Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon
Display Avatars Sort By:
Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 14:06:02 MST Print View

I just bought a car that is awesome except that the internal lighting is terrible. Really dim dome light, and no other interior lights of any kind. It is a '97 Honda Civic.

Because I own way too many backpacking/camping related lights, I'm thinking I should find a way to use those in my car rather than spending money on car-specific lights. (Dome light is the exception - nothing in my backpacking kit will work well for the ceiling, I think.)

Anyone else do this? What have your creative solutions been?

I have already been using some of my backpacking lights in other contexts. Princeton Tec headlight has an attachment to go onto my bike helmet, and actually because it isn't a particularly light headlamp, I don't use it much for backpacking (but keep it as a lender for friend backpackers). Tiny Fenix LOD flashlight that I usually take backpacking also lives in my daypack/purse (mostly for reading on public transit if it's dark), and I found a velcro attachment that allows me to mount it to my bikes as well. The Photon has lived on my keychain at times, but I wouldn't mind moving it to the car to use there since I prefer my keychain to be super-super minimalist and can go without.

And the best discovery of all is that my Black Diamond Voyager lantern is absolutely the perfect lighting source for my closet! I live in a 100-year old house where I can't run lighting into the closet. This lantern casts a bright warm glow where multiple puck lights have failed; the batteries last a very long time and are easily renewed with my battery charger. I am now thinking of getting another one of these perfect lanterns (BD Voyager or somewhat less powerful Orbit) to hang off some conveniently placed wiring in my car trunk. The hang feature on this lantern is very sturdy and I know a lantern would sway around back there when the car is moving, but I'm not concerned about that. Another plus to having a lantern in the car is that it could be a great free-standing work light in a nighttime car emergency situation. The only thing going against getting another lantern is that it would be nice to stay in keeping with my goal of not buying anything NEW to light my car. Maybe one of my multiple headlamps (I have at least 4, most of them gifted to me) could somehow be attached in the trunk, instead. I wonder if there is a way to somehow velcro them on or otherwise attach them to the fuzzy car interior walls or to little bars or wires found here and there - while still being able to remove them easily for backpacking.

Ideas for me? What I have to work with are a Photon Freedom with a clip mount (could clip to driver-side sun visor or door pocket), and, as stated, several headlamps (in descending order of size): Princeton Tec EOS; Petzl Tikka Plus 2; a small, single-AAA Mammut headlamp (possibly the S-lite); and a Petzl E+Lite. And if I was willing to keep the E+ or the Mammut light in my purse, that would free up the Fenix LOD flashlight to be used in the car somehow.

- Elizabeth

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 14:36:26 MST Print View

Firstly, let me share the love for 1997 Honda Civics!

Frankly, I don't find much of a problem with the output of my dome light, but then again, I don't spend much time in my car at night (unless I'm driving, and then my dome light is not on).

Why not just buy a few of those stick-on battery-powered LED under-cabinet lights, and stick 'em where ever you need them in the car?

Extremely cheap, easy to turn on, and effective! Did I mention cheap?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 14:36:37 MST Print View

If you want a brighter dome light, get that bulb size (festoon 8 mm for a '97 Civic, I believe) with more wattage - incandescents come 5 and 10 watts, you probably have a 5 watt one putting out about 38 lumens. Factory spec was probably the 10-watt (Sylvania's puts out 120 lumens) and someone replaced it with the right size but the wrong wattage. You could find the 10-watt at any auto-parts store.

Or for $4 off of eBay, you could get an LED version of that:

and use much less current and power then the incandescent bulb currently does.

Your use of BP lights in the closet, even in the trunk, sounds great - more light and less battery consumption than the cheap stick-up closet lights. But the factory dome light is very handy because it comes on when you open the door, goes off when you close the door and can be activated by a slide switch on the dome light itself.

My favorite mod for car lighting is to use stiff, black paper or plastic to make a glare shield around the "map light" - the one near the interior rear-view mirror. I put my head where the shortest driver would be and cut the paper so none of the light goes to the driver's eyes. It is then far less annoying and distracting when used by the driver or front passenger to read a map (back before all navigation was done by smart phones), book, food, or find something at night.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 11/10/2013 14:37:56 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 14:41:13 MST Print View

If you put a higher wattage incandescnt lamp it's possible it'll start melting things because it puts out more heat. I can think of a few incandescents that melt things with even the standard wattage bulb.

LED would be much cooler. Also, tend to run down battery less.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Replacement Bulb on 11/10/2013 14:42:30 MST Print View

David solved it, I bet! I have the original bulb, which is why I haven't noticed a problem... Smart, as usual, David!

Now I'm tempted to get that LED replacement one, though... darn tech temptations!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Hot dome lights. on 11/10/2013 15:23:43 MST Print View

>"LED would be much cooler. Also, tend to run down battery less."

I was walking back to my car at the Anchorage airport after several days away. It was covered in 2 inches of snow, except over the dome light where the roof was bare. "Crap!", I thought. Yup, no charge on the battery. Thankfully, all cabs in Alaska carry jumper cables (calling a cab is cheaper than calling a tow truck) so I went back to the terminal, got a cab, got a jump. An LED light bulb over that same period of time would have avoided that (and melted less snow).

