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LED 3rd Brake Light

Old 01-27-2014, 08:45 PM
Shade Tree Fixer
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Seeing that a full set of bulbs purchased from a bulb vendor not a Automotive vender on the internet cost less than $10, the bulbs last 12 to 14 years and bulbs fit and illuminate the lens properly why convert them?
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Old 10-01-2014, 06:10 PM
Randy 1
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Seems like someone has a problem with this piece every six months.

Just shipped my C4S out to Maryland, and the thing fails the required state inspection (mandatory in advance of registration) because three bulbs are out. Argh!

Just so I'm clear: the bulbs listed earlier in the thread have the plastic housing. I assume, from the links, that this hides the resistor on the "long" leg of the T5 bulbs. Does the plastic housing simply slip off if you straighten the legs of the bulbs?

I have 30 days to fix this before I have to pay some doofus to re-inspect the car.

Frankly, I'm puzzled how the bulbs could have burned out. The car has 16,000 miles. I simply cannot have done that much braking!

Thanks in advance. I think 95% of the information I need is on here, and I'm happy once I can solder one bulb on, to supplement the excellent DIY instructions with more photos and explicit, dumb layperson clarifications!
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Old 10-01-2014, 11:58 PM
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Yes, the plastic housing comes off easily.
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Old 10-13-2014, 10:03 AM
Randy 1
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Huzzah and hooray: the brake light lives!

Purchased an inexpensive solder iron from Amazon. Cost: $15.82. Mind you, I have no solder experience. This kit came with the solder iron, a super-cheap stand, some solder, some copper desoldering braided material (which I stopped using after 2 attempts) and a very handy solder vacuum, which came in very handy for this application. In short, this will be everything you should need to execute this DIY.

Next, purchased the LEDs as referenced above from eBay. They came in 20 unit packages, so I now have 16 extra LEDs, if anyone wants 'em. They were these from HK: http://www.ebay.com/itm/190267231244

Shipped promptly, cheap as can be, and they do the trick. The upside: these all had the resistor on the same leg, in terms of polarity. By scrutinizing the inside of the bulb, you could see that there were two pieces of "filament": in essence, a rectangle cut in the middle, but on about a 45 degree angle leaving a larger piece and a smaller piece. The resistor for all of these lead to the larger piece, so I could solder these bulbs in with the resistor on the same side of the board.

With that, I had all supplies necessary, aside from a socket wrench (I had to use a pair of pliers), wire cutters, and phillips head screwdrivers of varying sizes.

The online instructables on this fix are pretty good. Pull off the fiberglass cover by simply pulling up at each end. This piece is simply held in by friction clips. This exposes a black strip held down by hex nuts on a washer. Releasing these hex nuts will allow the black strip to come free. Tipping it up will disengage the weather stripping (at the edge of the roof-rear glass edge).

Flipping this over will expose the two Phillips head screws. Gently release these; they're held in, on the top of the rear light casing, by two fairly fragile plastic "nuts". One of mine was cracked, but the critical threaded screw hole was intact, so no significant damage.

At this point, the red-plastic-and-metal housing should come free, but for the two wires. Mine were packed with a deteriorating plastic foam. Unclear whether I need to replace this for weather-tightness. I may just wrap the two plastic connectors in electrical tape?

At this point, by disconnecting the wire leads, you should have the housing free from the car. Five Phillips head screws later, you should be able to pry the backing plastic off. You can see the wires go through the housing (through a rubber gasket) and connect to the silicon board by two friction clips. Wiggle those off. Then, simply pry the silicon board away from the front lens. Each bulb will have a dedicated red plastic hole in which it fits, but starting at one end should yield the board without much trouble.

At this point, you're ready to solder. Now, again, I had no solder experience, but I quickly started to do the following:

- Heat up the existing solder with the iron on one leg of the existing bulb, while gently pulling. The leg should come free within about 1.5 seconds. Repeat.

- Heat up the excess solder again until liquid, then use the solder vacuum to "suck" it up, thereby cleaning the board. You'll notice that there are two metal strips running the length of the board, with a channel running down the middle. Get solder in that channel, and you create a bridge that will short out the circuit. I don't think it would do damage, but the lights won't light. So some cleanup is probably worthwhile.

- Take a new LED, unbend the legs, and pull off (just brute force) the plastic housing. This will leave two legs: one (slightly stiffer) leg without a resistor, and one very flexible one with a capacitor. Check the bulb innards to confirm the resistor is on the same filament (see above).

- Poke both legs through the board. In order to achieve the same height as the OEM bulbs, I had to jam the legs down so that the resistor touched the silicon. That made it actually easy, as there was no measuring height.

- Flip the board over, and apply fresh solder to both legs.

- As you progress, go back and check that your work on previous bulbs has secured the legs from any wiggle. I apparently didn't apply sufficient solder to some bulbs, leaving room for the legs to slide in and out of the holes. Upshot: there was no contact between the board and the bulb, so no light.

- You'll notice there's significantly more leg to these than the OEM installation. Simple wire cutters or scissors will trim them down to size.

- Reassembling does require a bit of wiggling the bulbs back into their plastic sheaths. Also, the small phillips head screws were a little recalcitrant about going back into their holes; definitely a little more elbow grease required than loosening them.

Testing was frustrating, because whatever I did blew the fuse. But ultimately, everything worked out and I'd agree with previous posters that the light is brighter and more attractive than before.

Hope these minor tips are helpful to the next novice that takes this very simple, if time consuming, mod on. Probably took me three hours, but mostly because I was being overtly careful, because I did a crap job of soldering on five bulbs, and because it took me ten minutes to diagnose the blown fuse.
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