***DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!***
This process is irreversible so be prepared to buy new sidemarkers if you don’t like the result or if you mess up. This will be a long article, but be sure to read it through completely before you begin.
-Dremel tool with cut off wheels and small sanding drum
-2 amber 3 LED marker lights –>www.jmtools.com
-2 red 3 LED marker lights –>www.jmtools.com
-Transparent epoxy — Can be purchased from your local auto parts chain. (MAKE SURE YOU GET ONE THAT SETS IN NO LESS THAN 30 MINS)
– 4-5 small, cheap kids’ paintbrushes
-Electrical tape or heat shrink tubing
-Patience and a steady hand
Start with the LED units from jmtools.com. These are cheap and the circuit board is the perfect size to fit into the s13 sidemarkers. Take a look at the amber unit. See how the circuit board is sealed in there pretty good? Well, we need to liberate it with the Dremel tool. With a steady hand, take the dremel and cut through the perimeter of the lens. Watch the depth of the wheel as you cut through because if your not careful you’ll damage the board!! Remove the lens. Carefully pop out the board (it’s only pressed down onto the 4 plastic posts). Cut the 2 wires leaving as much length as possible connected to the board!!! Now, you’ll notice that the board is NOT sealed/weatherproof. This is why we need the transparent/clear epoxy but we’ll get to that in a minute…
Repeat the procedure for the other 3 units, taking care to mark which ones are amber and which ones are red because the boards are exactly the same!
Now it’s time to epoxy the boards to seal them from the elements.
-Epoxy is really, really nasty stuff. The fumes are extremely powerful and are a known carcinogen. DO NOT use this stuff indoors under any circumstances. I was getting nauseous using the stuff out on my porch and that’s a very well-ventilated area. Also, use latex gloves when working with the epoxy because it is very irritating to the skin and difficult to wash off.
Using a small, cheap paintbrush, apply the epoxy to the surface of the boards. Really try not to get the epoxy on the domes of the LEDs as it will affect the viewing angle when it dries. You need to apply enough to entirely cover all of the components on the board and the edges. I would recommend doing only the front of all 4 in one sitting so that they can dry without sticking to the surface they are resting on. You can do one side in the morning and the other that night if you want.
**MAKE SURE THAT YOU DON’T DAMAGE THE 2 THIN WIRES ATTACHED TO EACH BOARD. ONCE YOU APPLY EPOXY TO THE BOARDS, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO RE-SOLDER THE WIRES IF THEY BREAK OFF!!
Let’s move on to the actual s13 sidemarkers now…
We’ll start with the rear sidemarkers first because they’re the easiest to modify but the most difficult to remove from the car.
Briefly, to remove them, open your hatch and remove the carpeted side interior pieces in the rear. There should be 3-4 black clips holding it on. You may also need to unplug the harness for the courtesy light so do that too. Now, you should be able to see the two nuts holding the sidemarkers onto the body. they are 10mm. After that, push them out from inside the car to overcome the sealant holding them to the body. Now unscrew the bulb and unplug the harness. SAVE THE HARNESS. Repeat for the other side.
Look at the back of the rear sidemarker. See the raised portion where the bulb screws in from behind? We’ll have to use our Dremel to remove it. Here’s how: Take one of the LED circuit boards and measure it’s length. Mark the back of the sidemarker with length you just measured. Now pay attention here… The goal is to center the circuit board in the back of the sidemarker housing. We want the 3 LEDs to sit right behind the small clear portion of the lens. After marking it up appropriately, use the Dremel to remove a rectangular section of the housing. If done correctly, the circuit board should slip right in and fit flush with the back of the sidemarker housing!
Now, we’ll have to epoxy it in there. BEFORE YOU DO THAT, look closely at the front of the ciruit board, you should see a small “+” and a small “-” sign corresponding to the wires on the back. Label the wires with some tape or marks of some kind so you know which one is positive and negative. If you mess up and reverse them when you wire up the harness, you will fry the board so take a moment and do this now. Now place the board into the hole you just made and secure it with epoxy all around making sure that there are no gaps for water to seep in.
Repeat for the other side. After the epoxy has cured (about 8-10 hours), break out that soldering iron and take a look at the bulb holder and harness. I wired up my units so that they can be easily removed in the future and are plug and play. You should do the same. You need to cut the wires to the bulb holder right at the base to maximize the length of wire left on the harness. There should be a red wire for positive and a black one for negative. Solder the wires from the circuit board to the appropriate wires on the harness and insulate with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing. BE SURE TO USE A HEAT SINK OR YOU’LL FRY THE BOARDS.
Repeat this procedure for the other side.
You can now plug in the harness and test them out. Now reinstall them on the car.
Now for the front sidemarkers…This is a bit more difficult
Briefly, to remove them from the car, grasp the front of the lens and push it towards the rear of the car CAREFULLY. If your sidemarkers are old and brittle, they may crack so be firm but gentle. While pushing them back, use your fingernail and ease up the front portion of the lens closest to the front bumper. You may have to finesse them a bit but they will come out fairly easily. Unplug it from the harness.
Notice how the backs of the front sidemarkers are very different from the rear sidemarkers’? There should be a white plastic clip secured with 1 Phillips screw on each sidemarker. Remove it and SAVE THAT CLIP! Unscrew the bulb and get that Dremel ready again.
This is difficult to describe without pictures but I’ll do the best I can.
While holding the sidemarker in you hand with the lens facing down into your palm, examine the back of the unit. See how there’s a flat portion right where that white plastic clip you just removed was mounted? That plateau defines the plane that we will be following with the Dremel. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT SO RESPECT THIS PLANE. ANY ERRORS HERE WILL MAKE REMOUNTING THE UNITS ON THE CAR MUCH MORE DIFFICULT. Take a piece of electrical tape or any other tape and mark that level all the way around the side of the unit. Using the Dremel, cut along that line. You should be left with a rectangular hole that will be too small for the circuit board to fit into. That’s OK, we’ll address that in a second. Now, use the Dremel to cut out that platform we just used as a reference point. This will remove the hole for the Phillips screw we removed a minute ago and, more importantly, make the overall cavity big enough for us to slip in the circuit board. We want it to be a tight fit so don’t remove too much!
After labeling the positive and negative wires on the circuit board (see above) epoxy it into the back of the housing, making sure that you cover all the little spaces to ensure it will be weather proof. Let the epoxy dry.
Turn your attention now to that white plastic clip we removed earlier. This critical clip holds tension on the sidemarker when it is mounted on the fender. We need to modify it slightly so it will fit flush onto the back of the circuit board. Examine the underside of the flat portion with the hole for the screw in it. If you just place it on the circuit board, you’ll see where two solder points interfere with the clip. Using the small sanding drum attachment for the Dremel, you need to remove a small bit of material from those 2 locations on the underside of the clip. Once that’s done, you’ll need to epoxy the clip to the back of the board. Remember, this clip sees quite a bit of tension so make sure not to skimp on the epoxy .
Repeat for the other unit.
After everything is dry and cured, get that soldering iron out again. You’ll need to repeat the procedure we used on the rear sidemarkers but there is one small caveat. There is no harness on the passenger side sidemarker so I had to hard wire that unit to the car. I was pissed that I had to do this and in retrospect you can avoid doing this by purchasing a generic harness clip and wiring one side to the circuit board and the other side to the car so it will be plug and play. I didn’t have the time to do that but I kind of wish I had
Hook everything up and remount them on the car. See how those clips work now? If they aren’t holding the units on there tightly, you should use a small amount of clear silicone to secure the lens to the body.
Stand back and admire your hard work. Those suckers are bright aren’t they?