I just bought a 2012 RS Camaro and wanted to add some nice interior lighting due to the absolute crap interior lighting these cars come with from the factory. I had every intention of sourcing some low-cost LED bars and hooking them up to the dome and trunk light circuits, but during a Costco shopping trip, I found this Sylvania Mosiac LED kit for $29:
For $29, it was worth experimenting with since the kit comes with six 2 foot LED strips, the control box and remote control, and although it came with an adapter to plug into the wall, it runs on 12 V so it would be extremely easy to adapt it to the car.
I took the parts out of the box and it turned out to be exactly as I thought it would be – each strip could be hooked together and used with the control box and remote control to form a single strip up to 12 feet long and be programmed via the remote for any color that the kit was capable of producing, or each 2 foot strip could be used independently provided you wired each of them independently. Each strip had some very thin double back tape on the back side, but it’s pretty cheesy, and I sourced some 3M VHB tape at Home Depot in order to have this stick much better to the parts of the vehicle I was attaching to.
Some background on the way these work: the control box has a 12 V input socket, an IR eye on a short extension that allows the remote control to communicate with the control box, and a single four wire output that plugs into the LED strips. The way that it modulates the colors is by varying the ground potential (essentially changing the voltage) to each of the red, green or blue LEDs that make up each one of the lights on the strip. Each 2 foot strip has 12 lights on it, meaning that each one has 12 each red, green and blue LEDs. If you wanted to control the lighting and maintain all of the color options, then you would probably want to cut off the 120 V converter, and wire the control box directly to 12 V, then mount the strips in the car without any modifications (other than maybe extending the wires between LED strips so you can mount them wherever necessary).
In my case, I wanted white light, so the remote control and control box really didn’t do me much good since I was going to run all of the LEDs full tilt all the time anyway (these make white light by running all LED’s at once). With this being the case, it would be extremely easy to wire these as each one of the strips had 4 inputs: a positive (+), and R/G/B wires (ground wires for red, green and blue respectively). I soldered extension wires to each of the pins, then heat-shrinked and taped them:
I used the yellow wire for my 12 V input, then combined the red green and blue wires together to form a single ground wire (though I could have soldered a single wire across the RGB pins and run only one wire – running three gives me the option to form different colors if I chose to in the future). I duplicated this three times (one for the trunk and two for under the dash), and set about wiring them in.
In the trunk, it was extremely easy to get this wired and and mounted. The bottom of the rear deck in front of the light was completely flat and it was extremely easy to simply stick the light strip to it. There is a channel on either side of the trunk that is open to the area where the trunk light is mounted, allowing you to pass the wire from the end of the LED strip directly to the back of the existing trunk light. Using two “T-Tap” connectors, you simply plug the yellow wire (+ on the LED Strip) to the orange wire of the factory trunk light, and the R/G/B wires (or a single wire if you chose to solder it up that way) hooked to the black wire:
Once the strip is wired and mounted, it provides quite a bit of very diffuse, but very useful bluish white light:
Up front, it was a little more difficult to get these strips wired and mounted, but really nothing too dramatic. In my case, there was only a single dome light at the front mini–console, so it was easy enough to pull that dome light assembly out and run a dual-strand speaker wire up there to grab the wires that feed the factory dome light. I connected them with two “T-Tap” connectors – the same way as the trunk light. The wire that connects to the “+” on the LED strip tapped into the gray wire of the domelight plug (wire at far right), and the wire that connected to the R/G/B wires tapped into the black wire (at far left of the plug). This allowed complete control over the footwell lighting with the dome light switch (including the fading on/off behavior):
I ran the wires out the front edge of the headliner, then across to the drivers side “A” pillar. The “A” pillar cover unsnapped at the top relatively easily, allowing me to pass my wires BEHIND the airbag:
and down to the left side dash cover, where I was going to make my connections:
I mounted the right side LED strip underneath the glove box:
and ran the wires behind the center console and over to the left side of the dashboard.
I mounted the left side LED strip underneath the dashboard and ran the wires to the same location at the left side of the dash:
With a combination of the zip ties and double stick tape, both strips are very securely mounted and I’ll never have to worry about them sagging.
The overall effect is very nice and kind of understated:
Here’s a short video showing the operation of the footwell lights:
In case it doesn’t come across, the lights have a very slight blue tint to them, almost matching the teal blue glow of the instrument cluster and dash backlighting – it’s a very lucky accident!
The thing that is so cool about this kit is that the resistors are built into the LED strip itself. You just feed 12V into the “+” lead, and ground all of the R/G/B leads if you want white light (or ground whichever one you want for that particular color). No calculations to do and no worries about blowing it up.
Keep in mind it is even easier if you are using the control box and the remote control – in this case, all you have to do is cut off the “wall wart” 120-12 V adapter and feed the control box switched 12 V. Then you get all of the additional features of the system, such as color cycling, strobe and variable brightness on all of the available colors. Also keep in mind that you can modulate the amount of light output simply by wrapping every other LED with black tape or something similar.
Honestly, this is about the cheapest and easiest LED mod I have never done, and I don’t know that there is anything else out there right now that gets you more bang for the buck…
The entire process from start to finish took me less than 90 minutes, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours if you use my method of soldering, or even less if all you do is wired the control box to a switched 12 V source.
The bonus here is that I still have three strips left over, along with the control box and the remote control, so I can use those on my Tahoe and accomplish the same thing. Not too bad for a total investment of $30!