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Style and Safety Update for Your 996

Story by Rob Greene



Part One: Interior Style


The use of electrical lights to signal messages has always intrigued me. Of special interest have been operational and safety / signal lights associated with emergency and standard motor vehicles. I was involved with emergency vehicle lighting design from the late 1960’s, and stay apprised of the current state-of-the-art. As you may have noticed, the newest vehicles sport a range of lamps using LED technology. In the mobile environment it has taken some time for the LEDs to catch up with and finally surpass earlier, predominately incandescent, forms of lighting in brightness, reliability, durability, and longevity. The LED has always been superior with respect to power efficiency and heat generation, with the latter remaining of concern.


This article will focus on the signal, indicator, and courtesy lighting of the vehicle; no head lights or fog lights will be discussed. My test sled is a 2003 911 Turbo, thus my information and findings, while generally applicable to the 996 era of Porsche cars, still deserve the “your mileage may vary” warning.


So, how can one take advantage of the newer LED technology and is the effort and cost of updating your Porsche worth it? Be forewarned: A complete interior and exterior changeout comprises 35 LEDs of various types, bases, colors, and brightness. Also, add one CF13GL-02 LED electronic flasher relay for the left/right turn signal and 4-way flasher circuits to avoid rapid “hyper flashing.” The listing of “bulbs” in your Owner’s Manual is somewhat useful but also problematic. The various European type designations do not necessarily translate to the LED manufacturer’s bulb types with respect to base, pin offset, diameter, length, brightness, and color.


I started with replacing the interior old-style bulbs with LED bulbs. Note that a few of the stock interior lights are already LED, specifically the orientation lights located under the rearview mirror and at the driver and passenger armrest locations. No updates are required for these lights. The updated locations and quantities included dome (1), reading (2), driver and passenger door marker (2), front storage (1), glove box (1), both vanity mirrors (4), and the engine compartment (1). These bulbs are of the tubular “festoon” style except the 194-wedge style for the reading lights and both door markers. The interior LEDs were sourced from WestcoastLEDs (powered by Equinox Global LTD). The only problem was initially receiving a type 194 instead of a required festoon LED for the glove box. There was a no-fuss exchange, but be sure to order the correct length LED.


Results of the update may be seen in the figures below.
The lighting is brighter, more uniform and therefore more effective and useable.


While I was ultimately very pleased with the results, some trial and error plus use of the Prime return/refund/reorder process was required. Hopefully, this article will serve to reduce or avoid that part of the process and lead to quicker enjoyment of the updated Porsche.


Part Two will address updating the Porsche’s exterior lighting that was more challenging than the interior updates described herein. This is primarily because maintaining and enhancing safety is the first priority for the exterior lighting package. Other considerations included higher power/low current bulbs, heat dissipation (don’t need hot external or internal resistors), and CANbus compatibility (no error messages).


Part Two: Exterior Safety
Safety is first priority. The exterior lights must perform equal to or much better than stock, especially brake and turn signal lights. As a safety improvement, the faster response time of LED brake lights provide an 18-foot cushion to the car in your rearview mirror when stopping from 60 mph. That “early warning” could avoid a trip to the body shop or worse, the hospital.


Most of the exterior LEDs were sourced from superbrightleds.com with the exception of “pure white” front parking (H6WBAX9s) from Blesk, rear turn signal ambers from Ka Tur®, and third brake light bulbs from Yorkim. As the installation progressed, I documented the expected improvement resulting from updating the stock bulbs. Figure 1 below, demonstrates the typical improvement in brightness by switching to the LED bulbs.


Updating the seven wedge-base bulbs used in the third brake light array within the trailing edge of the fixed rear wing of the factory, Aerokit was the most problematic. I tried 921 LEDs and (per the Porsche manual) a W3W; these were too large a diameter to fit the housing or too narrow to fit the sockets, respectively. Finally, a ten-pack of red 194 T-10 (X0020T27RT) from Yorkim worked great.


The ratio of brightness between and among certain lights is also important. For example, the brightness of the single tail lights must match the tail light portion of the dual-purpose brake/tail lights. One needs to compare lumens, watts, current draw between the two. Likewise, the overall third brake light should look similar to the individual brake lights as shown in Figure 2.


Performance of front and rear turn signals is also of high importance. An installed set of four 7507 (PY21W) (BAU15S) CANBbus from superbrightleds were similar in brightness to the stock bulbs (but quicker with distinct on/off modes). This was acceptable for the front turn signals because of the excellent optics of the Porsche multiple lamp housing shown in Figure 3.


Because the rear turn signal bulbs must shine through an opaque white lens, the 2000 lumen high output X002EPLYRN LEDs from Ka Tur® were used at the rear. See Figure 4.


The improvement in illumination when backing up was also impressive using a pair of superbrightleds 1156 (30) SMD LED Tower BA 15S base Natural White bulbs. As may be seen in Figure 5, below they are whiter and brighter!


The rear side marker lens is red so a 194-R-120 LED was used. If your front marker light lenses are amber then use an amber or white LED. If your lenses are clear then you can select any color as long as it’s not red (the CVC is a little obscure about this but amber is legal). My lenses are clear so I went with the 194-W-120 in cool white as a personal choice. The “120” in the part number refers to the angle of light projection.


I believe the LED update to be very satisfactory and worth the physical effort and reasonable cost. I was also able to have quality time with my Porsche!


This story and photos can be found in the May Pando on pages 16-19

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