In this, my first Instructable, I will show you how to use Cold Cathode lighting (Used in computer case mods) to make your bicycle VERY visible. It also adds a "cool" factor IMHO. If you commute to and from work, or ride at night / early morning, or just want the cool factor, this is for you. The tubes can be moved to other locations on your bike as needed or where space permits. Mounting the the unit to your bike is done with high powered magnets. If your bike is an alloy or composite frame, you may need to come up with a different method for mounting the system. Also, your tubes may be slightly different, but the setup is basically the same. Now for the legal stuff:
WARNING - THIS PROJECT USES COMPONENTS IN IT'S CONSTRUCTION THAT UTILIZE HIGH VOLTAGES !! THIS CAN PRESENT A DANGER TO YOU AND AS SUCH YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY AND ALL INJURY RESULTING FROM THE CONSTRUCTION AND OR USE OF THIS PROJECT.
Ok with that outta the way, let's get started.
Step 1: Here's What You'll Need
Here are the basic supplies you'll need to complete this project:
Thin CA and accelerator
Wire for battery pack 18 Gauge 2-Conductor
Magnets, General No. 341 (Two Packs !!)
Heat shrink sleeve, 4" width
Cold Cathode Tubes (color of your choice)
Female size N jack for battery pack Radio Shack 274-1576
Size N DC Power Plug Radio Shack 274-1573
AA Battery Holder 2 cell Radio Shack 270-382A
AA Battery holder 8 cell Radio Shack 270-0387
Assorted heat shrink sleeve Radio Shack 278-1627B
1/4 inch ID Expandable Sleeving
10 AA 2500Mah NiMH
12VDC Charger (Preferably smart charger listed)
If you purchase the smart charger shown, also add to the Radio Shack list, part # 23-445. This is what you will need to make the charger adapter for this battery pack. (See Photo below)
You'll also need some basic tools such as a pencil type soldering iron (Not the big Weller gun your dad has), rosin core or no clean solder, wire strippers / cutters, x-acto knife, Small screwdrivers, Hand Drills, helping hands or third hand (optional), Heat Gun (no your hair dryer will not work), patience, Common Sense and the will to proceed...
Step 2: Let's Build It !!
BEFORE gluing the 2 cell holder to the 8 cell holder, note the orientation of the holders !!. Ok now look at the pictures.....and glue them. Here once aligned the way you want it, a shot of accelerator will make life simple.
Step 3: Add the Wires to the Battery Pack..
Ok so you have the assembled cell holder. Now we have to wire it. This is tricky as you do NOT want to leave the iron on the terminal or you'll melt the holder terminals and have to start over with a NEW holder(Don't ask how I know that, instead learn from me....) The secret, tin your wire AND tin the terminal. then touch the two together.
This battery will be wired in series to give us 12VDC.
Solder the jumper first. You'll have to measure and fit the jumper wire. (Just lay it on the holders like in the picture)
Next prepare about 4 inches (100mm) of 2 conductor wire for the main battery pack wire. Again you'll have to make the pack end look like the picture.
Solder the main wire to the pack. Insert your batteries and check with a volt meter to confirm your battery works. If you do not have a volt meter you can use your tube lites to confirm that your battery pack works.
In fact, you SHOULD hookup your tube lites to confirm that they work BEFORE disassembling them!! Simply touch the Red to Yellow and Black to Black with the switch on.
I do not recommend using your tongue to confirm it as it will hurt you.
So you pack works!! Your lites work!! Great job, Now take out the batteries.
Step 4: Complete the Battery Pack
Now take out the batteries.
Strip your battery wires (if not stripped already. You tested your lites right?), and place the correct size heat shrink sleeve (fits over the N size jack without it's nut and washer) onto the wires.
Make sure that the nut and washer are removed from the jack.
Tin the wires and solder the wires onto the jack.
Slide the sleeve onto the jack as shown.
Shrink the sleeve over the front of the jack slightly, then shrink the sleeve back to front.
Insert the batteries and test your jack to see that you have 12VDC there. If not, why not? Do you have good terminal connections? Did you melt the terminals and it just now showed up? Is the jack soldered correctly?
IF YOUR BATTERY PACK GETS HOT, REMOVE THE BATTERIES, YOU HAVE A SHORT CIRCUIT. THIS SHORT MUST BE REMOVED BEFORE CONTINUING
If the battery pack measures OK (12VDC), Leave the batteries installed.
Cut a piece of 4" Shrink Sleeve as shown. (Approx. 1/2 " or 13mm over on each end)
Insert the battery pack and shrink the sleeve as shown.
