Yes, it's a road flare. Required by Japanese law to be installed on each car, and something inspected at the biannual "shaken" inspection (required to keep the car registered).
I discovered from some internet research that, while each car must have one on board, no one really bothers to check the expiration date. This is probably why when I pulled mine out the other day, I realized to my horror that, as you can see, the flare's "use by" date was April 2009!
Although, I'm not too sure flares can go stale?
In any case, a regular flare is only about 600 yen, and sold pretty much at all gas stations and car parts stores nationwide. So it would be easy to replace, but then I wouldn't be posting this.
What I found is this following - an LED flare! And for not much more either, about 1000 yen.
|Uses 9 LEDs, with 3 different mounting methods (for trucks, cars and kei- cars)
Clearly labelled as "compliant with Ministry of Transport safety regulations"
Hard to believe, but this is Shaken-compliant. According to the manufacturer, this LED version has several advantages over the standard flare:
1.) LED light stays on for over 20 hours, versus 5 minutes for a standard flare
2.) just twist the bottom to turn on. No need to remove the cap and ignite the fuse
3.) with battery changes, basically lasts forever. Standard flare - only 4 years
4.) waterproof in normal use, and in the rain. Standard flare - easily extinguished
5.) safe to use, just turn on. Standard flare, you run risk of secondary burns.
6.) LED produces no smoke, can use in tunnels. Smoke in flare can be an obstacle
7.) LED not regulated, while flares are subject to the Explosives Control Act.
Also - they don't mention that it has a magnetic base, so you could have it stuck to your car rather than thrown onto the road somewhere... although that presents another issue, you have to remember to turn it off when you are done, you can't just leave it to burn out!
With no expiration date, I'll only have to worry about the batteries - although the obvious question here is - why haven't car manufacturers made a rechargeable LED flare that plugs into its own exclusive outlet in the car?
The other worry is, can the LED be BRIGHTER than the flare? I mean, that's the real issue, right? I mean this photo doesn't really inspire much confidence...
Although this manufacturer explanation appears to make it sound like it would work:
Finally, I've never heard of a flare going off by itself and catching fire, but to me it seems possible with a chemically based one. An LED one should be safer...anyway installation, of course is easy:
|For those who want to see the clip clearly
Just stick in the clip!
In any case apologies for the short post. I do have a few other projects waiting in the wings...just got an interesting email today on a custom part I've been waiting on... they tell me it will be ready by mid August...before then will have a few other items to post, too! Stay tuned...