Parking Meter Lamp




Introduction: Parking Meter Lamp

This is an Instructable on how to convert an old parking meter into a stylish lamp. Difficulty may vary depending on what shape/ kind of parking meter you choose. I was lucky in the fact that the meters that I acquired had no mechanical insert so I did not need a key. If you get a meter with the key this will actually be even easier! I have made a few variations of this already so many variations can be made that I will point out along the way.

Time: Dependant on type of lamp or base you have/ decide to create but generally they take me somewhere between 6-8 hours, a great weekend project.

Cost: Dependant on materials, the base costs me $100 to make at a metal shop. If I go with CF lights it will cost less than $10.00. In this project I will be using LED strips because my cousin wanted one where the color changes . You can get LED strip kits for about 50 bucks.

Skills needed: Basic soldering and electronics will be an asset. Welding if you choose to make your own base.

One of the most difficult parts of this project will be making a sturdy enough base so that it cant be knocked over easily (they are very heavy...). The ones I had came with a stand that was wallmounted at one point but I didn't want to use heavy hardware to attach them to the wall. I made a shorter lighter version and 2 taller "fullsize" versions that use some heavy steel. As for the rest of the project there is basic soldering for the lighting, cleaning, and getting everything to fit! if you have a key already you can skip the step where you disable the lock cylinders. The cylinders need to be disabled so you can easily access the bulbs if they need replacing and you can also get to the money compartment where I like to stash all of the wiring. It can also be a fancy hidden compartment!

Step 1: Take Apart Parking Meter

Chances are your parking meter may be extremely dirty and the glass very fogged. The ones that I found had the inserts gutted, signs drilled into them, and then 2 feet of snow left on top. This allowed alot of dirt and debris to get inside.
My fist step is to disable the locks on the inside so that I can open the top to get at the rest of it. its very tight and i have had varying success with using a socket with an elbow adapter but what I've found works best is to use a chisel/screwdriver against one of the corners of the nut and hit the top with a hammer. This should be enough to unscrew it slowly by poking at the nut.
Once you have your fist nut off you can remove the locking lever and push out the cylinder. This allows you to open the top and get at the rest of the screws. If you have a single meter congratulations you're pretty much done! if not then repeat for the other side.
With mine there was a a few levers with springs that can be removed in order to get at the screws that hold everything down. This allows for easier cleaning. After this step I don't put the front screws back in for easier removal later. Take out all 4 screws and repeat for the other side if needed. Once this is done you can pull everything up.
With mine there are 2 more screws that are attached (sometimes) to a plastic cone that collects the coins. I take these out at this point so it doesn't scratch or poke at anything when cleaning.
Once this is off you can get at the bottom point where all of the money is collected. Mine had a bolt at the bottom that can be removed if it is attached to a pole already. You may need to spray some WD-40 to get this loose its usually rusted up but not bad. There is also a door that has a lock to get at the money.
The door lock has 4 screws holding in the inside parts and one that holds the cylinder. After those are out you can remove the u plate and remove the door for easier access at the cylinder to remove it for disabling later.

Step 2: Disabling the Cylinder

This can be one of the most time consuming and frustrating processes. I have 2 methods of doing this one which is quick and dirty and the other that is cleaner and better chance of success in the log run. The quick and dirty is to push the pins up and cut them with a pair of side cutters and hope that that's enough to keep them from locking. The clean method is to take the front cover of the cylinder off. This cover is a huge pain to get off in one piece and put back on. I personally just leave them off it doesn't look that bad.
To remove the cover you can try and pry at the side a bit to remove the cover. This is the best way to get it to look clean and keep the cover intact.
What I find works is to slide a screwdriver into the side of the keyhole near the opening and pry off the cover. This usually wrecks the cover but it looks ok without it.
Now that this cover is off there are 2 holes in the back of the cylinder that you can put a pin in and push out a bar that locks in the pins. Once the bar is out you can pull out the pins. There are some springs in there as well that can come out. You can put the bar back in of you choose.
You can do this for all the cylinders if you want I would recommend the ones that hold the top in at minimum. You could maybe leave a pin in to make it secure and just pick one pin to open it. Now that its disabled you can turn it with a screwdriver if you ever need to open it again.

Step 3: Cleaning

Now that everything is apart I like to clean it all with soap and water.
The top lens had 4 screws holding it in that I removed to make it easier to clean.
To clean and remove oxidation and scratches from the lenses I used some toothpaste. I just put some toothpaste on my fingers and rub it on the inside and outside of the lenses. Then i just rinse it off. I tried using a toothbrush but I think the friction from using my fingers worked much better.
The rest you can vacuum and clean as you wish. Its pretty resilient to rust considering it was made to last outdoors forever so its mostly just dirt.

Step 4: Let There Be Light!

