Instrumentation Lighting

I, like most Piper owners wish the instrument lighting was better. I have seen several different systems out there including NuLite, Fiber lite, and lights that you put under the glare shield. I have read past posts on the subject and was wondering what others had installed and how they are working out.

NuLite's installation instructions state you only need an owner sign off but that just doesn't sound right. How many of you did the majority of the installation and only had your A&P sign the log book and how hard was the process. How much did the A&P charge for this inspection and sign off? Which units did you like best or were they all pretty comparable.

Hoping to learn from someone else's experience here.



  • TM:
    Over the past two weeks, I've replaced all of my original #53 bulbs with comparable LEDs. The results were quite dramatic. The LEDs are about $2 each and are about 3/16 inch longer than OEM, so they do an excellent job of lighting the intruments. The dimmer works as before. I can post some pictures, if you're interested.

    I bought the LEDs from SuperBrightLEDs. Their service is extremely fast and shipping is cheap.
    I bought the BA9s lamps in the cool white color.

    Sure is a lot cheaper than items you're considering. And, since your Arrow appears to be of similar vintage, they should work for you.
  • Dennis,
    Would love to see photos of the end result. Also how hard is it to relamp?
    I checked out the site and see that there are regular and super bright. Which did you purchase?
  • TM:
    Here's the pics........
    The first is the panel before the LEDs.

    The second is after installing the LEDs

    The photos were taken at identical aperture and time exposure.

    I used the regular LEDs. The relamping requires either the removal of the plastic panel overlay, or getting upside down under the panel and removing each socket, replacing the bulb and reinserting. I found it extremely easy to simply remove the plastic.

    I haven't flown it at night, yet, as I have just finished up getting the lower panel relamped. I used 17 lamps on my panel. I did not change any of the lamps in the radio, transponder, CDI, or compass.

    What do you think?

    VFRs, without TFRs,
  • Big improvement! Can you get these with a red or orange tint?
  • Dennis,
    They look great and much less expensive than the other options. Kent; check out the web site they are available in colors.

  • Wow. That is impressive. I did "some" Nulites on mine which are great... but this might fit the bill to finish it up. I bet if you repainted the reflective siver on the back of the cover and face of the panel it would even be brighter! My lower panel where the tach and manifold pressure are is dim. I am gonna try this stuff. Thanks.
  • I pulled the panel covers off of the Arrow yesterday to count the lamps I would need. Upper left needs 11, upper right needs one and I figure at least one for each of the two lower sections. By my count, no calculator involved that would be 14 lamps. If anyone knows different let me know.

    Thinking about getting the super bright and just dimming them down with the rheostat. Someone else posted about the silver paint and said it didn't make much difference. My plastic has brown over spray which can't be helping much though.

    I thought about pulling those blue covers off of my existing lamps to see if it made any improvement but the lamps are a bit hard to handle with out the covers. The covers give you a good grip on the lamp.

    Seems I remember that someone makes a simple tool to assist with lamp changes of small lamps. Anyone have any idea where I might find such an item.

    When I change mine I will post the pictures to see if I have similar results. I am excited about being able to see my instruments.
  • Tim:
    I think the Super Brights would be way to bright. Sure, you could dim them, but dimming a high power LED might be a bit different. I suspect each LED will reach a different voltage where it will no longer light at all. Then, you'll have a situation where some of the lamps shut down, while others are still lit. I think you'll be quite satisfied with the standards, then if you need a bit more light, paint the backside of the panel overlay white and put ? inch spacers on each of the overlay screws to position the panel out a bit farther.

    If you want to use a SuperBright, put it in the overhead cabin light.

    Just my 2¢.

  • My parts manual for my PA-28-161 shows 16 bulbs; there are a few on the lower part of the instrument panel. I ordered them yesterday in cool white. I plan to use some aluminum tape that I have on the back of the panel for the reflector. I will use some washers as the spacers. Thanks, Dennis, this looks like a great low-cost improvement. I do not believe that you need the rubber covers with the blue tint on the LEDs.
  • Dennis,

    I thought twice about the 4led lamps and didn't get them, went for the 180 degree white lamps with the frosted lens, but I only ordered 15, wonder where the other two go.
  • I don't understand where these lights are going. I have a cherokee 140 1968 model that I put nulites on the instruments. If I didn't use the nulites there would be no lights at all. Are the LED lights you are using, do they go around the instruments? Are they post lights? Mine doesn't have lights behind the plastic panel cover. It is just a cover. Help me understand or could you post some pictures??
  • Can you post some pictures of your panel with the cover off so I can see what bulbs you are replacing and where they go? Thanks. Again all I have is the nulites around the instruments. I would love to have some more light, if possible.
  • These lights were standard equipment on my Piper Warrior. You just remove the plastic panels on the front and behind those panels, around the gauges, slightly recessed, are several sockets for GE no. 53 bulbs. My parts manual shows 16 of these for the whole panel. These are 9mm bayonet type sockets. The BA9s LED bulbs are supposed to be direct replacements. I am hopeful that the stock dimmer works OK with the LED bulbs. I can send you the page from my parts manual if that will help.
  • I hope to have my lights by this weekend. I will try to take some before, during and after shots and post them.
  • Please do, I would love to see pictures.
  • Cathead,

    Attempted the lamp change out this weekend and it was a no joy. During the change out one of the lamp holders disappeared behind the panel. This initiated a process of removing the seats and trying to slide my arm up to find the lamp holder with no luck. I finally fished it back through the front of the panel. Managed to get all the lamps installed and glowing but while putting the plastic overlay back on one the lamps and sockets disappeared back behind the panel again. I fished it out and noted the the replacement LED's are about a quarter inch longer than the original 53's. I pulled them all out. And put things back together. I checked with Superbright and they had a lamp that is only a millimeter or two longer than the 53 which should work so I reordered and will attempt again.

