March 2010

BOTH 2006-2009 Prius D4R headlight bulbs replaced for $126 total, period. That’s right. Both headlight bulbs replaced for $126.

There are several brands of the D4R bulb. The factory Prius bulbs are from Philips. Since the D4R is a commodity part, in other words it’s made by many manufacturers in quantities in the millions, then Toyota just puts out for a bid and picks the lowest bidder with the best reputation. So Philips is nothing special.If you want to replace your factory Prius bulbs with the factory Philips part, then you pay far more. Fine by me. It’s your money. The issue is still that even after being replaced, they are ‘burning out’, again. Think it’s still the bulb?? The Prius is not the only car to run the D4R. Not by a mile. Do you hear all of these same headlight issues with other brands of cars? Not even! Here’s how industrial design electronics work. A spec is generated and then engineering designs the circuitry to that spec. In good companies they test the daylights out of the part to make sure their spec is sound. If it fails, they make the improvements, and test the daylight out of the improved part. Bad companies will just lower their part price to dump the defective design onto the market. Happens all of the time.

Here’s my take on Toyota’s headlight issue. If the bulbs repeatedly die in a Prius, but not in other brands of cars, then it’s not the bulb, it’s the control module that drives it. When a spec is written, a rookie circuit designer will make sure his circuit meets the spec. He’s fresh out of collage and has a lot to prove. So he works hard. What he is missing is that time is the great educator. He doesn’t know if his circuit design will still work once it ages, or once the bulb ages. Since both the control module and the bulbs are active elements of the design, they are prone to wear. So they can drift out of spec. An experienced designer knows this, and makes sure his circuit is made to work with parts that are very well worn or seasoned. Yes I know they do accelerated age testing. But that ain’t real life. Only real life can show how well something works over time. Everything else is just a guess. Otherwise there would never be a recall on anything. In theory, the design should work. In practice, the theory doesn’t work.

Here is what I am offering. Since the bulbs will most likely burn out again in the future, read about it online if you don’t believe me, then just put in something equivalent until Toyota gets their act together. The lower cost bulbs that are available are not that much lower in cost than the factory Toyota bulbs. Remember any good car maker designs in a significant amount of profit for the parts they sell.So of course they will cost far more than the equivalent parts made by other manufacturers. Is it really worth leaving your car at the dealer, arranging another ride back to work, then arranging yet another ride back to the dealership?? Over light bulbs?

Email me and I’ll schedule you in. I’m at mikep_95133 at If you want me to come to your work and do it there, it’s another $25. I can take paypal, cash, or even checks if you don’t look like a slime ball. If your check bounces I’ll repo my bulbs 😉

If my distributor runs out, there may be a delay. So far so good. Same with the prices. So far so good on them too.

If you absolutely want the Philips bulb, then pay me in advance and I’ll order them for you. The price will be somewhat higher.

If you already have bulbs, and want me to install them. I’ll charge you $60 total for my labor. I’m just trying to pay the mortgage.

Here are the fets temporarily mounted to the heatsinks. I say temporarily because I forgot to add some thermal grease under each fet. But I’m glad to know that my dimensions were ok, and that everything fit nicely. I used double sided foam tape on the bottoms of the 3 heatsinks. This will isolate it from the board per Fritz, and mechanically secure it to the board.

Looks just like the picture! Shot w/G1.

Here is a closeup of the mounted fets. The screw heads just barely clear between heatsinks. So make sure when you drill and tap that you center the holes vertically along the slot. Using button head screws would give more clearance. My flat washers were a bit thick as well. Shot w/G1.

Turns out that 6-32 screws fit the fets nicely so that’s what I tapped the heatsinks with, instead of 4-40. The cnc code did fine. I had to add a step that chamfered the top of each hole so that the tap would start easier. The nicest part of using the mill is for power tapping. It makes perfect threads and the mill does the work. The 6-32 tap is the smallest I’ve every power tapped with. It’s a cheap tap too, but it worked just fine!

Here they are just finished. Image shot with my G1 cellphone.

This morning I measured out the fet placement on the heat sinks, then wrote the g-code to do it on the cnc. I debugged the g-code on the cnc too. Now I can drill and tap all 18 holes in 3 heat sinks with ease. They will all be tapped for 4-40. 3mm would work too. I suppose I could drill a clearance hole and use nuts on the back side too.

Today I just announced the opening of the US Electricar store to the US Electricar Yahoo group.

I just got the huge 4 farad cap in the mail. Yesterday I found a nice Tektronics chassis at Halted that use to be some old test instrument. If it will hold all of the larger spot welder assemblies, then it will fit on my bench very nicely as it’s narrow. The chassis was designed to sit on either of two sides. I just need to start the assembly process.

If you have not noticed or heard, I’ve opened the US store for USE owners so they can get repairs and parts to keep their vehicles running. There are links on this blog to take you there. Enjoy!

The 10 tooth L series pulley and belt arrived from McMaster today. The pulley had to be bored out from 3/8″ ID to 5/8″ ID to fit the Z axis motor. Now the motor has much more torque against the quill. I turned up the speed a bit and it still moves very quickly even though the ratio is much steeper. It also helps the Z axis gain some more accuracy.

Today I finally got a fixture together to wind the T1 transformers that fail on the Dolphin chargers. I used an IR led pair tied to a counter to tell me how many windings were made. I wrote several types of G-code to have the cnc mill help in the winding of these parts. It worked out well in the end after several iterations. I settled in the 532-540 ohm range after they were wound. This was a few turns under 3k. I have one more transformer to wind. I’ll take some better video with a better source. It took days to figure all of this out and get it built and tested. The original estimate for rewinding was 15 hours. By working on the G-code and the cnc hardware I knocked is down to just over 2 hours. But last night I had a better idea. Now the full rewind takes 5 minutes while the hardware counts every turn. Sweet!

The brightness of this IR led was too high. The Rx led did not like so much light. These pics were taken with my G1 cell phone since the human eye cannot see Infra-red light. Thanks to Bob at Halted for that great tip! Video camera with night shooting have the same capability of seeing IR.

This brightness worked well. I might even be able to drop it a bit more, but for now it worked fine.

Here is a winding video from my G1 cell phone. You need Quicktime to play it. I didn’t sit still long enough to show that the transformer is moving up and down via the cnc. It spaces the windings out very nicely. I borrowed the counter from my automated battery load tester.

The new quill cover for the Bridgeport that I got from Don is now installed. I oiled it up nicely and the quill moves well up and down it’s full range of motion now.

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