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Adding Running Lamp Function To Turn Signals
© Copyright, 2013, R. Fleischer
This article deals specifically with converting the two Airhead rear turn signals into running lamps, while retaining the original turn signal function. Considerable information is applicable to a FRONT turn signal lamps conversion, if desired.
This article does not deal directly with conversions to the Classic K-bikes, such as the K1, K75, K100, K1100. MUCH of what is in this article on the physical modifications ARE applicable to K bikes, Oilheads, ETC. The K-bikes have a bulb-monitoring relay; which complicates matters, & information on modifying them is in item #2 in http://bmwmotorcycletech.info/K-hints.htm.
Adding running lamp functions to the rear (and/or front) MAY add to safety. You get more lights, & you have two lights that are illuminated in case your one rear stock running lamp burns out; many bikes have only ONE rear running light & if it fails you might be INVISIBLE to cars coming up towards your rear; which is one of the arguments FOR this conversion. My primary argument against this conversion is that the turn function is, or can be, less noticeable to car drivers ....due to the running lamp function in the same lamp, same housing (could be separate lamps on fronts, some bikes). You must decide for yourself. Proper installation with proper color of lens & proper lamp bulb may negate such arguments.
The conversion may not be legal in some States, ....if the lens is not re-colored to be RED (or the lamp colored red). Careful selection of bulb & possibly inclusion of reflective aluminum foil may improve brightness.
There are potential problems if not done well, the turn signals might then not be as distinctly different from the running lamp function. Properly done they certainly CAN be very distinctly different. Several ways to go about it, including a small unpainted or no red insert area, in the middle of the lens, or, a band across the center. One can find red bulbs plus use aluminum foil as a reflector, if desirable. The reflectors & lenses of the stock bike are OPTIMIZED for incandescent lamps, NOT LED types. I do NOT recommend LED lamps (of any type I have so far seen) for purposes of this article although wide angle LED lamp structures may now be available. RED LENSES have been available at times, almost a perfect direct replacement for your amber ones; you need only to provide a rubber gasket (easy and only if you wish to), and in a few instances about a minute of filing, depending on if plastic or metal case. The ones I have seen have an even better than stock amber lens light diffusion/reflection in the lens. Check such as Ebay. The ones I saw have number K22750 and K32724 on the plastic cover & were made by CoolBeam MTP; they are marked as SAE & DOT approved. These are hard to find in the USA. I have a set on my bike. If you find a source, PLEASE let me know so I can publish it here.
The conversions in this article are for incandescent lamps. You are free to experiment with plug-in LED lamps, but I have not done much experimentation so far.
NOTE!! ...California, as well as other States, have very specific requirements about lighting. The requirements are certainly not the same for all States. You may want to find out what your State vehicle code says on the subject. You can use such as Google, to search for the vehicle codes. I won't get into the legalities, that may vary state to state, but this conversion is believed legal, or at least quasi-legal, if done correctly, everyplace.
California V.C. 24603 says, amongst many things, that California does permit, for a vehicle manufactured before 1/1/79, to have red OR YELLOW stop lamps. Further, a section in 24603 says that supplemental stop lamps on the sides, CAN FLASH, towards the direction a turn is being made. Some States, if not most or all, will have such or other allowances, ordinances & regulations. This can mean that you can add red color to the lens or lamp, or partially, or leave the turn signal lenses amber, etc. Think about it! This type of conversion can be done to add running lamps, or to add BRAKING LAMPS. I've actually experimented with adding those plus turn indicating lamps. The Federal Government also has its code sections, not difficult to find, probably more difficult to wade through.
The bottom line is that if done correctly, the two filaments in one bulb (in some cases two bulbs) in the same housing, CAN be made to look very distinctly different; and probably are legal. I've personally never had any problem with Authorities for my conversions.
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- Written by Robert Fleischer