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I’m writing this up because, so far as I have found, nowhere on here is there a complete guide to replacing all the lights on your Ninja 500R with LED lights. That changes with this post. Most of the info I found here on the forum or on the wiki, but some of it I had to find elsewhere and none of it is all in one place. A definite thanks to superjuventino for posting pictures of the blue color for the instrument cluster, which works surprisingly well and was my inspiration to use the same color.

Warning: Incoming wall of text. There’s a lot of information before we get to the pictures.


Intro to LEDs

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and is a very efficient method of lighting. It uses far less electricity than an incandescent bulb (the kind your bike normally uses, with an element in a vacuum or halogen/xenon gas that heats up to produce light) and often produces far more light. Important to note, though, is that LEDs are a diode, which means that electricity only flows through in one direction. Many of the bulbs can only be plugged in one way, but all of the bulbs in the instrument cluster have symmetrical connections, which means they can be plugged in backwards. Incandescent bulbs work in either orientation, but LED bulbs will only work in one orientation.

There are three primary reasons to upgrade your lights to LED: brightness, efficiency, and longevity. You can make all the lights on your bike brighter with LEDs, which makes you easier to see. You can save quite a bit of power because the LEDs are so efficient, which is extremely helpful if you want to add heated gear or farkles. LEDs also last far, far longer than incandescents so if you replace all the lights, you likely will never have to address them again.

It is important where you source your LEDs from. LEDs are produced by the millions in China and virtually all LEDs come from there. This means that you have thousands of manufacturers to choose from. Well-known brands like CREE are a good sign of quality, but they can be more expensive than they are worth. I recommend SuperBrightLEDs (hereafter called SBL) because they make quality products and the price is reasonable. I work with LEDs for a living, though I don’t work for SBL (nor do I compete with them, haha). You can do quite well getting LEDs from eBay, but that can be a gamble. I will provide the incandescent part equivalents, though, so you can find the bulbs wherever you like. I will also include the SBL part numbers to make it easier if you order from there. All LEDs should be wide-angle (270 or 360 degrees). This is true of automotive applications as well. Always order LEDs that match the lens color (or color it should be if you have clear lenses). White LEDs will wash out the lens (pink for brakes, basically white for blinkers).

Lastly, there are two different types of LEDs (for this purpose, at least). Regular (no specific name) and SMD (surface mounted diodes). SMD bulbs are more expensive, but they’re much brighter and have far better coverage. I recommend using SMD bulbs if you can afford it.


Parts You Will Need

Listed here are all the parts you will need for a proper install. You can technically skip the flasher, but your blinkers will hyperflash, which isn’t desirable. You can skip the brake light strobe, but I think it makes you more noticeable. It’s also easy to wire it in such a way that it can be easily and quickly bypassed. I also specify brighter brake light bulbs than the blinkers, even though they are the same bulb type. All part numbers are for SBL specifically.


Note: I elected to use aftermarket flush front blinkers and short rear blinkers, so I don’t have pictures for the blinker installs. It’s as simple as opening the blinker, replacing the bulb, and putting it back together. Due to this, I don’t technically know for sure if the listed bulb will fit, but I’m 99% sure it will because it is not significantly larger than the incandescent. I would be very surprised if it doesn’t fit, but don’t come complaining to me if they don’t.

1156 bulbs have one state (bright) and 1157 bulbs have two states (dim and bright). Thus the brake lights and front blinkers have 1157 bulbs while the rear blinkers have 1156. If you’ve converted your rear blinkers to running lights, you’ll want 1157 bulbs for the back as well.

Total cost for this list: $150.57 plus shipping at the time of this writing. The cost will only go down with time. A little steep, but worth it IMO, and you could save money buying LEDs elsewhere or buying less bright ones from SBL. I listed the best/brightest bulbs IMO, but you have the bulb numbers and can find alternatives should you desire.

You should have a pile slightly larger than this:




Blinkers

This is the easiest one, so we’ll start here. To replace the blinker lights, all you have to do is open the blinker, put in the correct bulb (1156 rear, 1157 front) and close it back up. That’s it, you now have LED blinkers. They’re brighter than what you had before, but now they’ll blink quite quickly. You’ll need to replace the flasher relay to fix this.

