invariant flasher module for our cars. I ordered a relay to try modifying it, but I expect it's going to be difficult if not impossible with a soldering gun.
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Old 09-03-2003, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwm
I took apart my flasher module during lunch. It's not all solid state, it's the hybrid type (has IC instead of bimetal strip, but has electromechanical relays instead of MOSFET or the like).

The bummer here is that everything is surface mounted on a single PCB. Looking at it closely, it won't be easy to swap out resistor(s). I might be stuck with load resistors until I can find someone that makes a load-invariant flasher module for our cars. I ordered a relay to try modifying it, but I expect it's going to be difficult if not impossible with a soldering gun.
I'm sure you already know this, but there are special (soldering iron) tips available for repair of SMT components.

Jensen Tools would be one source for them.
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  #4  
Old 09-03-2003, 07:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Forbes
I'm sure you already know this, but there are special (soldering iron) tips available for repair of SMT components.

Jensen Tools would be one source for them.
Yes, I know about them, the issue is more with my steadiness and the size of the components involved. I've got 20/15 vision and I couldn't quite read the resistor color bands.

I'll be looking at this again when the new relay arrives. In the interim I'm going to buy a handful of 50W-rated load resistors at values from 3.3ohms up to about 6 ohms from Mouser, and see what I can get away with. Napkin algebra says I should be able to use 3.3 to 3.9 ohms, but I'd like to go higher if possible (draw less current, generate less heat). We'll see where the flasher wants to go into double-speed mode to indicate lamp burnout. More napkin algebra says I can't go higher than 5.5 ohms w/o triggering the double-speed mode, but I could be wrong; a 5.62 ohm might work. Some of this of course depends on whether or not I do the side flashers in LED too, but they're only 5W bulbs.

The plan at the moment is one load resistor per side, probably mounted inside the bulb socket panels in the rear. They're aluminum 1% tolerance, with integrated heatsink/mount. If I have to go with 3 or 3.3 ohm, the bulb socket panel mounting might not work, they might get too hot. I'll be testing temperature before mounting, I don't need to melt my socket panels. But I think I'll be OK, it's not like the factory 21W filament bulbs don't get hot as heck.
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  #5  
Old 09-04-2003, 08:49 AM
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Very cool project. Keep us posted!
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  #6  
Old 09-09-2003, 04:50 AM
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My new rear bulb panels arrived yesterday. Last night I installed them, borrowing two of the bulb sockets from my old panels to use as additional brake lighting with LED bulbs. Lame pictures are at http://www.mcplex.net/Mroadster/pics/2003.09.09/index.html.

In these pictures, there are Jam Strait LED bulbs in the fog lenses and the stock 21W filament bulbs in the stock brake lenses. I won't be using the Jam Strait bulbs long-term, but I'm still waiting for my red LEDTRONICS bulbs to arrive. However, even with things the way they are, I like it. The LEDs draw an insignificant amount of current, but add significant lighting and instant-on behavior. The color purity is worth it alone, the filament bulbs almost look amber compared to red LED. Not to mention the lack of heat. When the red LEDTRONICS bulbs arrive, a pair will replace the factory brake bulbs. The Jam Strait bulbs have 15 lens-firing LEDs. The LEDTRONICS bulbs have 18 lens-firing LEDs and 6 reflector-firing LEDs.

Next up is the front/rear turn signal project. I believe I now have a relay that's tweakable so I won't need load resistors, but it's going to take me a while to probe to figure out what I need to do. I have LEDTRONICS amber 1156 LED bulbs for the rear, and amber 1157 LED bulbs ordered for the front. The good news on the flasher relay front is that if it works, it'll be cheap for others to do the same. I picked up this relay for $35.

After that comes the high-mount brake lamp (is that 35W?), then running lamps and side turn signals. The side signals are low on the priority list because they're only 5W, their mount angle is non-ideal for LED, and the LED bulbs would have to be small (they have to pass through the base mount when installing). The T3-1/4 (9mm) wedge LED bulbs I've seen so far are either too big (multi-LED) or don't look to be a good idea (not bright enough or too narrow viewing angle) or have ugly color plastic bases (egg yolk effect but worse in terms of color). The ideal ones from LEDTRONICS look like they won't fit (LED cluster is too big).
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  #7  
Old 09-17-2003, 04:51 PM
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Just another update...

