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mwalsh
Posts: 9478
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 10:10 am
Delivery Date: 05 Jan 2011
Leaf Number: 0213
Location: Garden Grove, CA

LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:56 am

Long time readers will know that we've seen 3 people so far disassemble their shift-knobs intending to fit LEDs. From the previous threads, two of those people appear to have been successful, but neither has been willing to share how they did it with the group, which has kept others from giving it a shot. After all, replacement knobs are ~$100, a not inconsiderable sum, so goofing it up will cost ya.

But, since it's been a mod I've been aching to do for ages, I decided to give it a go all by myself. I figure that I've followed others' lead plenty with other mods, which has saved me a good few bucks AND a lot of heartache, so it was time to give back. Hopefully, my missteps will make your attempt a bit easier. But I'm also willing to learn what others would have done differently. Or even what those before me did to make theirs look so appealing, because I'm not sure what I've done is as good as what they did (especially Ingineer, who always seems to have his stuff together on the engineering front).

While I'm sure it's possible to do much of this mod in the car, it is FAR easier to remove the shifter assembly. And that's the way I chose to do it. So here is my humble effort for your approval:

First step is to remove the console cover. As you can see, I've employed one of my favorite trim removal tools - the putty knife wrapped in masking tape. I like this tool because it's skinny enough to get into most joints between parts but wide enough that it doesn't mar plastic parts. I also like feeler gauges wrapped the same way for very tightly joined parts, but I digress:

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It's best to get the cover out of the way entirely, or you'll run the risk of scratching it or the console plastic. To do that, you'll need to disconnect the drive mode indicator and parking brake wiring:

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Once the cover is out of the way, you can get the shifter assembly out. You first need to remove the bezel that sits between the knob and the top of the shifter tower. As you can see, it clips into place in four spots.

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Once that's out of the way, simply remove the three bolts holding the tower in place using a 10mm socket. You may find it easier if you move the shifter back and forth, like you're selecting Drive and Reverse.

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From here though, things start to get a bit tricky - you really need to get underneath the tower to disconnect the wiring . This may be possible for someone with small hands, or someone who can figure out the ideal tool, by getting in through the hole behind it in the console substructure. But for me the easiest way seemed to be further disassembly of the shifter tower so I could rotate the electronics box and get at the connection. You do this by removing the three Phillips head screws joining the tower to the electronics box.

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If you do it this way, note that little spring in the one picture - MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT LOOSE THAT SPRING. Also, you'll need to remove the wiring for the park button switch, but access to this isn't so bad. Just be sure to note how it's routed around and underneath the tower (there is a prong on the underneath that the wiring loops through). Also BE SURE NOT TO START YOUR CAR WITH THE SHIFTER DISASSEMBLED - you'll get several errors (Shift and Smart Key, if memory serves) and a "Visit Dealer" prompt. I cleared these after I had the car back together by disconnecting the 12v battery, so not a big deal. Also, if you follow my lead on this you MUST reassemble before putting the shifter back in the car - it is IMPOSSIBLE to screw the tower to the electronics box without being able to view them from the side to make sure the ball at the end of the shifter shaft connects the socket on the electronics box properly. IMPOSSIBLE I tells ya. But on the plus side, getting the wiring loom connected again isn't anywhere near as bad as getting it disconnected. Also, and this is probably the most important one - THE NUTS HOLDING THE SHIFTER ASSEMBLY IN THE CAR ARE NOT CAPTURED BE CERTAIN YOU DON'T LOSE THEM WHEN YOU TAKE THE ASSEMBLY OUT:

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So now you have your shifter assembly out, your best bet is to remove the knob from the shaft it sits on. In other threads we've talked about removing the top of the knob by getting between it and the blue Lexan piece with a thin instrument (a feeler gauge, for example). But as you see from the picture showing the underneath of the knob, once you've removed the clip holding it to it's shaft, it's quite easy to get at the prongs holding the top in place. Removing the knob will also require disconnecting the Park switch wiring from the electronics box, if you haven't already done it. Make sure to note how the wiring is routed around the shifter tower:

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Once the shift knob is free, you can remove the top in either of the ways outlined (from underneath or by inserting a thin instrument between it and the blue Lexan) and put it to one side. Then it's time to remove the blue Lexan section.

Now I had real trepidation about removing this, and in my first go at modifying the knob I hadn't given it more than passing consideration, thinking it must be held in place with superglue. But it turned out that what I thought were dabs of superglue were actually dabs of white silicone sealant, and a bit of persuasion with a small jewelers screwdriver was enough to free the bond between Lexan and base:

Image

From here it's time to cut away the excess material from the base, and a rotary tool is your friend. As you can see, I cut a substantial amount from the sides and cut a slot in the front (not particularly happy with the quality of the cuts on the side, but I had to work around holes I'd tried in an earlier iteration of the mod). This will allow enough light from the 3 LEDs you're going to use in the project. Note that I took the Park switch out completely. I'm not sure that this is really necessary, but I would at least tape it off to protect it from dust. If you choose to remove it, it's held in place with two plastic prongs. Remove it's button first, since it just sits in place.

