THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW…

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

Spot, flood or flasher?

The big­gest mar­ket for LEDS in the af­ter­mar­ket is in­di­ca­tors, with the styling free­dom that comes from their small size and in­creased vis­i­bil­ity to other road users. Rear lights fall into the same cat­e­gory, with tail ti­dies. Then you’ve got aux­il­iary run­ning lights, also known as Day­time Run­ning Lights (DRL). LEDS are very di­rec­tional com­pared to fil­a­ments, but you’ll of­ten see a choice of 10 or 30 de­gree light spreads for DRLS. This is es­sen­tially the dif­fer­ence be­tween a spot or flood-light pat­tern, which also de­ter­mines how much more vis­i­ble you are to other road users by us­ing dif­fer­ent op­tics for spread and light pat­tern. In­di­ca­tors will have a line of LEDS for rear vis­i­bil­ity with one on the end to cover the side-view.

DRLS and the Law

The DFT ad­vice aimed at car driv­ers is that: “DRLS are nec­es­sar­ily bright to en­sure they are vis­i­ble in the day­time, but not so bright that they will daz­zle oth­ers.” On bikes it makes sense to have them set so they aren’t go­ing to daz­zle other road users, too, with the op­ti­mum set-up wired through the head­light and com­ing on with the ig­ni­tion, but with a switch to over­ride the stan­dard light­ing cir­cuit. That also makes pass­ing an MOT eas­ier as switch­able items aren’t tested. How­ever, a pedan­tic MOT tester could refuse to pass your bike if the lights aren’t E-marked, so look for that when you buy. And go for dual-in­ten­sity set-ups which can be set to low to match dim, and high for full beam.

Fight the power

Al­though the power draw from an LED is min­i­mal they can have an ef­fect on CAN Bus sys­tems. You need to be care­ful about adding them in, and BMWS and KTMS in par­tic­u­lar seem to be sen­si­tive to DRLS for in­stance. When fit­ting, it may be nec­es­sary to buy trig­ger wire adapters or spe­cial­ist wiring kits for fit­ment. That low power draw can also have an ef­fect on in­di­ca­tor flasher speed, mak­ing them flash on and off like a Techno club’s light­ing rig. In that case, any set-up has to have re­sis­tors built in to get the flash rate where it should be.

Nor­mal (fil­a­ment) bulbs

Nor­mal (fil­a­ment) bulbs draw a rel­a­tively high cur­rent for such a small de­vice as the cur­rent is used to make the fil­a­ment white hot and give off light as a by-prod­uct. Those light bulbs are ba­si­cally a small heater and an ex­tremely in­ef­fi­cient light source. Hence, the wattage value of a bulb is also used as an in­di­rect (and in­ac­cu­rate) mea­sure of how much light it gives off. Some­times a mod­ern flasher unit uses a timer cir­cuit to main­tain the flash rate, ir­re­spec­tive of the load. Chang­ing the type of bulbs does not al­ways cause a problem; it de­pends on the de­sign of the flasher unit. Oth­er­wise, the re­sis­tor re­quired for the flasher to con­tinue to op­er­ate cor­rectly de­pends on what bulb was orig­i­nally fit­ted (i.e. what was the original load) and what is the load of the re­place­ment (i.e. how much we are chang­ing the load). If you re­place two 21W bulbs with 2W LEDS, you’ve got to add a load of 38W to make sure the same cur­rent is pulled through the flasher re­lay.

LED in­di­ca­tors are big busi­ness in the af­ter­mar­ket ac­ces­sories world

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