1500 LED Conversions    Last updated 11/12/2007

Saddlebox (Pannier) Side running lights mod  


In this mod I put in WAY more images and details that most project participants will need but they are here for those that do or want all the details spelled out to feel comfortable before proceeding.

This conversion eliminates the 3 or 4 incandescent side lights in the side running lights, shown above,  and replaces them with one or more 19.5" red LED strips from superbrightLEDs.com.  Feel free to use whatever you want but you need a very low profile array due to the small amount of space available and the desire to have the LED's emitters as close to the reflector face as possible.  In this conversion I am using two full length strips because I want more light and I have the 3 bar chrome covers and I want the LED's to be centered in each window.  That will put 54 high output red LEDs on each side.  

Here is a shot of what the side running light bar will look like when finsihed.  Mine has the 3 bar chrome as shown.
These LEDs are all being lit with a 9 volt alkaline battery so you can imagine what 12 or 14 V will look like.
Total cost for this conversion is  $56.80 including shipping  (4 ea @ $12.95, 30 led strips ( 2 strips per side))  plus supples. 
You could do this with one strip per side instead but this will be a 2 strip per side project.
Current draw for each 2 strip lamp is about 100ms @ 12v per side.
The parts I used are shown below and as I said they came from superbrightLEDs.com, but any supplier is fine.:
They are not waterproof but we take care of that later.  Get the red ones if you want it to be seen through a red lens.

Part 1, Getting rid of the old and preping for the new

Obviously you have to take the running lamp assembly out of the saddle bag.

I'll leave that to you but the gist of it for each side is:
Take off the chrome cover clips on the side and rear of the box.
Remove the two phillips head screws inside the holes that were covered by the clips.
Remove the lower rear corner cover under the saddle box.  (wiring plugs are here)
Remove the 3 8mm acorn nuts inside the saddle bag holding the running light assembly in place.
Remove the running light assembly. (You will have to cut the wire where the plug-in is but leave enough wire to splice back in when we put the new assembly back in).
Fish the wire harness out as you pull out the running light assembly.

Now the fun begins....

CAREFULLY, release the 8 tabs holding the red front lens on.  DO NOT PRY AGAINST THE RED TABS.  THEY LOVE TO BREAK OFF!
Instead, you want to lift the black plastic part up (it's flexible) and over the tab without putting any side stress on any of the tabs.
Now just for fun, there are spots where the red lens (brittle) and the black (flexible) housing meet that are hot glued inside to hold it all together (even though it is not waterproof) so what you have to do is clear one tab.  Then while holding it carefully fit your knife inbetween them and twist pry just a little until  you can do the next tab and repeat.  Do one whole long side before you start tabs on the other long side.  Now let me say you WILL break off at least one tab.  Try to make it one of the middle ones if you can as we will be sealing all this up later with new adhesive which will hold things together with or without one of the tabs.

Here is where NOT to pry. DON'T PRY AT THE TAB.  Pry beside the tab.  I have also been able to carefully lift the loop with a knife tip while prying up from the side edge wise.  But don't pry the tab itself.  Did I mention not to pry at the tabs?


Now that you have lived through the first hard part and gotten the red lens totally removed from the black rear housing, you are ready to start gutting the old from the lamp assembly.

Pry out the lamp assemblies and cut the wires right where they exit the rear housing.  They are super hot glued in.  Note the super hot glue in the track just under the knife.  This is a preview of some work ahead.

Once you get all the wiring and lamps removed,  this is what the housing should look like.  We are going to need to cut down the tabs that held the lamps in place so we have room for our LED substrates.  Basically they need to be ground down to the height of the platform outside of the trough the tabs are in.  DO NOT GRIND THE ROUND SILVER PARTS.  Those are holding the mounting bolts.  Notice the remaining piece of a broken off tab.  See how I know about that?

After grinding, (I used a Dremel moto-tool with a !/4" side cutter).  This is what it should look like.  The remaining heights aren't real critical but try to keep it the height of the rim around the trough  that the tabs are in.
These will be support platforms for the substrate (platform) that will hold the LED strips and we don't want them too high to fit when the red lens is replaced.  Don't worry about the chrome reflector paint.  It won't be used.