Quick history: Older flashers were thermal, relying on heat build-up to break the circuit, then cooling again to complete the circuit. An ingenious design, but they make LEDs flash slowly (or not at all). Very old Ninja 500s may have this style flasher (my ’92 Ninja 250 did). Most will have a solid state flasher, which flashes faster the less load it has. An electronic (or, more accurately, digital) flasher has an internal timer that doesn’t rely on load and will happily flash at the same rate no matter what you put on it (within the loads it can actually handle, of course).

Remove the OEM flasher; it is on the right side of the bike, near the rear brake reservoir. You’ll have to remove the side fairing to get to it. If you’re having trouble finding it, you can turn on a blinker and trace the sound to it. Remove it from the bike and cut off the the connector. Cut the wires as close to the connector as possible so as to leave as much wire behind on the bike as you can. Cut the bullet-style connectors off the new flasher. Crimp quick disconnects onto the bike wires (one male and one female, doesn’t matter which is on which wire). Use some heat shrink tubing if you’re feeling fancy to give it a clean look. ‘97+ models should have an orange and a brown wire plug in the connector. That's it. Don't be like me and take the hard way.



Strip the ends of the wires for the new flasher, but don’t crimp them yet. Turn on the blinkers and figure out which wire on the flasher works with which wire on the bike. You can’t hurt the flasher by hooking it up backwards, so try it both ways and see what you get. On ‘97+ models, it should be black to orange and grey to brown, but double check. Crimp the proper ends on the electronic flasher. Now it can only be reconnected correctly if you ever have to take it off. Test functionality.



Install the flasher and test the blinkers again. You should have them blinking at a sane rate now.




License Plate Light

Take off the cover of the license plate light, then remove the lens. Swap the bulbs. Turn on the light, make sure it works. Put it all back together. You did it, yay!


Brake Lights

If you plan on installing the brake strobe module, it’s a lot easier if you remove the fairings and grab handle. If you don’t, you can do this without removing the fairings. In either case, though, start by removing the seat. There’s a video a bit further down that will show you how the strobe module behaves.

LED compared to incandescent bulb:



To install the brake lights, reach in and twist the bulb holders 90 degrees and pull them out. Put the bulbs (1157 red) in the holders (after removing the old bulbs, of course) and put them back in the sockets. That’s all there is to replacing them.

You can see the difference between the two in this picture (LED bulb is on the right):



Subjectively, with only one in, it was hard to tell if the incandescent was firing it was so much dimmer than the LED bulb. The LED bulbs do a really good job of illuminating the entire lens, not just a spot, as is especially clear in this side shot (both LED bulbs installed).



Since I work with LEDs, we have a nit gun, a device used for measuring light. I brought it home to compare the brake light brightness. With the incandescents, I got 150 nits/1000 nits (dim/bright). With the LEDs, I got 800 nits/3200 nits! Needless to say, the LEDs are significantly brighter. It will be very difficult to miss the bike at night from behind.

The brake strobe module flashes the brakes 4x rapidly, 4x slowly, and then holds steady until you release the brakes enough to turn off the light. There is another strobe module that repeats that cycle forever, rather than holding steady at the end. It has a different part number and I wouldn’t recommend it. Here’s what it looks like. Looks like embedding a YT video doesn’t work here?

To install, you need to cut the blue wire with a red stripe before the connector that breaks it out into two blue wires for each bulb. This wire is the brake light wire (rather than the running light wire). I don’t know what color it is pre-’97. Once you’ve cut and stripped the wire, crimp a male quick disconnect to one side and a female to the other (you know the drill by now). Partially reconnect them (enough for electrical contact, but not enough for full lock) and make sure the brake light works as normal.

Once you’ve confirmed that, pull apart the wires and connect the wires of the strobe module. The red V+ line goes to the bike side of the wire you just cut and the red LED line goes to the light side of the wire you just cut. Crimp in the appropriate quick disconnects on the wires and cut the wires down to fit if you like. The black wire is a ground and should work on any bolt going into the frame. I connected mine with a ring connector. Plug it all in and confirm it works. Assuming it does, tape it down with the included tape (clean the area you’re taping to with alcohol first) and zip tie any wires down that might get in the way.




