HowTo: Ultimate Smart Trunk Light DIY (lots of pics)

While our Smart Passion is a great car, one thing always bugged my wife: The missing Trunk Light.

Of course a missing Trunk Light doesn’t stop the planet from rotating, I thought this would be a good opportunity to earn those all important brownie points, hence I set out to create the ultimate Trunk Light:
  • Invisible/OEM appearance - Ruining the look of our Smart would be just terrible.
  • Permanent - While some solutions to the problem were simple and cute (the LED Puck light comes to mind), they were not permanent or automatic like an OEM solution.
  • Inexpensive and simple - I wanted something that is inexpensive (<$25) and can be installed in a few hours w/o special equipment.

The install has now been running rattle free for a week by now and the only “flaw” that I couldn’t address is that the trunk light is always set to “automatic mode” regardless of the setting of the center interior light switch.

i.e.
  1. The new trunk light turns on by opening the door or trunk.
  2. And, the trunk light turns off upon starting the ignition or when the timer times-out.
Since the trunk door is typically open when we access the trunk space, this hasn’t been a problem for us. In addition, we prefer the automatic-on setting compared to needing to flip a toggle switch or tap a puck light as needed.

Later I’ll explain the reason the trunk light is always set to the “automatic mode” instead of being controlled using the center light switch.

What I ended up was this:

The light is generated by 4 high-powered LEDs shining through holes in the headliner above the trunk:

Note:This picture was shot from 2 ft off the ground. The individual LEDs are not visible for the standard child or adult.

I tried to document all the steps, so people can follow them and maybe earn some brownie points from their own Sweety ;)

Shopping List:
- 4 white LEDs - I used this site, which sells nice ones in a 5 pack.
- some small gauge wire
- misc wire connectors

Some theory first (warning: science content):
The LEDs have a forward current of 3.7 Volts. Usually an LED requires a current limiting resistor, but since we are purposely underpowering our LEDs (we drive them between 3.0 - 3.5V only) that is not an issue, which makes our life a little easier.

So if we take 4 LEDs in series the 12V of the car will give each LED 3V, which is perfect for us (if you drive them close to spec these LEDs will get hot and we would need additional heatsinking and a proper current source, etc.).

Plan of Attack
The whole project is pretty straight forward. Remove rear headliner, remove side head panels, tap into power from center light, run cables back to rear headliner, drill 4 holes for LEDs, hot glue the wired LEDs in place and put everything back together.

Required Tools:


The only real “special” one is this Torx bit:


The drill bit you need is 6.5 mm. The LEDs are 6.84mm, so a little bit of wiggling of the drill will give you a snug fit.

Here are the individual steps:

Removing the rear headliner with 2 Torx screws (star-shaped):


Pulling the side panels down:




Note: You do not have to remove the sun shade if you have a passion.

Pulling the front headliner a little down to run the cable:



Pull the cable from the back to the front:


Note: Use tape or foam to make sure the cable doesn’t rattle! I used some Gorilla tape the entire run and I’m rattle free.

Next Step is IMPORTANT
Put everything together except for the rear headliner to see if there aren’t any new rattles due to the cable. This can be done very nicely by driving to your local coffee shop:


Note: When you turn your radio off, you’ll be surprised by how many rattles you’ll hear. Make sure nothing comes from the areas you worked on.

Drilling holes for the LEDs:


Note: Make sure to place the holes at the rear end of the plastic to ensure you get light down the center of the trunk and don’t end up with all the light pointing to the front (the plastic is slightly angled towards the front). I started with a small pilot drill from the inside and then used the final diameter drill (6.5 mm) from the outside.

Making space for the cables:


Note: As you can tell I cut slots into the material with my Dremel. In hindsight it would have been better to just drill small holes for the wires.

Soldering the LEDs:


Note: Make sure to not overdo it with the solder. If your solder is too thick, your LED won’t be able to stick through the hole. It takes a little practice to get it right as the attached heatsink of the LED makes it tough to get the solder up to temperature.



Note: Make sure to apply hot glue to the LED pucks and all the wires to keep everything in place.


Note: You have to connect them in series. That means you start on one end with the (-) sign, connect the other end of the LED (+) with the next LED’s (-) and so on.

I also installed connectors for easy removal:


Note: Connect the rear panel, but leave it off, so you can test everything. Make sure to use tape to avoid rattles.

Solder connectors to your center light assembly:


Note: Make sure to tape the solder joins you just made.


Note: It pops out nicely if you go under the light on the right hand side with a screw driver and pry it out.

Your final product should look something like this:


Plug it together and close/reopen the doors to make sure it turns on.
If it doesn’t you should check the LED polarity. LEDs only light up if the polarity is right (i.e. + and - is observed). So check that all your LEDs are wired correctly.

Note: The “flaw” I mentioned will prevent you from making it work with the switch in the center light. I couldn’t figure out a way to solder onto the stainless steel metal holding the bulb, so I had to pick another spot. This leave the trunk light always in “automatic mode” regardless of how you set your center light switch.

