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Radar Detector Indicator Lights -- Fun With Leds


Havagan
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I know very little about electronic/electricity beyond what I was forced to learn while troubleshooting the blue connector issue on my VFR many moons ago. After wiring up the USB port last weekend, I decided to have some fun with LEDs. Taking a look at the Marc Parnes Visual Alert for the Escort Passport 8500 and finding a similar idea/writeup about making your own LED indicators on one of the other forums inspired me to try my hand at wiring up some LEDs for use on the VFR as an in-dash warning light system. Like most of these, the LEDs will be powered by the mono headphone jack on the radar detector.

Since this is my first time playing with LEDs I had to get some basic supplies including a soldering iron (Sears, $8) and a couple bags of LEDs and resistors from eBay for $15 and then I started hacking.

...

I used a 3V watch battery to test the LEDs before beginning soldering.

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And used some heavy plastic makeup applicators (donated by my wife) as the backing material to mount and solder two banks of four LEDs each.

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I wanted to have these lights mounted well within my peripheral vision and chose the two small black plastic inserts at the top of the windscreen as my mount point. I drilled four 5mm holes on each side and passed the LEDs through and mounted the plastic backing plate with glue. I may need to use a better adhesive -- we'll see how they hold up over time.

Here's the finished product with camera flash and in the dark.

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My only real concern is how bright they are during the daylight but based on my eyeball testing it shouldn't be a problem. As with the mounting adhesive, time will tell!

Paul

Edited by Havagan
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That really does look like a nice application. Good job!

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I was thinking that if I had lights like those wired in with my turn signals it would keep me from running down the road for miles with my blinkers on. :wacko: Looks really good.

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  • 4 months later...
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My tinkering continues.

Gone are the red LED indicators....

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Because real world use identified two issues:

1) The red LEDs are too dim for use in direct sunlight.

2) The LEDs, which were driven by the radar's audio alert, didn't blink at higher alert levels... they were just always on. Couple non-blinky lights with sunlight and they weren't very useful at high noon.

To fix these issues I went ahead and upgraded the red LEDs to MUCH brighter white LEDs. I also taped up the underside of the windscreen to give the LEDs some shade. The electrical tape is just a temporary hack while I test different voltages to adjust the brightness levels of the LEDs -- the finished product will have the underside of the windscreen done in black Plasti-Dip.

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I'm also changing up the wiring so that the LEDs blink at a constant rate when the radar is alerting instead of having them powered by the audible alert. This means recreating the "Smartcord" for the Escort x50 (the Smartcord has an alert LED) and fidding with the voltages to run 8 LEDs instead of a single LED. I'm also wiring in a Hi/Low/Off switch so that I can change the LED brightness for day/night use because those super-bright white LEDs will probably blind me on pitch black backroads.

Soooooo.....

I started with a basic wiring diagram for the x50 that I found online and then dismantled an old (broken) smartcord that I had lying around to confirm the interweb diagram. Four resistors and one 2N3904 transistor and a 2A fuse are all that make up the $30 smartcord. I didn't want to just use a smartcord because I find it's too bulky, I don't need the mute button, and I wanted the hi/low switch option.

Smartcord

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Updated wiring diagram with estimated resistors for 8 LEDs in parallel:

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The Escort x50 uses a standard four conductor phone jack (RJ11).

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My test mock up with all resistors and transistors in place. There is a power/ground (top red/black wires) and then the four wires that form the "smartcord" connection to the radar (red/green/black/yellow). Total cost so far is about $6 -- four resistors, one transistor, and a hi/low switch.

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Testing is good so far. The blue LED is the "power on" indicator and the red LED is the "radar alert" indicator and my voltage calculations appear to be good... 3.3V for the blue LED and 2.2V for the red LED. I did fry a good number of red LEDs which, I found out, are very very sensitive to over voltage. The blue and white LEDs took overvoltage like champs and just kept on chugging.

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Separately, I tested the hi/low switch to determine what resistors I needed to dim the bulbs (the white LEDs, for example, are nicely dim at about 2.6V)... but no pictures because it was late and I forgot.

I won't get this thing wired into the bike for a few weeks but will post pictures of the final product when I do.

Paul

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Why not just use LegalSpeeding's HARD unit? They have a newer unit out that I'm using that is waterproof.

If you have to ask this question, you are not understanding the joy of what he is doing...

I am saving up for the HARD unit because I lost the willingness to do something like this back in my childhood somewhere...

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Why not just use LegalSpeeding's HARD unit? They have a newer unit out that I'm using that is waterproof.

My friends all use the HARD system, but I decided not to.

* I can't learn much about circuits that way.

* Too expensive.

* Don't want more wires inside my helmet.

* Don't want to deal with batteries.

* Friend's HARD system interfered with his phone-to-helmet Bluetooth audio... and I like music while I ride.

This setup will have one cable to the radar for me to plug in and that's it. I like simple. ;)

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I like what you're doing a lot. My only concern is that it's not really in your line of sight is it?

I mounted the Marc Parnes on my V-Strom at the top of the windscreen because when I had it down low (at the base of the screen) I missed an alert and got a 54 in a 35. Never again. Now it goes through my headphones anyway, but I'm watching what you're up to with interest. Good work.

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Why not just use LegalSpeeding's HARD unit? They have a newer unit out that I'm using that is waterproof.

My friends all use the HARD system, but I decided not to.

* I can't learn much about circuits that way.

* Too expensive.

* Don't want more wires inside my helmet.

* Don't want to deal with batteries.

