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LED Bulbs

The Problem:
For those with lots of accessories and run heated gear during the winter months, all the extra power hungry equipment can be hard on your electrical system. One solution commonly mentioned on the forums is the ZZR1200 alternator upgrade. Going down the road the ZZR1200 alternator really puts out the extra juice. However at idle I don't find the ZZR1200 alternator to be all that much better than stock alternator. Here the alternator, even the ZZR alternator, is not spinning very fast and does not put out very much power. It holds up fine with the bike alone, even with the brakes and turn signals on. But add in the electric vest and heated gloves or grip heaters, a set of running lights and its just not holding up sitting at a stop light.

My goal is to see if I can have the heated vest and heated gloves running at normal temperature settings and still maintain 14.0 volts at a stop light with the brakes on and turn signals flashing.

The Solution:
The idea is to use higher end LED bulbs to replace the incandescent bulbs in the rear tail/brake lights, rear turn signals, and front running/turn signal bulbs. This should reduce the load at idle with the brakes on by 54 watts, and 23 watts in the turn signals. Thats figuring 2 * 23 watt bulbs for the Turn Signals, but at 50% duty cycle.

Until recently cost has been the main limiting factor in trying this experiment. I have seen the regular LED bulbs with 18, 24 and even 30 LED's that are not too expensive. But I wonder how bright they really are. And I also wonder about the lighting pattern as most of those only point out the back with a few token LED's pointing around the side. There are the newer super bright SMD type LED bulbs that are claimed to be as good as incandescents. But they used to cost $18-$24 each. That's a decent amount of money for 6 bulbs in a Connie. Lately I have found some on Ebay for $16 for a pair, with free shipping. Now its getting a bit more reasonable. Time to finally take the plunge and see if these can cut it.

Won't The Battery Make Up the Difference:
This will depend on the amount of load you are running. In general I believe the battery has enough capacity to make up the difference in load while you sit at a stop light. You would have to sit there with the extra accessories running, brakes on and turn signals on for quite a while to run the system down low enough to have a problem. Generally stop lights are not that long, we ride off and its all gets charged again. You would have to be in some serious stop and stop traffic.

However back when I used to run the 110 watt FF50's on all the time for my Daytime Running Lights, I once found my stock, wet cell, maintenance required battery sucked almost dry. Maybe 25% fluid at best in the best cell, and pretty much nothing in one cell. Its a wonder it ever worked. And I was lucky I found it when I did. In the end it never left me stranded and I could claim I rode that way with no issues, but I believe that does not tell the whole story. A volt meter will tell whats really going on. And depending on the health and type of battery you have it could catch up to you some day.

 

SMD LED Bulbs Compared
For the most part it appears there are two general types of these SMD type LED bulbs. There are ones in the 24-30 count range that use a 5050 type 1 place SMD LED and ones in the 42-48 count range that use a 3528 type 2 place SMD LED. We are going to take a look at both. Also note for both bulbs, all LED's light up in both tail light mode and brake light mode. I assume that tail light mode is current limited to limit brightness and brake light mode runs full brightness.

42 Count, 3528 type 2 place SMD LED's:
Looking that them using the Connie which has 2 - 1157 bulbs, the 42 SMD ones are not quite as bright in both tail light mode and stop light mode. Tail light mode seems pretty close. To the naked eye it didn't seem as far off as the pics make it look. I was not that disappointed. Brake light mode has a bit more of a difference. In brake light mode its noticeable. Here I would like to see the brake light mode of the LED's be a lot better. With the brighter tail light mode and dim brake light mode, this model bulb has too little change in brightness when switching modes.

27 Count, 5050 type 1 place SMD LED's:
In tail light mode these are not as bright as the 42 count 2 place bulbs. These are really dim in comparison to the incandescents in tail light mode. In brake light mode they were the same as the 3528 type 2 place LED bulbs, which is as mentioned is quite a bit dimmer than incandescents. In comparison this model bulb has more contrast in brightness when switching from tail light to brake light mode. But its at the cost of being quite dim in tail light mode.

 
   
 

Are they good enough
For the short answer, NO. The long answer will depend on personal preferences and other mods installed in addition to adding the LED bulbs. Its pretty easy to see the LED bulbs, even the so called super bright ones, are simply not as bright as the incandescents when installed in our existing housings. The question is are they good enough to get the job done.

Red 1157 Tail/Brake Lights
When I ask the generic question to people that have followed me for a ways, how well do the brake lights work, they all right away comment on the Givi integrated brake lights with the flasher module attached. The 3rd eye effect coming on and with the flasher really grabs your attention. I have to then specifically as about the regular brake lights in the factory housing. I get a lame yeah they work too response. Its the Givi that grabs everyone's attention and pretty much confirms the lack of contrast in brightness when switching modes.

In tail light mode I think the LED bulbs work ok. After one long multi-day ride I have some pics of my Connie from the rear while going down the freeway. And I notice the running lights, while not as bright as the incandescents, are adequate. I have also seen these on a Ninja 250 which I followed for several hours one day and it does seem adequate in tail light mode.

Especially after following the Ninja 250 for several hours, I think the brake light mode is simply NOT good enough. When I was fairly close behind the Ninja 250 I could see the brake lights and the change in brightness ok. But as I got further back it became harder and harder to tell. The LED bulbs need to be brighter giving them more contrast in brightness when switching mode. And not at the cost of being too dim tail light mode like the other bulbs i compared. The LED bulbs need be a much closer match to the incandescent bulbs.

