Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Replacing Sole Lights with LEDs

By Matt Ashenden, Miss Willoughby 37VT05

Tool and parts list:
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Hot glue gun (or other means to secure the new LEDs to black plate)
  • Solder gun – optional. 
  • Qty 2 - Red 12v 10mm LEDs (diffused) with leads – $6 for a bundle of 20 on eBay
  • Qty 2 - White 12v 10mm LEDs (diffused) with leads – $6 for a bundle of 20 on eBay
  • Qty 3 - 3M blue butt connectors 

1.  Turn off the breakers for the Sole Lights and Red Sole Lights at your DC panel

2.  Remove brass cover and lens (4 screws)

3.  Remove 2 screws (Philips head) holding black plate with bulbs

4.  Pull black plate out and cut wires (3). The wire that connects to the 4 side posts is “Ground”. The other two are “12v white”, and “12v red”. For reasons I do not understand, the unit in the V berth only had red lights – 2 wires, not 3. When cutting the wires I did not bother to label them but it would probably save a bit of time during the reinstallation.

This is the back side of the black plate after it’s removed:

5.  Cut off all of the gray wires that connect to the old hardware.

6.  Remove the sockets from the black plate.

7.  Check the LEDs to be installed by pulling on the leads to make sure that they are secure. I had a few fall off after they were glued in place. Kinda frustrating…

8.  Install the new LEDs (2 red and 2 white, diagonally across) into the black plate. I used a hot glue gun and a jig that I made by drilling holes into a 2x4, mainly to hold the LEDs at the right depth while the glue dries. I liked the glue gun approach since it hardens in minutes.

9.  Trim the insulation off the leads and connect as follows:
  • 4 black wires that will connect to ground
  • 2 red wires from the white LEDs
  • 2 red wires from the red LEDs

10.  I soldered the ends of the 3 connections so that there was no chance of them coming apart when putting them into a butt connector, but I don’t think that is an absolute necessity if a solder iron is not available.  I do recommend using 3M butt connectors because they have glue in the shrink part that seals them tight so moisture cannot get in.

11.  I also suggest testing them before installation if a 12v source is available. While the old incandescent bulbs are not polarity sensitive, LEDs are polarity sensitive. They need to be connected red to positive and black to ground (negative). If they do not work, switch the wires to see if reversing the polarity solves the problem.

12.  Connect the 3 leads to the wires that were snipped in the boat using butt connectors.

13.  After confirming that they work by turning on the breakers at your DC panel, the last step is to reinstall the black plate (2 screws) and brass lens cover (4 screws).

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