I finished the first part of the brake lamp conversion. I've now got one LEDTRONICS red 1156 LED bulb in each of the two factory brake lenses, and one Jam Strait red 1156 bulb in each of the euro fog lenses. All are acting as brake lamps only. I figure I'm now only drawing about .6 amps versus 3.5 amps (rough arithmetic, not measured) when braking. I've got 100,000 hour bulb life, instant-on behavior, and color purity. I'm very happy with the results.

I'll take more 'before versus after' pictures tonight and post a URL.
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  #8  
Old 09-17-2003, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwm
Just another update...

I finished the first part of the brake lamp conversion. I've now got one LEDTRONICS red 1156 LED bulb in each of the two factory brake lenses, and one Jam Strait red 1156 bulb in each of the euro fog lenses. All are acting as brake lamps only. I figure I'm now only drawing about .6 amps versus 3.5 amps (rough arithmetic, not measured) when braking. I've got 100,000 hour bulb life, instant-on behavior, and color purity. I'm very happy with the results.

I'll take more 'before versus after' pictures tonight and post a URL.
Hmm... got any pics of what the lights look like when they're on inside your tail light cluster?

I'd be curious to know also if your "light out" indicators in the dash came on.
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  #9  
Old 09-17-2003, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doeboy
Hmm... got any pics of what the lights look like when they're on inside your tail light cluster?

I'd be curious to know also if your "light out" indicators in the dash came on.
Pics will be taken later tonight. The main difference is the lack of light from the reflectors, as expected (LEDs have a pretty steep trade off of intensity for beam width, these bright ones have a narrow beam width). That's why I also put brake lamps in the fog lenses. Not that it's a big deal, for brake lamps the most important direction is straight back. At night I now go from having two running lamp lenses lit to six lenses lit when I brake. With the fact that LEDs light nearly instantaneously as opposed to the several hundred millisoconds for a filament bulb to come to full brightness, I think it's better than factory. If I leave my running lamps as-is, there's also a color difference since the red LED's have a much narrower bandwidth than the white filaments through a red lens.

No 'light out' indicators; I don't think there is one for brake lamps, but if there is it appears to not be sensitive to losing the 21W filament bulbs in the tail lamps (but keep in mind I haven't yet touched the bulbs in the high-mount lamp in the trunk lid, and I'm guessing that's about 35W of power).
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  #10  
Old 09-17-2003, 08:36 PM
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Quick pictures:

LED brake lamp pictures

You probably want to look at just the last four pictures, which have my LED conversion on the driver's side and the factory filament setup on the passenger side. One of those at 768x512:



A second one with both sides having my LED conversion, with the same shutter speed and aperture (sorry about the exhaust, the engine was still running):

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  #11  
Old 09-17-2003, 09:44 PM
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Another page showing the LED brake lamps coming on:

LED brake demo

You need javascript enabled for it to work.
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  #12  
Old 10-07-2004, 03:33 PM
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just wondering if anyone one else has done DWM's LED conversion? I desparately want to do it, but because of my very limited knowledge of electronics I am unable to follow just how DWM accomplished this. In the description there is mention of replacing the flasher module and installing load resistors, but then further into the progress update therer is no more mention of these things by the time the LEDTRONICS bulbs are installed and working. So, is there actually no need for any modification after all, given that the LEDTRONICS bulbs have built-in Current Limiting Resistors ? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
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Old 10-07-2004, 06:10 PM
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I'm amazed at how much impact LED tail lights have everytime I come up on a DeVille, G35 and even newer Bimmers. Would love to do this to my car too.
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Old 10-07-2004, 10:04 PM
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I shelved the remaining flasher module work for this winter.