Overall these can work with some kind of 3rd eye / flashing module in addition to the main tail light section. I would be more concerned if I only had LED bulbs in the stock housing and that was it.

 
   

In pic1 we have the 42 count 2 place LED bulb in the left and the incandescent in the right, in tail light mode. And pic 2 shows the same bulbs in brake light mode. These are on a bright sunny day, but the Givi does offer some shade. To the naked eye I didn't think the difference in the two bulbs in tail light mode ( pic 1 ) was too far off. But in brake light mode ( pic 2 ) its quite noticeable.

In pic 3 we have the same 42 count 2 place in the left and the 27 count 1 place LED bulb in the right, in tail light mode. This is 2 weeks later and the lighting is different, so is the camera exposure. So you'll just have to use your imagination a little. In pic 3 we can see how much dimmer the 27 count 1 place LED bulb is compared to the 42 count. And we can see how much dimmer that is compared to the incandescent in pic 1. You can figure out how dim the 27 count LED bulb appeared to be in tail light mode.

In pic 4 we have the two LED bulbs in brake light mode. Here you can see they are pretty much the same, which is of course dimmer than the incandescent ( pic 2 ).

 

Amber 1156 Rear Turn Signal Impressions
The 1156 Amber LED bulbs are a disappointment as well. What a surprise, huh!!. They had such potential. I was thinking if they ran these amber LED bulbs at full power and this was the same brightness as the 1157 red ones in brake light mode, they would be fairly close to the lower power 23 watt incandescent bulbs used in the turn signals. But no, they run them in what I assume is the current limited mode, as they are only as bright as the 1157 LED bulbs in tail light mode, not brake light mode. These could have been a lot better. What a bummer.

Fortunately they have still have some what decent contrast in brightness when they change because they go from an off / on state change versus the low / high state like the 1157 ones do. But could have been way better if the brightness was at least consistent with the brake light mode on the 1157 bulbs instead of only being as bright as tail light mode.

   

In pic1 we have the incandescent in the left and the LED bulb in the right.  I turned on the flasher so they would both go at the same time. Pic 2 is the LED bulb by itself with the turn signal on.

 

Amber 1157 Front Running Lights / Turn Signal Impressions
The same holds true on the front with the 42 count Amber 1157 bulbs as with red 115 bulbs in back. They are not as bright in either mode and suffer from the same lack of contrast in brightness when switching from running light mode to turn signal mode. For a turn signal / running light combo its barely adequate at best. Some will just plain think these suck.

As running lights they show up ok in shade and will be fine at night too. In direct sunlight it was hard to even tell it was on. Just not quite bright enough. But I use the LED DRL's so I am not too worried.

As turn signals they don't have that much contrast in brightness. In the shade and at night they will be ok. But same story in direct sunlight, its not the best. You can tell they are flashing but that's about it. I did position the bike down the street a bit and left it running with the turn signal on and walked back so I could see from a distance. And I could see it was flashing but not very eye catching.

   

In pic1 we a nice sunny morning and I had to use something to provide shade for the LED bulb on the left, versus the incandescent on the right. Then in Pic 2 I removed the box so you could see the LED bulb in direct sunlight.

 
  Turn Signal Flasher Module:
Finally, something that works as advertised. I ordered a model CF13JL-02 flasher from superbrightleds.com. It was a match pinout wise. Says 20A peak current ( 240 watts ) so it should be able to handle even the flasher duties with 4 incandescents. Size wise it is exactly the same size as the one I pulled from the Connie. And since the pinout is the same, it was plug play so to speak. No hacking the wiring or anything like that. One problem is the factory one has a extra tab on it, with a rubber grommet of sorts which slips down over a tab on the frame to hold in place. The new one does not have this. So I used two zip ties and zipped it down to the tab. Will see if it holds long term. Flashers and turn signals now work at the proper rate, even with the LED bulbs in back. And it has that nice clicking sound too.
 

Was it worth it:
Cost wise I have roughly $86 into this on the Connie including the set of 27 count single place bulbs I did not use. Purely from a financial point of view they cost a lot of money and put out less light. If you don't care about the power consumption, just stick with regular incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are advertised as lasting longer, which I cannot speak for. But for the cost difference I can buy quite a few sets of incandescent bulbs. Not sure if life span is of any benefit.

It is nice to be able to sit at the stop lights on cold winter mornings with the Gerbing heated vest and gloves both running, have the brakes and turn signals on, and still see the volt meter holding at 14.0 volts. This was the goal, and the goal is accomplished. But there is a trade off in terms of brightness. Depending on which LED bulbs you get, other modifications installed and your own personal preferences these might get it done. Most likely it is just a waste of money that could be spent towards some worth while mods, like my favorite mod, 4/6 pot front brake calipers and brackets.

In Summary:
Get the ZZR Alternator for increased peak power output, install a volt meter, get the best battery you can, and don't sit at a stop light with all that load for 45 minutes at a time, you could be pushing your luck. Save your money for some really good mods. Well that is unless your like me and suffer from that condition known as farkelitis.
   

Article By: Slybones

April 2011

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