Cheapo AA Flashlight Mod

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NeutralFan
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Cheapo AA Flashlight Mod

Here is my first flashlight mod. I figured it would be fairly risk free since it was being done on a cheapo flashlight. But, I also found out that it was more work to modify due to it being a cheapo flashlight from head to tail. I received lots of great advice and info from others here on BLF: Mod Advice For a Cheapo Flashlight.

I bought a 6 pack of these flashlights several years ago for $5, so less than a dollar each. Overall they work well and are plenty bright for the money. They are a single AA battery flashlight with 1 mode and a reverse clicky switch. They have 3 aluminum sections with o-rings that screw into each other – the head, battery tube, and tail. The flashlights have been used a lot by my family without any problems. These are the flashlights I give to my kids so I don’t have to worry about them getting lost, dropped, etc.

My biggest complaint about the flashlights is the awful blue tint.
Cheapo flashlight left, ZebraLight SC52w right.

Here is the disassembly of the flashlight head.

The LED aluminum MCPCB fits in the top part of the hollow plastic pill and the driver/positive terminal fits in the bottom. Obviously not much of a thermal path here, but there’s also not much heat being produced either.

Here’s where I encountered my 1st issue. The retaining ring that came with the flashlight was not that useable. It was very thin, hard to tighten, and almost impossible to remove. Eventually it broke. So I made a retaining ring from a washer.

My main priority for the mod was to improve the tint, and a little more lumens would be nice too. I went to my favorite flashlight store Mountain Electronics and got a Nichia 219C 70+ CRI 5000K mounted on a Noctigon direct thermal path copper MCPCB and a Lumintop 3 mode (medium, low, high) boost driver.

Given that there will be more heat produced with the new LED and driver, I wanted to improve the thermal path. I got a ½ inch copper cap from a local store to replace the plastic pill. This new solid pill needed 2 holes for the LED wires and to be shortened to fit properly in the flashlight.

Since the driver is also the positive battery contact, I had to devise a way to hold it at the bottom of the pill. I used 2 washers and sandwiched the driver between them. I sanded the washers to make them thinner in order to take up less space and to make sure the AA battery was able to make contact with the driver. And I used electrical tape on 1 washer to prevent short circuits from the components side of the driver.

I used new wires to connect the LED to the driver since the wires that came with the driver were not long enough. I had to be careful when soldering the wires on to the driver due to its small size and all the electrical components on it.

Here is the new LED and driver with the copper solid pill.

Here is the new LED assembly in the head of flashlight. With the new retaining ring, I was able to clamp everything together really tight, especially the LED MCPCB against the pill.

The flashlight worked, but this is when I encountered my 2nd issue. In high mode, any movement of the switch caused the LED to flicker and the lumens to fluctuate. Sometimes it was very bright in high mode, other times it was close to the medium mode. This issue was barely noticeable in medium and did not occur at low. It appeared the switch was having problems with the increased current. The switch assembly is pressed into the tail section of the flashlight. I was able to remove it by pushing hard on the button side. I got a better quality Omten 1217 reverse clicky switch.

Left is the cheapo switch, right is the Omten switch.

I was able to use the existing plastic holder, but had to make room for the new switch since it was slightly bigger.

The switch was also too wide to fit into the tail of the flashlight. So I broke off the longer tab and filed the ends of the switch to make it smaller. I ground the remaining portion of the tab to make it recessed enough to not make contact with the inside of the flashlight. I then made a small groove into the side of the switch to solder a wire to the tab. I soldered the other end of the wire to the top of the spring. I guess this would be considered a spring bypass, but the only function of spring now is to help the wire make contact with the battery.

The Omten switch resolved the flickering issue and as a bonus, sits a little further in the flashlight to make it tail stand better.

Here are some beamshots of the modified flashlight.

Cheapo flashlight left, modified flashlight right.

Cheapo flashlight left, modified flashlight middle, ZebraLight SC52w right.

In comparison with the ZebraLight specs, I estimate the lumens went from 50 lumens to 250 lumens. The tail current using my DMM went from 0.4 amps to 2.0 amps.

I am very pleased with how the flashlight turned out. The tint is great, the flashlight is much brighter, and is more useful with 3 modes. I also learned a lot about flashlight design and had fun figuring out how to make the new parts work. I do not plan on modifying the 5 other cheapo flashlights since I’d rather spend my time and money on other flashlights, but this one will now proudly be part of my flashlight collection.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

Bc412
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Very nice.

The home depot defiant flashlights are great lights to mod as well.

I’ve upgraded a few of the 2xaa ones with great success

ImA4Wheelr
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Nice work.  These types of lights with the plastic pills are extra challenging to mod.  Thanks for helping keep the budget in BLF.

