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HOW TO upgrade VXR8 footwell lighting Part 1 - Fronts

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  • HOW TO upgrade VXR8 footwell lighting Part 1 - Fronts

    This how-to describes how to upgrade your VXR8's footwell lighting, to create a brighter and more even light in the front footwells, and add lighting to the rear footwells, using LED strip lights in the colour of your choice.

    I've split it into two parts. First parts covers the improving the fronts. Second part builds on the first, adding the missing rear footwell lighting.

    So a VXR8 already comes with basic front footwell lighting. It's a 501 bulb with a blue rubber cap in the outer corner of each footwell, under the dash. The blue cap is to give a whiter, less yellow light.
    There's no footwell illumination for the rear footwells.

    Open the door or turn your interior lights on, poke your head under the dash and you'll see them easily.
    They just unscrew from the trim. Here's some I removed earlier:

    The wiring for these bulbs is how we'll power the upgrades. It's been a while since I did this but I believe blue/white wire is positive, black is ground. Worth double-checking this though.

    The goal is replacing those bulbs with some of these:

    Big reel of SMD LEDs Can be bought from ebay if you're patient enough for snail mail, or even from Maplin if you're itching to get started.
    I got mine from the bay because frankly there's more choice at better prices. Bought a 5 metre reel of red LEDs for a tenner.
    The come in a variety of colours, and may or may not have a silicone covering. I'd recommend the siliconed version because the LEDs are better protected and they're water resistant. Useful qualities in a footwell light.
    The LED strips can usually be cut every three LEDs. The cutting points are clearly visible:

    Green arrows show the cutting points.

    Part 1 - Fronts

    What you'll need
    2x 20 ohm resistor.
    2x 40cm strip of SMD LEDs, one strip per footwell. You can use more, or less, but 40cm seems to fit the available spaces well and give good light levels.
    2x 2-way chocolate block connectors, or pairs of male/female bullet connectors, or even better, a pair of 2-way Mate'n'Lok plugs/sockets with pins.
    Wire cutter
    Wire stripper
    Crimping tool or long-nosed pliers if using Mate'n'Lok plugs
    12v Electrical test probe
    Some twin electrical wire. Anything you can easily differentiate positive and negative, say red/black or white/black. Speaker cable is fine. Can be quite thin, the LEDs don't take much current.
    Soldering iron
    Electrical tape or heat shrink
    Heat gun or hair dryer if using heat shrink

    You can get mate'n'lok plugs, sockets and pins from places like RS or Farnell. They are a bit fiddly until you get the hang of crimping to the little pins, but I prefer using them as the result is much better and easier to unplug than the alternative like bullet connectors.

    Step 1
    Having identified positive and negative wires for each existing bulb, disconnect the battery.

    Step 2
    Remove the trim extensions from under the dash on the driver and passenger sides. These are the panels housing the existing footwell lights.
    The passenger side panel just unclips. On the driver side you have to unscrew the diagnostic plug, then the panel unclips.
    The existing bulbs unscrew from each panel.
    Workshop manual instructions for getting these panels out are attached.
    Instrument panel insulator panel, right side.pdf
    Instrument panel insulator panel, left side.pdf

    Step 3
    Cut the existing bulbs out, as close to each bulb as you're comfortable with. You want to leave as much wire in the car as possible, but if you think you might put the bulbs back at some point leave a bit of wire on them.
    Strip the ends of the wires left in the car and connect a 2-way block connector or 2-way mate'n'lok socket to each pair.
    This is so you can unplug/disconnect the new lights if you need to take the trim out again in the future.

    Step 4
    Cut a couple of lengths of twin cable, 10-20cm for each side is enough.

    Step 5
    Each positive wire needs a 20 ohm resistor in line to protect the LEDs from when the car is running - voltages can go up from 12v to 14.5v or higher.
    Shorten the positive wire for each side, so the total length of positive + resistor is the same as the negative wire.
    Solder one end of the resistor to the shortened end of the positive wire.
    Cover the resistor, its leads and the soldered joint with heat shrink or electrical tape, leaving enough of the unsoldered lead exposed to connect it to your block connector or mate'n'lok plug.

    You can skip this step if you're unlikely to have the lights on when the engine's running. The lights will be a bit brighter, but may not live as long. Not recommended, so omit this at your own risk!!

    Step 6
    Solder the other ends a wire pair to the exposed positive and negative contacts on an LED strip.
    This is easier if you're using strips without silicone, the contacts are in the open.
    If you're using the siliconed strips, you'll need to delicately and carefully remove a little silicone from each track on a strip before you can solder to it. Like this:

    End result ought to look like this:

    Protect the exposed joints with some leccy tape or heat shrink:

    Step 7
    Clean the visible side of each panel to get rid of any surface grease and grime.

    Passenger panel is easy. Peel the backing off a strip and just stick it to the panel. The wire should be at what is the left side of the panel when the panel is refitted to the car. Otherwise it won't reach the existing wiring for footwell lights.
    I drilled a little hole behind where the old bulb screwed in to feed the wires through so they'd be hidden.

    Driver's panel has an awkward shape to it, and I ended up splitting the strip for that side into two sections. I laid the sections out on the panel (backing paper still on), made some holes so the joining wires would be hidden, fed the joining wires through the holes and joined the tracks on each section. Obviously you can't do this with the strips on the panel or it'll melt from the soldering heat, so it's a bit fiddly but a tidier result overall.
    Again, make sure the wire to connect to the existing footwell light is to the right of the panel when refitted to the car.

