Introduction: Mini Maglite LED Hack

Picture of Mini Maglite LED Hack

I recently found a Mini Maglite flashlight in one of my dad's desk drawers. I replaced the old batteries and attempted to turn it on. As it turned out, the bulb was dead (at that time I didn't realize that I had a replacement bulb). I wanted it working and looking cool, so I went to Radioshack a few blocks away, got a SuperBright blue LED, did some fiddling, and ended up with this...

Step 1: Gathering Materials

Picture of Gathering Materials

First thing you'll want to do is gather the tools and supplies for the project:

-Electric Drill/Drill Press
-Wire Snips

-Mini Maglite Flashlight
-SuperBright 5mm LED*

*I went to Radioshack and got a 5mm 2600 mcd SuperBright blue LED (catalog number 276-316. I really don't like going to Radioshack because they mark everything up so much ($4.49 for the LED at Radioshack, compared to $0.33 for a similar one from Jameco), but if I need something quick or want to browse, it's okay.

Step 2: Disassembly

Picture of Disassembly

Now we will disassemble the major components in the flashlight. These include the main handle, the batteries, the little screw-in thing in the back, the head, the reflector the front cap, and of course, the original bulb. No tools are necessary for this, it is all screwed together and easily comes apart.

Step 3: Light Comparison

Picture of Light Comparison

Let's take a moment to compare the original bulb with our new LED. For one, the bulb is glass and is prone to breaking while out of the flashlight, while the LED is, for the most part, a solid hunk of plastic. In addition, the bulb heats up a lot really fast, while the LED will take a while to start warming up. Also, the LED is much brighter than the bulb and does not diverge as rapidly. It's pretty blue color catches attention and is very visible in the dark, as well as light. One thing I noticed later on was that the blue color of the LED is fairly near ultraviolet, so it lights up bright colors quite well, especially highlighters (Florescent dye, I suppose). Now let's get back to business, shall we?

Step 4: Reflector Modification

Picture of Reflector Modification

For the LED to fit snugly in its new home, we will need to bore the hole out in the reflector wider. In my case, because I had a 5mm LED, I bored the hole out a bit larger. I would recommend a drill press for this job if you have on, but if you don't, you can use a standard electric drill.

Step 5: Fitting the LED

Picture of Fitting the LED

Now comes the easy part (as if the rest thus far hasn't been). To make the new LED as nicely fitting as possible, we will cut the leads shorter. We don't want them too short, or else they might not contact the insides of the flashlight properly. I left mine at about 1 centimeter.

Step 6: Putting It All Back Together

Picture of Putting It All Back Together


1. Put the batteries back in the handle so you can test for polarity and screw in the end piece.
2. Try the new LED in the two little holes (see image). If you got it right, the LED will light up (Duh). Keep the LED in its spot so you can fit things properly.
3. Place the newly modified reflector back where it came from in the head of the flashlight.
4. Screw the front cap on over the reflector and head. Don't forget the little clear plastic shield.
5. Screw the head onto the handle and turn it on again.

If you did everything right, you should end up with a very bright flashlight that is not good to point in anyone's eyes!

Step 7: Finished Comparison

Picture of Finished Comparison

The first picture shows the flashlight before, and the second shows it after the modifications (same with the front views)...

Have fun with your own!


JohnL295 (author)2016-03-17

I'm in the process of getting five each cool bright white and UV in both round top with narrower beam width and flat top with wider beam width to test them in a pair of incandescent AA Mini MagLites (20 total). They're all 3mm dia., 3V (nominal) LED's. It's hard to judge how bright they will be from their brightness specs in candellas, but won't be difficult after I get the LED's. At most the slightly wider base flange will have to be filed down to the 3mm bulb diameter but they should be a direct fit as they're the T-1 spec for the Xenon bulb is 3mm. As others have commented, the smaller 3mm LEDs can be a cleaner conversion that avoids having to enlarge the stock reflector hole. Regardless of LED diameter and whether or not you enlarge the reflector hole, I see this conversion as much better than the Nite Ize and TerraLUX conversions, which are as expensive as buying a LED AA Mini MagLite on Amazon.

Budweiser143 (author)2015-01-03

How would you compare the brightness of this to a store bought LED mini maglite?

aaron52 (author)2013-12-24

digital cameras that have a manual mode should allow you to compare the difference in the lights by noting the change in f stops while using the same shutter speed. 1 f stop up is 100% more light , one f stop down is 50% less.. you should also be able to use the shutter sped preferred option (auto mode) if it displayed the aperture in the lcd; using the spot meter can get you all sorts of info on bulbs abilities ... FYI

sparky3489 (author)2011-11-03

This really isn't a HACK so much as it is a MOD.

