Thursday, June 20, 2013

Installing an LED tail lamp

A couple of years ago my wife was following me home from downtown San Francisco. She was in her car and I was on my /2.  She noted that, even wearing my bright silver Arai, I was nearly impossible to see at night. The /2 is a very "skinny" bike and it is very low.  Adding insult to injury is the stock /2 tail lamp, which is a candle in the wind. Since then, two manufacturers have started making LED tail lamps: Jim Franzen at CULayer.com and bulbsthatlastforever.com by Bruce Branstad.

On the Vintage BMW Forum, Jon Miller pointed out that the Branstad product has an edge in that the LEDs are dual brightness; when the tail lamp is on it is very bright. When the brake is applied, the same set of LEDs grow even brighter.  When the tail lamp is on (as it usually is for most motorcyclists who run the lights on all the time), this makes it very apparent that one is applying the brakes.

The Franzen product, on the other hand, illuminates a series of LEDs for the tail lamp.  When the brakes are applied, another set of LEDs illuminate with the same intensity as the first set of lamps.  At a distance it is difficult to see any difference in brightness.

Branstad's products are sold by Scottie's Workshop in either 6v or 12v versions.

63 24 8 654 131.1--$125.95--full LED brake & tail light 6v, replaces bulb holder and reflector R26-R27 R50-R69S
63 24 8 654 131.2--$125.95--full LED brake & tail light 12v, replaces bulb holder and reflector R26-R27 R50-R69S

Whichever system you choose, installing an LED tail lamp on your /2 is a great idea.  They draw less power and never burn out.

In this example, I'll be installing a Branstad LED tail lamp on a 6V  R60/2.

Update: I spoke to Jim Franzen at CULayer recently.  Unfortunately he has discontinued production of the CULayer /2 tail lamp.   

Update 4/1/17: I heard from Bruce Branstad recently and unfortunately, he also will be discontinuing production of his lamps.  Scottie's has a limited supply of Branstad lamps in stock. Hurry and get one before they disappear forever!

Unscrew the retaining ring screw and remove the tail lamp ring and reflector.

Trim any loose, excess or mangled wires...

...so you end up with a neat bunch like this. Tin the ends neatly. 

Gray is Ground -
Black is Tail lamp +
Red is Brake lamp +


Using a screw driver, press the long end of the springs and release them. Cover with a towel so they don't fly across the garage.

Remove the reflector assembly from the chrome ring and peel away the gray gasket.

Say GOODBYE old fashioned bulbs!!

Find the locating tab.  This is the top of the lens. 

Find the license plate LEDs.  They point towards the BOTTOM of the lens.

Align the LED unit and the lens, as shown.

Reapply the gray gasket to hold the LED and lens together.

Find the locating dimple in the chrome ring.

Align the locating tab in the lens with the locating dimple in the chrome ring. If you are right handed, hold the unit in your left hand as shown as you reapply the clips. 

Once the clips are attached you can connect the wires, install the chrome ring and LED assembly and screw in the chrome ring screw.

Test the tail lamp and brake lamp to ensure everything is working! 

Enjoy your new level of safety and reliability!