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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. wingcmdr

      wingcmdr Member

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      Did mine, and had to remove blue paint off back

      So my 1997 Merc Mounty has blue paint on the back of the gauge faces and I'm really wanting red, so I set to work taking it off, and here's what she looks like now. There's a couple dark spots that I can't figure out and the odo/trip are dark, but oh well, I like it :)
      P.S.: This picture was taken before I completely reassembled the dash, hence the light at the top
      [​IMG]
       
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    3. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      That looks very good.

      I have my dash almost apart as I fixed my dead speedometer. But putting it together I might like to try the LED lights, and maybe do them on a spare cluster, with blue lettering.

      Has anyone gone from the 98-01 clusters to the 97 etc, to get the blue instead of green? I prefer the blue since I've had it in my four Mark VII's.
       
    4. ghoststrike

      ghoststrike New Member

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      Great feedback

      I just ordered the ones you recommended,,,can't wait when they arrive

      Thx again
       
    5. halmn007

      halmn007 New Member

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      Just did my cluster the other day. Ran into a problem with the light behind the 100mph mark. I thought it was on and when it turned dark out, it turns out that I messed up the polarity. It took me 30 minutes to re-do the lights the next day compared to the 2 and a half hours it took because of a few selfish screws.

      Pictures don't do it justice as to how bright my cluster really is now though. My cluster is so bright, that the normal brightness parts of the cluster look like dead spots. It sucks. Anyone know of a fix? Maybe leds with higher outputs? I got my leds off of amazon. Cutequeen, I believe was the brand.


      [​IMG]
       
    6. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      Awesome write up!

      I just ordered these SMD LED's

      Will they come out with the factory green color or will they be more blue-ish?
       
    7. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      The 10 bulbs linked to on eBay work well, for under $1 each it's a good deal.

      The cluster face cover piece determines the color, pre-98 are blue and 98 up are green.

      I swapped a 97 cluster into my 98, with the LED's last week. I used the 98-01 cluster housing(back section with wiring), so a couple of indicator labels are moved or wrong.

      The door ajar is located at top center of the 98-01 clusters(wiring), so the 95-97 face piece shows it as a fuel related warning, "Fuel something."

      I plan to cut some small pieces out of the face coverings of both styles, to regain the proper labeling displays. That should be interesting.
       
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    8. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      What is the easiest way to determine polarity? Obviously plug and play means they go in, but from what I'm reading, if you get them in backwards, they don't light as well?
       
    9. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      The cluster takes six of the lights.

      I plugged the cluster in with it held horizontally, didn't install it, and turned on the lights. I had guessed right on the two left lights. I removed and reinstalled the other four, turned 180*. That made all of them light except one.

      I had to take it out again and carefully separate the LED bulb from the socket, resetting the fragile leads in place/straight. It worked then when I put it back together.

      FYI, the LED lights used for the cluster do not dim down to nothing like the OEM 194's. The lowest setting still makes them a good 50% of the brightness of the stock lights at maximum. I like them, but for the window switches I'm not sure I'd llike them to be that bright(those do not adjust/dim). The stock LED's for those switches are not quite bright enough, they need to be about 25% brighter, just a little.
       
    10. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      So I will be able to check them with the cluster removed, but electrically connected, that's good to know.
       
    11. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      I got mine in! Thanks everyone. Only one spot around the 40mph mark is a bit dimmer than the rest. Also a few hotspots. one at the 20mph and one around the 110mph mark. I've no idea why. I made sure correct polarity by swapping the bulb around in the socket (one way it's basically not lit) and couldn't figure it out. Other than that, I think it looks great (and a bit blue).

      Here is how it looks!

      [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
       
    12. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      How much trouble did you have at reattaching the speedometer needle at the correct speed? Nobody seems to be mentioning that, and it's a tedious task to do it while driving down the road.

      I have the front cover off of mine until I get the shift linkage replaced in mine, and of course to be able to reach the needle.
       
    13. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      I didn't go that far and never pulled the needles, only the cluster. I replaced the stock bulbs with cool white LEDs.
       
    14. CDW6212R

      CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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      Sorry, I forgot that a lot of this was just changing the back lighting. Mine looks just like yours, except for the light seen where I have the cover trim off of it.
       
    15. Ozz1967

      Ozz1967 Member

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      Well crap. Only 7 days and one of the LED's is already flickering. :(
       
    16. Millertime1987

      Millertime1987 Active Member

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      I used the same lights in my Explorer while also fixing the heater core. its amazing how much brighter it all is now.
       
    17. cloud2or3

      cloud2or3 Elite Explorer

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      LED cluster conversion... done! with one issue.

      First off, great instructions! Very thorough and to the point... Easy to follow.

      Regarding the colour choice of the LEDs consider this... YELLOW AND BLUE MAKE GREEN.

      The old incandescent bulbs give off a Yellow hue.

      I'm going to venture to say that the 'film' that everyone talks about is closer to a baby blue or cyan color and NOT green.

      I bought 'PURE WHITE' LEDs, installed them, and now dash is cyan blue.

      Unless you are going to undertake changing ALL your interior lights, I'd suggest getting the Yellow SMD LEDs to keep your dash green.