Brake lights (including the third lens in the trunk lid of the roadster) are easy; just replace the bulbs with LED bulbs. I still advise using the fog light spot on the M's for an additional bulb socket for brake lighting. I like the LEDTRONICS bulbs for 1156 replacements, but the Jam Strait ones are decent too. For the third brake light, I used the WLED-6 bulbs from superbrightleds.com. It'd be worth trying their 1156 bulbs too, since they're a lot less expensive than the LEDTRONICS bulbs.
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwm
I shelved the remaining flasher module work for this winter.

Brake lights (including the third lens in the trunk lid of the roadster) are easy; just replace the bulbs with LED bulbs. I still advise using the fog light spot on the M's for an additional bulb socket for brake lighting. I like the LEDTRONICS bulbs for 1156 replacements, but the Jam Strait ones are decent too. For the third brake light, I used the WLED-6 bulbs from superbrightleds.com. It'd be worth trying their 1156 bulbs too, since they're a lot less expensive than the LEDTRONICS bulbs.
LEDTRONICS has just released a load resistor module for ($6.48 - one required for each bulb) which they claim can be installed in line with the power to the turn signal bulb, thus eliminating the problem of the minimal current that LED's draw, causing the blinkers to flash quickly and error. Does this mean that a flassher relay will no longer be necessary if this works? Anyone have any input?

http://www.ledtronics.com/ds/aut1157/Default.asp
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Old 12-16-2004, 01:19 PM
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Ha, I put my V1 display in the same place. I hate having it there, it looks so trashy, but I cant live without it.
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Old 12-16-2004, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samer555
LEDTRONICS has just released a load resistor module for ($6.48 - one required for each bulb) which they claim can be installed in line with the power to the turn signal bulb, thus eliminating the problem of the minimal current that LED's draw, causing the blinkers to flash quickly and error. Does this mean that a flassher relay will no longer be necessary if this works? Anyone have any input?

http://www.ledtronics.com/ds/aut1157/Default.asp
That's not a new idea; it's as old as Ohm's Law. The problem with going this route is that you lose two of the real benefits of LED lighting: low current draw and low wasted energy (heat). Load resistors just move the current draw (and heat) to the resistors. And they will get hot; too hot to touch, and I wouldn't want one anywhere near other wiring, ABS or carpet.

In other words, if you only want LED lighting for bling-bling, load resistors are fine. But if you want the real benefits of LED (low current draw and very little heat), load resistors completely defeat the benefits. Load resistors also won't last forever; they'll last longer than a bulb filament, but they'll likely need to be replaced before the LEDs.
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Old 12-16-2004, 04:23 PM
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By now you would think one of the after market guys would have gotten a simplier conversion / mod kit togeather. Especially now that these cars are coming of age and no longer go back to the dealers for service.. JMHO
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Old 05-08-2005, 06:01 AM
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Daniel, If I want to have LED bulbe for the brakes only, is it a simple change of bulb to the ledtronics 1156 for the 4 brake lights ( I have the rear fogs wired for brakes) and the wled-6 superbright for the 3rd brake light?
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Old 05-08-2005, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by bob lindquist
Daniel, If I want to have LED bulbe for the brakes only, is it a simple change of bulb to the ledtronics 1156 for the 4 brake lights ( I have the rear fogs wired for brakes) and the wled-6 superbright for the 3rd brake light?
Yes. Just change out the bulbs and you're done. All red bulbs, don't get white LEDs; they won't be bright enough. For brakes, the LEDs I'm using are definitely bright enough when you've got them in the third brake light and have the fogs wired for brakes. There are cheaper alternatives to the LEDTRONICS 1156 bulbs, like the 1156-R19 from superbrightleds.com. They're almost as nice, and a heck of a lot less money. Their 1156-R24 might fit too, but for brakes the side-firing LEDs don't do much in our housings. At $6.99 each, it wouldn't hurt much to buy some to try.

You can do the rear running lamps too. I did the ones on the outside of the rear lenses (red) but not the ones that face rearward (could easily be done, I just haven't experimented with smaller bulbs to fit through the smaller holes for those). I'll be trying some soon.

