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Adding LEDs to Cupholders
Keep your eyes on the road
Published by Eights-n-Aces
01-24-2011
Adding LEDs to Cupholders

I'm sure there are several options for where to add LEDs so that the hupholders are illuminated. I thought through the pros and cons but eventually decided to remove the cup holders and add them inside the actual cup holder. The hardest part of the project is figuring a way for the wires that power the LEDs to slide in and out with the cup holder.

Step 1: Remove trim and cupholders: I used an ID card (Costco Card) and applied light pressure back and forth across the trim piece. As you can see, there are two posts in the center and these slide out rather easily. The clips on each end hold a little stronger. I would recommend against pulling out from the center because the trim piece gets pretty slim along the cup holder. Instead, use the card on the end and on the vertical side at each end. Just apply some pressure and work it out. After that, it's just a matter of removing the two screws on each cup holder. Here is a diagram and a photo of the actual trim piece.



Step 2: Opening Cupholders: The cupholders have tabs on each side. Using your fingers or an ID Card / small screwdriver, open each cup holder. There is a slight difference between driver's and passenger's side coil springs you need to be aware of. The coil spring for the passenger side cup holder is mounted to the lid. So when you separate the two sides the cup holder may shoot forward (nothing drastic). I recommend that you extend the cupholder to relieve most of the spring tension, then grasp both pieces securely (or make sure it has a soft place to land).

The driver's side coil spring is mounted to the bottom so opening the top is worry free.



Step 3: LED Placement: I ordered 3mm pre-wired LEDs from Oznium.com in orange. They match the existing ambient lighting perfectly. The picture below shows where I placed my LEDs. There may be other options, just plan carefully and test before glueing. Use a 9v battery with alligator clips to test the lights in the car and make sure nothing is shining in your eyes. Also, you can use 600 grit sandpaper to diffuse the light from the LED so it glows instead of shines on a single spot.



The passenger side LED placement required that I drill small holes in some of the internal plastic fins for the wires to pass. To do this, I used a very small screwdriver. I heated the screwdriver until is was glowing red then carefully melted my way through while twisting to make a round hole. Use care and work slowly and it will come out smooth.



Step 4: Fabrication for the LED wires to slide with cup holder: This is probably the most difficult part. Because the LED is glued to the sliding portion of the cupholder you have to allow for this wire movement. To do this, I used the straw from a spray bottle to give me something with the flexibility yet rigidity I needed. I tried multiple straws until I found one with just enough inner diameter to fit two wires. With the cup holder in the closed position, I drilled a hole through the back of the cupholder case and into the internal space where my wire connections were made. I made the hole as small as possible, then glued the straw in place, with the two wires passing through it. You will need to do some trial and error to make sure you have clearance behind the cup holder for the straw when it is mounted back in the car. Test, test, test before glueing into place.



Step 4: Wiring: After you've tested everything it's time to assemble and wire. There's no mistery to the wiring. I used 22 guage wire for all connections. I left plenty of excess wire so there was room for movement. I had an existing fuse tap for a radar dectector so I just tapped into this.

Final Results: The pictures aren't great because its hard to get pics of LEDs in the dark. However, the LEDs cast a nice glow over the cup holder without shining in your eyes.



The cost for this project is relatively low. The LEDs cost about $10 with shipping (I ordered extra) and the wire and connectors cost about another $15. Also, there's very little risk. I could reverse the whole project and never know anything was modified since it's all internal. Besides, if you muff-up something, I think the cupholders are $35 each to replace.
__________________
2010 E93 335i M LeMans Blue
2001 E 46 330ci Coupe/silver/black/Sunroof
1999 BMW R1200C Cruiser-Ivory & Blue
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  #1  
By DimSum on 01-24-2011, 01:30 PM
Great idea
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  #2  
By 2kaccordocoupe on 01-24-2011, 03:23 PM
Well done, it should come from the factory like this
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  #3  
By LuvMyRide on 01-24-2011, 04:01 PM
Wow, that was a cool trick
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  #4  
By I335 on 01-24-2011, 05:08 PM
Great job! What does it look like when the cup holders are closed - do you see the glow around the edges?
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  #5  
By Eights-n-Aces on 01-24-2011, 10:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I335 View Post
Great job! What does it look like when the cup holders are closed - do you see the glow around the edges?
No, that would have been cool, but when they're closed it totally dark again. I will say that the amount of light turned out perfect when they are open but it's hard to take a picture.
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  #6  
By rajiv81084 on 12-21-2012, 08:30 PM
Awesome .. I was looking for this
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  #7  
By mikeisnorml on 02-23-2014, 10:56 PM
so you just used 1 LED per cup holder?... came out very clean.
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  #8  
By Ali-323i on 04-28-2014, 10:24 PM
It's too bad you're not local, I'd pay you to help me do this is my car!
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  #9  
By WRichieX on 04-28-2014, 10:34 PM
Awesome! Gonna attempt this soon.thanks for sharing.
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  #10  
By joeyb649 on 05-11-2014, 02:30 PM
How hard is this? I want to do this! A video would be much appreciated!
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  #11  
By joeyb649 on 05-11-2014, 07:43 PM
How is this even powered a 9v battery?
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  #12  
By Xcapegoat on 05-20-2014, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyb649 View Post
How is this even powered a 9v battery?
He just used the 9V to test the LEDs prior to installing.
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  #13  
By Eights-n-Aces on 08-08-2014, 07:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeisnorml View Post
so you just used 1 LED per cup holder?... came out very clean.
Yes. 1 LED per cupholder is sufficient. At night, the glow on the cupholders match the rest of the accent lighting in both color and brightness.
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  #14  
By Eights-n-Aces on 08-08-2014, 07:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyb649 View Post
How hard is this? I want to do this! A video would be much appreciated!
Depends on your skills I guess. If it's any clue, this was my first attempt at LED lighting. I think the key is to go slow and think through each step.
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  #15  
By Eights-n-Aces on 08-08-2014, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyb649 View Post
How is this even powered a 9v battery?
See Step 4: Wiring: ...I used 22 guage wire for all connections. I left plenty of excess wire so there was room for movement. I had an existing fuse tap for a radar dectector so I just tapped into this...

Xcapegoat is correct. I tested the lights with a 9V battery to make sure they worked before reassembling. By lowering the glove box to access the fuse panel you also access the back of the dash. From there I just tapped into an existing fuse tap and dressed up the excess wire. Since the wire has to move in and out of the cup holder, make sure to leave enough excess.
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