Screwdriver tip: regulations for lighting on the motorcycle

Screwdriver’s tip on the subject of lighting Legal regulations for additions and conversions

No matter whether headlights, turn signals or taillights – there are a few things to consider with every attachment and conversion, so that it not only shines as desired, but the legal requirements are met. Here comes our screwdriver tip on the subject of motorcycle lighting.

The addition or modification of lamps and lights requires at least rudimentary basic electrical knowledge. In addition to this actually indispensable prior knowledge, there are a few important rules that should be observed. In the context of conversions (for example, if the standard connectors do not fit) do not cut the wiring harness, but better get adapters or make them yourself and install them. The appropriate plugs can be obtained from accessories (such as Japan plugs) and carefully crimped with a suitable crimping tool. If space allows, I like to work with the solid and waterproof AMP connectors. This avoids sources of error, and the whole thing can be dismantled. When laying additional cables, make sure they are routed properly (avoid chafing)!) as well as properly insulate contacts. In the handlebar area, the cables must not be stretched or pinched, even when the steering wheel is fully turned. Additional consumers should neither be connected directly to the battery nor to existing live cables, but should be switched via an additional relay and a suitable fuse if possible. Approved components with E-mark do not have to be registered, as long as you keep the original mounting position or the mounting regulations (EU- or EU-regulations). StVO approval) is fulfilled. When selecting new components, pay attention to quality and use forums as a source of information.

Main headlight

The most important component for a perfect night-time view is, of course, the main headlamp. Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle with 6-volt electrics and a 40-watt bilux lamp on a dark country road will certainly appreciate the new developments. By default, almost all motorcycles today are equipped with at least H4 light, and many already with H7. With the lamps there are interesting qualitative differences, actually not surprisingly with a price range of 3 to 20 euros. Special brand products achieve significantly more luminosity and luminous range thanks to better glass bulb materials and fillings as well as more precise manufacturing, but often also become considerably hotter. In individual cases, this can lead to a shortened service life in relatively small headlight housings with poor heat dissipation, as can touching the glass bulb with your fingers when installing the new lamp. This is usually not a problem on naked bikes, but on some machines with fairings it can be a challenge and requires finger acrobatics. The headlight also includes the lens, which, if scratched, can be polished if necessary (note: this is – strictly speaking – a gray area in terms of approval). Also tarnished or dirty reflectors can be cleaned with much friemelei possibly still. With the favorable prices for standard replacement headlights, the only question is whether the effort is worthwhile. Then you should also go for the clear glass headlight, which has a somewhat higher light output than the corrugated glass variants. On my NTV, a conversion to clear glass headlights (for about 80 euros from Polo) in combination with a Philips Motion lamp has led to a much better light output.

LED technology

LED technology not only provides the best light and is therefore used as standard on more and more models, but also offers a wide range of options for giving the machine its own unique look, for example with an asymmetrical design. LED retrofit headlights – some even with adaptive bend lighting – are offered by the accessories industry both as inserts and as complete headlights.

Tip for lighting

When installing/converting headlights, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. In the headlight housing are usually a lot of cables, and the space is extremely tightly calculated. When converting, make sure that the wiring is correct so as not to produce short circuits. It becomes problematic especially if the new headlight is smaller or the insert is wider, because for example the heat sink necessary with LED technology costs additional space. For certain models (such as those with Can-Bus) you might need special adapters. It is also very recommendable to inform oneself extensively in the brand-specific forums before the purchase, whether there are special problems with this type, because occasionally it comes to difficulties with regulator/alternator.

LED H7 lamp from Osram

An interesting improvement could be the newly developed Night Breaker LED in H7 from Osram, which promises up to 220 percent more light and five times longer life. However, since there is currently no ABE for motorcycles, there are no empirical values available yet.

Osram LED retrofit

Auxiliary lamps (fog lamps / spotlights, etc.).)

