Complete LED conversion - Ex-500.com - The home of the Kawasaki EX500 / Ninja 500R
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 7-24-2019, 8:08 PM Thread Starter
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Complete LED conversion

I recently replaced every bulb on my EX500 with LEDs, and I put enough effort into it that I wanted to document it in case it helps anyone else with the same task. I’m sure that a lot of this information already exists on this site, but I haven’t found it all in one place, and I employed a custom solution for my turn signals.

I had two motivations in this, to increase light output and to lower the load on the electrical system. I also can’t stop at good enough, so I had to make sure that I changed EVERY, SINGLE, indicator or bulb to LED.

Front turn signals: Bulb type 1157, dual element, amber color. Found normal polarity on my bike (ground on outer conductor of bulb). Found that white LEDs are too white and too bright to keep a good amber color, so amber bulbs work much better.

Rear turn signals: Bulb type 1156, amber color. Found reverse polarity on my bike (positive on outer conductor of bulb), but previous owners hacked wiring harness. Found that white LEDs are too white and too bright to keep a good amber color, so amber bulbs work much better.

Tail lights/brake lights: Bulb type 1157, dual element, white color (red could also work). Found normal polarity on my bike (ground on outer conductor of bulb).

License plate light: Bulb type 1156, white color. Found normal polarity on my bike (ground on outer conductor of bulb).

Gauge cluster illumination: Bulb type 194, qty. 3, white color. Reversible socket, so polarity doesn’t matter.

Gauge cluster indicators (neutral, turn signals, oil, high beam): Bulb type 74 or T5, qty. 5, white color. Reversible socket, so polarity doesn’t matter.

Headlight: Bulb type H4 or 9003, dual element, white (6000k) color. Went for highest light output (12,000 lumen claimed) and LED placement to match incandescent filament location. Cut a vertical slit in lower part of rubber boot on back of headlight housing to clear the LED heatsink assembly. With the proper size cut the boot still fits snugly around the base of the bulb to create a weather resistant seal. Appears to work well, with a clearly defined cutoff line for low beam.

Flasher relay: Any cheap, generic, 2 wire LED flasher relay, typically labeled LS1-S-PIN. Plug and play, for the most part.

Turn signal resistors: 3.3kohm, 1/8watt, installed in parallel with the rear turn signal bulbs (one for each turn signal). These are NOT power resistors, but they are needed if ALL indicators are changed to LED due to the nature of how a 2 wire flasher relay must operate. Even the LED 2 wire flasher relay must drain some current when the lights are off, and if every indicator is an LED then this will cause problems with the front 1157 dual element bulbs in that they will be full brightness all the time, due to the drain current, and not flash. The 3.3kohm resistor allows about 4mA of drain current to bypass the LEDs when the flash is in the off state, which is enough for the flasher relay to operate properly. This only wastes about 50mW of power. This is 460 times LESS than the power consumed by one 23W incandescent 1156 bulb. These resistors could be installed at the front turn signals or the gauge cluster indicators, but I found the rear turn signals to have the easiest access.

The actual parts that I used:
I generally just searched Amazon and tried to select products with the correct LED placement and overall design (in my opinion).

Front turn signals:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Rear turn signals:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Tail lights/brake light:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

License plate light:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Gauge cluster illumination:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Gauge cluster indicators (neutral, turn signals, oil, high beam):
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Headlight:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Flasher relay:
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Turn signal resistors:
I just had some laying around my house (actually measured 3.27kohm), but these would also work:
https://www.digikey.com/product-deta...0CT-ND/2022754

The resistors for the turn signals were fun to figure out. When I first installed the front turn signal LEDs I also did the rear and the flasher relay. This worked great and I was happy. Then I changed the gauge cluster indicators and the front signals would only glow solid bright when the turn signals were activated, not flash. At first I was confused, but I ordered a different style bulb for the front, just in case there was something weird about the particular bulbs I had, but sadly that was not the case.

After I hit a dead end with the bulb I started digging for a reference schematic for the flasher relay that I had. I finally found one that was probably similar, and I figured out the problem. The LED flasher relay still utilizes an RC time constant to set the frequency of the flash, but it uses its own internal discharge resistor instead or requiring the bulb load of typical flashers. The problem arises in that the EX500 uses a 2 wire flasher relay, hot and output to bulbs. For the oscillator in the flasher relay to work there must be a very small amount of drain current to allow the capacitor to charge during the off periods for the flashing. This current is so small that most LEDs would not illuminate noticeably, so it usually works. On the EX500 the front signals are dual filament bulbs that are always lit dimly, and it appears these type of LED chips will respond to very small currents if they are already partially illuminated, hence why they appeared to never flash. When they initially worked the gauge cluster still had incandescent indicator bulbs, so the drain current went through them, but changing to LEDs blocked that path.

