Guide to buying LED bulb replacements for turn and rear signals

Many people have had great success replacing the stock halogen turn bulbs on their vehicle with LED replacements. But there are some key pieces of information that need to be addressed, before the replacement can be done. Should one buy the LEDs locally, or online? What type of LED do I buy? What color? Hopefully this short write-up will help answer some of these questions, and add to my previous posts on using LED bulbs.

Buying LED Bulbs Online

Generally, across all consumer goods categories, the advent of online shopping has revolutionized the entire experience. It is my humble opinion that buying online is the best source for your LED needs. I’ve listed some examples :-

Super Bright LEDs

Motorcycle LED lights

Custom Dynamics

You can also, of course, buy specific LEDs from your choice of Amazon.com or Ebay.com as well. There are many good sources for LED bulbs. I specifically would like to call out ‘JDM A Star’, a retailer on Amazon, who consistently stock high quality LED bulbs. I have purchased all my LED bulbs over the last 2 years through them.

Buying LED Bulbs Locally

I’ve found that Wal-Mart tends to stock some of these LED bulbs (both 1156 & 1157 sockets) . I am sure that auto stores (Auto Zone, Advanced Auto Parts, etc) locally might also have these in stock, at retail locations. So If one wants to buy them locally, it’d be best to call up and enquire.

However, the key problem when buying from Wal-Mart /local store Is that you’d need to make sure it’s the latest technology bulb, and not an older version. How can you do this? The LED I used, bought from JDM A Star on Amazon, had 144 SMDs! I’m not sure you’d get this from a local store 🙁 that is my major concern buying locally. Wal-Mart or another store could order these in for you, and you’d have to call them up to check availability.
How to choose a bright LED bulb (and what are SMDs?)

Most modern LED bulbs have a # of SMDs. The SMD (Surface Mounted Diode) is the little square diode you see on an LED bulb. The higher the # of SMDs , the more output on them. We’d like to get these higher output ones. LEDs may also have a projector lens at the front.

Example of low SMD count LED (older, probably less output in general…cheaper)

Example of an older/smaller LED bulb

Below is an example of a newer LED bulb type, more SMDs, likely more light output and powerful

Projector lens on LEDs (the JDM A Star 144 SMD bulb, with the lens projector visible)

The projector lens, visible in the front of the LED bulb

Also, the LEDs with more SMDs tend to be longer in length too. So one needs to make sure you these can be properly used in your particular ride. Generally they fit most bikes. Some unlucky bikes might have too tight a space, so use the respective manual/measure the space length available. The positive side is that most online retailers (especially Amazon) offer free returns.

A size comparison of my V Strom stock 1156 halogen turn bulb, vs the Amber LED replacement I installed

As you can see, the LED I used, bought from JDM A Star on Amazon, had 144 SMDs!

The Amazon-sourced LED Amber 1156 bulb I bought. It has a high # of SMDs 🙂

If you can get a similar number of SMDs from your chosen source, that’s great! As of early 2016, the 144 SMD count LED bulbs seem to be the latest tech. But even if SMDs are lower in count, you might get a brighter output (there are 48 SMD bulbs that are fantastic and much brighter than stock bulbs)

Also, make sure the right socket is in play. Two wire solutions are generally 1156 sockets, while three wire (rear tail brake combined) bulbs are 1157 sockets.

Different types of sockets

You can use this handy tool to lookup info on your vehicle. Please also confirm/verify with your vehicle’s manual!
Phillips Auto light – Bulb Finder

Types of sockets : 2 wire & 3 wire

You need to choose the color you need based on the output, not based on the bulb housing! What I mean by this is, that if you’re buying turn bulbs, get Amber bulbs. It doesn’t matter of your lens housing is Amber or clear. You might be tempted to buy white bulbs if you’ve Amber/Red bulb lens housing…. Please do not 🙂 . The physics of light and how colors work, guides us to buying the color you wish to see.

How to choose color of LED | Does my Lens Housing Color Matter?

An Amber housing absorbs all other colors except Amber…. If you’ve a while LED rated for 5W, then only the Amber sub-component of that 5W light output is being transmitted by your housing. We don’t want that !