Instrument Panel

The last part to do is the instrument panel. There are 3x 194 bulbs that illuminate the gauges. These can be replaced with any color you want, though I would recommend against green. Green is the color our eyes are most sensitive to and the brightest color of the bulb recommended by a significant margin, so it would likely be too bright. White or red would work well, and blue works surprisingly well. Blue is the color I went with. There are also 5 total 74 bulbs (3x green for the blinkers and Neutral indicator, 1x red for the oil pressure light, and 1x blue for the high beam indicator).

For this tutorial, I removed the cluster completely. It’s definitely possible to do without removing it entirely. First off, remove the surround shroud from the instrument cluster.



After that, unscrew the nuts holding in the cluster to the subframe. From here, you can either disconnect the cluster entirely or work on it while it’s still attached to the bike. Each bulb has a rubber holder keeping it in place.



The bulbs here can be installed backwards, so I recommend doing a group and then testing them before moving on. If the LED doesn’t light, flip it around. You won’t hurt it by putting it in backwards. The LEDs are about the same size or smaller than their analog counterparts.

Comparing a 194 bulb with the LED equivalent:



Comparing a 74 bulb with the LED equivalent:



194 bulb in the holder:



74 bulb in the holder:



Test each bulb before fully installing it in the instrument cluster, as it is easy to install them backwards an all of them are important. Once all bulbs have been installed, reinstall the cluster and then double-check the lights.

Stock lighting:



LED lighting:



The LED lighting makes a huge difference; the instrument panels are brighter, sharper, and easier to see at a glance. I really like the blue, especially as it matches the bike color. It makes the needles fluoresce slightly, which is a neat effect.

If you’ve followed this from start to finish, you shouldn’t have any incandescent bulbs (except the headlight) left on the bike, and your bike should be much more visible at night, especially from behind. You can view the gallery for a few extra pictures not included here.
 

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Yup, exactly what I need

was wondering tho; since I have 'blacked out' turn signal lenses...
...will the Amber LED replacements help give off a more yellow light?(which now they are kinda dull)

and how many watts will that 'strobe' flasher handle? and is there one that stays fast flash...
...as could I wire another one to my accessory LED fog/driving lights?
(15w each x2...maybe still run a the main switched power for constant lit, and run a secondary parallel wire/switch with the strobe?)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
T Rush said:
was wondering tho; since I have 'blacked out' turn signal lenses...
...will the Amber LED replacements help give off a more yellow light?(which now they are kinda dull)
If you're worried about brightness, get the amber version of the lights I used for my brake lights instead of the ones I recommended. They're almost 2x as bright.

and how many watts will that 'strobe' flasher handle? and is there one that stays fast flash...
The product page should tell you how many watts it can handle. There's another version that stays cycling between the fast and slow flashes, but to me that's a bad idea since other drivers may not know what to do with a constantly flashing brake light, whereas one the flashes and then goes steady is pretty clear, but that's just my opinion.

...as could I wire another one to my accessory LED fog/driving lights?
(15w each x2...maybe still run a the main switched power for constant lit, and run a secondary parallel wire/switch with the strobe?)
That would probably work. The strobe module is pretty cheap, so you could always buy one and find out. You would need to have a switch that turns off the main power and turns on the strobe. There are other strobe modules that might work better for this, as I don't believe either of SBL's brake strobe modules do what you're looking for.
 

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OK, thanks again.... I'll see if its needed to work that out somehow and when...got other stuff on the bike I have to get done first

oh, but let me add something to this thread:

are your LED gauge or warning lights too bright at night?
...but you still need them as bright as possible in sunlight?
I found a way to automatically adjust their brightness to match surrounding ambient light


don't know if this would work on a motorcycle
I did this on a little jet boat I have(and posted about it on another forum) so I'll just copy and past it over here

so I installed some basic LED lights into the dash of my boat for warning lights to show things like the lights, bilge pump, fan, etc were on....however they would just blind you at night and make it hard to see across the dark water, tho I still needed them that super bright to see them in the daytime.... then I found this little guy to auto dim the LEDs


think it's like for a light meter or something
without ambient light(in the dark) it has high resistance
but in bright light and sunshine it has no resistance