Some cities are finding that while LED traffic lights are a minor cost savings in electricity, they are a major labor-saving cost because they avoid sending a crew out in a bucket truck, blocking traffic, etc to replace an incandescent bulb. However, in snow country, some lights shrouds now need to be cleared of snow and ice - something the heat from the incandescent preciously accomplished.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 16:31:32 MST Print View

I would get an led lamp on a gooseneck that plugs into the cigarette lighter. You can get rechargeable flashlights that plug in as well. Those are nice if you need to do something outside the car. Dirt cheap too.

A headlamp could be stripped of its headband and mounted with tape-backed Velcro. My question is whether you could keep it from blinding you.

With a photon, I would just hang it off the rear view mirror or other handy hook

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Creative car lighting with backpacking headlamp/flashlight/lantern/Photon on 11/10/2013 20:47:28 MST Print View

You have a dome light, try and maximize it. It is the most convenient way to light the interior of a car.

I had a similar dilemma with our camper, only I was looking to decrease amperage. But the side effect was higher lumens (33%) with about 225% less amperage draw.

Lighting Solutions

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
OK, I'll fix my dome light on 11/10/2013 21:29:03 MST Print View

Yeah, I love me my Hondas and this one is special. 44 mpg highway, baby! (It's the HX model.) We are months and months away from the next Sierra summer hiking but my mouth is watering at how cheap it will be to get there.

OK, I will fix my dome light. Is it obvious how to unscrew it, or do I need one of those advanced car manuals? If not obvious, I could always hire a local kid to figure it out for me, or ask my mechanic to address it next visit. Right now it is so dim as to be almost useless.

I bought the car from the second owner. He does not know why the dome light is so bad - says it was that way when he bought it from the first owner. Now, I notice the car manual says that installing a non-OEM stereo can cause the dome light to stop working entirely. My car does have a crappy non-OEM stereo, but again it was the first owner who installed it so we don't know the story. Thinking of replacing the stereo and that could be another opportunity to address the dome light question.

I did see those lights that plug into the cigarette lighter. My issue is that the cigarette lighter is almost always being used - it's usually charging my phone, or my mp3 player, or my external speaker, or two of those at once; sometimes I even have an aromatherapy emitter plugged into it. (I know: First World Problem, right?) I suppose I could just appoint the second of the two USB plugs as the permanent spot for the light. But that whole area around the cigarette lighter and cup holders is not well designed and quite crowded already. Maybe I'll buy a low-profile light and try it out.

Valerie: My concern with the stick-on battery-powered LED under-cabinet lights is that I have tried several at home, in my closet and in other locations, and they've all been just lousy. They run out of juice quickly even when not being used often. And they would dim down to nothing very quickly as well. I got sick of changing the batteries often. If you can vouch for this particular brand, or maybe someone can point to another that works off-the-charts well compared to the others: Then I may give that a try. (And if it doesn't work well, it'll be an eyesore stuck to my car upholstery!)

- Elizabeth

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: OK, I'll fix my dome light on 11/10/2013 21:46:45 MST Print View

Maybe just take the cover off the dome light, that will make it brighter

You kind of just grab and squeeze and it comes off. If it's typical of other dome lights. There might be screws. One problem is the plastic gets brittle as it gets older so it's harder to squeeze and get off.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: OK, I'll fix my dome light on 11/10/2013 21:48:58 MST Print View

"Now, I notice the car manual says that installing a non-OEM stereo can cause the dome light to stop working entirely."

So, what it sounds like is this: the first owner changed out the stereo, and the fuse that fed power to the stereo also fed power to the dome light. Since the new stereo may have drawn more power, it was blowing the fuse, which took out the dome light as well. So, they reduced the power into the dome light by replacing the bulb with a low-wattage type, then they replaced the fuse.

With that theory in mind, I would suggest to replace the bulb with a solid state LED bulb that uses no more power than your current bulb draws. Plus, if you choose that carefully, it will have the same or more light than what you currently see.

This is perhaps a little too much for the average teenager, but it should not be too difficult for somebody with a good DC ammeter.


Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: Re: OK, I'll fix my dome light on 11/11/2013 12:00:54 MST Print View

Hmmmm. My '97 Civic has an after-market stereo (but no problems with the dome light). Maybe different stereo installers do things differently?

I can't say that I know of any really good stick-on LEDs. I was going to use them in our old house, but then decided to get an electrician to put in a closet light instead!

Even though I'm fine with my current dome light, I'm considering upgrading to the LED version David recommended. At ~$4 that would be a cheap/easy way for you to start; if that didn't work, then go on to the next idea, and the next...

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: RE: Re: OK, I'll fix my dome light on 11/19/2013 14:53:36 MST Print View

"Maybe different stereo installers do things differently?"

They're all over the map. Some will try and splice into the cigarette lighter.

Apples to oranges but for the 2-way in my work vehicle, the installer decided to disconnect the wire feeding the cigarette lighter altogether to power the radio. Good thing we never need to use GPS, charge work phones, etc.

+1 on the LED. That'd be the easiest without have to worry about overloading the circuit.