I'm also now using an LED-loaded festoon in the trunk. I don't remember what coupes have back there. In the roadster, over time the 10W filament bulb gets hot enough to deform the plastic lens/holder such that it starts falling out. This won't happen if you're only using your trunk normally, but if you're using that light for long periods to do amplifier wiring late into the night... I had to buy a new lens because the plastic that holds the long contact for the bulb deformed severely from the filament bulb.

I've also got LED-loaded festoons in the cabin now, in both the overhead and the LeatherZ footwell lighting kit.
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Old 05-08-2005, 02:49 PM
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cool project! when I was on the road the other day, I saw a newer Jetta and it had the LED sidemarkers. very cool. I was thinking maybe there was a way to add this to our cars. I just want that bling ;-)
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Old 05-08-2005, 08:30 PM
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cool project! when I was on the road the other day, I saw a newer Jetta and it had the LED sidemarkers. very cool. I was thinking maybe there was a way to add this to our cars. I just want that bling ;-)
The bulb swap thing is easy for brakes and rear running lamps. I didn't do it for bling, but for the function. Instant-on, low current draw, low heat, and of course they'll likely last beyond the life of the car (I'll probably never need to replace a brake bulb). They do look pretty nice though. Color purity, I guess.

It wouldn't be difficult to mod the rear housings on the M to do something more, like 30-LED clusters for the brakes. From my hazy recollection of pictures that Max sent to me, it'd be harder to do on late model Z3 roadsters.
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Last edited by dwm; 05-08-2005 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 05-09-2005, 05:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwm
The bulb swap thing is easy for brakes and rear running lamps. I didn't do it for bling, but for the function. Instant-on, low current draw, low heat, and of course they'll likely last beyond the life of the car (I'll probably never need to replace a brake bulb). They do look pretty nice though. Color purity, I guess.

It wouldn't be difficult to mod the rear housings on the M to do something more, like 30-LED clusters for the brakes. From my hazy recollection of pictures that Max sent to me, it'd be harder to do on late model Z3 roadsters.
Unless we built the 30 LED bulbs inside the housing using tiny ship in a bottle tools!

Just kidding, please dont try this daniel, I wouldn't be surprised if you could!
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Old 05-09-2005, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob lindquist
Unless we built the 30 LED bulbs inside the housing using tiny ship in a bottle tools!
:-) It's not hard to get the M tail assemblies out.

Quote:
Just kidding, please dont try this daniel, I wouldn't be surprised if you could!
I've insufficient interest in doing this, but I don't think it would be difficult. If not willing to cut much bigger holes, you'd just have to mount LEDs inside the housing. The bulb panel would wind up doing less in terms of holding bulbs (still need reverse lamps because LED isn't sufficient there). It'd probably be pretty safe to permanently mount LEDs where desired; it's not like they're going to burn out on you.
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Old 05-14-2005, 04:02 PM
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Today I enlarged the hole for the rear-facing running lamp in my driver's side taillight housing, and dropped in a 12-LED wide-angle 1156 bulb. Looks fine in daylight, but I'll have to wait for the sun to set to draw a real conclusion.

I'm not sure what the coupe assemblies look like, but I assume they're very similar. Unlike the headlights, there are easy to get in/out of the car (just two nuts holding them to the body). The back of the housing is ABS, so a small sanding drum on a Dremel or die grinder (I used the latter) makes quick work of enlarging the hole.

Since these bulbs are loaded with wide-angle LEDs, they're not as bright as the ones I'm using for brakes. I think I could use 19-LED ones. I've ordered some. I'm guessing the 30-LED ones won't fit through the holes in the body, and at the moment I'm not up for enlarging those holes. It'd be easy to do, but I don't feel like tackling the finish work right now and don't see a need for the 30-LED bulbs.

So, the only thing I have left is the turn signal bulbs. I need to do another design revision of the PCB for my flasher module replacement so I can do that with no mechanical relays and no load resistors.
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Daniel
2002 M roadster
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