The factory Ďdomeí light was never very appealing, nor was it very useful. The map lights were ok, but the dome light was very poorly conceived. The yellowish plastic cover through which the dome light shone was too opaque and never allowed a significant amount of light to illuminate the interior of the cab. We decided to do something completely different and we found a dome light assembly that had the features we were looking for and then we made it better.
Fordís lack of attention to the interior back in the 80ís was underwhelming. The dome light had always been a sore spot. For this project, we surfed a lot of internet auctions looking for something that was unique, easy to adapt and something that would lend itself to an LED conversion. We finally settled on the dome light assembly from a late model suburban. It has a nicely designed center courtesy light with two adjustable map lights. Itís size and shape were ideal for our LED customization. So we bought two of them just in case we screwed up on the first attempt. The price was very reasonable and our little side project was underway.
We began by separating the tan trim from the dome light assembly by using a dremel tool to grind out the melted tabs binding the two. The trim piece was set aside and painted dark blue metallic to match the new interior. The dome light assembly was then fully disassembled so we could convert the map lights and courtesy lights over to LED lights with the Luxeon LEDís supplied by Lumileds. Once everything was apart, we had to figure out how to get the LEDís installed. The sheer size of the heat sink on the Luxeon LED made the process very challenging. Especially since the map lights assemblies are made up of two pieces, with the reflector assembly separate from the ball / socket assembly.
After pondering the issue for quite some time, we finally arrived at the solution. We started by cutting the reflector socket off of the ball unit. Then, using a dremel, we removed the material between the fins to make room for the Luxeon LED. After trimming the fins to accommodate the Luxeon, we used acrylic resin to bond the reflectors to the ball / socket unit. Then the Luxeon LED was set in place so the actual light emitter was positioned in nearly the same place as the original light bulb. A small amount of acrylic resin was also used to bond the Luxeon LED to the map light unit. As an extra measure, we bonded a few small strips of styrene plastic behind the Luxeon using the ball / socket fins as mounting points.
Once the Luxeon LEDís were secured, the map lights were replaced into the dome light assembly and the small circuit boards that power the Luxeonís were tucked away inside the housing. Next, we then worked to install a single white Luxeon LED and a single red Luxeon LED in the space which previously contained the dome light bulb. This way, at night, we can switch between white for full illumination or red for Ďnight visioní. Mounting the Luxeon LEDís in this cavity was fairly simple. Since there was plenty of room to work with, we just mounted a strip of sheet metal across the opening and using thermal epoxy, bonded the Luxeon LEDís to the metal. The circuit boards were then set behind the LEDís. All that remained was to re-attach the newly painted trim Ďringí and then to mount the dome light to roof of the truck after making the electrical connections.
Now we have a very custom, very bright illumination solution for the interior of our truck. Thanks to Lumileds for their support, we were able to create the very best dome light solution that is flexible and well suited to our needs. Night will never be the same.