Hope you use this mod to enter my 7K giveaway.

DavidEF
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Like ImA4Wheelr said, you’re keeping the ‘B’ in BLF there! Great mod!

The Cycle of Goodness: “No one prospers without rendering benefit to others”
- The YKK Philosophy

CRX
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I prefered the old tint.
Just kiddin Smile Well done Thumbs Up

NeutralFan
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Thanks for the comments my fellow BLFers. It was a lot more work than I anticipated when I first thought about modifying the flashlight. For some strange reason though, I’ve had a hard time not using it as my main flashlight around the house. I know my other flashlights are much better, but I keep using this modified cheapo flashlight instead. Must be the personal connection I have with it.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

JasonJ
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Nicely done! I like your use of copper plumbing parts to make a pill for the MCPCB. Good fabrication skills too.

cabfrank
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Great work. Now you have a light to be truly happy with, and very proud of.

Jack Kellar
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I’m very proud of seeing someone mod an AA cheapo. I’ve been feeling like doing just that lately.

mrheosuper
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i love that, but there is still room for bigger driver, i think you should use high power driver, or driver that can support 14500/AA

Forgot my pen

NeutralFan
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Ok, 5 more modifications I did to this cheapo flashlight.

1. Updated the tail spring with a solder blob to have a better contact for the battery since it seemed there was a hotspot previously (AA Flashlight Wire Advice). Left is the old spring bypass, right is the new.

2. Put thermal compound between the LED MCPCB and the copper cap.

3. Drilled another hole for the lanyard to help with tail standing.

4. Replaced the plastic smooth reflector with an orange peal aluminum reflector and 5. Replaced the plastic lens with an anti reflective glass lens. Also noteworthy, I used an LED insulation gasket due to the aluminum reflector and put an o-ring between the lens and reflector to help with water resistance.

With the new reflector and lens, the beam greatly improved. Left is the old modified flashlight (notice the rings), right is new.

Here’s a close-up of the beam.

It is still my favorite flashlight around the house, even more so with the improvements. There are no more mods that I want to do with the flashlight. Thanks BLF for all your help!

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

Boaz
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Nice work. These types of lights with the plastic pills are extra challenging to mod…. I agree with ima4whlr …Cheap lights can be much more difficult to mod . The trick is picking more mod friendly lights

                 υμεις εστε το φως του κοσμου ου δυναται πολις κρυβηναι επανω ορους κειμενη

                            Dc-fix diffuser film  >…  http://budgetlightforum.com/node/42208

g_sintornillos
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Sorry for my bad English (gogole transtorla)

Jerommel
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Cute light, nice job. Thumbs Up

NeutralFan
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In case you were wondering (I know I was), here is a break down of the costs.

  • Driver – $1.99
  • LED – $4.79
  • Copper cap – $0.38
  • Switch – $0.79
  • Reflector – $1.69
  • Lens – $1.57
  • Insulation gasket – $0.25
  • O-ring – $0.35

Total = $11.81

Luckily the labor was free. Cash

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

Jack Kellar
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I don’t think this even qualifies as cheap anymore, does it? Big Smile

MascaratumB
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Thanks for sharing NeutralFan!
I’m willing to make a mod in a 18650 light that has more or less the same characteristics, and this helped to get some ideas, both for the pill and the switch!
But like you, it won’t get cheap to make all the changes, so that won’t be a “cheappo” light anymore!!
Nice work Thumbs Up

NeutralFan
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Jack Kellar wrote:
I don’t think this even qualifies as cheap anymore, does it? Big Smile

Agreed. I started off with trying not to spend too much, but the incremental results were not enough, at least not for me. I’m glad it turned out well in the end since numerous times I thought about cutting my losses and throwing it back with the others.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

NeutralFan
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MascaratumB wrote:
Thanks for sharing NeutralFan! I’m willing to make a mod in a 18650 light that has more or less the same characteristics, and this helped to get some ideas, both for the pill and the switch! But like you, it won’t get cheap to make all the changes, so that won’t be a “cheappo” light anymore!! Nice work Thumbs Up

Glad I could help. Let us know how it turns out.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

MascaratumB
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NeutralFan wrote:
Glad I could help. Let us know how it turns out.

I will for sure Wink It will be me my first mod! The pieces have been ordered and they are on the way. It will have some flaws, but it will be a start!

I got some questions for you, if you can answer please.
1 – Between the switch and the battery, did you put only the plastic holder you had or did you add another “plastic ring”?

2 – In your case, you had to break the longer metal tab of the swicth and then added and soldered the wire. In my case I guess I wont have to do that as the switch fits well, so the longer tab will be there. If I solder a piece of wire between the tab and the top of the spring, will it be a spring bypass? What dangers can I bring to the light and battery if I do that?