* Friend's HARD system interfered with his phone-to-helmet Bluetooth audio... and I like music while I ride.

This setup will have one cable to the radar for me to plug in and that's it. I like simple. ;)

Interesting. I use a Sena SMH10r to bluetooth music from my phone with no issues. First I've heard of anything like that. I'd guess this person having the problem is using an Adaptiv radar instead of an Escort or V1.

I ran my HARD wire from the back of the helmet through the cheekpad of my helmets, no issues and no wires dangling, invisible really. Batteries on the new one last forever. Cost is $159 and that's cheaper than a ticket, much cheaper considering my speeds. My time is money so for me to build something and pull me away from other duties the DIY would be much more expensive but kudos for tackling it.

Good luck to you. In daylight I can't see anything being as effective as the HARD unit. Best m/c mod I've ever done.

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Why not just use LegalSpeeding's HARD unit? They have a newer unit out that I'm using that is waterproof.

My friends all use the HARD system, but I decided not to.

* I can't learn much about circuits that way.

* Too expensive.

* Don't want more wires inside my helmet.

* Don't want to deal with batteries.

* Friend's HARD system interfered with his phone-to-helmet Bluetooth audio... and I like music while I ride.

This setup will have one cable to the radar for me to plug in and that's it. I like simple. ;)

Interesting. I use a Sena SMH10r to bluetooth music from my phone with no issues. First I've heard of anything like that. I'd guess this person having the problem is using an Adaptiv radar instead of an Escort or V1.

I ran my HARD wire from the back of the helmet through the cheekpad of my helmets, no issues and no wires dangling, invisible really. Batteries on the new one last forever. Cost is $159 and that's cheaper than a ticket, much cheaper considering my speeds. My time is money so for me to build something and pull me away from other duties the DIY would be much more expensive but kudos for tackling it.

Good luck to you. In daylight I can't see anything being as effective as the HARD unit. Best m/c mod I've ever done.

This is a very good HARD advertisement. Looking at them right now!

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Wasn't meant to be an advertisement. I'm enthusiastic about it because I've been using it since 2001, so 12 years now. I've probably saved my myself in excess of seven grand in tickets over the years. V1 has a phone app now that works like a remote display. I'm hoping to upgrade it over the winter when I'm not riding.

If I didn't have this HARD thing, the twisty fun wouldn't exist. I won't ride a bike without it on public roads.

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I like what you're doing a lot. My only concern is that it's not really in your line of sight is it?

The LEDs are not perfectly in my line of sight (lower end of peripheral vision) but I'm hoping with bright enough LEDs and lots more blinking, it will be enough to alert me.

The Marc Parnes product you're talking about runs off of the mono audio jack on the radar detector. This is how I originally had my LEDs wired up. The down side to this configuration is that the radar doesn't beep a lot at lower indicator levels -- so minimal flashing of the LEDs. Then, as the detection went to full strength, the LEDs didn't really blink much because the beeping was nearly constant.

I'm hoping that my circuit will let the LEDs blink at a constant rate when ANY radar is detected regardless of how strong or weak the signal is.

If, under additional real world testing, the LEDs are still too low, my circuit can still be used with an LED light strip that I could attach to the top of the windscreen. I'm really hoping I won't need to go that far.

Interesting. I use a Sena SMH10r to bluetooth music from my phone with no issues. First I've heard of anything like that. I'd guess this person having the problem is using an Adaptiv radar instead of an Escort or V1.

He's using an Escort x50 with an older generation Chatterbox X1 Bluetooth (not sure what phone he's using, but it's Android based).

Figured I would post a few more photos.

The LEDs are just stuck through 5mm holes that I drilled in the plastic triangle inserts under the windscreen. The fit is tight enough that friction is the only thing needed to keep them in place. The LEDs are soldered in parallel and, for anti-vibration and water-proofing, the entire back is filled in with high-torque RTV gasket maker.

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And the Plasti-Dip'ed windscreen:

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When it comes to radar detector, you need the best of the best and lighting reaction time, its hard to beat a direct wire to the ear, you dont have to see it and reconise, by ear is instaneous input. Of course, then its all reaction time, in clutch situations. While I do understand the hard system desire for no wire, if I were to be tested and risked loss of money, hard to beat direct wire to the ear.

As far as mounted on the Cowl area, how often do you actually look there, not often enough if you enter one of those clutch situations, but I guess better than nothing.

Edited by spud786
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Hard system is instantaneous

not really, you have to see the visual and reconize, thats time consuming, compared to immediate blast to hard wired ear. and you see have to see it

The same if you saw a deer, see the visual and react, an ear connected RD is the quickest in alert

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Again, it's instantaneous. Radar goes off and I instantly get a led flash. Maybe there is a millisecond delay but when I hear the audible from the radar (can hear it at lower speeds) the LED is already lit in the helmet. Mine is placed in my peripheral so it's recognized immediately with no delay and time consuming? Gonna have to disagree with you there. I know that from experience as I've been using one of the gens from LS for 12 years now and probably 100k miles so I'm not going by anyone else's reviews/comments/internet stories. In that time I've never received a threat that I couldn't pick off. Probably 7-8k in savings from fines. I have 0 points on my license and aim to keep it that way. It works so well that a few times, we were running the corners hard, got an alert, chopped the throttle, glided past the unmarked LEO under the speed limit and waved to him as we passed. One of those times he flipped us off.

And yeah it's nice not having a cord connected. That way I can protect my hearing with earplugs. V1 has a bluetooth upgrade now available to use the smart phone as a remote display which will be even more protection.

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