      Was a fun little project troublesome at times, especially with lack of light... but will be doing again to switch bulbs to yellow LEDs. haha.
       
    18. Fordmanstrawser

      Fordmanstrawser New Member

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      Thanks for posting how to remove the insturment cluster! I was having issues with my gauge needles and this post helped me get them out in a jiffy. I found numerous cold solder joints on the insturment gauge cluster board. I resoldered the joints and cleaned the interior of the gauge area, reinst without a hitch. All seems to be working well! Again thank you for taking the time to post this info.
       
    19. Millertime1987

      Millertime1987 Active Member

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      So I did this upgrade last fall. Now the lights are flickering really bad. Any idea what to look for when I do this this weekend? I hope it's just loose connections but not really sure
       
    20. astanford

      astanford New Member

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      They are cheap LED Lights, Need to be replaced, I have a couple I use for my overhead lamps for when the door is ajar, Worked for about 6-7 months and one of the LEDs is now flickering, simply popped it out and put a new one in!

      I would suggest if your going to replace one, replace all 6 and save yourself the hassle now!
       
    21. vipjeff

      vipjeff New Member

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      Think I fried something

      My 1995 Ford Explorer XLT had most of the dashboard lights burned out (the instrument cluster lights which illuminate the tachometer, speedometer, etc). All the "instrument warning" lights were fine (check engine, brake, etc).

      I thought while I was going to pull the instrument panel anyway I would upgrade to compatible LED bulbs.

      I ordered these ones using the car make and model guide on their webpage.
      These are the exact ones http://tinyurl.com/nf8attf I got.

      I removed the cluster panel from my car, removed the 6 bulbs just fine, replaced them with these LED bulbs, everything physically went perfect and when I first turned them on they worked great for about a minute or less then they stopped working and I could not get them to come back on.

      So I thought I blew a fuse so I checked all fuses in the fuse box to the lower left of the steering wheel by drivers doorjamb then checked the fuses under the hood. All were good.

      Then I thought it may just be the LED lights so I bought the original 194 incandescent bulbs at my local auto parts store and swapped out the LED's for the OEM bulbs and to my surprise they did not work!

      At this point I am thinking I may have fried something on the back of the instrument cluster like a resistor or diode?

      There is a possibility it is the light switch however I don't think so because the light switch still works for headlights and the dimmer light works as well for my dome light and all other lights.

      Anyone have any ideas? Any way to bench text the resistors and diodes on the back of the cluster I have a DVOM. :exp:
       
    22. Flash Gordan

      Flash Gordan New Member

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      I just ordered a set of LED's from ebay. $6.88 for 20 was a decent deal. The real question I should be asking is how long will they last?
       
    23. 97LTD

      97LTD Active Member

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      Since I purchased the LED bulbs from Superbright LED almost 3 years ago, at least one of the bulb is flickering really bad and doesn't stay steady. I do not want to go back to incasdecent bulb, I really like LED. Is there any suggestion for better LED bulb brands out there? I know the question is how long they last.... it must be a headache to got through the instrument cluster again and again for just the bulbs.
       
    24. Flash Gordan

      Flash Gordan New Member

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      Just finished installing the LED's last night. I have one thing to say, holy cow it's a night and day difference!! I have to turn the dimmer switch down to even come close to where the incandescent bulbs were on full brightness. Thank you for the awesome write up.
       
    25. Flash Gordan

      Flash Gordan New Member

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      Just curious, why isn't this a sticky?
       
    26. Mr. Alligator

      Mr. Alligator Elite Explorer

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      LED Conversion... Polarity DOES matter.

      I just finished with the LED dash light conversion. I am far from an electrician, but just finished the project after some struggle.

      The first issue is that the LED wires did not line up well with the stock wedges that twist into the dash. This results in a bad connection, and no light. The solution as paying close attention to the LED wires and the wedge connections. Then I was able to use the "try me" battery and wires to test each of the LED lights/wedges to confirm that the connections are working.

      This light test will reveal that, indeed, polarity does matter... the LEDs only work with polarity in one direction. These lights are sensitive to polarity. This was mentioned in several postings in this thread.

      HOWEVER, I was not aware of this final issue... the six dash lights are set up in three sets of two lights. One set of two lights on the left of the dash, one set of two lights in the middle, and one set of two lights on the right of the dash. The LED/wedges in each of the sets MUST be parallel.

      I used the test light to confirm positive and negative terminals of each wedge/light set. MARK the positive and negative negative terminals. Then, use an OHM meter to check continuity between the sets of sockets in the dash board. You will get continuity between two connection contacts for each socket. THEN, you can set each set up consistently,,, with the two marked negative connections hooked together, and the two marked positive connections hooked together.

      Then reconnect the three harness clips to the dash cluster and test the lights... IF any of the three sets does not work, rotate the LED/wedge for both lights in the series. So... if you have no light on the left, center, or right of the dash, rotate both the LED/wedges for that position.

      *****Correcting polarity issues without FIRST making sure that your LED wedge connections work, and then determining consistent polarity for each LED/wedge, and then making sure that each LED wedge for each series is connected consistently, seems like rolling dice and hoping for success. And it was frustrating!

      Anyway, just my thoughts. I hope these LEDs last forever!!!

      Good luck with the LED dash light conversion.
       

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