I could have put a resistor right at the output of the flasher relay to ground, but that would have been wasting a tiny amount of power all of the time as the flasher relay always has power when the bike is running. By putting the resistors at the bulbs they only waste a tiny bit of power when the signals are on.

To determine the value of resistor to use I started at the reference schematic and looked at the internal discharge resistor, and it was about 2kohms. I know that the resistor that I install has no benefit being any smaller than the discharge resistor, so I knew to start looking at around 2k. I selected a 10kohm potentiometer to use for testing, but I didn’t want it to ever short the flasher to ground, so I also put a static 1kohm resistor in series. I then used a sharp multimeter probe to pierce the insulation of the flasher wire while it was on and connected my test resistor setup between that wire and ground. I proceeded to adjust the potentiometer until I found the value at which going any lower doesn’t yield any noticeable difference in how far “off” the LED is when in the “off” flash. The measured value was about 4.8kohm, but this was the limit, so I wanted to apply a safety margin and go a bit lower, so I selected 3.3kohm. This yields only 4.2mA of current at 14VDC, or 59.4mW of power, which I found acceptable. I installed the permanent resistors inside of the rear turn signal housings, and they work perfectly.

If there is any more info that I could provide that may be useful, let me know and I’ll try to update this post.
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Last edited by Nerdelectric; 7-26-2019 at 11:02 AM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 7-30-2019, 1:27 PM
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Wow, thank you SO MUCH!

Just got my 500R 3 days after you posted this and this is exactly what I've been looking for. Extremely helpful.

This should be stickied. Seriously, awesome job.

Would love to see some pics of how you altered the headlight seal to accommodate the heatsink.

Also I found another H4 bulb on ebay that actually has the heatsink over the diode itself, so might even require less/no modding. I can't post links but here is the title:
H4 9003 HB2 LED Motorcycle Headlight Bulb HID Hi/Low Beam 6500K High Power EOA
Ebay seller: auxito_light

Comments say it fits an '03 ninja and an r6, so I might give it a shot!
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 7-30-2019, 5:40 PM Thread Starter
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I'm glad that you found this useful! I'm not much a photographer, and my best camera is in my first generation Moto G phone, that I still use, haha. I also really don't want to remove the front fairing to get a photo of the boot, but it should be simple to describe:

1) Remove boot from the back of the headlight assembly.
2) With the tap on the outer edge of the boot facing down, start to cut a slit from the center hole in the boot (where the bulb goes) and go straight downward, but CUT THE SLIT IN MANY VERY SMALL STEPS!
3) After you cut the slit a little bit check if the heat sink from the LED can fit through. If not extend the slit just a tiny bit and check again. Repeat until you can just barely fit the boot over the heat sink.
4) Install the LED bulb with boot already around it into the headlight housing.

Okay, now onto the headlight bulb itself. You obviously want good light output, so that you can see well. The problem is that I think that every, single, listing of an LED headlight LIES about the light output, so don't believe that. So what can you do to compare the light output? The answer is to look at the heat sink! While the sellers can lie about light output, they can't change physics. The brighter lights will generate more waste heat, and thus require a larger and/or more efficient heat sink. I found the ebay listing that you referenced, and I seriously question the light output. The heat sink is on the light side, so it will be enclosed inside of the housing and have ZERO airflow. The heat sink also appears to have far less surface area than other heat sinks on the market (you want many, thin fins). I bet that you will be disappointed with the light output of that bulb, but at $17.39 you could always buy it and try it. Worst case you waste less than $20. Remember, take everything that I say with a grain of salt, I'm just another random person on the internet.

I hope this helps. If I end up taking my front fairing off again any time soon I'll try to remember to take a photo for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KawaiiSake View Post
Wow, thank you SO MUCH!

Just got my 500R 3 days after you posted this and this is exactly what I've been looking for. Extremely helpful.

This should be stickied. Seriously, awesome job.

Would love to see some pics of how you altered the headlight seal to accommodate the heatsink.

Also I found another H4 bulb on ebay that actually has the heatsink over the diode itself, so might even require less/no modding. I can't post links but here is the title:
H4 9003 HB2 LED Motorcycle Headlight Bulb HID Hi/Low Beam 6500K High Power EOA
Ebay seller: auxito_light

Comments say it fits an '03 ninja and an r6, so I might give it a shot!

Last edited by Nerdelectric; 8-2-2019 at 10:17 PM.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-15-2019, 1:41 PM
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Can I ask a few questions about this?

