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replacing the dashboard lights with LEDs

what you'll need:
Time needed: a couple of hours; less if you're a soldering whiz and even less than that if your fairings are already off.
  • Three white LEDs (3.6volts, 20mA, 1100mcd)
  • Three 330-Ohm resistors (1/4 watt)
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • Soldering iron/solder
  • About 1.5 square inch of plastic; ours was 1/4" thick and we Dremeled it thinner to fit
  • #2 Philips screwdriver
  • 4mm hex head bit
  • 10mm open-ended wrench (or box wrench)

This one was sort of a joke by the gods of timing. I'd noticed that one of my dashboard lights was burned out (half of the speedometer and odometer was dark at night, which was fun) around the same time that Peter had a free weekend. Peter is, shall we say, a gadget person. A man who likes his projects. He is one with the trinkets. And he had a free afternoon.

So we ended up at the Halted Electronics and at Radio Shack, and I got LEDs.

So, you know all those pretty pieces of plastic that cover the front of your bike? Yeah, that's all coming off.

Getting the dash off is a bit of an adventure. Once the fairings are off, go ahead and remove the three visible fasteners (two screws and a 4mm hex bolt).

Now, around back, there are four difficult-to-access 10mm nuts and a huge ass power connector. Disconnect the wiring, and get those nuts off by whatever means possible (hint: you'll need a box or open ended wrench; a socket won't fit back there). Try not to drop the nuts all over while trying to remove them. Once those nuts are off, the dash will pull right off.

Okedoke, now you have your dashboard. Wonderful! Open it up: there are eight screws on the back. They're all #2 Philips, despite inexplicably being of different shapes and sizes. It's a little mystery. When you crack open the casing, a little gasket will fall out at you. Not to worry; it's easy to put back in later. Just don't lose it.

Take a good look at the circuit board, and you'll see a cluster of four sockets at the pointy end, and then three sockets spread out across the rest of the board. Go ahead and remove those three (well, you can do all seven if you want; I left the idiot lights as normal light bulbs).

Once you've got the bulbs out, go ahead and pull the bulb part out of its socket. You may have to tug a bit, but I promise, they just yank out. If your bulbs aren't burned out (unlike this one), keep 'em; definitely don't lose those sockets. We'll need 'em again in just a minute.

Take your sheet of plastic and cut it/sand it so that it's close to the same size as the flange part of the lightbulb. Basically, cut it/sand it until you can insert it into the socket. Here's the size of ours, for scale:

This next part is really the only tricky bit. I'll explain it and then go step by step. You're going to cut one wire of the resistor close to the cylinder and cut one wire of the LED close to the bulb. Solder the short end of the resistor to the short end of the LED, like so:

Next, place the plastic tab on top of the wires. Wrap the wires up over the tab.

Push the plastic tab into the socket (I had to use a needlenosed pliers to seat it properly). Superglue a tiny piece of aluminum to the very tip of the LED to diffuse the light. You can see the aluminum in the second picture if you enlarge it.

That's it! Just replace the LED bulbs into the stock socket holes and you can get everything reassembled. Here's what the LEDs look like at night (the neutral and oil lights are still the stock lightbulbs):

I'll post a summary a little later once I've ridden with the lighting at night a bit more.