Now is probably a good time to get at the Super hot glue in the mating channel surrounding the outer edge.  This should be removed to ensure your red lens goes back on and that you can get a water-tight seal when we re-assemble it all.  This stuff is murder.  I used a farily dull pocket knife to get the point and front edge forced in  a little bit and then do a small lateral pry  to get the adhesive to START to break loose on that side.  Then I  did the opposite side and then repeated again until I had gotten at least the sides of the adhesive track broken free.  Then I took the tip of the knife and forced it along the bottom of the channel under the adhesive and twisted it on axis to pry up the bottom of the adhesive.  This stuff is a real chore and it took me about an hour or more to get it cleaned up enough to ensure the red lens would fit easily into a bed of new waterproof clear adhesive all around later.  Be careful and pay attention where that knife point is going to go when it breaks loose and IT WILL so DON'T GET STUCK OR CUT.  BE CAREFUL!!!!!  I made the mistake of waiting till later to do the cleanup in the glue channel.  I ended up running the knife over the LED strip.  I got lucky since it was dull as I mentioned.  A sharp knife would have easly cut through the already mounted LED strip or knocked off an LED so do it all now is my advice.

Part 2, On with the new

Take out your LED's and a pair of siscors and carefully cut the sections apart between the wires and the next strip if there are more than one strip sent together.

Use a 9 volt battery and verify that all the lights in each strip are working.  Now is the time to find out.  You will be doing this test at many points in the process.

As much as it seems a waste, we need to reduce the length of the strip from 30 LEDs to 27 by cutting the strip at the cut point with sicsors. 
This point is between the 4 solder pads.  (You can always use the 3 leds by soldering leads to them somplace else.) 
You get a funny feeling cutting them off and not using all of the LEDs.

Now you will need something thin preferably non-conductive to mount the LED strips onto.  You have seen me refer to these as the substrate.
It can be aluminum, or plastic but I prefer some old fiberglas circuit board material.  It MUST not shrink or grow as conditions change so don't use something organic like wood.

This material should be thin since you won't have much room inside there,  This board material is strong and only .062" thick.

I simply tape sections together. since the  LED strips will hlp hold it and it will be adhered to the housing soon enought anyway.
We want a little flex as the light assembly is not flat anyway, it's curved.

Here is what the substrate will look like beside the straighened out LED strip.

The length shown allows for the ends to hang over at the ends and still support the LEDs on each end and fit the display and mounting space.

Next you want to determine where along the substrate you want the led strip to be.  To determine this, look at the reflector space to see where you want the light to come through.
You can see large reflector cells near the edges and fine cells in the center.  Since I have 3 bar chrome, I want the LEDs to be in the center of that but in the fine cell area.

By referenceing this point inside the housing, I was able to determine that the LED's should go along the inside edge when the other subtrate edge is up against the side wall inside the housing.
This is ideal because it will give me a nice glueing track once the mounting gets serious.

Now that this has been determined, I'm ready to peel the backing and adhere the LED strip to the substrate.  I want all the LED's supported and the ends hanging over slightly.  This will give a place for the wires to come off of the LED strips at one end and an adhesion point for the other end.  Make sure you stay on track as you apply the strip to the substrate since this will be what sets where you see the lights once done.

Remember to press between every LED to get the adheasion consistant all the way down.  After this point, you will have to be really careful not to knock off any of the LEDs or damage the flexible strip surface.

Time to test the strips again...  Nice huh?

Lay the strips in place with the wires at the end with the hole in the back for the cable.  Push the substrates up against the walls and use a piece of tape to hold them there using the center mount bulge as a stabilization point.
Also tape the ends to hold the strips.  Notice that at this point I have the LEDs lined up top to bottom.

