cduluk

Rx400H Ignition Key Remote “Hybrid” Project *pics*

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Hey guys! :)

For those of you who’ve enjoyed some of my recent Rx400h projects, you might like this one too. As many of you know, most of my “projects” and “modifications” are designed to help differentiate the Rx400h “hybrid” from its (almost) identical “gas-only” siblings—the Rx330 and Rx350. While Lexus did create “some” differences between the models (for example different bumper designs), I still felt more could be done.

For 2008, all Lexus Hybrids were given the theme of “blue”, which helped visually differentiate them from their gas-only siblings. The front and rear badges of the Hybrid models were given “blue accents”, while some blue popped into their interiors as well—all except for the Rx400h. The only blue added to the Rx400h for 2008 was on the rear “L” and “400h” logo, leaving the front emblem in solid silver like the Rx330 and Rx350. :o

In an attempt to update such details for the Rx400h, I’ve replaced the front silver “L” logo with a duplicate “blue accented” emblem from the rear. I’ve also added blue lights to the gauge cluster, and replaced the stock orange overhead, console and feet lighting to blue as well. But still, something was missing. :unsure:

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered potential for a new idea! I was at my Lexus dealer speaking with my service advisor when something caught my eye. On the desk, there were various sets of keys (most likely for customers’ vehicles) but one of the “new style” smart keys stood out. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it had a blue color beneath the chrome “L” emblem. Apparently, the 08+ GS and LS hybrids, along with the 010 HS and Rx450h smart keys (keys without the external key-blade) had this new detail. :o

So this began to bother me. Not only did Lexus neglect to give the 2008 Rx400h the smart key system, they also neglected to add this blue detail to the little emblem, leaving the Rx400h out from the rest of the Hybrid lineup.

Here is a picture of the smart key from a 2010 Rx450h Hybrid. Notice the blue paint on the internals of the 3-D chrome “L” logo?

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And here is the factory 06-08 Rx400h key design, which is identical to the 04-09 Rx330/350 key. Comes with a flat, 2-D gold “L” emblem. Same boring style key that was introduced in 1997... :chairshot:

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After doing some more research, I decided to start a key modification project. I planned to remove the 2-D gold emblem from my stock Rx400h key, and replace it with one of the 3-D (notice the nice depth and angles on the chrome L’s) chrome emblems from a smart key, to which I would then paint the insides blue. This way I could keep the Rx400h key design the same, while modifying just the emblem.

I then purchased a few smart key shells (from an eBay member to which I’ve purchased a few Lexus parts from) and removed the chrome “L” logos, which were held in place with 2 sided tape. But there was a problem—the chrome emblems from the smart keys were NOT the same size as the gold emblem on the Rx400h key. So I went back to the drawing board. :wacko:

I decided to modify the Rx400h key shell to make room for the chrome “L” by dremeling out the correct sized oval. I would create the emblem separately, later inserting it into the shell. I also decided to use blue reflective tape (for the area inside the emblem) rather than blue paint, in an attempt to get more of a reflective property.

But before I could begin the process of making the emblem, I got a new inspiration. I was looking at pictures of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid online, and noticed something pretty cool about the rear badging. On the tailgate, the word “Hybrid” is displayed in chrome lettering, but upon close inspection, you can notice that on the internals of the “H” there is a green “circuit board” like material. :huh:

Here’s a pic:

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I found this to be incredibly creative! It fits the car perfectly since “hybrid” cars have a lot of electronics, represented by the green circuit board (the color they usually are).

So, I had to somehow incorporate this into my emblem design. My first thought was to replace the blue reflective tape with a piece of circuit board (just like Cadillac did), but I didn’t think the green would fit into the Lexus Hybrid “blue”. So, after careful consideration, I decided to go with a blue circuit board instead. <_<

So I looked around my basement for some old circuit boards I could use. I found a used phone, but the circuits weren’t that appealing. I finally discovered a nice piece of circuit board (from a used Rx330 speedometer cluster I bought for one of my last projects), and got started on the emblem.

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The first step was to find the best looking spot on the circuit board to cut from. After I found the best location, I cut the board into the correct oval size, just a tad bigger than the chrome emblem. I then wet-sanded the circuit board until the green coating was removed, which revealed the copper trails.

But during my first attempts, I accidentally sanded too deep (removing too much of the copper) so I needed to get another cluster and start again. Here you can see the piece I messed up, the oval piece that’s been sanded to reveal the copper beneath. :cries:

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After successful sanding and plating of the second piece, I then polished the board to a beautiful shine, and electroplated the copper sections with nickel (similar to the chroming process) to turn the orange tint to a shiny chrome finish. I then dyed the front surface blue, the step required to turn the copper trails and background a reflective blue. When the dye was cured, I then painted the perimeter of the oval circuit piece with black paint, which would give the final emblem a black trim (similar to the blue accented tailgate emblem).

