Lighting your cars with Fiber Optics

1 comment by Michael Groves

Well, it is a simple task once you’ve done it several times!! In this paper I will demonstrate a simple way to put lighting into you cars, head, tail, and interior lights.

Choose your vehicle carefully. The first challenge is drilling the holes for the fibers. If the headlights are beautifully rounded, give it a miss, unless you have a small drill press and a very short drill that won’t wander all over the headlight.

Next, choose the fiber size you want to use. For tail lights I always use 0.75mm fiber but the headlights may use 2 of 0.75mm fiber or a 1.0mm fiber. This will provide possibly too much light, but the fiber can always be adjusted in the Lamplighter™ box so as to dim it. The choice of fiber will dictate the drill and hence hole size.

Step 1:
The fibers will come into the car through the bottom of the chassis which therefore needs a hole drilled into it and a tube mounted up through it. In this case I used an 1/8th” drill bit and a K&S 8101 1/8” diameter aluminum tube. TIP: An easy way to cut the tube is insert a 1.5 to 2mm fiber and use a pair of wire strippers to gently cut into the tube, which will easily snap off leaving a clean outer surface, but needing a bit of filing on the inside. Although the tube is a good fit, I apply a bit of CNA to glue it in place.

Step 2:
Cut the fibers to length and bend the fibers leaving about 2” after the bend.
First put the fibers into an appropriately sized tube, then insert them into a shallow baking pan, finally pour in very hot water and push the exposed fibers against the pan wall, thereby splaying them out at 90 degrees.

Step 3:
Insert the fibers through the hole in the chassis of the car as shown. To hold them in place I applied some glue to the fiber and the side of the front seats and then used a twist tie to hold them in place until the glue dried. Never use CNA on the fiber - it will damage the fiber where it makes contact.

Step 4:
Place the body onto the chassis. This involved inserting the fibers into the brake light holes into the body as I mounted the body onto the chassis.

Step 5:
Collect the long ends of the fibers and join them onto a larger fiber using a coupling piece. In this case I used the same K&S 8101 Aluminum tube as above and glued the fibers so the ends were even inside the tube. I then inserted a 2 foot piece of 2mm tubing into that tube using some index matching fluid, and glued the exiting 2mm fiber into the tube. (Sorry, but I forgot to take a photo of Step 4 and 5 but I think this should be rather obvious).

Step 6:
Now it was time to mount the vehicle onto the layout.
I drilled a 1/8” hole into a road bed, inserted the fibers and then the vehicle. Do not drill the hole in the layout too large as it is important for the tube protruding from the chassis has some friction in the layout hole as fibers tend to twist the car to angles you don’t want.

Step 7:
Admire your work, take some pictures to send to me, and enjoy.