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Muddy4DSM 01-28-2012 10:23 AM

Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
My first vehicle after I graduated college was a 2002 BMW 540i. I had always liked BMW cars after I got to drive one in high school and was able to get one of my own a few months after graduation. This year, along with 2003 for the 5 series really started to incorporate the now popular BMW trademark details – LED tail lights, adjustable HID front bulbs, Halo headlights, and on the inside – red/orange ambient lighting. Kind of a cool feature, noticed as I was driving the car home that night (from Kansas City to north of Sioux Falls, SD). Made things easy to see but wasn’t to the point of distracting.

I picked up an Infiniti M35x a little while after the BMW and this car had the same thing, but in the orange/gold color that Nissan’s have for interior lights. Again, was a nice feature to have, and didn’t realize how much I missed having that little bit of light in the car after I traded the M in for the WK limited. Being that the car was a Limited, and finding out that the WK2’s have this ambient light, I thought I’d see about putting it my Jeep. And of course these little guys had to be green!

I started doing some research one morning about LED’s, resistors, Ohm’s law (scary reminder of college!) and by the time lunch came around, I was on my way to Radio Shack for supplies. That afternoon I made a spreadsheet that could calculate the required resistance based on the voltage drop of the LED and the input voltage. I made it with columns for each of the LED types that I picked up, and also made a second set of rows to calculate the required resistance based on a running car electrical system, 13.5V. Here’s a screen shot, but if anyone would like the spreadsheet, shoot me a PM with your e-mail address and I’ll send it over.

I found a 9V battery at home and used that as my test setup to get an idea of each of the LED’s outputs. One set had a very narrow light path, and 2nd set was just a little brighter than the 3rd set so I decided to use the second set for my overhead lights. Here’s a shot of my test setup – nothing pretty, but it made them light up.

I took the setup into a dark bathroom to test the light pattern, then took them out to the garage and turned off all the lights to test the light output inside the vehicle. They seemed to do well in the dark so I went though and wired them up. Based on my calculator, I needed to hit 375 ohms for the lights in series. Since I couldn’t come up with a realistic way of connecting resistors to hit that resistance, I bumped it up to 400 and called it good. Testing the setup at 400 ohms:

After it tested out, I soldered everything together and applied the heat shrink to all connections.

Muddy4DSM 01-28-2012 10:24 AM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
Next it was time to find a place to put these cool little lights. My original plan was to install them under the rear view mirror to best hide the source of the lighting. The biggest issue I was trying to avoid was being able to see the bulb while driving since LED lights are typically bright at their source. I took off the mirror a couple days back and couldn’t get the thing apart. I didn’t want to break it so I put it back in and started looking elsewhere. While looking online for ideas, I saw that the WK2’s have the ambient light installed in the overhead console area right in the middle. With the help of a WK2 owner on another site I was able to get an idea of how the stock setup looks. Guess it was time for me to take out the overhead console and see what I could do up there. Here’s the WK2 Setup:

The console just pops out with a little force. The front end comes down just by working your fingers under the lip, but with a good tug the entire thing comes undone. All that’s left attaching it is wires. My suggestion is to take out the Homelink system (4 torx screws, two thin plastic clips on the forward part of the box) and then remove the grey plug in the middle and the white power plug for the dome lights. Both will require a flat head screw driver.

Once I got it upstairs, I realized I couldn’t do much in terms of taking it apart without a little permanent modification. There are about 6 plastic welds that hold the black lighting system and the rigid part of the sunglass holder all together.

I took a small knife and broke/cut all of these off and removed the two torx screws in the middle and the whole thing came apart, minus the sunroof controls.

At this point I realized that I couldn’t have the LED’s in the dead center like on the WK2’s and with my two bulbs already wired and complete, there were going to be two holes on either side of the sunroof controls. I took out my caliper and measured half way between the light and the hole for the sunroof controls, then did the same from the controls to the opening for the Homelink. I made an “X” with the caliper, took my blade and put it dead center of the “X” and spun it around a bit to create a dimple so my drill bit wouldn’t slip, and then drilled a hole with the smallest drill bit in my set. I then stepped up my drill bits 3 or 4 more times until I ended up with a 7/32” hole.

In my personal opinion, the hole is a touch too big, may be able to get by with a 3/16” bit, but I jumped two sizes thinking that the ¼” was my final hole size, but that was for the plastic LED holder, not the light itself.

Once the holes were finished, I tried a couple of methods to attach the bulbs and holders to the back side of the plastic console. Superglue wasn’t working, and the soldering iron didn’t have enough plastic available to weld them together. I had stopped by Harbor Freight on the way home and picked up a cheap glue gun and glue sticks since they were a total of 7 bucks, just on a whim, but ended up being the savior of the night. A little hot glue, hold them in place until they cooled, and I was set!

And of course, I had to test them out with my 9V battery…

Muddy4DSM 01-28-2012 10:24 AM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
The last part was putting it all back together. Since I has cut off the plastic welds to hold everything back together I had to find another way to get things back together. I borrowed some zip ties and self tapping screws from work a while back for my car audio installation and ended up using the self tapping screws. When the welds come off, they have an opening just like a threaded plastic piece would have, so the self tappers worked perfectly. Back in the car, I ended up having to bend the solder/wires/heat shrink a little in order to get the Homelink module back on the backside of the console, but it all fit back together as it should. Here’s a few shots of the lights installed, views from the driver’s seat, from the underside, and from the driver’s side above the steering wheel.

