Are you a college student riding a longboard back to the dorms after a late class? If so, this project is especially for you. If you own a longboard or skateboard, you may be interested. Going to a skate park? Impress your friends with these lights on your board. Going to the marina or airstrip? Impress the captain and pilots with your knowledge of navigation lights. Going anywhere else? Show them your cool board. If it's raining, don't worry, everything is waterproof!
A LED longboard or skateboard increases your visibility at night so people can see you. The LED lights in the project have some similarity to navigation lights. Navigation lights help others determine your position and direction of travel. Read on and learn how to use navigation lights, solder wires, have the coolest board on the block!
Some easy to read diagrams and graphics will allow you to customized your longboard in no time!
Cost: $40 - mostly due to shipping costs. If you have a local LED supply store, consider that option.
Time: 3 Hours
Difficulty: 3 out of 10 - some simple soldering is required.
Cool Factor: I'll let YOU decide.
YouTube Link if you are using a mobile device and cannot see the video.
Step 1: Materials
Total material cost is around $40 dollars, mainly due to the price of the batteries used for the project and shipping for the LEDs. All the lengths are rounded up to the nearest 1/2' for easy convenience in ordering wire or tubing.
- 1x Square LED Sign Light - Green
- 1x Square LED Sign Light - RED
- 1x Square LED Sign Light - WHITE
- 1x Linear LED Sign Light - BLUE
- 1x Linear LED Sign Light - RED
- 3x 14500 IMR Rechargeable Battery
- 14500 Battery Charger
- 1x Battery Holder 3X AA Size - Waterproof
- Aluminium Tape 6"
- Heat Shrink - 1/8" & 3/16" PCS - Assorted Colors
- 1x Connector - Male and Female Pair HXT or XT-60
- 1/4" Plastic Tubing 1'
- 22 AWG Wire - BLACK 3'-6"
- 22 AWG Wire - RED 3'-6"
- 14 AWG Wire - BLACK 6"
- 14 AWG Wire - RED 6"
- Zip Ties
- Wooden Pencil or Dowel of similar thickness - 6"
- Medium Binder Clip
*If any of the products are out of stock, similar alternatives work too.
- Soldering Iron & Solder
- Wire Stripper
- Wire Cutter
- Hot Glue & Hot Glue Gun
- Rotary Tool with assorted bits
- Phillips Screwdriver
Step 2: Battery Compartment Part 1
The first step is to prepare the 3x AA Battery Compartment. The 14500 batteries will not fit because they have a protection circuit on the top to prevent the batteries from bursting into flames from short circuits or overheating. Although they are AA battery sized in width, the length is a few millimeters over. This means that you have to "extend" the battery compartment by removing some of the plastic.
Unscrew the battery compartment and put the screws, nuts, and waterproof gasket to the side. Then, unscrew the two screws on top of the switch compartment. Carefully unhinge the metal contacts without breaking the wires and cut the plastic housing using pliers and a wire cutter until the batteries can fit.
Then, to put the contacts back in place, hot glue a part of the pencil into the the gap to provide support. Before the hot glue hardens, put in the batteries and contact to provide a secure connection for the batteries. Then, use the rotary tool with a sanding attachment to sand the switch compartment cover so that the batteries can be removed when the cover is over the switch compartment. You will not need to open the switch compartment again during any normal operations.
Then, charge the batteries and insert them into the battery compartment and use the two wire leads to check all of the LEDs.
Step 3: Mounting the Lights
The sign lights all have an adhesive on the back. Before you mount them on the board, wipe the mounting area with rubbing alcohol to clear the site.
I wired my lights in a variation similar to navigation lights found on boats and airplanes. I included a picture from reddit about navigation lights and a few diagrams I created for the longboard.
From the top looking down, with the board facing the front, the "left" side is the Port Side and that is Red. Starboard will be the "right" side and that is Green. I changed up the light order after that. I made the front light white and the rear light red (with a blue - hidden when viewed directly from the back) like a typical street vehicle.
Step 4: Battery Compartment Part 2
The wires leading out from the battery compartment need to be attached to the connector piece so that it can be quickly removed for charging. To attach the connector, first cut the existing thin single stranded wire to about 1.5" long. Then, solder a piece of 14 AWG wire to each of the leads with regards to the color coding. Positive is red and negative is black. The 14 AWG wire that you solder to these leads should be 1-2" short of reaching the rear blue LED. Slip on the heat-shrink tubing and shrink it.
Next, if you are using the XT-60 Connectors, slip on the heat shrink first then add some solder into the connector and place the wire in. Then heat shrink the tube over the new joint. If you are using HXT connectors, you do not need the heat shrink tubing. First slip the red HXT connector onto the two wires, then solder in the gold connector and pull the HXT connector until it secures itself onto the pin. See this video to see how it is done.
Then, attach the velcro, both sides, to the back of the batter compartment and place it flush against the rear wheel assembly. Also attach some velcro to hold the connector securely to the board.
Step 5: Wiring
The sign lights can all be wired up in a string meaning that I connected positive to positive, negative to negative and it worked flawlessly. I tinned each of the wires, meaning I applied a bit of solder on them first, and then attached the wires together according to the wiring diagram shown in the images.
Before soldering, I slipped on some heat-shrink tubing onto the wire first and pushed it out of the way. Once I finished connecting the joints, I then slipped the heat-shrink tubing over the fresh joint and used the side of the soldering iron to shrink the tubing over the joint.
I started from the rear of the board and worked my way to the starboard side, then the front, then port side. After attaching each light, I test the string to make sure the lights work.
For wiring the front side, first I pre-cut and stripped the ends of the wires and hot glued the 1/4" tube in place.
The diagram should be pretty self explanatory so refer to that for details.
Step 6: Ride, Ride, Ride!
Once your are doing wiring, use zip ties to tie the wires and then glue those to the board. Take the rotary tool with the sanding attachment and round the sharp edges. To make the red rear light stand out more, tape two pieces of foil tape together and place it between the red and blue LED. The colors will look separate now. When you are done with that, get ready to ride, ride ride.
Now you have the coolest board in town, you built it yourself, and you know the difference between port and starboard side. Congrats!
Just remember to charge the batteries so you can continue your adventure!