Tie the two sets or wires in parallel, red to red and black to black and apply the test battery.
Carefully set the red lens over the housing without snapping it in place and see if the LED points are where you want them.
Also take note that you could have used only one strip or even a single substrate, but I wanted independent movement capability and also the narrower strips allow for less rigidity.

I decided that I preferred a staggered array pattern rather then the squared look of the aligned rows above so I simply loosened the tapes  and staggered and centered the set in the display area, giving me the precise positioning I wanted.

Much better.  Suit yourself.  It should be what YOU like.

Ok time to set things in place.
First I want to protect the ends with doublstick foam tape.  Both ends.  Don't really need those pads shorting out on the chrome reflector.

Attach the wires with solder and heat shrink tubing.

Shrink the tubing, attach the old wiring tubing and tuck the wiring out of the way so that it doesn't  lift the substrates and is as low in height as they are.
Note the old way vs new side by side.

HotGlue time... 
(Yes SERRASJ members I DO own a hot glue gun.... see?  It's Professional and everything.  I don't do everything with a butane torch.)

Do the ends and down the outer edge of the substrate.  You may need to tack sections and hold them down a little till the glue cools, just like you would do welding metal.
Also,  pay close attention about any high spots.  You really don't want any of the LEDs touching the bottom of the red lens or it will break them off pronto.
Instead, add a few hot glue blobs in critical places to be sawed off with your pocket knife just above the height of the LEDs like a rubber foot.

Glue a tack blob in the center between the substrates on top of the center mounting base.  Take the scotch tape off first.

Here is the other end.  I buried the wires and tacked them down too and added a bunch of hot glue to the end of the cable sheath for a strain releif and some water resistance.
And again the protective sawed off flat glue blob foot.  This end is up because I didn't get the soldered wires off the end far enough.  If I had, I probably wouldn't have needed the blob here but it is a good thing to have anyway.

Power test again here.
Now it's time to waterproof these babies even though the manufacturer did not.  Get some Crystal Clear acrylic or  just some rattle can automotive Clear Coat as I did.

Spray two coats (with about 30 minutes between coats). Make sure you get both sides of the led's where the solder points are along each outside edge, on each coat.  Also get the little resistor chips between them.
Don't worry about overspray as there is nothing that will be showing once mounted.  You don't have to mask off the LED tops, in fact you want them sealed too. 

Once dry from both coats, inspect it all and do another power test.  Last chance before we seal it all up permanently.
It should all be very glassy and shiney all the way.  Note the two glue strips left in the outer track.  I left them there so you  would know where to fill the channel in the next step except you do it all the way around with no gaps.
Actually that is left from when I got lazy and had to remove them at the end and sliced across one of the strips with the dull knife.  But is served as a good indicator tool didn't it? :)
What's that on my monitor in the background.
It all starts getting pretty exciting about here...

Place this adhesive (or silicone adhesive if you ever want it apart again) in the track all around.  Take a knife and make the glue track full everywhere,  but flat at the height of the of the top of the trough.. 
You  don't want the adhesive going in and gettting on the inside of the red lens where it shows.  The wet adhesive will make the re-snapping of the red tabs back into the black housing slots easy.  Start at one end and do both sides before moving to the next pair.  Do all four pairs and wipe off the excess.  Be careful not to get any on the show side of the red lens and if you do, make sure you don't melt the lens surface cleaning it up.
Let it dry overnight.  Seal the cable outlet and any holes on the rear of the housing and let that dry too.

Now you have a water tight, water proof, bright LED assembly that should impress , attact driver attention and give you endless years of service.   Nice Work!!!  Plus you saved a boatlad of watts doing it.

If you are like me you will grab your 9v battery and run around showing it to your wife and anyone else who will look.

Mount it in the reverse that you removed it.  Splice the cable back on to the connector that you originally were smart enough to leave pigtails for.  Solder and heatshrink tubing there.  Test repeatedly,  :-)

I'll add a final picture of the bike back together and everything mounted once my newly painted saddlebag gets back from the painter.

Let me know if you have any better suggestions or problems with this mod project.  I'd love to hear it.


This ad-free site is provided as a free community service which is funded from product sales @: