Author Topic: Adding LED strips as brake lights to the J.C. Whitney/Sears trunk (Elvin Rivera)  (Read 5298 times)

Offline Rick Hall

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I got one of these trunks when they were on sale. Not the greatest thing in the world, but it does the job. When I looked at the back of it, I noticed there was room for some LED strips under the red plastic part that goes across the back. This will show how I added the LED strips.

There are two plastic pieces on the trunk. The rear one is red plastic, and the front a pinkish hard rubberish type. Note that I have painted the front pinkish pieces black on my trunk.

Parts needed-
  • Three 40 CM LED strips- commonly found on ebay, make sure they are "5050" and waterproof. I paid about $30 for two sets of two, so I have an extra. They are a perfect fit in the channels under the red plastic piece on the back of the trunk, and at 40CM long, they cover most of the width. There are 21 LEDs in each strip, so you're adding 63 extra lights on the rear.

Tools/materials needed-
  • 3/32 and 3/16 drill bits
  • RTV or contact cement
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Wire stripper pliers
  • Diagonal (wire cutting) pliers
  • Terminal pliers for Weatherpack (if used)
  • Small Phillips screwdriver
  • Razor/utility knife (box cutter)
  • 2' each of small gauge wire (18-22 gauge). I used blue and black. Buy quality wire such as SXL automotive grade vs. cheap auto parts store stuff. JM Products sells great wire at decent prices.
  • Medium diameter (3/16 or so) heat shrink. JM Products sells this also, get several sizes and have some on hand for the next project.
  • Electrical tap connector (acceptable) or .250 female push-in connector (takes the place of the OEM connector for the brakelight wire- best setup). Go to Performance Connection Systems and look for part #2965471, which will take the place of the old terminal and allow you to add another wire.
  • Weatherpack or Metripack two conductor connector (suggested)- allows for quick release of trunk. PCS above sells these. Make sure to get some extra terminals and seals if you mess one up.
  • Plastic split loom to protect wiring from trunk to bike. JM Products sells this.

Remove red plastic and front trim strips by removing three small Phillips screws from inside of trunk.

Red plastic piece removed:

Each of the trim pieces has ribs in it. They will have to be trimmed so the wires can fit through. Here is the red plastic piece with the wires in place- you can see where they have to be trimmed:

You'll have to trim away any obstructions in the bottom channel of the front plastic trim piece. Use the razor knife for this.

Next, you drill two small (3/32 for my wire size- verify what you're using fits before you drill) in the red plastic piece as illustrated:

Final result:

I marked a center on the back of each strip. I used contact cement to hold the strips and wire leads in place. You could glue them to the trunk, but I thought alignment with the ribs would be too difficult when you tried to reinstall the red plastic piece, plus the paper on the trunk would have to be removed, which would reduce reflectivity.

The wires on these strips suck. They're cheap and tiny and hard to strip safely. You're basically trying to get the leads to the lower corner so you can tie them into the leads that will run to your bike. It's easier to run 2 wires than 6. Set a heat shrink in place before soldering. You can use a smaller one on the blue and black wires and a larger one on the LED wires if you want a double layer. You join the black/white striped wires together, and solder them to the blue wire. Slide the heat shrink over to seal the connection. Repeat for the solid black wires to the black wire.

Next, drill a 3/16 hole (larger if you used larger wires, basically twice the size of the holes you drilled earlier) in the front of the trunk on the lip where the front trim pieces join. It is easiest to drill from below so you don't drill into the trunk.

Feed the wires through this hole.

You can now reinstall the trim pieces. Take your time, as the screws may be out of alignment. The screws are supposed to go through the slots in the red plastic pieces and secure into the other plastic piece. Make sure to route the wires in the groove of the front plastic piece as much as possible- this is tricky, and may not be 100%.

The final step is to tap into the bike's brake light circuit. Remove the seat and look for the plug in the below picture. It is easiest to just use a power tap connector here as well as a ground, but I elected to replace the OEM terminal with one I had on hand so I could crimp & solder the extra wire. The black wire goes to a good ground. If I haven't said so yet, crimp & solder those terminals! You'll be glad you did later.

I used a weatherpack connector so I can unplug the trunk if needed.

Before & after photos:

The top row was shifted to the right for alignment after the photo was taken.
Rick Hall     1994 ZG 1000 "Sam"      xCOG #1914 (CO)
  GfNi H.P.   DOD #2040   1kQSPT 14.16   IBA #3274
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you could run the wires internally, and goober it with sealant.... ;D

46 YEARS OF KAW.....  47 years of DEVO..