3 – The rings in the beam you showed above (18th June) , they existed before using the insulation gasket, am I correct? If so, using the gasket will help to avoid those rings in cases where the light reflects in the bottom of the reflector? I guess I should have ordered some Facepalm I think my light will have that problem…

Thank you once again !! Thumbs Up
Best regards!

NeutralFan
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Hi MascaratumB, I’m sure you’re getting excited to start your mod.

For the switch, I only used the plastic holder. With the bigger switch in the holder, I had to press very hard press to get it into the tail, but that also helps keep it in place.

Yes, soldering a wire from the tab to the top of the spring will be a spring bypass, but only 1 tab should touch the side of the flashlight else it will always be on essentially bypassing the switch.

I used the insulation gasket when I got the aluminum reflector. The cheapo flashlight came with a smooth plastic reflector so it didn’t need the gasket. The gasket helps prevent a short across the LED. The rings came from the original plastic reflector which was designed to work with the original LED. I tried experimenting with the plastic reflector height here: Mod Advice For a Cheapo Flashlight, but wasn’t too successful.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

hank
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Chuckle. Now you can replace the battery tube to use a bigger cell ….

“This is my grandfather’s axe. My father replaced the handle. I replaced the head. But it’s still my grandfather’s axe …”

Good thread well illustrated. This is what it’s all about.

AlexLED
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Very nice, thanks for sharing !

Which driver did you use ? I suppose you wanted to stay with eneloops, not Li-Ion 14500, correct ? Boost driver are not easy to find these days … Sad

Regards,
Alex

MascaratumB
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NeutralFan wrote:
Hi MascaratumB, I’m sure you’re getting excited to start your mod.

For the switch, I only used the plastic holder. With the bigger switch in the holder, I had to press very hard press to get it into the tail, but that also helps keep it in place.

Yes, soldering a wire from the tab to the top of the spring will be a spring bypass, but only 1 tab should touch the side of the flashlight else it will always be on essentially bypassing the switch.

I used the insulation gasket when I got the aluminum reflector. The cheapo flashlight came with a smooth plastic reflector so it didn’t need the gasket. The gasket helps prevent a short across the LED. The rings came from the original plastic reflector which was designed to work with the original LED. I tried experimenting with the plastic reflector height here: Mod Advice For a Cheapo Flashlight, but wasn’t too successful.

Thanks for your answers NeutralFan!
Yeah, I’m getting excited with my first mod. Actually, I guess I’ll be doing 2 mods in a row! I’ll post them after they’re done Wink

Hum, I guess I’ll have to add someting on the switch to get it tighter!
I also had to sand it a bit, like you did, and now it is a bit loose. Maybe a plastic ring above it! Would a metal ring (that might get in contact with the battery bottom) be better or worse?

Thanks for the info about the bypass! I guess I won’t have to make it because everything seems to be in the right place, so far! Thumbs Up

So, about the gasket, it’s not only about reflection but also the short that may happen! Nice to know, I want it to be safe to use and not to damage the emitter or LED or whatever may get damage Wink

I’ve looked at my order and I ordered insulation gasktes so I may rest… for now!
And yeah, that first “mod” in the reflector wasn’t that good! Thanks for the warning, it might be a thing I’d do just to get things fit!

We learn from each others good and bad experiences, that’s what I like here on BLF!

Once again, thanks for sharing!!! Nice work!! Thumbs Up

NeutralFan
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AlexLED wrote:
Very nice, thanks for sharing !

Which driver did you use ? I suppose you wanted to stay with eneloops, not Li-Ion 14500, correct ? Boost driver are not easy to find these days … Sad

Here’s the driver I got from Mountain Electronics: Lumintop Single Board. That is correct, I wanted to keep it an AA flashlight.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

NeutralFan
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MascaratumB wrote:
I also had to sand it a bit, like you did, and now it is a bit loose. Maybe a plastic ring above it! Would a metal ring (that might get in contact with the battery bottom) be better or worse?

As long as the metal ring does not come in contact with the spring or the negative terminal of the battery, you should be fine else again you would be bypassing the switch. Seems it would be safer to use a plastic ring.

I’d rather use my flashlight around the house than turn on the lights.

MascaratumB
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NeutralFan wrote:
As long as the metal ring does not come in contact with the spring or the negative terminal of the battery, you should be fine else again you would be bypassing the switch. Seems it would be safer to use a plastic ring.

Hum, I guess it might be in contact with both (spring and battery)! I’ll add a plastic ring instead, it will be safer.
Thanks for the information once again! Thumbs Up

Best regards!