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OK, before you all start moaning and groaning about this not being a Jeep modification, I can tell you now that you are wrong, Wrong, WRONG, WRONG!
Upon returning from a friend's place where we did a front caliper swap on his TJ's D44 front axle, I found a package sitting on my desk.. I glanced at the shipping label and noticed it was from MikeW, a local Jeepin' buddy that spent the week with us at Moab last month (3rd Annual Jeeps Unlimited Moab Run). The package was just the right size for a VHS tape, although I didn't remember Mike having his camcorder along on this trip.
I opened the package with the expectations of sitting down to
watch some wheelin' footage from Moab. Boy, was I wrong. Instead of
a home brew wheelin' video, I was staring at the most unique looking flashlight
I had ever seen. It is called the NightStar and is distributed in
the US by Applied Innovative Technologies, Inc.
The flashlight comes in an 11 ounce, high strength, clear
plastic housing. It contains no batteries, no bulbs, and the on/off
switch consists of a small magnet that actuates a tiny reed relay on the
inside of the housing. As such, the flashlight is waterproof to a depth of
430 feet (note that I would NOT consider this flashlight to be a useful diving
light, having done some night scuba diving). It also floats so you won't have to
worry about testing its depth rating. The coin in the above
picture is a US quarter.
The power source for this little beauty relies on a 400 year old science experiment that proves that a magnet will induce electrical current to flow in a coil of wire when it is passes through the coil. Some of you may know this by its more common name, a generator. Now, if we can store this electrical energy for later use, we have the makings of a renewable power source and it does not rely on batteries. (OK folks, now pat yourself on the back for being environmentally friendly too!)
The instructions that come with the NightStar state that 20 minutes of "light" time can be created by 30 seconds of shaking motion. Simply shake the flashlight, using a side to side motion, for 30 seconds. You will find a natural rhythm of about 3 shakes per second that allows you to easily charge up the flashlight. There are two repeller magnets, one mounted in each end of the flashlight, that prevents the movable magnet from bumping into the ends of the flashlight's plastic case. (I still think that is so cool.)
Here is a close up of the storage capacitor. It is attached to a very small electronic circuit board. The electrical leads from the wire coil attach to the board as well. It is this storage capacitor that functions similar to a regular battery, except this capacitor can be recharged thousands and thousands of times. Granted, it doesn't last as long as a battery, but then again, when it runs out, you only have to shake the light for 30 seconds and you are good to go once again.
A VERY bright white LED (light emitting diode) is located in an LED reflector assembly. The LED's light beam is further shaped by the acrylic lens which I found to be a good compromise (between a flood and spot beams) for a low power flashlight. The switch assembly is made from a luminescent material which gives it that "glow in the dark" property, making it easier to locate the flashlight inside of a dark Jeep. Of course, if you store the flashlight in a dark area, don't expect the luminescent switch to be glowing when you go looking for it (DOH!).
Here is the business end of the flashlight, after the requisite 30 second charging cycle. I tested the staying power of the light and it did remain functional for 20 minutes, although I must admit that things were getting quite dim during those last few minutes. However, a quick 30 second shake and it was back again to full strength.....and I can certainly live with that.
Now, you are probably wondering why I claimed this is a Jeep mod.....well, its because the small MagLite 2 cell flashlight that I currently keep in the TJ is going to get replaced by THIS flashlight.....so yes, this is a Jeep modification, heck, its even an upgrade! I look forward to NOT having the batteries either run down or leak in my TJ's emergency flashlight. I walked around the house last night, with the lights out, just to make sure I would be comfortable using this if I really had to. I have no doubt what so ever that it will suffice for being either the primary flashlight for use during a night run's parts replacement session or for walking along the trail at night (while you are hiking out to get the spare parts you didn't bring along).
I was looking through the AIT web site and discovered a belt
holster for the NightStar. While I didn't see myself carrying it from my
belt, I got to thinking about the possibilities of using it in the TJ. The
flashlight has been tucked in along the seat for over a year (where it would
sometimes get loose and roll out under my feet on the trail, not good).
So, the holster was attached to the roll cage, next to the driver's seat, with a
couple of heavy duty zip ties. It fits nicely and doesn't interfere with
reclining the seat. I think I am going to like this new location....easy
to access and ready when needed. And who knows....maybe on some of those
really bumpy trails, the NightStar will charge itself!
You can order a NightStar right now, before you forget, by clicking on the NightStar graphic directly below. This is a great emergency flashlight, for home or vehicle. It comes with a 5 year guarantee. I am expecting it to last far longer than that, given the rugged design and simple power source that it employs.
I want to thank MikeW, again, for a most excellent Jeep
accessory. I guess I'll have to put together a night run and make sure
Mike is along (with his NightStar) for the fun!