I took photos with just the key turned on with the sensor exposed and then covered(to simulate darkness)



just wired it in and it's working perfect, even with all 4 green LEDs lit
...but each "+" wire from each LED is individually wired to the output of the switch for whatever thing it turns on and off...then all the "-" wires from the 4 green LEDs are wired together to the sensor "+" side(found out that there is a + and - to the sensor, as it didn't work wired backwards and I had to redo it) and then the "-" of the sensor goes to ground....the lights smoothly dim from full on to hardly lit at all as the external light level changes....it's pretty **** cool!...now just need to figure out a mounting spot


so do whatever you want with that info...might help in some situations(maybe besides motorcycles) where people are using LEDs and they want them to be automaticly dimmer at night or in lower light
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That looks really cool! However, none of your images are loading. Could you include a source for where you got whatever it is?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Oh, cool, clearly I didn't read that page very thoroughly. I had done it on my 250 so I didn't really think about doing it a different way on the 500. Thanks!
 

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Although I can't find it at the moment I did a post about the problems with the "Cheap LEDs from China" post title from about 3 years ago...
Post is here somewhere but it pertains mainly for turn signals and brake lights.
If I can find I will post, but it is here on this site.

I can't agree with blue and red being great choices for guage lights.
A standard cool white LED (which is what most automotive bulbs are such as the 194 wedge) has a bluish tint already... and those are most definitely crisper than the standard incansescent "yellow"-ish bulbs.

But a straight blue or red for your guages... no.
I don't know about anyone else's eye but when trying to read lettering or numbers on a dark background at night just doesn't work.
It takes too long for the eye (at least mine) to "read" with a quick glance.... meaning I have to look longer at a sign lighted in red or blue versus something in green or white.
And of course that takes my eyes off the road longer.
I had a '97 Firebird and Pontiac at the time had a habit of using red guage numbers and needles... terrible to read at night.

The slight off white/orangish color of the dial numbers on the EX are far better suited to white or green.

Take it all with a grain of salt, my opinion on what I can see and how I see.
If you want red or blue guage lights then knock yourself out.

I will agree whole heartedly about matching LED color to lens color.
If you have a red lens then use a red LED
If you have an orange lens then use an orange LED
And for Pete's sake use quality stuff because your life depends on it.
Super Bright
JTech Eagle Eye

Cree is a specific company here in North Carolina.... it is not a light, it's a brand. And a damn good ones but there are copies and some that are not so good.
Like:
Kleenex is a tissue but not all tissues are Kleenex.
Band-Aid is a band-aid but it's really just an adhesive bandage.
Benedryl... and so on.

Long story short, be careful in what you buy...
Cheap ass LEDs for your guages... generally okay...
Cheap ass LEDs for your turn and brake lights... buy quality.

O_E_M
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I had red for my gauges on my EX250F and found them easy to read at night. These look fine when turning the light off in my basement, but obviously the real test will be when I hit the road at night after putting the bike back on the road. If they're difficult to read, I'll certainly switch them out, but I really do like the color, so we'll see. As long as I can read it at a glance, I'm good. Everyone's different, so what works for one person may not work for another.
 

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iThinkergoiMac said:
I had red for my gauges on my EX250F and found them easy to read at night. These look fine when turning the light off in my basement, but obviously the real test will be when I hit the road at night after putting the bike back on the road. If they're difficult to read, I'll certainly switch them out, but I really do like the color, so we'll see. As long as I can read it at a glance, I'm good. Everyone's different, so what works for one person may not work for another.
True.
Wasn't downing you at all, just stating personal experiance for general knowledge.

Red and blue are hard on the eyes at night in general but I seem to have more issue apparently.

O_E_M
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Haha, didn't think you were.

However, red is the opposite of hard on the eyes at night. It's the color that doesn't ruin night vision, whereas blue ruins it the fastest. Doesn't mean I'm doubting your experience, but red is the preferred color for nighttime viewing of things where night vision is important to maintain. You can't establish night vision on a motorcycle anyway (the headlight kills that possibility), so it's a moot point.
 

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iThinkergoiMac said:
Haha, didn't think you were.

