Need some help with unique but simple circuit

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
I have a home in a very remote part of the California desert. There is an old 1976 Ford Courier that will never run again but looks good, parked in the front. There are a lot of burglaries out here.

The courier is 70 feet from the road. I would like to light up the tail lights at night to make it look like the truck is running. Solar would be ideal.

Not sure what's possible with making the lights look random. They should look like something a car's tail lights would normally do. I'm thinking emergency flashers, blinkers, brake pedal pushes. I would think that the 12v lights would need to be replaced with LEDs. I don't mind drilling holes into the light housings if necessary. The flashing pattern should be random if possible. Might be fun to also light the parking lights.

This is a small truck so I have room for a large solar cell and batteries. I would like to do it inexpensively if possible. I can solder and put simple circuit boards together but I not familiar with the capabilities of ICs. But I'm thinking if they can do Christmas lights, this shouldn't be impossible.

Speaking of which, would a controller for Christmas lights work? Anyway, I thought this would be a fun project and a chance for you geniuses to show what you got. If it's not practical, oh well, then I'll just give up on the idea. Thanks in advance for any ideas, this board has helped me in the past, and I really appreciate it.
 

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dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
11,000
I'm thinking emergency flashers, blinkers, brake pedal pushes. I would think that the 12v lights would need to be replaced with LEDs. I don't mind drilling holes into the light housings if necessary. The flashing pattern should be random if possible. Might be fun to also light the parking lights
An Arduino Uno or Nano would give you a lot of possibilities. The knock offs are only a few dollars.

You could remove the existing bulbs and dangle some high brightness LEDs in the housings. An Arduino won't be able to tell time, but you could have it do it's thing based on when it was first turned on and have it repeat it's cycle every 24 hours.
 

michael8

Joined Jan 11, 2015
49
Instead of "telling time" I'd just sense the sun (via the solar panel voltage or a separate optodiode/transistor sensor).

Or have the microprocessor use the sun sensor in it's time calculation (to fix time drift).
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
An Arduino Uno or Nano would give you a lot of possibilities. The knock offs are only a few dollars.

You could remove the existing bulbs and dangle some high brightness LEDs in the housings. An Arduino won't be able to tell time, but you could have it do it's thing based on when it was first turned on and have it repeat it's cycle every 24 hours.
That sounds like an easy solution. Ill look into those. Always been curious about them. Thanks for the ideas..
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
That sounds like an easy solution. Ill look into those. Always been curious about them. Thanks for the ideas..
I dont know anything about them except that one has a full size usb connector and a power input and the nano only has a micro USB input (or was that mini). Anyway, that suggests that you connect them to a computer to program them. Once programed, can they be disconnected from the computer? I'm guessing yes, but really have no idea.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
11,000
I dont know anything about them except that one has a full size usb connector and a power input and the nano only has a micro USB input (or was that mini).
Just about everything uses micro USB now. The more expensive Raspberry Pi's are an exception. You could also use a Raspberry Pi Zero W. If you have WiFi, it can keep time accurately. But, you'll spend at least $20.
that suggests that you connect them to a computer to program them. Once programed, can they be disconnected from the computer?
That's right. Once you program them, they no longer need to be connected to the computer.

The IDE has some bugs, but it mostly works. There may be more people on the Arduino forum, but, in my experience, they're not very friendly. I didn't even make it to 100 posts before leaving.

You're still going to need some circuitry to drive the LEDs because Arduino I/O's can only sink or source about 20mA (when operating at 5V).
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
Just about everything uses micro USB now. The more expensive Raspberry Pi's are an exception. You could also use a Raspberry Pi Zero W. If you have WiFi, it can keep time accurately. But, you'll spend at least $20.
That's right. Once you program them, they no longer need to be connected to the computer.

The IDE has some bugs, but it mostly works. There may be more people on the Arduino forum, but, in my experience, they're not very friendly. I didn't even make it to 100 posts before leaving.

You're still going to need some circuitry to drive the LEDs because Arduino I/O's can only sink or source about 20mA (when operating at 5V).
I guess I'll need a relay, I can handle that. I'm going with the Arduino, bought a book, watched a video, bought an Arduino kit. I'm a computer nerd, but no programming. This will be a new adventure. Thanks everyone
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
11,000
I guess I'll need a relay, I can handle that
An N channel MOSFET will be cheaper. You just need to get a logic level variety so 5V from the Arduino can turn it on hard enough.

