Step 4: Adding the SMDs

Time to put your own colored 0603 SMDs onto the mainboard.

Polarity Problems
For these LEDs there are two ends, a positive and negative. If the LED is backwards, it simply won't turn on. If it is correctly connected it will light up when you power on the controller. Microsoft seems to like changing the markings for every 360 controller mainboard. The marking used always identifies the negative terminal. The markings I have seen are either a white circle, a green arrow (on this controller), or just the LED location (D1, D2, D3, D4). Worst come to worst, there are only two directions to install the LED, one of them will light up. In general Player 2, 3, and 4 the negatives are on the clockwise end, while Player 1 has the negative on the counter-clockwise end. Every controller seems to be different.

SMD Markings
The 0603 SMD LEDs have markings that also denote the negative terminal. I have attached a picture below showing the three markings used.

Installing Your SMD
Decide upon the LED you are going to replace. Line up the LED and grip it on the sides with your tweezers, not too hard or you can crack the LED, making that LED useless. Applying too much heat to the LED can toast the wire inside, causing it to light up very brightly and become a dud. Use short exposure times (Under 2 seconds). An oddity with this mod is some tweezers can build up a static charge that fries the LEDs, before picking them up, just tap your tweezers to a block of metal (only needs to be done once to remove the initial charge).

To install your SMD to the mainboard, apply a small dab of solder to your iron, while using the tweezers to position your LED over the terminals, solder one of the terminals correctly (usually the negative to the negative). One bond will hold it in place, making it easy to connect the other. You can now reassemble the controller (except for the motors and screws), reinsert the battery pack, and hit the power on button. Normally all four LEDs blink when you turn on a controller, hopefully it will turn on. If it doesn't, either the LED is not soldered to both terminals, is soldered backwards, or the controller isn't put back together properly (the power button can't reach the board). After each LED has been soldered, wipe off the excess solder on your iron with a wet sponge or towel. When it lights up, repeat the process for all four terminals.
stang05223 years ago
i did this to one of my controllers and swapped the green leds for red and couldnt bet happpier with the result. and this is where my question comes it.... i tried putting blue ones in a different controller and when i was done it lit up but was extremely dim. so i took it apart and checked the solder points and they were all ok. so i put the battery pack in and turn it on while it was apart and they were still very dim but as soon as i touched the soldering iron to them they got very bright? do you know why that is? are they defective LEDs or what?
QuackMasterDan (author)  stang05223 years ago
There are a few issues related to this.
  • The new 360 wireless controllers are more energy efficient. Basically, they have less power than the old controllers, and don't power green, white, blue, or UV  LEDs as well.
  • Soldering irons usually have three pins (grounded). If it's plugged into a two-plug socket or extension cord, electricity builds up in the iron.
  • If the LEDs get too hot, the gap of the P-N junction (ultra tiny split inside the LED) sparks making a bunch of light and frying the LED. Don't use an iron any higher than 15W, and don't hold any iron to the LED more for than ~1.5-2 seconds.
I hope that clears things up a little.
See that would make sense because I was trying to do it on a newer controller, but then switch to and tries changing them on an older one and had the same problem, it doesn't matter what color I try they air dimmer than they should be. The only color that lights up correctly is red. Could it possibly be just bad LEDs?
QuackMasterDan (author)  stang05223 years ago
Reds run at 1.9v.

Blue/Green/White/UV run at 3.2v.

Reds can run with much less juice than other colors. Newer controllers output much less juice for longer battery life.
 would i be able to use any type of smd led
QuackMasterDan (author)  bradleypatten5 years ago
Yes, pretty much any common SMD LED (0603, 0805, 1206, 5050) will work. Since they all have the same electrical demands (3.2v-3.6v @ 20mA), they will all work with the power supplied by a 360 controller or 360 ring of light.

There are some SMD LEDs which are not ok: any PLCC SMDs are not an option, since they're really big (5mmx5mm). PLCCs are great if your doing lighting that doesn't require compact space, such as lighting up a house or transparent sculpture since they are really bright for their size (~2500mcd).
So do the lights always stay on? (besides obviously when the controllers off)

QuackMasterDan (author)  sheloveshim7975 years ago
 They act the exact same way as the stock lights, only they are brighter and different colors. If you're player 2, the P2 indicator will be lit, and they all turn off when the controller is turned off. Expect no difference besides color and brightness.
calipber5 years ago
If your looking to do this for a job or another way of income my neighbor who works at our airforce base here, who does alot of this showed me what he uses at his house. Its a hot air system where you put a solder paste from a syringe onto the pads and then set the LED onto the terminals then use a head gun that spits out 900 degree air that will melt the paste, that way there is no chance of frying your board with a iron! he said next controller i do he would let me try it if he has it all set up again. Anyways this is a hard part of the process but with a fine tipped iron and string like solder it was very simpled after you got the LEDs onto the pad!
QuackMasterDan (author)  calipber5 years ago
Thanks for the input. I've been aware of using high-temperature and high-pressure air to melt solder for the process of repairing circuits, but not applying SMDs. Despite all the projects I do (and there are far, far, more neat things I've created than just the light-based projects I have instructables on) I don't desire to make money from them. I'm content with a small existence, and privately sharing my creations, skills, and modifications with close friends. Despite lots of offers for hiring my services and strangers being rather dumbfounded upon seeing what I make, my projects are only for myself and friends, and I do all work for free, minus the cost of parts. I suppose it would be beneficial to be a more aggressive and ambitious businessman. Since you have a contact with access to military equipment, continue to enrich yourself with the knowledge he has (sounds like he is a techie). Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoy many future mods and share your knowledge with others.