Auxiliary lights (fog/driving lights etc.) are a chapter of their own.), which are used in former times with Harleys and Goldwings and today often with large Enduros. Here the offer is rich. When connecting the lamps, a circuit via a relay is absolutely preferable and the installation regulations must be observed. A relatively new type are the daytime running lights. When retrofitting (use only approved products with E-mark + RL = Daytime Running Light), not only the prescribed distances must be observed, but also the corresponding circuit. The daytime running light must switch on automatically as soon as the ignition is activated and go out automatically when the low beam is switched on (exception: headlight flasher). In most cases you need a special switch (costs 50 to 100 Euro), which is controlled by a light sensor and takes over this task. A rather original solution for fans of this lighting is now available from Louis in the form of Gazzini rear-view mirrors with integrated daytime running lights and E-mark, which are available for just under 100 euros each.

Turn signal

Turn signals have also always played a role as a styling element. They are only mandatory for motorcycles built in 1962 or later. If they could not be big enough in the 80s, a shrinking process was initiated with the LED technology, possible only thanks to the enormous luminosity. On some cafe racer conversions they are barely noticeable. The accessories industry offers a huge selection up to true design objects at quite proud prices. As 3-in-1 version they are also available with integrated rear/brake light.

Screwdriver tip lighting

In principle, any motorcycle with a 12-volt electrical system can be retrofitted with LED turn signals that have an E-mark (front with a 1, rear with a 2 – most have both numbers). But as easy as the purchase is, the installation can be tricky. For some newer models, there are practical complete sets that can be a good alternative, especially for less experienced mechanics. For all others, depending on the type of motorcycle, more or less complex tinkering is required.

Mounting and connection to the on-board power supply

The mechanical mounting is relatively easy to solve. For the often too large holes in the brackets of the original turn signals, there are sometimes so-called mounting covers, but they can be built from appropriate discs themselves. However, if you choose a different mounting position or a completely different mounting, you may need an extension to comply with the specified distances (EC front 240 mm, rear 180 mm; StVZO front 340 mm, rear 240 mm).

Connection to the vehicle electrical system can be much more difficult. The problem is the lower current consumption of the LEDs. If you replace the standard turn signals with 21 watts each with two LED turn signals with only 1.5 watts each, the flashing frequency changes because the relay no longer functions correctly due to the different load. Faster flashing or continuous lighting of the turn signals are the result. The solution is either to install a so-called load-independent relay or special resistors.

Screwdriver tip lighting

The easiest way is to use a separate flasher relay (not a combined unit)!) for the turn signals as well as two separate blinker lights (right/left) and neither blinker beeper nor hazard warning lights. Then you can use mostly cheap universal flasher units. If, on the other hand, there is only one blinker light and/or hazard warning lights, after a conversion sometimes the non-actuated turn signals also flash unintentionally. In this case I would reach for the Kellermann flasher relay, which is anyway of higher quality and with just under 30 euros also does not cost the world. Thanks to the somewhat more complex design and wiring (5 instead of 3 cables), it is sufficient to additionally connect the relay to one left and one right turn signal to solve this problem. It is important not to mix up any cables during installation. Be sure to follow the installation instructions and check the polarity with the help of a test lamp. If the original plugs don’t fit, you can use the already mentioned adapter cables or make your own.

But if you want to keep your original flasher relay or if you have a motorcycle that does not have a separate flasher relay, but only a central electronic unit, the conversion becomes more complicated. For the adjustment of the flashing frequency one must work then namely with resistors (usually with 6.8 ohm power resistor), which one can acquire in the accessories often also already with the suitable wiring. If you want, you can of course make your own. For space reasons these relatively large resistors are used rather in the area of the rear turn signals and can be hidden for example under the Burzel or side cover. When wiring, make sure they are connected in parallel (not series)!) are mounted. It is quite astonishing how hot such resistors can get in operation, 80 to 100 degrees are quite reached. Therefore, during installation, be careful not to fix the resistors on plastic parts or in contact with cables, and also not to simply glue them on. Perfect for heat dissipation is a small aluminum plate, on which the resistors are mounted.

Brake and taillight

Screwdriver tip lighting

Conversions to brake and tail lights are usually completely unproblematic. The new lights often come pre-wired, and the challenge is in the mounting area. Here, too, the trend is towards mini lights, which look smart but often fail to illuminate the license plate correctly. In this case an additional license plate light is necessary. Otherwise there will be trouble at the next general inspection at the latest.

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