If you instead use an Amber LED bulb rated for 5W, then all that 5W output gets transmitted out through the Amber housing. This is what we need! More light, better! So always buy the bulb based on your need, not based on the housing lens color.

 

 

Hope this helps anyone trying to update their motorcycle/car/truck lights to LEDs.

Please feel free to bring any corrections or updated additional info if you have any. I’d humbly appreciate your feedback! 🙂

Regards,
Vishnu

thepaleobiker

V-Strom 650 || Modifications || Converting turn signals into Running lights

My Honda ST1100 had beautiful 3-wire turn signals (1157 socket) which meant that the turn signals could function as both ‘running lights’ and as ‘turn signals’.

This might not seem like a big deal, but on a 2-wheeler where you want to be seen as much as possible, having those running lights can be a huge visibility boost. My V-Strom unfortunately has a 2-wire (1156 socket) system meaning turn signals only blink when I activate the turn signal, and stays turned off at all other times…. this bothered me a lot.

The beautiful final result! (I’ve also added LED light strips on the handguards)

This 1980 detailed article shows that having headlights (a proxy for lighting/visibility) OFF increased the chance of an accident by more than a factor of 2 ! Also, the oncoming automobile driver ‘not seeing’ the motorcycle is the biggest reason for accidents. Visibility is hugely important! Think about that….a simple lighting improvement reduces accident likelihood by more than 50%.. (page 387 in this document) 

To come back to the my V-Strom, I decided to modify the stock wiring to use the Custom Dynamics turn signal module to convert my turn signals into turn + running lights.

You need the Custom Dynamics blinker module, $30 shipped. You get two modules for the $30

Custom Dynamics blinker module from eBay ($30)

I also bought a set of posi tap & posi lock connections to help me with tapping into stock wiring with minimal splice / cutting / soldering.

The module, and a set of posi tap & posi lock connectors

On the V-Strom, the left and right turn bulbs each have two wires. You can visually inspect them by looking into the front fairing, to the sides of the headlights.

Right side – Green wire (blinker) and B/W (ground)

Right turn wires & connector

Left side – Solid black wire (blinker) and B/W (ground)

Left turn wire & connector

The writing is pretty straightforward with the posi tap products. You can disconnect the connections between each turn wire (see the marked picture) and then use one blinker set for each side.

Wiring information for blinker module:-

 

Once the wiring is correctly done, just test it out to make sure things are working correctly. Once this final check is done, you can now go ahead and safely tuck away the wiring neatly with zip ties inside the fairing. MAKE SURE YOU CAN TURN HANDLEBARS WITHOUT DAMAGING WIRING !

🙂 🙂

Hope this helps anyone trying to get running and turn lights on their motorcycle. This works for any motorcycle with the two wire situation.

Turn signals converted into Running lights!
Turn signals converted into Running lights!

 

 

 

Regards,
Vishnu
thepaleobiker

V-Strom 650|| Modifications || Replacing Stock Tail/Brake light bulbs with LED bulbs (video comparison)

Hi all,

I bought LED 1157 bulbs to replace the stock tail light bulbs. My intent was two fold : reduced power consumption, and higher light output.

I’ve found JDM A star to be a fantastic company and a reliable supplier of high quality LED products – I’ve used their LED bulbs for 3 years now, first starting with my Honda ST1100 and now on the Wee Strom.

JDM ASTAR Super Bright 5730 Chipsets 1157 2057 2357 7528 LED Bulbs with Projector,Brilliant Red

 

JDM A star Super bright LED bulbs Red 1157

 

 

The install is pretty simple. Take off the seat, reach back into the rear section of the tail light housing area (you’ve to reach back past where the tool kit is placed)

Each bulb is held on a plastic holder that needs to be turned counter clockwise to “unscrew” it from its base.

Once it’s unscrewed from the base, you can simply replace the bulb with the LED one. Its the 1157 Socket which is a direct replacement.

I took a video to compare the output, and there’s no comparison! The LED is way brighter on the running light, and the video truly doesnt do justice to the brightness of these LEDs.

Hope this helps anyone trying to upgrade lighting and save a few watts in the process 🙂 . Ride Safe!

Regards,
Vishnu