While the paint was drying, I prepped the chrome logo. I sanded the reverse side with 600 grit sandpaper (in an attempt to make it a little less “buldgy”) and cleaned it with a cotton T-shirt. After the blue oval circuit piece was dry, I placed the chrome “L” directly on top of it, and clearcoated. Allowing one day between coats, it only took about a week to fill in the emblem so the clear was raised higher than the chrome itself (to resist scratching).

While waiting for the emblem to fully cure, I got started on the rest of the Rx400h key. Although I had successfully created the emblem like I wanted to, I still had an itch inside… There had to be a way to modify the rest of the key to make it better. :geek:

After playing with the internals, I noticed the little red light that illuminates whenever a button is pressed. I thought to myself, that red is so lame…. What if it were blue?? :whistles:

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I located the source of the red light, it being a tiny, TINY surface mount diode (similar to an LED). It was easy to get to, and I knew I could replace it with another, but I didn’t know if it would work. My past experience with LED’s told me that red ones use less current than blue ones, so even if I “could” replace the tiny red SMD with a blue one, the set current passing through (although enough to illuminate a red one) might not be enough to light up a blue one. So the only way to figure it out was to do a test. But where could I get tiny blue SMD’s??

I then remembered that old phone I stumbled upon when searching for circuit board pieces, and turned it on. And would you know it, the buttons lit up blue. So I opened it up and found quite a few little blue SMD’s, identical in size to the red one in the Lexus key. So I carefully removed the red SMD from the Rx400h remote, and soldered in its place one of the blue ones from the old phone. I pressed a button, and it LIT UP! Nice and bright. :cheers:

Then, I thought of ANOTHER idea. What if the emblem could light up blue??? It would be easy, since the circuit board material is somewhat translucent, all I would need to do is place a light source behind it, and the light would pass right through it. I could wire a couple more of the blue SMD’s to the one I just replaced, so whenever a button is pressed, the emblem would light up too. My only concern was that adding more SMD’s could be too much of a drain (remember, I thought a single blue SMD was going to require too much), which would prevent them from being very bright. So I did a test. I removed 2 more of the tiny blue SMD’s from the phone, and wired them in parallel to the one I just added to the remote. I pressed a button, and surprisingly, all three lit up perfectly! Not “as” bright as the single one did, but still bright enough to do what I needed.

So I created a little “reflector bowl” (a device similar to a headlight unit, designed to reflect light in a certain direction- in this case spreading it out) about 3mm tall, to which I placed the two SMD’s inside and placed the entire unit where the emblem would sit. I then wired the SMD’s through the internal components to the power source, being the place where the little red SMD sat (which is now also blue). So now, whenever a button is pressed, not only does the tiny light on the front of the key illuminate, but so does the circuit board section of the emblem! B)

I had to make some modifications to the emblem as well, for now with the height of the reflector bowl unit with the lights, the emblem would protrude too far from the surface of the shell. So I sanded the reverse side of the emblem until it was the right height, just enough so the emblem would be flush with the rest of the shell.

The final step to the shell was painting. Since I had to dremel out a larger oval (to fit the slightly larger chrome emblem), the surface of the shell got a little scratched. My options were to either polish out the scratches (which would remove the factory matte finish to the plastic) or to paint the shell pieces flat black (which would NEVER hold up). I then remembered something I used on my steering wheel controls last summer, called “soft touch paint”. It’s a clear, matte finished paint that can be sprayed on any surface. When dry, it has somewhat of a ‘soft’ texture and is EXTREMELY durable, resistant to scratching and chemicals. You may notice devices around your home that are painted with this soft touch paint, such as various after-market radio unit buttons, and even iPod boxes. It has excellent adhesion properties and doesn’t get shiny like plastics do after constant abrasion (which keys get a lot of while being handled).

So I wet-sanded the key shells (front and back), cleaned, dried and sprayed with the soft touch paint. I also did the same to the actual "buttons" so they'd have the same feel. I let the pieces bake in the oven at 140 degrees for 2 hours and let air dry overnight. For more details on the soft touch paint, see the link in my signature about my “hybrid steering wheel upgrade” as I used it then too.

I then assembled the key back together (replacing the battery, as it’s now a pain to get to considering the new modifications) and glued the new emblem in place. And at last, after months of experimenting and testing, it’s finally complete. :D

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And the lights! You’ll notice that the light actually passes through the chrome “L” of the emblem as well as through the circuit piece, because it’s made out of clear plastic, with only a very, VERY thin coat of chrome. I think it’s pretty cool! B)

Light OFF (no buttons pressed)

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Light ON (when a button is pressed)

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Lights OFF (no buttons pressed). The circuit area appears black here, but that's only due to the lack of external light. During the day, it looks like it does in the 20 pictures displayed above. <_<

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Lights ON (when a button is pressed)

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So please tell me what you guys think! It was a fun project and definitely worth the effort. It’s definitely unique! :)

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Totally unique and beautiful work. You should work for the Lexus division!

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Holy Cow!!!!