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Once you have this done, it's time to flat the INSIDE of the blue Lexan part with some sandpaper. This will defuse the light from the LEDs and give you a better look. It's important you also flat the BOTTOM of the Lexan part too, or you will get light "hot spots". I did mine with wet 800 grit wet-and-dry. The picture above of the Lexan part is actually post-sanding, so I'll not repost it now.

So we're down to the LEDs. As previously noted, I used 3 12-18v LEDs, in blue, purchased off eBay from a seller in China. It took about 10 days for them to arrive. These were already finished with wire and suitable resistors soldered in place. 20 cost $14 shipped. I have spares if anyone would like to get them from me instead. Originally, I had tried white LEDs, but the color wasn't quite right - more yellow in the light than I would have thought, giving a sort of green hue around the knob. I didn't care for it.

These were so small that I thought fixing them in place might be an issue. I decided to take advantage of the prongs holding the knob's top in place as a fixing point and thought superglue might be the answer. But I quickly found that superglue ate into the plastic. STAY AWAY FROM SUPERGLUE!

Plan B was clear silicone, and I did actually use that on the front LED because I wanted it to stay put in that channel you see and couldn't get my other fixing method up high enough on the prong to secure it in the spot I wanted. The other fixing method (which worked out quite well) - a band of 6mm (1/4") heat-shrink.

Now in the pictures you'll see a fairly wide band, but it became apparent that I couldn't use a band that wide because it interfered with fixing the top back in place. I ended up with bands that were 3-4mm wide. I forgot to take a revised picture, sorry.

Shrink these bands into place WITHOUT the LEDs being there - you'll melt the insulation on the tiny wires with that much heat. Once the heat-shrink is the right size, it can be slipped off the prong; the LED inserted; and then slipped back onto the prong. A little clear silicone could also be used if you are worried about the LEDs facing out. Got to be honest that I didn't care much about that - there was plenty of light coming off them things no matter where they were pointed (with the possible exception of facing completely away from the Lexan). I took the extra precaution of testing the LEDs before I affixed them - no point in getting everything back together again only to find out a LED was bad out of the box:

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From here you simply have to route the wires straight down and through the holes in the base directly below the prongs. Just make sure that the wires aren't going to get trapped by the prongs and make sure you remember to replace the park switch WITH the park button in place, if you've removed it. Don't forget the Park switch button or you'll have to remove the top again.

Once the knob is all the way back together, you'll have to tackle the wiring. I chose to bundle all the wires and enclose them in heat-shrink. The right size for 6 wires is 3mm (1/8") and you'll need to feed the wires in one pair at a time. Again, be cautious about heat and these tiny wires. If you keep away from shrinking the very ends of the heat-shrink you should be OK. You'll then need to group like wires together and solder them to standard wire. I happened to have 16 gauge wire, but I would imagine any sensible gauge between 22 and 14 would be fine. Use heat shrink on these solder joints and then use small wire ties to bundle the new wiring with the Park switch wiring, remembering to leave some strain relief.


Image


From there, I tapped into the shift indicator illumination circuit (white wire on it's connector) using a T-tap, and got ground from a bolt holding the console assembly to the floor. This way, the knob only lights up with the dash lights. I seem to remember Ingineer did his so that the knob was on with the car. I suspect he tapped into the Park switch wiring instead of the shift indicator.

And here is the end result. Hope you approve!

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Well, I think that's pretty much it. If you have a better idea for doing this, I'd love to hear it. If I've missed anything, or you need any questions answered, be sure to speak up. If you want to buy a package containing the 3 LEDs, heat-shrink, and the two tiny tie-wraps you'll need from me, I can do that for $5 shipped. Otherwise, the eBay seller for the LEDs is this guy:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/L0805B-20pcs-Pr ... 3384d4f0d3" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by mwalsh on Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:44 pm, edited 14 times in total.
2011 Blue Ocean SL with 71,000 miles.
2015 pack under warranty 12/30/15.
Tinted windows.
Michelin MXV4 tires.
L1 EVSE upgrade.
FIAMM horns.
Superbright LED lighting.
2013 sun visors.
LED shifter.
Heated seats.
GT-R map lamp lenses.
AV L2 EVSE.

