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How to: 2nd Gen Gauge Cluster Removal and LED Conversion V2

Discussion in 'Performance Lighting' started by MustangP51, March 21, 2009.

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    1. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      Wow, I never thought to write it down like you did. As an aircraft electrician, I"m used to just getting it working so I did everything you did but without writing it up. Good job! What Mr. Alligator here says is super accurate and should be followed if you have the know how to do it.
       
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    3. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      Wow, I never thought to write it down like you did. As an aircraft electrician, I"m used to just getting it working so I did everything you did but without writing it up. Good job! What Mr. Alligator here says is super accurate and should be followed if you have the know how to do it.
       
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    4. Afrojoe

      Afrojoe Member

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      So. I know it's an old thread, but I'd like to do this conversion on my 98 4door X. I'd like it to come out with blue gauges and needles so I'm looking for some conformation. Do I need white LEDS to get the blue color? Blue LEDS and scratch the film off? Is it a film on the gauges or on a prism that disperses the light? Best way to sand it? And it seems I'll have to buy a new face for the Heater/AC panels if I want it to be blue, correct? Thanks in advance guys. I think this will be nice for future readers as well since the information seems to be differing through out all the pages.
      PS. My cluster is currently green like most 98+ Xs.
       
    5. wingcmdr

      wingcmdr Member

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      If it's like my 97 Mounty, there is a blue paint or film on the back side of the gauge faces themselves. White leds will give you blue guages. You don't need to remove the blue from the guage faces and in fact, you probably don't want to, its a pain. As for thermostat control area, I think it's done the same way from the factory but I'm not sure
       
    6. Christifor

      Christifor New Member

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      Old thread, but a great write up! I've actually converted almost my entire 96 Explorer lighting to LED. Huge difference. This post gives me the confidence to Finally get my panel out & replace some burnt out bulbs. The tachometer has also been intermittent. Two birds, one stone.

      But I do have a question. Since I have to test the bulbs to make sure they work before I throw them in (LEDs only work one way)...how do I bench test them?? I see where I have to connect the alligator clips...but how do I get the power to them? Feel like an idiot...but oh well!
       
    7. wingcmdr

      wingcmdr Member

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      Any bench top 12v power supply should work. Or if you have an extra car battery laying around. I would think even an old computer power supply would work if you use the 12v+ outputs
       
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    8. Afrojoe

      Afrojoe Member

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      Just letting you guys now for the future. I just found that Chrisfix did this on his Mazda (same exact dash as a Gen 2 Explorer). He goes in depth on how to tear it all down, change the bulbs, and put it back together. He tests to see if they work without alligator clamps. He just plugged the wiring harnesses back into the gauge cluster and head light switch. I'll do it that way when I do mine. Link below.

       
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    9. Christifor

      Christifor New Member

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      That's a great video & thanks for posting. It cleared up some things I was just going to figure out as I went. Does anyone know which plug or connection I need to check out, clean up for the tachometer? One of the reasons why I was pulling out the panel besides swapping the bulbs. It likes to work intermittently.
       
    10. GOVTMOD

      GOVTMOD New Member

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      I have just done a full conversion on my 96 XLT dash. Not just the ILL lights but all the lights. I bench tested every one of them and not all the warning lights work when I put them back in. Some of the lights come on in proof-out some don't. I'm pretty sure all lights should come on for a second or two when you turn the ignition switch to RUN and/or start but I'm not getting that.

      Is there a resistance issue? Should I just put incandescent bulbs back into the locations that aren't lighting up when installed?
       
    11. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      GOVTMOD, each LED bulb is polarity-specific. Try flipping them 180 degrees and see if they come on. Not every single light in your cluster turns on for 1-2 seconds when you start the vehicle, although some of them do.
       
    12. GOVTMOD

      GOVTMOD New Member

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      Yeah, I've already dealt with that. I bench tested each bulb in the cluster. Currently, I have 7 of the 17 bulbs in the cluster lighting up. There might be one or two that might be functioning but aren't at the condition to turn on.