Shrink one end of the pack slightly as shown.
Then shrink the other end, and continue to shrink the sleeve over the entire pack.
Our last photo shows the completed 12VDC battery pack. Congratulations, You've done it. You'll be able to power your lights.
You can also make these packs to power other items on your bike. With this pack you'll get about 2 hrs of light. To increase the run time, you could increase the battery count by 2 or 3 but then you'd need a different charger and I don't think the additional run time gained would be that much.
You'd be better off building another pack and creating a "Y" harness to parallel the two packs together (Like jump starting a car, + to + - to -). Using two of these packs in a parallel configuration, would give close to double the run time.
Step 5: The Lite Tube Setup
Let's begin with the tubes, what do you want from life?
No no, the lite tubes not the music group.
The setup for each tube is the same so I am only gonna show one tube here and you repeat when finished for the other. Again, your tubes may require some other something but it should be easy enough to figure out
Begin with the first photo...
Notice the wires are, well, just wires. I used 1/4 " I.D. (Inside diameter) expandable sleeve with heat shrink on each end to cover my wires with and make them neater.
Measure the wire length. Just over 11" or 280cm. I cut my sleeve at 10.5 " or 268cm.
To get the sleeve on the wire we have to remove the connector. Make sure you note the position in the connector of the wire. They are not polarized but my connector had three slots. The wires went to the outside slots.
Next photo, using a small screw driver, press on the small metal tab that you can not see while pulling gently on the wire to release it from the connector. It helps if you push down and back. Ok I am NOT pushing back in the photo but it is just for demonstration and I only have two hands.
I'll get my assistant.
Next photo shows one of the connectors released.
Now were getting somewhere, child labor. You'll need an eleven year old for the rest of this. OK OK NOT REALLY !! It's a joke, don't email me nasty letters, my son was kind enough to help with the photos.
Here he shows how to get the next connector out.
Continue to follow the steps in the pictures. If you have two tubes, go back to the beginning and do the same for the other tube.
Step 6: The Power Box
Ok so now we'll setup the lights and their power source. Remember that warning about HIGH VOLTAGE in the beginning? Yeah, PAY ATTENTION !! This is where we deal with that subject. My tubes are approx. 620 volts !! DO NOT power up the circuit without it's case. If you do, you can get zapped. You have been warned....
First I removed the circuit from the case. My case just unsnaps. Your case may have screws, be glued, etc. This is my circuit. Of note, there are no large capacitors in this circuit so it is unlikely that you can be shocked as long as power is not applied. I was wondering what I was going to do with the switch when I noticed that there is enough room in the case to mount the switch!! How cool is that!!
First I set about dismantling the switch harness.
Unsolder the wires from the switch.
Next remove the switch from the bracket. Cut the wire ties and the black wire from the computer connector.
Using the bracket, trace onto the case the location of the switch.
Drill the holes for the screws, then use a drill slightly larger than the switch. Make two holes in the large part of the switch template and clean up with an x-acto knife.
Mount the switch in the box.
Take the circuit board flip it over.
Next to the power connector you'll see a trace. Your board may be different but the principals are the same.
Cut the trace indicated by the photo.
Note the two arrows. Using the leftover yellow wire, prepare two pieces that will go from those solder pads to the switch.
Notch the circuit board as indicated by the photos, then solder the wires to the pad and then to the switch. (see Photo for detail)
Next prepare the power wire with heat shrink and sleeve just as you did for the tubes.
Now solder on the N size plug to the power cable.
Now snap on the cover on the box. plug the lights into the box. Connect the battery pack and switch it on.
Works? Congratulations !! You are almost done!!
Does not work? Check your battery charge, switch connections (look for shorts opens etc.)
The last thing to do is glue the four corners of the box, then glue on the magnets as shown.
Congratulations !! Your done !! Now mount it to your bike and go show it off ! I have a pouch under my seat that I carry my tools, amp( that is another instructable...) and that is where I put my battery pack. Route the wires to where you need to mount your lites. Make sure that the wires do not interfere with the safe operation of your bike. Have fun!!
!!! MINOR UPDATE !!!
The following is also posted in comments:
Hey just to let everyone know, I had trouble recently with one tube going dim while the other was bright. After some troubleshooting, I discovered that the connectors (Sockets for the light tubes) in the powersupply box had cracked solder connections. Re soldering these connections has fixed the trouble for now but I think I need to find a better connector that can take the connect/disconnect cycles that this project goes thru. If you left the lights on your bike all the time, it is likely you will not experience the dim tube syndrome. Anyway I hope this helps. Take care, thanks for looking !!