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surfingslovak
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Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:54 am

Beautiful! Well worth it Mike, thanks for sharing. Love how the illuminated shifter complements the classic GID meter Image :-)

aminorjourney
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Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:07 pm

What a fantastic tutorial! Thank you! It's something I've been thinking about doing for some time, and I may just have a little play in a few weekends' time! :)

Nikki.
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

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DaveinOlyWA
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Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:17 pm

Great Job!
2011 SL; 44,598 miles. 2013 S; 44,840 miles.2016 S30 (build 10/2016)"low water marks" 27,000 miles.363GID Ahr 79.13Hx95.17%kwh28.1QCs238,L2's 251
My Blog; http://daveinolywa.blogspot.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Nubo
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Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:25 pm

Nicely done. Thanks for following through! :D
I noticed you're still working with polymers.

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UBUYGAS
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Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:08 am

It Sure does look Awesome Mike!

I'll have to put this mod on my to do list!

Thanks for sharing.

Sal
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User avatar
mwalsh
Posts: 9478
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 10:10 am
Delivery Date: 05 Jan 2011
Leaf Number: 0213
Location: Garden Grove, CA

Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:14 am

I've just discovered that the LEDs don't dim with the rest of the dash/console lighting, which I suppose I should have expected. It's only a slight bummer though, and I'm still pretty stoked about the mod. But it's something you should expect and weigh-up in your decision to move forward.

Besides, I don't dim my Gidometer anyway. Or at least I haven't. Except that I just this weekend got Gary's firmware update to allow it.
2011 Blue Ocean SL with 71,000 miles.
2015 pack under warranty 12/30/15.
Tinted windows.
Michelin MXV4 tires.
L1 EVSE upgrade.
FIAMM horns.
Superbright LED lighting.
2013 sun visors.
LED shifter.
Heated seats.
GT-R map lamp lenses.
AV L2 EVSE.

cra
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:01 am
Delivery Date: 09 May 2012

Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:39 am

Great job, and thanks a lot for sharing!

A suggestion for a mod to be done while those covers are lifted anyway would be to add 12V/USB outlet(s) inside the armrest compartment, and on the rear of the console for those passengers that want to plug in and charge their <favourite device>. :)

The geek in me thinks about how an arduino could be used for dimming the light, and perhaps somehow use it to indicate "something". Like blinking if a charging station is nearby, if the battery is running low, or something else. :idea:

I have done a few mods (and also created some tutorials myself) on my Think City, and it's always great to be able to share with others. No mods on the Leaf yet, except from insulating the water reservoir for the heater. I'll make the mod for disabling the heating element soon, though, and I think this one might be next in line! I'll probaly have to add some sort of hidden "WAF-switch" (Wife Acceptance Factor), though. :lol:
---
Started driving electric cars around 2001.
Own a Think Classic 2001 since November 2005
Own a Leaf since May 2012

User avatar
mwalsh
Posts: 9478
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 10:10 am
Delivery Date: 05 Jan 2011
Leaf Number: 0213
Location: Garden Grove, CA

Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:43 am

cra wrote:No mods on the Leaf yet, except from insulating the water reservoir for the heater.


I'm going to be doing that this winter. In fact, I was just in Home Depot yesterday looking at their stock of pipe insulation. Where did you get the matting you used for the reservoir? I wasn't impressed with what HD had.
2011 Blue Ocean SL with 71,000 miles.
2015 pack under warranty 12/30/15.
Tinted windows.
Michelin MXV4 tires.
L1 EVSE upgrade.
FIAMM horns.
Superbright LED lighting.
2013 sun visors.
LED shifter.
Heated seats.
GT-R map lamp lenses.
AV L2 EVSE.

cra
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:01 am
Delivery Date: 09 May 2012

Re: LED Shift Knob "How-to"

Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:32 am

mwalsh wrote:
cra wrote:No mods on the Leaf yet, except from insulating the water reservoir for the heater.


I'm going to be doing that this winter. In fact, I was just in Home Depot yesterday looking at their stock of pipe insulation. Where did you get the matting you used for the reservoir? I wasn't impressed with what HD had.


I got mine on Biltema (http://biltema.no), but I don't suppose you have that where you live. I'm sure you have a lot of similar shops, though. I got the kind of mats that is originally intended for sound proofing for the tank (it doesn't take much, one small plate is enough). It has an adhesive coating on one side, and a reflective aluminium coating/film on the other. It was about half an inch thinck.

For the pipes I used pipe insulation like this http://biltema.no/no/Bygg/VVS/Ror-og-ro ... on-860018/ I didn't bother buying any bends, I just cut notches in the parts myself. Worked just fine. Fastened it with strips. I'd also recommend putting some strips or duck tape around the tank, since the insulation came loose after a while. Guess the adhesive isn't too fond of the temperature.
---
Started driving electric cars around 2001.
Own a Think Classic 2001 since November 2005
Own a Leaf since May 2012

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