Charge of the fright brigade

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid tachometer voltmeter dashboardI had a bit of a stress-monster moment last night. After finishing off a bit of work on the Capo, I fired it up and stuffed the multimeter probes across the battery terminals – 16.1V with the lights on! My heart skipped a beat and thoughts of a toasted rectifier rumbled across my mind. However the Sparkbright battery monitor LED showed steady green and should have been flashing red/green at this voltage. A prod of the ‘mode’ button activated the tacho/voltmeter in the dashboard and it said just over 14V. What gives? Then another glance of the multimeter channelled my thoughts in a whole new direction – an itsy-bitsy low battery icon was showing. A fresh PP3 and a calming cup of tea later and the Capo was in fact charging at a healthy 14.2V all along ……. So with the stress-monster firmly back its box, I made a note to check/change batteries in all the other tools in the workshop ASAP!

My very own total Eclipse…..

When I got back from the UK just after Christmas I set about installing the new Eclipse-8 battery monitor on the Capo. You may remember from a previous post that I fitted a 5mm LED battery monitor from Sparkbright a few month ago and loved it (previous post here). In December Andrew very kindly sent me an Eclipse-8 as a sample so I could evaluate it – thanks again Andrew!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Sparkbright multi-state auto dimmng battery monitor

What’s the difference between them? Well firstly, it’s only available as an 8mm or 10mm unit, no 5mm version as yet. Secondly – and this is the kicker – it’s also auto-dimming, changing it’s brightness depending on the prevailing light conditions, without using a separate photo-sensor to do it. Here’s a Sparkbright video of it in action.



So does it work? Short answer – yes, VERY well! I installed it in the same place I’d had the 5mm unit, just drilling the hole a little bigger to accommodate it. The Eclipse-8 has the circuit board attached directly to the LED, so only two wires and no circuit board in the loom to find a home for. The board is very compact and once the LED is inserted into the mounting clip, it is hardly visible. The length of wire supplied was ample to attach to the battery and earth points I chose in the bikes wiring.

The Caponord was bolted back together and fired up, the LED quickly changing from orange to green as the rec/reg did its thing and the voltage rose in the loom. In the strong daylight of the barn the LED glowed brightly, but put a hand over it and it very quickly dropped its output in response. All well and good, but would it be effective when put to use in the real world?

Well I’ve covered about 700 miles through January and early February in all weathers and lighting conditions and the Eclipse-8 has certainly lived up to my expectations. For example, here along the Adriatic, the A14 Autostrada weaves its way along the cost through numerous dimly lit tunnels. Jumping from bright sunlight to twilight and back gives the unit a good workout and each and every time it switches very rapidly – I’m guessing in a few milliseconds, but certainly fast. At night-time the unit operates primarily at it lowest output and is never distracting, sometimes increasing in  brightness as I pass under a sequence of street lamps just to let me know it’s still doing its thing!

So are there any downsides? Yes, but not as a result of anything done by Sparkbright. 8mm LED clips it seems are only available in convex and not concave style. Great for increasing the angle of visibility ( not important from the saddle) but also increasing the susceptibility of the LED to being ‘washed-out’ by direct sunlight and becoming difficult to see. As it is, there is a simple partial fix. Drop the LED further down the clip and glue it in place. I dropped the LED so its top was flush with the clip – a couple of millimetres I guess and this has made a world of difference. Now only the most direct sunlight affects readability and I can live with that!

Bottom line, the Eclipse-8 is a simple all-weather battery monitor for day/night use on a motorcycle – no more, no less. And it is doing the job perfectly.

Contact details  E-mail: [email protected]    or  Tel: 0141 557 5277

Other than my initial purchase of the 5mm unit and sample Eclipse-8 supplied by Sparkbright, I have no affiliation to them. I’m simply offering my own review of products I believe to be useful and cost effective. It’s my unbiased opinion, if you buy one and don’t like it – tough. Don’t come running to me! Is that a disclaimer?

Low voltage battery warning LED

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - voltmeter in right hand fairingI’ve already got a voltmeter in the right hand fairing and although I wouldn’t be without it, I have to say it suffers from a  couple of drawbacks.

  • Poor readability in very bright daylight (Blue LED display)
  • Low down in the fairing, so requires eyes to be diverted from the road ahead.
  • I also have to lean forward a little to see over the hand-guard/brake master cylinder.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Sparkbright battery monitorSo I decided I wanted something more in my eye-line, something that simply displays as a go/no-go indicator, something simple; and it looks like SparkBright have just the solution. A neat encapsulated circuit feeding a Tri-state LED that will display a different colour depending on the system voltage. Now my peripheral vision should quickly spot a change in the Caponord system and give me ample time to take action. Here’s a table that explains the various states of the LED at different voltages.

 The package can be supplied with LED sizes of 5mm/8mm or a whopping 10mm. I chose the 5mm as it will match the one I already have in place for the Autoswitch AS7 (fog lights).  Before ordering I had a couple of questions and sent off a quick email – bear in mind this was a Sunday morning. Before I could even read through the Sunday funnies, Andrew Ferguson owner and guiding light behind SparkBright had replied – now that’s dedication! the bottom line – It does what I want and it’s waterproof, ideal for motorcycle use then!

Anyway, long story short, Andrew agreed to make a change to the mounting clip for the LED (at no extra cost – see gallery below for clip differences) and also told me of an exciting new development just around the corner for this product; auto-dimming built right into the LED for the 8mm and 10mm options. Sadly it won’t be available on the 5mm version for some time to come. However, this bit of technology is something the Capo is aching for on the Autoswitch Red/Green LED (fog lights) I already have fitted. By day it’s fantastic, but by night it’s just a little too bright.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - dashboard with AS7 Autoswitch LED and Sparkbright battery monitor

LED symmetry. Hopefully !!

So I’ll wait for Andrew to send this unit and if it does what I need of it, I’ll no doubt upgrade to the 8mm auto-dimming version and retro-fit this one to my tractor ….. about time I dragged it screaming into the 21st century. And maybe if I ask nicely, he may be able to help me upgrade the Autoswitch LED as well!

You can contact Andrew direct at [email protected] or bookmark (website should be up and running by the last week of October). You’ll also find them on Ebay, just search for “12v battery warning light”. The cost? £11.80 including P&P (UK) as of 21st October 2012.

  I’ll finish by saying I have no affiliation or involvement with Andrew other than as a customer – I just like the product!