EDIT: You could use NPN transistors too (2N3904). For an N channel MOSFET, you could use 2N7000.
I'm a computer nerd, but no programming. This will be a new adventure.
It won't be very difficult. There are a lot of examples of how to use the digital outputs. All you have to do is define them as outputs and turn them on and off.
 
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Hamlet

Joined Jun 10, 2015
327
Open the hood and hang a drop light from it, turn it on. Leave some old tools on the fenders. Buy a twelve pack of beer, drink half, throw the cans around, and leave the unconsumed beer nearby. Any lowlife will see this and consider it as current activity, get nervous, and move on. If they come snooping around a little closer, they will find the unopened beer, swipe it, and be satisfied. If the beer is the Natural-Ice brand, they will crap themselves and run away, because only shotgun wielding redneck mechanics drink that stuff. Let us know how things work out.
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
Open the hood and hang a drop light from it, turn it on. Leave some old tools on the fenders. Buy a twelve pack of beer, drink half, throw the cans around, and leave the unconsumed beer nearby. Any lowlife will see this and consider it as current activity, get nervous, and move on. If they come snooping around a little closer, they will find the unopened beer, swipe it, and be satisfied. If the beer is the Natural-Ice brand, they will crap themselves and run away, because only shotgun wielding redneck mechanics drink that stuff. Let us know how things work out.
That made my day, excellent advice!!
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
An N channel MOSFET will be cheaper. You just need to get a logic level variety so 5V from the Arduino can turn it on hard enough.

EDIT: You could use NPN transistors too (2N3904). For an N channel MOSFET, you could use 2N7000.
It won't be very difficult. There are a lot of examples of how to use the digital outputs. All you have to do is define them as outputs and turn them on and off.
Ya, seems simple enough. I watched just one YouTube and learned how to set an output and turn it on and off. Looking forward to it.
 

Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
I have a home in a very remote part of the California desert. There is an old 1976 Ford Courier that will never run again but looks good, parked in the front. There are a lot of burglaries out here. The courier is 70 feet from the road. I would like to light up the tail lights at night to make it look like the truck is running. Solar would be ideal. Not sure what's possible with making the lights look random. They should look like something a car's tail lights would normally do. I'm thinking emergency flashers, blinkers, brake pedal pushes. I would think that the 12v lights would need to be replaced with LEDs. I don't mind drilling holes into the light housings if necessary. The flashing pattern should be random if possible. Might be fun to also light the parking lights. This is a small truck so I have room for a large solar cell and batteries. I would like to do it inexpensively if possible. I can solder and put simple circuit boards together but I not familiar with the capabilities of ICs. But I'm thinking if they can do Christmas lights, this shouldn't be impossible. Speaking of which, would a controller for Christmas lights work? Anyway, I thought this would be a fun project and a chance for you geniuses to show what you got. If it's not practical, oh well, then I'll just give up on the idea. Thanks in advance for any ideas, this board has helped me in the past, and I really appreciate it.
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Thread Starter

PaulCalif

Joined Oct 14, 2018
19
Now to the solar cells and battery. I want enough capacity to power the LEDs all night. If there isn't a lot of difference in price, I'd like to get extra capacity in case I add more LEDs. I have the truck bed, so size doesn't matter (in this case ;-), but weather does. I plan on putting the electronics in the cab and just the solar cells and wires outside. I thought about a small solar battery combination for like charging a cell phone but I think it would be better to have the solar cells separate from the batteries. Any and all suggestions welcome.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,737
Open the hood and hang a drop light from it, turn it on. Leave some old tools on the fenders. Buy a twelve pack of beer, drink half, throw the cans around, and leave the unconsumed beer nearby. Any lowlife will see this and consider it as current activity, get nervous, and move on. If they come snooping around a little closer, they will find the unopened beer, swipe it, and be satisfied. If the beer is the Natural-Ice brand, they will crap themselves and run away, because only shotgun wielding redneck mechanics drink that stuff. Let us know how things work out.
Until the would be thieves see the same beer cans there every day all day every night all night, no change in activity. Fool me once, shame on you. Try to fool me twice - I'll take the beer and tools.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
11,000
I want enough capacity to power the LEDs all night. If there isn't a lot of difference in price, I'd like to get extra capacity in case I add more LEDs.
Does the vehicle have a battery that's in decent shape?

If you only use the Arduino to control devices switching the LEDs, you can power it from a 12V battery. You want to minimize the current the Arduino consumes to reduce power dissipation in its voltage regulator.
 
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