Kevanf1 (author)2011-01-17

Good 'ible', well done. May I suggest using a cone drill or reamer to enlarge the hole in your reflector? It will be a lot neater and you have a heck of a lot more control over the final size of the hole.

Take care.


NitroRustlerDriver (author)2010-08-19

I did this exact same thing a few months back. I put a UV LED in mine. One tip though, use a scotch bright pad or some fine sandpaper to "frost" the LED. This will help diffuse the light more and allow the reflector to work better.

Does this make the beam travel farther or make it disipate?

It didn't seem to have any effect on distance. Over a long distance (30+feet) it might be different, but for up close stuff within 10ft., all it did was spread the beam out.

thartaros (author)2009-10-09

i dont have drill so i had to use a drill bit and make the whole by hand :/ fits perfect though :D

mysss (author)thartaros2010-07-23

...should I even ask why you have a drill bit, but no drill? :P

sjoobbani (author)mysss2010-09-03

That's creativity rite there :D

applesaucemodifier (author)2009-12-13

Great idea and terrific exicution, worked perfectly!

djdehne (author)2009-10-14

What is the advantage of using the 5mm led insteadof using a 3mm? After a quick search it looks like a person can geta 3mm led that is just as bright as a 5mm. What is the approximtesize of the original hole?

Well, I happened to have 5mm LEDs lying around, and for me they tend tobe more powerful and accept a broader range of inputs.  Theoriginal hole is approximately 3mm in diameter.

pryrofreak119 (author)2009-05-25

i tried this once but it burned the LED out

Thenwcp (author)pryrofreak1192009-07-26

You needed a resistor to limit the current in the led.

thartaros (author)Thenwcp2009-10-10

mie is the opposite i think. the LED is 3.3 volts, but the AA batteries r only 1.5 volts each. and the light isnt bright at all, barely enough to light up a room. also today my flashlight got very hot i was worried the batteris were gonna explode and blow half the city away :/

lilpepsikraker (author)2009-07-16

Oh, and I thought putting a Joule Thief into an AA case, so I can reuse "dead batteries". Has anyone ever done that?

lilpepsikraker (author)2009-07-16

Lol, I went out and bought a Maglite 2AA just to do this. Best flashlight I've ever owned. Same color as yours, lol. Still waiting for my shipment of LEDs to come in, so I will post a copy of your instructable when i get mine in. You know, everyone on instructables does that.

team_nes_1986 (author)2009-05-21

A couple of things: 1. Why is the anti-roll device/lens holder being used? 2. If you used one of those tiny 3mm LEDs, you wouldn't need to bore the reflector. I know this because in my own experiments, the LED I used was just big enough to fit through the original hole.

If you sand off the little flange around the LED base, it would fit even better.

dillee1 (author)team_nes_19862009-06-03

Indeed. 3mm LED only need the leads trimmed and shine filed. Resultant mod will be drop in replacement to original bulb. No drilling of reflector are needed. No current limiting resistor needed for blue/green/white LED.

dillee1 (author)dillee12009-06-03

Cut away view of base-LED-reflector assembly

wisd0m (author)2009-05-27

This worked well for me. I used a 3mm Red LED that ran at 2.5v. Since I used the 3mm LED, I had to drill out less of the reflector.

Noodle god (author)2009-03-12

Now you can have a IR or UV min-mag! I just bored out my reflector with a knife. I wanna make a UV one that would be cool!

amakerguy (author)2008-12-06

I tried this and it fried my LED. :(

daelans (author)amakerguy2009-01-28

i cant get my led to fit in the little black holes the wires are to far apart(it would appear, i know not much about flashlights, i mean duh, why else would i read your review, no offense) help good review tho

daelans (author)daelans2009-01-28

nevermind, i dont know how you guys did this but, my led worked then i drilled the whole and then i put it in, it didnt work. so i tried 2 other leds, they did not work either, well they work just so dim you might as well not really have it. then i put the regular light in it and it was bright as day (exageration) and now im out a mini mag

daelans (author)daelans2009-01-28

nvm my new unopened duracell batteries were not strong enough i used some wicked wierd not common AA and its like 1000000000000 times brighter than duracell no duracell

Did you make sure it was a 3-volt LED? You could have been using a 1.7V or something similar.