I was just thinking the same thing as RX400h. You should patent this or something so Lexus doesn't steal your ideas...lol

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Great job, you have inspired me and I am wood graining the center dash piece on my Ford F150 as we speak. It is being done in Cherry wood, First try was a disaster,but second try is so far very successful...You have a lot of patience for such a young man...I am 60 and have always enjoyed modifying things. Have thoroughly enjoyed your detailed posts...Keep them coming and hope your talent rewards you.

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thanks for the compliments guys! :D

I know most of my projects are a little... unique, but it's what i love. <_<

lenore, how are you modifying your F150's console piece with the wood? Are you using veneer or carving the pieces out by hand? When i converted pieces in my Rx300 to wood, i just glued veneer directly over the surfaces... i couldn't think of a way to actually carve the pieces out of wood, although it would have been cool!

Im glad you guys enjoy my project posts, i love sharing my work with Lexus people who appreciate it. :cheers:

And Yuan, if it were an easy project i'd definitely make a bunch and sell them on ebay... but it's very time consuming. I'm hoping this one lasts me a while because i'm not looking forward to doing it again. :rolleyes:

My next project's gonna involve modification of the side panel "HYBRID" emblems. I've gotta get blue in there somehow.

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My next project's gonna involve modification of the side panel "HYBRID" emblems. I've gotta get blue in there somehow.

That's funny I was thinking about doing the same. I found that the Nissan Altima hybrid badges look pretty good and may possibly fit in the space for the side emblems with some modification:

http://image.automobilemag.com/f/11032695+w750+st0/0809_03_z+2008_nissan_altima_hybrid+badge.jpg

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/GENUINE-NISSAN-ALTIMA-HYBRID-REAR-EMBLEM-2007-2010-_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQhashZitem3ca964a3d0QQitemZ260539982800QQptZMotorsQ5fCarQ5fTruckQ5fPartsQ5fAccessories

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I am using Cherry Veneer for my Ford F150 project....So far good, I am coat 7....

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Wow. I can't say that I would be able to put the time/have the patience that you do. But I have to say, the end product is in deed pretty cool.

Good work man!!

:cheers:

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lenore, you've gotta show us some pictures of your work so far! :D

maseace, i thought about those nissan badges too, only problem is that the lettering is blue with a chrome background. I need the lettering to be chrome with a blue background. I'm trying to get a pair of the 08-010 GS450h side badges, as they're the same size and right coloring. But apparently, you need to buy the entire molding strips which are about $150 each. :blink:

2lxcgux.jpg

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That is an amazing piece of work there, I wish I had a key like that. You never cease to amaze me with the stuff you've done.

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That is cool CD. I have no idea how you have the time to do things like that but I think that the key looks great. If it is what you love and enjoy doing I guess you just make time to do it...

:cheers:

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Thanks guys :) I'm a college student, only taking one summer class this session, and fortunate enough to not have to work :D so i've been able to squeeze a few hours a day for my projects... But when fall semester comes i'll have to kiss my spare time goodbye. :cries:

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We should go find them and make them wish they hadn't done that ;)

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We should go find them and make them wish they hadn't done that ;)

Haha, i know! I wish i had patented my retrofit... :chairshot:

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IN_FREAK'N_SANE!!!! Wow, talk about an OEM Finish. Your key, is a JEWEL!

And to think, I went with a Flip Key (similar to the VW type flip blade key) to replace my broken factory key/housing.

Cheers,

MadloR

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IN_FREAK'N_SANE!!!! Wow, talk about an OEM Finish. Your key, is a JEWEL!

And to think, I went with a Flip Key (similar to the VW type flip blade key) to replace my broken factory key/housing.

Cheers,

MadloR

Thanks for the compliment! :) I try to make my projects look OEM, as if they came from the factory that way. It's a shame Lexus couldn't have put more effort into the factory key. :rolleyes:

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lenore, you've gotta show us some pictures of your work so far! :D

maseace, i thought about those nissan badges too, only problem is that the lettering is blue with a chrome background. I need the lettering to be chrome with a blue background. I'm trying to get a pair of the 08-010 GS450h side badges, as they're the same size and right coloring. But apparently, you need to buy the entire molding strips which are about $150 each. :blink:

2lxcgux.jpg

Ok here is my first attempt....Came out OK, but I learned a lot...I used Spar Varathane as it is UV resistant....Next addition, more wood in the truck....Thank you for your great ideas, you are truely a master in your modifications....I enjoy seeing them...I really am impressed at your patience at your age...you will go far....

post-12820-128197056733_thumb.jpg

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Woah! Lenore, that came out wicked nice! :cheers: Nice work, you planning on adding it anywhere else in the car?

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Yes i am, just trying to figure out where. I was thinking around the door handles. there is a little black u shaped cover that would do nicely. Thankyou for the compliment, still not up to your work, but it was my first attempt. The curved wood made it more of a challenge....especially with the cherry veneer.

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