    Step 8
    Only applies to mate'n'lok plugs. Skip this step if you're using a block connector.

    Crimp a mate'n'lok pin to the exposed end of the resistor, and the negative lead at the same end of the wire.
    Insert these pins into a 2-way mate'n'lok plug, being careful to make sure the plug is oriented the same as the socket. The plugs only go in one way round, so make sure you'll be connecting positive to positive, negative to negative.

    Step 9
    Back in the car now, take a panel and connect the strip to the connector you put on the existing footwell wiring, making sure to connect positive to positive, negative to negative.
    Refit the panel, as per the attached removal/replacement instructions.

    Repeat for the other panel.

    Step 10
    Reconnect the battery.

    Open the doors. If it's dark enough outside the footwell lights should come on. Otherwise turn on the interior lights with the button on the ceiling.

    Should look like this (if you used red LEDs anyway):

  • #2
    HOW TO upgrade VXR8 footwell lighting Part 2 - Rears

    This thread follows on from my previous thread about upgrading the front footwell lights, here.

    The method is very similar, just with the added complication of nowhere obvious to stick the LED strips to.

    My solution was to make some light channels that I could stick to the carpet under each front seat.
    The channels help in several ways: protect the LEDs, direct their light in the right direction, and making installing them in the car a bit easier.

    Part 2 - Rears

    What you'll need
    2x 40cm LED strip in your colour of choice
    2x 40cm section of white square cable trunking (to make the light channels)
    2x 20 ohm resistor
    2x 40cm length of 1 cm wide velcro (both sides)
    Some twin wire
    Connectors - either block, bullet (male and female), or mate'n'lok (plugs, sockets, pins)
    Wire cutter
    Wire stripper
    Crimping tool or long-nosed pliers if using Mate'n'Lok plugs
    Soldering iron
    Electrical tape or heat shrink
    Heat gun or hair dryer if using heat shrink

    Step 1
    Make your light channels.
    These are using the U-shaped sections of trunking. I used white trunking on the basis it would help reflect light in the desired direction.
    The removable top pieces can be discarded.
    I trimmed one of the clip edges of each trunking section. This would become the upper edge of each channel, that more light could escape the channel.

    Step 2
    Wire up your LED strips.

    Cut a good length of twin wire, enough to reach from under a seat, along the interior side skirting and up into the footwell. Leave plenty of slack too, it's easier to shorten than to lengthen.

    Put a 20 ohm resistor in line with the positive wire in each twin, to protect the LEDs.

    If the strips are siliconed you'll need to clean up the contacts first, very carefully with a sharp knife:

    Solder a twin to each strip, positive wire to positive track, negative wire to negative track.

    Protect joints with tape or heat shrink:

    Good time to check they work, since once they're stuck to the channels it's harder to fix problems.

    Step 3
    If both sets are working, stick them into the light channels.
    If your channels have a distinct top edge, make sure the strips are stuck in so the wires end up on the correct side for each footwell i.e. left for the left footwell, right for the right (duh).

    I checked mine again. Paranoid.

    Step 4
    Stick a velcro strip to the bottom of each channel. This is the side of each channel that will stick to the carpet, so the LEDs can illuminate toward the rear of the car.

    Step 5
    Back in the car, position the relevant light channel under each front seat:

    Step 6
    Remove the interior side skirt trim that covers the wiring running down the side of the car by each front door. It does just pull off, but be careful where it joins the seat plastic trim, there are some delicate clips so some manoeuvring is needed.

    You can also remove the footwell side trim for better access. I did. It screws on in two places (philips screws), and you have to take off the dash end caps to to it.
    Might be possible to just tuck the wires behind instead of removing.

    Feed the wires from you light channel through under each seat so it comes out next to the seat by the vehicle loom.

    There's a hole in the carpet under each seat so you can actually feed the wires under the carpet. Takes a bit of doing, and if you've got some kind of long-range grabbing tool like the one in the above pic this makes things easier.

    You're going to run the wiring for the rear footwell lights along the existing loom to the relevant footwell.
    If you like, you can put a connector in next to the seat so the rear footwell lighting can be removed without having to strip everything back out again.
    I used a block connector here because I'd run out of mate'n'lok. I will remedy that as soon as I get some more lol

    Step 7
    The wiring that you've run to each footwell needs to be connected into the front footwell lighting circuit.

    Disconnect the battery now.

    If you used a block connector for the front footwell lights, just connect the rear lights into that (positive to positive, negative to negative of course).

    If you used bullet connectors or mate'n'lock you can redo those or make a little splitter. Made this one when I did the fronts, ready for the rears whenever:

    Repeat for both sides.

    Step 8
    Reconnect the battery.

    Open the doors if it's dark enough, otherwise turn on the interior light.
    Front and rear footwell lights should illuminate:

    Step 9
    Put the side interior trim back together.
    Admire your work:


    • #3
      Looks nice might try it one day Thanks for the pics.


      • #4
        This is a really excellent write up. Thanks for sharing what you've learned in so much detail. I really must get my back side in gear and have a go in mine
        VXR8 GTS Sting Red
        6.2 litre Supercharged LSA V8 (779bhp and 765lb ft torque)
        Modified and tuned by Walkinshaw Performance UK


        • #5
          Looks good, might have to try that at some point. Sets the rear footwells off very well.

          Good write up too.


          • #6
            Well thanks guys. I enjoy doing these kinds of mods.