I do not know I just salvadged it.

markymark1 (author)2008-11-29

can this light detect blood, urine, semen, and saliva on clothing? Please help.

cornflaker (author)markymark12008-12-05

well if you shine torches with LEDs on a bench on an angle (like almost flat) then all the dust on the desk (you would be surprised how much there is) starts glowing white like in those CSI-like shows, but I don't know if it will actually detect bodily fluids. There is a chance though... Maybey someone else can elaborate on this (please reply to my comment cause I'm interested too)

markymark1 (author)cornflaker2008-12-05

From what some websites say, it can, while others say they can't. If they can, it means LEDs, Ultraviolet lights and black lights are on the same playing field. Seeing as how LEDs can cost less than 5 bucks and UV lights and black lights up to 20, they aren't the same. Plus you have to spray luminol or something on the things you want to inspect. I'm so confused.

cornflaker (author)markymark12008-12-05

Hmm with my limited research I would say that you would a UV light, but you can buy UV LEDs (and UV LED torches). And use something like luminol, how does luminol work though? Do you just spray it around the room or something? Or do you have to actually paint EVERYTHING with it? Also I'm presuming its a liquid...

markymark1 (author)cornflaker2008-12-06

so long story short, this Instructable will not be used for purpose of "scientific" research. on an episode of dexter, i saw him spray something on the carpet using one of those spray bottles. i guess the idea is that the mist is enough. oh well.

Kaiven (author)2008-10-14

I have a maglite, and I fiddled with my falshlight, but how do you get the maglight lightbuld out? I tried pullin it a little, but I don't want to break something...

Radioactive_Legos (author)Kaiven2008-10-14

It comes out. Just try wiggling it side to side as you pull, it should pop out. The bulbs are very small and are made of relatively thick glass, so you should be fine.

Kaiven (author)Radioactive_Legos2008-10-15

Ok, I got it apart :D Only problem is getting a new bulb... I have a blue one, but it takes 5v... And the yellow and green ones I have aren't bright.

Radioactive_Legos (author)Kaiven2008-10-15

I hate to say it, but for ease of getting the LED, you should probably go to radioshack. They have quite a few LEDs in different colors. I actually find that their superbrite white ones (they come in a 2-pack for around $1.69) are the brightest for the money. Or, you could go to Rite Aid into their halloween section - I picked up a 4-pack of little finger flashlights, they have fiberoptic thingies on the ends which pop off easily. Best of all, the flashlights are very bright and the pack only costs $3. The colors are white, blue, red, and green.

YEAH i bought a super bright one for 5 bucks and it didnt work....

Did you check the polarity? It's hard to get an led to stop working unless out severely over-voltage or amp it. Just try turning it 180 degrees in the flashlight (just to swap the lead positions).

yes it just doesnt go as bright as the other one

Rikasu (author)2008-08-02

I ended up using an Ultrabright red LED, I found that it was brighter( in my case) and illuminated more detail.

Radioactive_Legos (author)Rikasu2008-08-03

That's good to know. After I made this Instructable I tried it with a SuperBright white LED from Radioshack. It, too is brighter than the blue one I used, but I still like the look of the blue LED.

craig4542 (author)2008-06-27

This is a whole lot of work when you can go to Walmart and buy a LED conversion with a white LED for about $5.

I realize that that would be easier in terms of work, but I already had this flashlight and LED, and I thought it would be fun to share what I made. And the whole thing could take you under 5 minutes to make if you have everything in front of you. It's also cheaper considering the price of gas (I don't know where you live, but here in the SF Bay Area it's as much as $4.50 a gallon) to drive to Walmart and get the flashlight.

dchall8 (author)2008-06-22

Any flash light Instructables are cool in my book. Would you mind taking some close-ups of the place where the krypton bulb wires were and where the LED wires go (same place)? The only flash lights I'm familiar with are the regular fattie bulbs. Since this worked so easily, I'll have to look into the inexpensive krypton bulb lights. As you know LEDs come in all varieties, so this could be fun. I just got a pair of LED flash lights at Sam's Warehouse. They came two to a blister pack for $30. They are listed as 4-watt bulbs and they seem to be brighter than anything else I have, including my 3-watt Mag-lite. I am pleasantly surprised at the light output. Now we'll see how long the switch lasts. One thing you'll notice when you look down into the reflector of the new LED lights is the reflector is very deep. This is apparently the secret for making the cheaper LEDs work. LEDs produce a directional light and the plastic dome helps disburse it. They tried to make highly directional bulbs but then the reflectors don't do anything. The solution seems to be to keep with the wide pattern disbursion LED and correct (columnate) with the reflector. It's better than trying to use the regular bulb reflector.

Glad you like it. I'll post more pictures soon, hopefully tonight (maybe a video, too. Thanks for commenting!

Fascion (author)2008-06-22

As others have mentioned, I would also like to see something lit up rather than a flat wall. Does the battery life suffer greatly with this mod as well?

About This Instructable




Bio: A Bay Area native interested in electronics, mechanics, and robotics, and automobiles. Formerly the electronics captain of Team 100 in the FIRST Robotics Competition, I ... More »
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