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Lighting enhancements

The dashboard during the much out of the ordinary

The dashboard at night...a little more spectacular!

DASHBOARD LIGHTING:  One of the most annoying things about the Astro van is trying to change those light bulbs inside the dashboard.  Anybody who has had their van past the 100K mark (which is quite a few!) knows how much of a pain it is to change the bulbs.  I just recently completed a conversion of some of the lamps over to LED or Light emitting diode.  LED's are extremely efficent, don't burn out, and produce very little heat.  So you can see why they are right at home inside the dashboard!  LED's put out quite a pleasing color, depending on which one you pick.
     The LED's I bought were blue from Mouser Electronics, and I paid 2.59 a piece for them.  This is rather expensive for LED's, but the blue ones are a little more expensive.  LED's come in other colors too, like white, yellow, orange, green, and red.  The LED's the I bought draw carry about 80 milliamps of current.   The old #162 lightbulbs behind the dash are 3 watts, or 300 milliamps.  LED's are more efficent, so count on using 3 LED's for each lighbulb you are replacing.  LED's need resistors in line with them, because they offer no reresistance to the electricity.  Use ohm's law to find out how large of a resistor you need(V=IR or Voltage=current X resistance).  Add up the total current for all the LED's in the circuit.  For instance, in my HVAC controller, I used 5 LED's, for a total of 400 milliamps.  I then took the equasion and turned it around a little 12 volts / .4 amperes = 30 ohms of resistance.  I then went to Radio Shack and purchaced some 30 ohm resistors, and wired them in-line with the LED's

NEONS:  (not pictured)  These really add a splash of color to the van.  In Virginia, it is illegal to install these on the outside of the vehicle, but on the inside, they are just as legal as an ordinary dome light.  Please note, it is illegal to have your dome light on while uner way, same thing goes with neons.  I have all of mine installed inside.  Beside the ceiling console, on either side are two short 8 inch tubes.  These come with separate transformers, that fit quite nicely at the end of the console.  In the back, I have a long 24 inch red tube installed above the rear doors.  This one has a self-contained transformer on the end of the tube.  The red ones are really neat because the tube is perfectly clear when the light is off!
   Future plans include a neon shifter knob, and some more lights on the exterior.

A close-up of the HVAC controller from the previous photo

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