      There are lights I know should proof-out that aren't. Most notably the Brake, ABS, and Airbag lights.
       
    13. Mr. Alligator

      Mr. Alligator Elite Explorer

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      The instrument panel illumination lights are polarity specific, and some are in related series such that if one has polarity reversed, the "downstream" light will not work either (even if correctly installed). I suggest testing each bulb for polarity using 12 volt power, and marking polarity. Then test each socket to determine polarity using an ohm meter. Install bulbs accordingly and consistently.

      Good luck with this project.
       
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    14. Tifoez & Lavinia

      Tifoez & Lavinia Active Member

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      Just tore the cluster out to replace the gas/temp bulb #194
      Ended up pickin up the Sylvania Silverstar, the led mod is next, but I'm wondering if anyone has tried gluing aluminum foil to the housing as a heat shield/reflector?!

      20180210_170218.jpg
       
    15. Mr. Alligator

      Mr. Alligator Elite Explorer

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      Careful with short circuits. LED modification resolves heat issues. Good luck!
       
    16. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      Ditto, LED's run very cool, there won't be any more heat issues from the bulbs. I've got a nearly new cluster from a Canadian model, I put in to fix a speedometer issue. The old cluster is noticeably darker, the "new" one is almost white, the plastic that is.

      FYI, LED's in tail lights etc, those don't lower current usage in older vehicles. When resistors have to be included to make the LED's work right, those create the same heat as the old bulbs. The LED's run cool, but older car circuits are made for the old current draw, or else the LED's flicker when off etc.
       
    17. shucker1

      shucker1 Elite Explorer

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      Don,

      Wondering if (1) master power resistor in the voltage supply side to the entire indivual circuit would work?

      In theory it would keep the heat "Localized" to one spot and the entire circuit resistance would remain the same.

      Chris
       
    18. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      There are resistor harnesses you can buy which work for an individual circuit(bulb). I used a pair of those for my tail lights, which is four resistors total for the two dual filament bulbs. They were convenient to mount, just two screws to run into the metal behind the lights, a few inches back. They are plug and play, plenty of wire. I did have one LED fail though from the end terminal corroding(heat and current). That's very odd to me, that a low current would still damage that large wire terminal steel on the back of the 3157 bulb. I can push it in or wiggle it and make it light up, but any slight movement causes the connection to be lost, so no light. I swapped in a yellow LED I hadn't used yet. Red clear or yellow look similar behind the red lens.

      They do run as hot as the OEM bulbs did, so the bulbs are cooler, but the heat is still back there. It's better than stock, and I'll slowly figure out what LED bulbs have the ideal brightness for me. They make so many choices, it's not simple to just pick any one an know it'll be what you prefer.

      I do wish something could be done elsewhere to reduce the current "capacity" of those circuits. I think the LED issue is that there is excess current ability in each circuit, so the LED is overpowered and they flicker. I'd hope the people who actively work with LED's would find a better solution than adding a resistor for each bulb circuit. I've got way more to do than to figure that out right now.
       
    19. shucker1

      shucker1 Elite Explorer

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      Indeed

      Chris
       
    20. Tifoez & Lavinia

      Tifoez & Lavinia Active Member

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      I have yet to find a local LED supplier that has any type of warranty, however by spacing out my purchase/replacement/warranty exchange at Walmart for the Silverstar 194s, I always have a receipt in the truck for a replacement.. I don't want to rely on parts that I can't pick up at any time, and doing the foil mod to my cluster back has a noticeable brightness difference than any of our other Explorers.. I agree with everyone, if you use foil to be cautious for shorting areas.. I also thought of using a reflective paint, but ran with what i had..

      I'll attempt to edit in pictures later of the dash at night.. '98 v8 that had the green look to the dash.. I swapped those for the blue..
       

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