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Thread: Custom Taillights

  1. #1

    .

    Separating this out into its own thread, I decided to pursue the clear taillight project first, with a twist. Yes, the lenses will be converted to clear variants, and that's step one. But I've had some ideas floating around in my head for a while, and want to try them out. The OEM setup is quite, well, antiqued, and in dire need of an upgrade. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, replicating the lenses is step one!

    First, many thanks to DPI Josh for providing donor housings. Asked him if he had any damaged ones, and he had plenty of them, so I took a few home with me. Here is one of the ones I got with a damaged housing:




    Full disclosure: this unit is currently intact (note that it's a driver's side). The passenger equivalent is what I went to town on.

    By the time I got pictures, I was already at this point:



    Removal process:




    Yes, that's a fuckin claw hammer. Because badass.

    Probably the second-biggest chunk removed right here, battle scar and all (actually got a worse one on my right hand)



    Sometimes you reach a dead end, and can't go any further...



    So take the alive end and slaughter the bastard!



    Almost-finished demo:



    Note that since that picture was taken, the lenses have been removed, the black frame separated, and the whole unit ready for first molds! Well, minus the housings, I'll touch more on that later.

    More to come!
    Last edited by Shep; 03-04-2017 at 06:10 PM.

  2. #2
    "The Goat" Dead Lesbian Goat's Avatar
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    I love this idea!

    I hope you make extras and put them up for sale.
    I bet there will be others that would also love to get a set.

  4. #4
    Devout Follower Of He Who Walks Behind The Rows NightFlyer's Avatar
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    Biggest disappointments of stock/OEM are non-reflector/non-mirror lined bulb housings and that the 3 outer orange blinker lenses aren't designed to light-up at all.

    Will this project effectively remedy those two faults (in addition to the other planned modifications)?
    "You can never use too much anti-seize!"

    --Josh S.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by NightFlyer View Post
    Biggest disappointments of stock/OEM are non-reflector/non-mirror lined bulb housings and that the 3 outer orange blinker lenses aren't designed to light-up at all.

    Will this project effectively remedy those two faults (in addition to the other planned modifications)?
    At least with the later housings, they did paint the inside to be reflective (see the "battle scar" picture above). It doesn't age gracefully, but they did at least make an effort compared to the earlier cars without the coating.

    As far as the lighting goes, I'm still toying around with a few designs. Don't want to reveal anything quite yet, but rest assured that it will solve every bit of disappointment I have had with the stock setup, and will be 100% self-made without requiring any donor parts (well, except the ones I'm using for templates).

    As for selling them, not gonna lie, I'm seriously considering it. Why go through all this trouble just to make one and sit on it?

    Probably won't make any progress today, but I will start making the molds tomorrow or Tuesday. Today, I'm in the early stages of lighting design, going through the engineering behind it to figure out what's feasible and what will be too complex. Mostly sketching different configurations and seeing which ones appeal to me the most. Some will be a matter of trial and error, but that's far from foreign to me.
    Last edited by Shep; 03-04-2017 at 12:44 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Shep View Post
    As for selling them, not gonna lie, I'm seriously considering it. Why go through all this trouble just to make one and sit on it?
    For anyone building a project they may sell, start keeping track of all your expenses now. R&D usually cost me about $2000 for a new small product. So when the IRS sees all your PayPal income you have real bookkeeping.

    I use an Excel spread sheet I bough for about $20 that works great. You still need to save all your receipts but the spread sheet shows you what you need to do at the end of the year (buy inventory, raise your prices, etc.)
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Bitsyncmaster View Post
    For anyone building a project they may sell, start keeping track of all your expenses now. R&D usually cost me about $2000 for a new small product. So when the IRS sees all your PayPal income you have real bookkeeping.

    I use an Excel spread sheet I bough for about $20 that works great. You still need to save all your receipts but the spread sheet shows you what you need to do at the end of the year (buy inventory, raise your prices, etc.)
    Excellent advice! I had planned on keeping track of the financial end of things for other projects, but for this one it completely slipped my mind truth be told. Good thing I'm only three products in at this point (one molding kit, one resin, and one set of black tint). Will get a spreadsheet started!

    Not sure why I hadn't thought of a spreadsheet considering I use one to track my personal finances quite frankly...
    Last edited by Shep; 03-04-2017 at 12:44 PM.

  8. #8
    Devout Follower Of He Who Walks Behind The Rows NightFlyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shep View Post
    At least with the later housings, they did paint the inside to be reflective (see the "battle scar" picture above). It doesn't age gracefully, but they did at least make an effort compared to the earlier cars without the coating.
    I have an early car, though not as early as yours
    "You can never use too much anti-seize!"

    --Josh S.
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  9. #9
    Devout Follower Of He Who Walks Behind The Rows NightFlyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bitsyncmaster View Post
    For anyone building a project they may sell, start keeping track of all your expenses now. R&D usually cost me about $2000 for a new small product. So when the IRS sees all your PayPal income you have real bookkeeping.

    I use an Excel spread sheet I bough for about $20 that works great. You still need to save all your receipts but the spread sheet shows you what you need to do at the end of the year (buy inventory, raise your prices, etc.)
    +1

    As is usual, excellent advice from Dave
    "You can never use too much anti-seize!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

  10. #10
    Another year, another update! Err, wait...

    I ordered a small batch of LED's and current limiters (20ma and 30ma varieties), and they arrived a couple weeks ago. Fast foward to this weekend, and I finally had a chance to solder some of them together. I bought literally the brightest through-hole LED's known to man, made by CREE, and gave them a try. Yes, I'm well aware that through-hole isn't necessarily the brightest out there. For strictly design reasons however, I found it worth a trial run. Specifically, the ability to produce one board design and have it apply to both sides as the stock variant does. Only with more coverage.

    Results were interesting to say the least. Breadboard testing of the circuit showed that even eight LED's were about as bright as I had hoped a single LED would be. Proceeding anyways, I had some extra perfboard, so I rigged up a couple white LED's to it and tried placing the reverse lens over it. This was the result, compared with an all-incandescent (i.e. fully stock) setup to the right of it.



    There's quite a few things to note here however:

    1) each LED's dot is only equivalent to stock. I would need to populate the entire space with LED's to get it to even match.

    2) Amperage difference however is not even close to the same. The stock setup had severe trouble running just the small parking light bulb and one of the big guys on a 3A power supply. I had to dig out my converted XBox power supply (originally intended for my Prusa i3) to get enough amperage to run all the stock lights. The LED's however only draw 20 mA each. This seems to be a huge bonus at first, until you take a close look at light distribution:



    Each LED would likely fill up a grid of about 2x2 of those squares. This means I would literally need a grid of 5x4 (counted on the top section) to match stock, and I can't go any higher than that without going lower too. Doing the math, this LED setup would actually, believe it or not, use more amperage than stock! It also looks terrible when lit up, even with only two LED's at play.

    I need two things: 1) brighter LED's (SMD's, here we come!), and 2) much better light distribution

    Then it occurred to me: the way the center lights up is different than the rest. It's designed differently too. There's a good reason for this: it's both a reflector, and much lower-wattage bulb to boot, which inherently has trouble lighting the top and bottom because of it. Yet somehow, it doesn't do too bad of a job. So I took the middle section out of one of my spare taillights, placed it with the center of it directly on top of the LED's, and tested it out. Here's the result:



    Clearly light distribution is better when there are concentric circles surrounding it. Will need to research more, but it's looking like a change of LED's and a change of lens texture could help significantly here.

    More news to come!
    Last edited by Shep; 03-04-2017 at 12:44 PM.

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