    All in all a waste of time this weekend but the Arrow learned a few new words.

    Will post when I get it completed.
  • Tim:
    I experienced two similar episodes with the sockets dislodging from the panel, but in my case the repositioning was easy. My panel is a simple VFR panel with a lot of room to work. That said, I decided to bend the socket retaining clips so they parallel the panel surface. Now, they don't fall out. They are easily bent while in position by pulling them slightly forward with a needle-nose pliers and slightly bending the tab with the same pliers while holding the socket with your hand.

    The extra length of the lamps is what actually provides a lot of the improved lighting. The shorter GE53s rely on reflecting the light off the back of the panel. The LEDs light the instruments more directly. Also, consider adding 3/16 inch spacers on each screw that secures the panel overlay. That will allow both better reflection and direct lighting. I did not add the spacers, but I'm seriously considering doing that. I noticed that the lighting is much more even when the panel is slightly protracted.

    I'm sure when you finish, you'll enjoy a better result.
  • Cathead,
    I have a '65 180, probably just like your 140 as far as lighting. There are no lights on my panel. I did replace my overhead floodlight bulb which shines on the panel with a red LED and it made a big difference. I used a nine led bulb from SuperBrightLEDs, probably the same bulb discussed below. It is not as good as the late model panels with 15 bulbs but I have flown it at night and it is quite functional. I first tried a very bright 1 watt red LED; It was way too bright. Next I tried a 15 led bulb with lights on the sides and front; still too bright. Finally I tried the red 9 LED bulb with all LEDs facing front; just right. the website has a crossover chart and the original lamp was a number 87. I don't remember the part number but it is easy to figure out.
  • Mike,

    Can you post the link to the bulb you used? Thanks, I'll try it.
  • Dennis,
    I am planning to use a hemostat to physically hold the socket in place so it can't be pushed back into the panel. Is there enough slack in the wiring to pull the sockets through the front of the panel so i can make sure the new lamps are seated properly? I will try to spread the tabs a little to make them harder to push through.
  • Tim:
    Yes, there is enough wire to allow you to pull the sockets slightly aft. Then bend the small square 1/16 inch tabs so they are flat against the panel, about 90º to the tensioning clips. Bending out the spread between the two sides will likely help, but not as much as making a 90º bend so the tabs are flush with the panel. When I took my overlay off the panel, the lamp tensioning clips were bent slightly so that there was an approximate 120º angle, making them easy to pop out and fall behind the panel. Adding spacers will help keep pressure off the lamps.
  • I have a 66 150c and it has festoon bulbs strung in series at the top of the panel. Does anyone know the part number or the buld number so I could cross reference for leds


  • 11J:
    The bulb should have a number stamped on the base. If not, take one out and go to Walmart, Autozone, or National Aeronautics Parts and Accessories and look at the automotive replacement bulbs. Jot down the bulb number, then go to and look up the LED equivalent.

    VFRs, without TFRs,
  • Cathead,
    I was mistaken, my flood lamp was an 89 and I replaced it with a 67-R9-WV.
    You can purchase one here:;Page2Disp=/specs/67.htm
  • Thanks Mike, that's the one I ordered. I also ordered one of the 15 degree bulbs.
  • I finally found time to install the LED lamps in my Arrow Instrument panel. I was going to post some pictures but the site isn't cooperating. Anyone know any tricks to get the pictures to upload?

    OK, more than one way to skin a cat lets see if this works

    Now can anyone fill me in on how to get to the lamps at the bottom of the panel. I can't figure out how to remove the plastic overlays or the gear handle.

  • Tim:
    That looks GREAT. I'm sure you're pleased. Did you end up using the longer frosted BA9SF-W-12V: Cool White 180 Degree 12VAC/DC LEDs, or the shorter BA9S-W-120-12V: Cool White 120 Degree 12V LEDs.

    The lower panel and fuel gauge lamps are accessed on my -161 as follows,
    The fuel gauge plastic overlay snaps into the thin aluminum channel that runs along the top and bottom. It will flex enough to allow you to free up either the upper edge or the lower edge, then you can remove the entire cover and access the lamps. I cleaned up the surface of the gauges while I was in there. The years had yellowed the printing.
    The lower panel lamps were accessed by removing the knee guard along the bottom of the panel. There were four round plastic plugs (about ? inch in diameter) that can be popped out to access the screw heads. Once the knee guards are out of the way, it was easy to reach the lamp clips. These lower panel lamps will require a bit of quality upside down time.
    I'm still working on replacing the lamps in my compass, my CDI, and my radio.
  • I ended up using the latter led's after researching the length. I had photos of the frosted lamps and the ones just installed and there were virtually identical. The overlays however went on without a hitch. After having a couple pop through the panel I opted to clamp on with a hemostat so I couldn't push them through the panel.
    Can't wait for a night flight to see how much better it is.

    As for cleaning up the gauges I don't dare. My year Arrow is the one that has the deteriorating markings on the gauges. One touch and what is there will be gone. There will be a future replacement I am sure.
  • Something to think about, the lighting looks great, however what is your approval for this part change? The parts your looking at are automotive based, do you have a PMA or TSO approveal for the substitution in an aircraft. If your IA raises the question on your annual, you will have to take them all out again and put standard bulbs back in. That is what NuLight gave you, a PMA approved airplane part, just something to think about.
  • Hmmmmm, and with that said all discussion stops!!!
Sign In or Register to comment.