While this isn’t a biggie for us, it would have been nice to figure out a way to make it work according to the switch setting. Let me know if you have an idea how to “fix” this.

Hope you enjoyed my short little how to!
There are more pictures on my website.

-Erich

Tags: diy, led, light, mod, trunk

Views: 5727

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Replies to This Discussion

@Trooperben: Just order another set of LEDs to finish the project.

I can't recommend using resistors to make it work with 2 LEDs as the resistors will get hot burning off excess energy being a potential fire hazard with all that plastic around. Your trunk will also not be very well and evenly illuminated.
Gets cooler using one resistor with two LED's~Just stating the Facts in the Link below...

A Quick guide to wiring LED's in a circuit
http://white-leds.co.uk/led-wiring-guide.htm
Well I purchased a new set of LED's. It took a couple days shy of a month for the first set to arrive !!

I sure hope they arrive quicker this time.

So now te question is, What to do with the extra LEDs I will have.

It I place one on each foot well, I just go to Radio shack and get a resister for each footwell side?
Yes you can just follow the diagram for the two Led's in series inthe Link Below...<:-))
As you see, Led's are little resistors that just happen to give off Light...<:-))

http://white-leds.co.uk/led-wiring-guide.htm
Email me with your phone # and window for calling (pst). There is an easy & inexpensive solution.

24-42
Awesome job guys but for people like me that are not very good at wiring here is what I did.I bought a battery operated 5 LED light from Wal-Mart and installed it over the cargo area.And it has a switch built on it.It uses 6- AA batteries, pictures below.
Attachments:
Gary, how much space where you install the rocker switch? I picked up one similar from Radio Shack and it is about 1" deep.

Gary Bryers said:
Eric,
I just completed the same mod (thanks for the tutorial). Due to shipping delays, I used a different emitter (a Luxeon Star, part# LCS-010WL, similar to yours) from LC-LED.com I also opted to drill holes through the veining, rather than cut down through them. Additionally, I grounded in the back, so I only ran a single wire up front, and tapped into the power lines feeding the dome light, rather than the dome light itself. For future info, there are three wires running to the dome: brown (ground), red (middle) = always on, and blue (door-open power). I tapped into the always-on positive, and added a switch in the leading-edge of the rear ceiling panel (dead center - easy to reach from the back, easy to reach from the front seats). Here are the results:
Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


and the switch:

Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


Thanks for the awesome tutorial!
Installing a wireless 6 LED motion detector closet light( $5.30 delivered from Ebay) was SOOO much easier...It is fixed now---LOL....
Hmm.. There is just about enough space, if you *carefully* bend the tabs on the switch so that they point downward (relative to the installation), and then, to be safe, put some heatshrink on the connections to make sure they don't short out.

William Wong said:
Gary, how much space where you install the rocker switch? I picked up one similar from Radio Shack and it is about 1" deep.

Gary Bryers said:
Eric,
I just completed the same mod (thanks for the tutorial). Due to shipping delays, I used a different emitter (a Luxeon Star, part# LCS-010WL, similar to yours) from LC-LED.com I also opted to drill holes through the veining, rather than cut down through them. Additionally, I grounded in the back, so I only ran a single wire up front, and tapped into the power lines feeding the dome light, rather than the dome light itself. For future info, there are three wires running to the dome: brown (ground), red (middle) = always on, and blue (door-open power). I tapped into the always-on positive, and added a switch in the leading-edge of the rear ceiling panel (dead center - easy to reach from the back, easy to reach from the front seats). Here are the results:
Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


and the switch:

Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


Thanks for the awesome tutorial!
Thanks. I already bend the tabs and am think of covering it with the shrink. Still waiting for the LED to get here.

Gary Bryers said:
Hmm.. There is just about enough space, if you *carefully* bend the tabs on the switch so that they point downward (relative to the installation), and then, to be safe, put some heatshrink on the connections to make sure they don't short out.

William Wong said:
Gary, how much space where you install the rocker switch? I picked up one similar from Radio Shack and it is about 1" deep.

Gary Bryers said:
Eric,
I just completed the same mod (thanks for the tutorial). Due to shipping delays, I used a different emitter (a Luxeon Star, part# LCS-010WL, similar to yours) from LC-LED.com I also opted to drill holes through the veining, rather than cut down through them. Additionally, I grounded in the back, so I only ran a single wire up front, and tapped into the power lines feeding the dome light, rather than the dome light itself. For future info, there are three wires running to the dome: brown (ground), red (middle) = always on, and blue (door-open power). I tapped into the always-on positive, and added a switch in the leading-edge of the rear ceiling panel (dead center - easy to reach from the back, easy to reach from the front seats). Here are the results:
Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


and the switch:

Boot (trunk) Lighting Mod


Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

Weekend Project for me!!! Whoo Hoo..

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