However, red is the opposite of hard on the eyes at night. It's the color that doesn't ruin night vision[/color], whereas blue ruins it the fastest. Doesn't mean I'm doubting your experience, but red is the preferred color for nighttime viewing of things where night vision is important to maintain. [/color]You can't establish night vision on a motorcycle anyway[/color] (the headlight kills that possibility), so it's a moot point.
Right, hense the reason we had red lenses in the military.[/color]

I'm refering to quick glance on guages.[/color]

Why use red lights on factory numbers that have a slight orange tint with needles that are orange?
It blurs/blends.
Such as the 1990s Pontiac issue... and the '98 up Camaro.

O_E_M
 

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maybe I can shed some light on the color issue ;)

so the human eye/brain responds differently to different colors, thus different colors are good to trigger different reactions

- green is the easiest on the eyes and is calming to the mind...think nature and pale green hospital walls, 'green rooms' for performers before going on stage...green light and you are free to go

- red is warming to the appetite and a sudden contrast to green, alarming, glowing, unnatural, abrupt... doesn't get washed-out even when dim or around other colors...think stop signs, warning lights, red roses, restaurant interiors, symbols for fire(even tho fire is seldom actually red)...things that require or invoke action

- blue gives the most information and detail...like when you ride down the street at night and see in home windows that they are glowing blue because the TV is on, its over powering and defining...conveys motion and cold sharpness

- yellow/amber/orange are brighter caution colors..."look out and notice me" type of thing, bright yellow flowers in a field... orange is the contrast color to blue so they don't convey exactly 'what am I' just more that 'I am here'

- purple is just kinda its own thing

then what are white and black? well they actually aren't "colors" themselves at all
- black is the absence of any color or light
- white is all colors together


so now back to our instruments and marker lights:
...when O_E_M says he doesn't like red instrument lights, well I bet he still thinks a red oil pressure light coming on works pretty well...but then why not blue? as it gives the most detail; likely because it is distracting to the eye(you can always see that 'brights headlight' indicator no matter how far you turn your head) and is the harshest on the eyes...how about yellow/orange? might get washed out too easily into a blur of light(stands out enough you can tell your turn signals are on tho)...green just is too pleasing to the eyes(but its relaxing to see that neutral light on so you can release your grip on the clutch)
...but really he needs all those colors together, each doing their job; all combined in white light for the information of the dials to be read...take away all the green light and now the gauges look annoying, if the blue light were pulled from the spectrum you would have a hard time noticing detail, no red and you might not be triggered to respond....all those colors are working for you hidden in that white light

that being said, I'd still like to get red[/color] LEDs to replace the bulbs in the gauges...as it would be an awesome looking effect to match the main paint color of the bike
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Have a source for all that? All of what you said is quite subjective and different people feel differently. I'll let O_E_M speak for himself, but I'm pretty sure he was referring to it being physically difficult to see the numbers on the gauge, not red gauges make him feel apprehensive.
 

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too many years of art/design schools and learning color theory


....have you ever wondered why they don't make and brown colored LEDs? (I wanted brown LED lights to redo my Xmas deer decorations)...its because they can't; as you mix red/yellow/blue colors together to make brown...if you try that with light, you get white
 

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Hell, it was mid 2000 before blue was available..... but anyway....

Well, Rush sorta kinda hit it...
I'm no art student graduate.... though a best friend is a graphic desinger and she/that matters as much as a screen door on a submarine.....
I have a 2 year college degree in autobody repair/refinish and.... well.... art is subjective and what the eye percieves is too. Keep in mind this was 20 years ago... and I'll toss in my own experience/view.

Look at the above where I colored stuff. To me the red stood out because in America we are conditioned to it but I have to be honest it was rather hard to read even on a white background here. But it caught my eye.... I mean it was red after all. It means important. LOL
The blue was less abrasive of course but instant glance it still took a moment. And this is against the harsh white background....

But red causing apprehensive-ness? Nah.
On a warning light being red, okay maybe I could see that, again, conditioning.
But all 500 guages being a background of the red orange spectrum and 500 needles. too.. sorry but no.
And my "NO" stands for a reason.
Now maybe I have diificulty distinguishing red and blue, Lord knows I've done enough welding to screw over anyone's sight...

For those TLDR... On guage pack lighting either red or blue will diminsh the ability to give a quick glance.
Period. And sorry if I can't do better to explain.

O_E_M

O_E_M
 
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