Mini Maglite LED Hack

About: 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 now study Mechanical Engineering at U...

Intro: 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

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

Tools
-Electric Drill/Drill Press
-Wire Snips

Parts
-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

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

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

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

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

Reassembly:

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

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!

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    56 Discussions

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    JohnL295

    2 years ago

    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.

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    Budweiser143

    3 years ago on Introduction

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

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    aaron52

    4 years ago on Introduction

    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

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    Kevanf1

    7 years ago on Step 6

    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.

    Kevan

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

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    thartaros

    8 years ago on Step 4

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

    2 replies
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    mysssthartaros

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

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

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    djdehne

    8 years ago on Step 4

    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?

    1 reply
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    Radioactive_Legosdjdehne

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

    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.

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    thartarosThenwcp

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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 :/

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

    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.

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    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.