You may have noticed they aren’t turned on. After poorly planning ahead, I was assuming I could tap into the wire that turns on the lights in the Homelink with the vehicle lights turn on. Unfortunately, the signals (from what I could find) are all CANBUS encoded through there and there isn’t a true +/- setup. Guess I’m going to have to run wires somewhere to find someplace else to tap.

Stay tuned for future updates, and also keep a look out for another project using more of these Green LED’s!

Muddy4DSM 01-28-2012 10:24 AM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
I went back to this project a little bit more today to address some of the issues I wasn't too wild about. First off, although I was able to drill very clean holes in the plastic, I notices that there was still going to be some bright reflection from the inside of the hole that would create two very bright cylinders in my field of vision. Going back to the OEM version of the lights, I notices they had the light recessed a little bit more, and there was a taper to the hole to keep the reflections down. I took a trip to Harbor Freight to see what might work. This is what I came up with:

Wood/metal countersink set
tapping handles
45degree countersink bit

I ended up using the tapping handle (middle size) and the second to largest size in the countersink tap to make a hand held drill/countersink system. I cleared out both holes, then used the small bit to smooth things out a bit, again by hand. For this part of the project, I did everything by hand. This is what I finished up with:

Next I knew that I wanted to have the lights recessed a lot more. I was able to pick up some random plastic pieces from work the other day that had two holes already drilled in them. I have no idea what the odds are, but they were the perfect size hole and the perfect distance away from eachother. They were also almost a perfect fit on the width and the length but required just a little help to fit. I first chopped them down a bit to clear for the sunroof button:

Then glued in the first one

I did the same to a second piece and glued that one in too:

Next came the lights. I ended up breaking one of the LED's from the original set so I had to use the wired lights I had made for another project to complete this one. Don't have a picture of the back side, but it looked the same as before. Here's a shot with them installed before going back into the car:

And here's the shots of them installed in the car. Again, I couldn't get the wiring to work so still a little bit more to do on that end, but at least you can see how the bulb is completely hidden and adds a touch of OEM likeness to the holes. Let me know what you guys think.

After figuring out that the "grounding post" I was using inside the fuse box wasn't going to work, I decided to do a little testing to find out why. Turns out it's not a ground, and actually a positive post. No wonder it didn't work! I did some looking into the wiring diagram and found the dimmer wire that dims down in the interior lights from the multifunction stalk and then the ground. I had some free time tonight so I pulled out the instrument trim off (two clips at the bottom, just need to give it a good tug) and then there are two screws that hold on the gauges.

There is a plug in the center of the gauges that has both the dimmer light (orange w/brown stripe) and the ground so I tested it with the multimeter. Voltage drops by about 2v per detent as you turn down the interior lights. Perfect!

I had already run wires to the engine bay in hopes of tapping the fuses so it was actually fairly easy to pull it back out and shorten. I had originally run the wires down inside of the side dash panel so re routed them back up behind the gauges. Pretty easy once that panel comes off. Here's where the wire came out behind the gauges.

Using two of the simple clamp wire taps, I connected it up, hooked up the led wires to the other side and buttoned it all up.

Now for some finished shots:

Clickable Videos:

lll2for3lll 01-28-2012 01:17 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
My sister's Acura TL has the ambient lighting up there that shines down on the center console and cup holders. It's a soft glow. I love it.

I might have to try this mod.

Amelie 01-28-2012 01:26 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
Pretty cool mod but why the need for those 2 LED's? Why not just upgrade your dome lights? You would be set.

Muddy4DSM 01-28-2012 02:18 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited

Originally Posted by Reichminister Goebbels (Post 562395)
Pretty cool mod but why the need for those 2 LED's? Why not just upgrade your dome lights? You would be set.

These lights aren't intended to upgrade or replace dome lights, they are more to provide a light green glow over the center console. These aren't actually as bright as you would assume. When I get them hooked up it will make more sense.

Have you been in a car that has ambient lighting before (BMW, newer Acura, Infiniti, Land Rover)? It is designed to be the same ambient lighting that is in those vehicles.

Here's a couple BMW shots - where this is showing orange/red light, mine will be replaced with green:
And in this one, it would be the orange glowing on the seats (not from the doors at all... yet)

zero_psi 01-29-2012 01:56 AM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
for those who don't want to mess with resistors or if u want more leds in other places this site has everything. i cant wait they just came out with flush mount smd chips. our cars are a little to dark with how bright the nav is im working on the foot wells and door cards right now

zero_psi 01-29-2012 01:58 AM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
:thumbsup:pics for how much light they put out and what leds did u get.. were they rated any way... i just don't want to go to bright for like what u did but i want to do it with white light btw LOVE THE IDEA

pavelhen 02-02-2012 12:40 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
Great write up, can't wait to see light output pics.

As someone that has done a lot of LED work on my last 2 cars I applaud your work. I've never thought of doing this before but will most likely follow in your footsteps and do something similar.

Same question as zero, what mcd were the LEDs you used rated at?

lll2for3lll 02-02-2012 01:00 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
I'm going to say I honestly thought about it but didn't know how to go about doing it. I got the idea from my sister's Acura TL.

I applaud the guy too. I want more details on resistance and how he mounted the LEDs so I can give it a try.

lll2for3lll 02-02-2012 01:07 PM

Re: Homemade Overhead Ambient Lighting – 2006 WK Grand Cherokee Limited
I'm trying to figure out how he kept the LEDs inside the holes. Notice how they don't protrude the hole. They sit inside and that is going to prevent the light from scattering which is actually how it is the the Acura TL.

Good job. I want to see the finish product.

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