I'm doing a ton of mods to my bike, and while ultimately going full LED might happen, I'm probably taking it in baby steps. Currently I have LEDs in my gauges, because they aren't the stock gauges at all. See my project thread, link in my signature, for more info on that. Other than that I'm still running incandescent bulbs everywhere else on the bike. The next thing is I want to change my taillights over to LED, because I want to use the original taillight wiring sub-harness in a custom housing. So my question is, can I swap the stock taillight bulbs for the 1157 LEDs linked above without any other mods? I understand that it may be a matter of reversing lead/ground, but other than that are they plug and play? Also, do they generate much heat? The custom housing I'm designing for them may kind of enclose them more than the stock taillight housing and it's all plastic, so I don't want to run the risk of melting anything.

Paul

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-15-2019, 6:58 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroFret View Post
Can I ask a few questions about this?

I'm doing a ton of mods to my bike, and while ultimately going full LED might happen, I'm probably taking it in baby steps. Currently I have LEDs in my gauges, because they aren't the stock gauges at all. See my project thread, link in my signature, for more info on that. Other than that I'm still running incandescent bulbs everywhere else on the bike. The next thing is I want to change my taillights over to LED, because I want to use the original taillight wiring sub-harness in a custom housing. So my question is, can I swap the stock taillight bulbs for the 1157 LEDs linked above without any other mods? I understand that it may be a matter of reversing lead/ground, but other than that are they plug and play? Also, do they generate much heat? The custom housing I'm designing for them may kind of enclose them more than the stock taillight housing and it's all plastic, so I don't want to run the risk of melting anything.
Yes, the 1157 LEDs will drop right into the tail light sockets and work without any modifications. They do generate some heat, but not nearly as much as the old incandescent bulbs. The heat they produce is really the same as the electrical power they consume. The LEDs that I used and linked use 3.5 watts of power when in bright mode (both "filaments"), and an 1157 incandescent bulb uses about 26 watts of power. So the heat generated by the incandescent bulb is about 7.5 times more than the LED.

Also, I know that you only said tail lights, but remember that if you also do the turn signals that you will have to change the flasher relay as well. If you still have incandescent bulbs in the front for the turn signals you won't have to do the 3.3kohm trick, but you will have to change the flasher.

Good luck, and have fun!
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-16-2019, 12:32 PM
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Awesome, thanks! I would like to switch everything over to LED eventually, but I'm on a shoestring budget, so it's just gonna be the taillights for now. Gonna bookmark this thread for the future though!

Paul

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-16-2019, 11:03 PM
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I've apparently overlooked this thread until now. Thanks for putting in the effort to share this. There's some good info here, and this could likely be incorporated into the onsite knowledge base that we've begun.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-23-2019, 1:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nerdelectric View Post
I found the ebay listing that you referenced, and I seriously question the light output. The heat sink is on the light side, so it will be enclosed inside of the housing and have ZERO airflow. The heat sink also appears to have far less surface area than other heat sinks on the market (you want many, thin fins). I bet that you will be disappointed with the light output of that bulb, but at $17.39 you could always buy it and try it. Worst case you waste less than $20. Remember, take everything that I say with a grain of salt, I'm just another random person on the internet.

I hope this helps. If I end up taking my front fairing off again any time soon I'll try to remember to take a photo for you.
Just wanted to update on the LED bulb I tried:

So far so good. It is noticeably brighter, a nice modern white hue, and still maintains the same beam structure as the halogens. Not sure how it would compare to a more expensive LED but definitely still an improvement.

I was a bit skeptical of the heatsink because it seems like every other LED manufacturer has fins by the rear circuitry and not at the diode itself. You brought up an interesting point about airflow, but the average temp at the filament of a halogen bulb is 150F, and that is INSIDE the headlight. LED won't even come close to that temp. So worst case scenario this bulb doesn't last as long as other LEDs on the market and I run no risk of cooking my headlight housing either way.

BUT, it was cheap, fit with no modifications, and seemed to have served my purposes. I'll update here again if anything goes wrong.

Thanks again!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 8-23-2019, 2:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KawaiiSake View Post
but the average temp at the filament of a halogen bulb is 150F, and that is INSIDE the headlight.
Uh, where did you get this info?? Try close to 3400 C at filament of halogen bulb.

Front glass of H4 headlight can reach 100F depending upon ambient air temperature, ventilation and vehicle speed.

TJ-max of most LEDs tend to be in 125-C range. Actual operating temps depends upon how close they are driven to max. Low-end bulbs with lots of COB LEDs tend to run very hot due to large number of LEDs and large heated surface area.

Higher-end bulbs like Philips Xtreme Ultinon bulbs use only single real Luxeon LED and emits less heat due to more efficient LED. Also smaller pinpoint LED mimics filament more closely and gives more focused light with less fuzzy edges and leas glare to oncoming traffic.

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 8-24-2019 at 3:45 AM.
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