Now for the lighting portion of the instructable. There are so many options for this you are limited to your imagination.
The simplest method I found was with CF bulbs for a few reasons 1. No to low heat 2. They are a bit shorter and fit better that incandescent. If yours can fit incandescent you can try but I would be worried about the heat melting the lens or wiring.
This time I wanted to try LED strips because my cousin wanted one that changed color. I could have gone with a bulb shape but they were expensive or not bright. The light only needs to go one way anyways. LEDs have basically the same advantage as CF as they have no heat and are very compact and as a bonus they have a long lamp life and are infinitely configurable. You can play around with the kind of strip such as how many LEDS per section color etc.
I got the LED strips in a kit that was 1.5 m and came with the driver/controller and remote. You can cut them to fit in sections. They also come with pads that make them easy to solder as well. I had some sata harddrive cables that I used for the wires connecting the strips together You just have to make sure that they are small enough to not bunch up and not fit. These are labeled so just connect accordingly. I had a series parallel setup so power wasn't much of an issue either. I used some ribbon cable to connect each side as it would fit under the lenses without needing to modify it.
I made some connectors that were made from circuit board standups. To solder them I first used a wire wrap tool to get the cable securely around the connector and soldered it in place.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

To make this easier to work with I decided to extend the power cable. To make it easier to connect I had some barrel connectors that make it easier to take apart. The stand was made at a machine shop as was the bolt that I had hollowed out for the cables.

Just connect all the connectors and attach the grappling hook. Then just tighten the bolt with a crecent wrench to hold it in place.

That's it you're done. Just test it all out. If one color doesn't work recheck the pin connectors. If none of them work then check the v+.

Step 6: Final Thoughts / Modifications and Future Changes

So that's it! The CFL versions haven't been overly bright but they make for a good mood lamp. The LED version works GREAT!
You could use the bottom money part as a safe! Be careful of the wires though!
Put it at the end of the driveway (after waterproofing of course)
Man cave nuf said
Base: Use different materials
I've thought about maybe pvc/abs plastic but am not sure about the strength.
Make bottom out of concrete
Lighter metal like aluminum
Tripod setup
Wall mount
Light: Is basically as good as it gets buuuutt.
Table/desktop model
Touch sensitive (Tried but CF doesn't work with touch lamps learned that the hard way with mk 2)
Wall sconce

Any questions or comments let me know!

Step 7: Bonus Step

An easy and strong portable work space! IF you have odds and ends from snap together wood flooring you can snap them together to make any size. They are waterproof ,strong, non-conductive, portable,washable, lightweight and cheap.

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    18 Discussions

    Your project looks like a lot of fun. I would like to use our working parking meter to light an external lamp. Is there a way to wire it & use coins to turn it on & the timing mechanism to turn the light off when the timer expires? Thanks so much for your help! Lynn A

    1 reply

    No idea! I've never actually had a mechanism in any of mine just the shell. You'd have to take it apart to see. I have some ideas though if I ever got my hands on one. I imagine if you added a microswitch or some kind of optical switch to the wheel that tells you when your time is expired. Wire that up to a relay and you can do anything!

    $100 seems like a lot for a project like this, Anyway, That is definitely a good re-use

    3 replies

    It was BUT I've been able to reduce the cost quite a bit. I used much thinner metal for the base and can substitute all the metal if needed for PVC to reduce weight and cost. As for the electronics I've started using some thinner led bulbs in a 4 pack for 50 bucks and you need 2 so 25 bucks instead of 50 for the strip lights. Last one I made had a short base and cost maybe 60 bucks TOTAL. So short cuts can be taken. I'm thinking of trying a concrete base next with a curb haha.

    What is a "4 pack"? 24 meters of LED strips?

    You might want to try using these LED's

    4 Pack of LED bulbs

    They look like this the flatness of them allows them to fit where a normal bulb won't. Plus they are very bright, low wattage, and basically work without any special circiutry like most led strips do need.

    Though now I am thinking of it and am drawing up some plans. I will post it when it is finished!

    Nope it's just some offcuts of fake wood flooring that you snap together when you need it.

    My Very First thought when I saw this one was the Movie, Cool Hand Luke.

    Make an Interesting walkway or driveway lighting system.

    1 reply

    Yes this should be very easy to waterproof. I've been thinking of a way to maybe use solar charging.

    If they came in strip form as opposed to bar form then yes I suppose you could. You could maybe grow plants inside the parking mneter and have the plant grow out of the top or the money drawer.

    Legally I would hope haha! Lots of places are upgrading from mechanical to digital or getting rid of them altogether in favor of one machine for one parking lot. EBay has some as well or something like Craig's list. An antique store maybe?

    I should have thought of ebay or Craig's list. Never thought to try them. I do look for weird things at antique stores all the time and never see any

    I didnt get the whole jest of this project after looking at your photes I can figure if you created a mood lamp or a flood light and where would a lamp like this fit in? i have a parking meter and it weighs 80lbs not too easy to mount on the wall but if i was to put a light in it and make it work then i think that maybe worth doing. Right now i use my poarking meter for crank jokes i put it up in front of whoevers car and have some phony realiastic looking tickets i write out to go along with it. Its more fun than it sounds like writing about it took all the laughter out of it.

    1 reply

    When I used the CFL bulbs it wasn't all that bright and was more or less mood lighting yes. With the LED's however it can be quite bright. They work great in a living room setting as a replacement for a standing lamp as it would give off relatively the same light as a regular lamp with a shade. I have a smaller version of this one that is my bedside table lamp. Its great in the morning because its not as harsh on your eyes. These ones were actually originally wall mounted to cement walls I assume but they aren't near 80 lbs unless you include the stand itself. In theory it is wall mountable but you would need some serious TV hanging hardware to pull it off safely. Your other idea sounds good though lol a friend of mine used to have a handicapped parking sign and he did the same thing to his friends. It was also much lighter haha. If your parking meter still has all of its insides you might be able to retain them and add the LED strips inside to accent it a bit.