One thing that I saw as a definite oversight by BMW is the lack of lighting in the center console. If you’ve ever tried to find something in there at night you know exactly what I mean. Sure you can turn on the overhead light, but even that light gets blocked as soon as you try to put your hand in there to try and get something. Additionally having the overhead light while you’re driving is distracting.
I had two main criteria for my solution to this problem:
1) it had to be functional (duh); and
2) it had look like it was an OEM install.
After looking into several possibilities, I decided that LED lighting would be the best option; it would easily meet my needs; the light level isn’t obnoxious; it’s low current and cool to the touch. Knowing LEDs give you many choices, I proceeded to further narrow my scope to the following:
• I wanted something that blended in perfectly at night with the dashboard – so an orange colored LED
• I wanted something that once installed, stayed out of the way – so basically something that flush mounted
• LEDs come in several light dispersing angles, so to minimize the number of LEDs I needed to use a wide angle LED
• LEDs need a voltage dropping resistor since they aren’t compatible with a direct 12V DC; so I’d prefer a setup that already incorporated the resistor
After some searching I came across exactly what I was looking for on E-Bay from a US based seller called 1michiganger. He sells “ 5mm PRE WIRED 12 VOLT WIDE VIEW ANGLE ORANGE PREWIRED 12V FLAT” and the mating LED retainers.
• 24 gauge red and black wires, 8 inches long
• Input voltage: 10~15 Vdc.
• Wide viewing Angle : 140~160 deg. – This is key otherwise you’ll need to use many more than the two that I used
• Lens - water clear
• Low power consumption (<20mA)
• Very bright! 5000 Mcd
• Heavy duty, BOTH wires are wrapped together at the LED making a stronger assembly!
I e-mailed him and he made a custom listing for me with the exact number I wanted and threw in the retainers for free (YMMV). They came out to be about $3 each including the retainer and shipping.
A few Notes:
Instead of posting the same pics and techniques over and over again; I figured I’d just reference the DIY guides I used for assistance in removing the council:
Top of the Center Council removal -
Back of the Center Council removal and wiring –
I also did this at the same time as my GPS install, so some additional info may be gleamed from that –
1. Once you remove the top as well as the back of the center council (see links above) you can choose the spots for your LEDs. Obviously centered and higher are better. I held a few LEDs in the positions I was considering and what you see in the pics below ended up being the best for me.
2. You will need to solder longer wires on to the ends of the preassembled LEDs. I had some 22 gauge wire that I soldered and used heat shrink tubing to cover. I added about 36 inches to ensure I could route them anywhere I needed to. I just cut off the excess before the final soldered connection.
3. I twisted the entire length of the wires from the LEDs to the ends in order to give them some extra strength and to keep them together for a neat appearance.
4. 5 mm LEDs will fit perfectly in a ¼ inch drilled hole – just make sure you don’t round the hole or they won’t mount with the desired tight fit.
5. My drill wouldn’t fit inside of the console so I drilled from the outside in, from both the front and the back of the console. I used a newer bit so it left little, if any, burs on the inside. What it did leave I could pull off with my fingers.
6. Once the hole is drilled I just placed the retainer in the hole and then fed the wires through from the inside of the console until the LED “snapped” into the retainer. The finished assembly fit nice and tight into my drilled holes.
7. Power - I wanted a power source that was on when the car was on (or in accessory mode). Yes, I know that means that the LEDs will be “on” all of the time – but they pull so little current and they don’t get warm at all. Additionally, I didn’t want to have to put my headlights/parking lights on every time I wanted to reach into the console (for example when parked or in a parking lot or my garage).
a. One thing that I did verify was that no light leaked out when the LEDs were on and the console was closed. I placed two LEDs inside and closed the console – I couldn’t see any leakage even in my dark garage; (which, had it leaked out/been visible, would have driven me nuts and looked unprofessional as well).
b. Therefore I chose to tap into the wires from the power outlet in the center console. These are easily found once the rear of the console is pulled/lifted off (see link above). They are located on the far left hand (driver’s) side below the plastic connector (see pic below). I just stripped the insulation away and then trimmed and soldered the LED leads directly to the two wires (I was using these for my GPS connection as well).
A bit off-topic, but as an FYI; at the same time I also installed a flush mount, 5V / 1 A dual USB connector into the center console’s power port. It allows me to easily charge/power two phones or anything else that can be charged with a USB cable. Furthermore it contains a “SmartFuse” that is supposed to protect with a built-in resetting circuit breaker; so no fuses to replace. It’s made by Griffin Technology and has decent reviews at Amazon (4 stars at 186 reviews – approx $13.50 shipped). If you’re so inclined you can mod it to provide 2 Amps at a single port to meet the higher current requirements in order to charge your iPad. Again it’s a flush mount and once installed looks as if it was an OEM installation. You can see it in the pics.
As far as the LED install - I am quite happy with the results. The orange LEDs light up the entire console nicely; they only stick out about 1/16 – 1/32 of an inch so are out of the way and things don’t get caught/snagged on them; there is no light leakage in the dark with the console closed; and when open the orange color blends perfectly with the instrument panel.
The results can be seen below -