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

This is my second and hopefully much more helpful writeup on converting the 95-01 gauge cluster to LEDs. I have tried 3 different types of 12v wedge based 194 replacements and I have finally found the one that puts out enough light and lights up the cluster evenly.

Here were my candidates.
From Left to Right: Inverted Wedge LED, Refractor LED, SMD LEDs
100_1393.jpg

The Results

Inverted Wedge LED: Even Light output, but not bright enough

Refractor LED: Horribly Uneven light output, Short Lifespan (they started blowing on me)

SMD (Surface Mount Diode): Even Light output and very bright (brighter the the 194LL Bulbs)

100_1396.jpg


Getting to the cluster:

Step 1
Remove the Radio
100_1375.jpg


Step 2
Remove the 2 screws (circled in red)
Disconnect the 5 wiring harness behind the bezel (circled in blue)
100_1376-1.jpg

100_1377.jpg


Step 3
Remove the 4 screws holding the plastic panel in place. (2 are hidden under the hood release) Then pull back on the top of the panel ( it is held in by clips)
100_1378-1.jpg


Step 4
Remove the 3 bolts holding the metal shield in place
100_1380.jpg


Step 5
Remove the 2 screws at the bottom of the gauge bezel (note the wiring harness locations circled in blue)
100_1383.jpg


Step 6
Remove the 3 screws at the top of the gauge bezel
100_1384.jpg


Step 7
Pull out the bezel enough to disconnect the 3 wiring harnesses. (Headlight Switch, Dimmer, and Rear Parking Assist) Then Remove the bezel. (Shifter must be in 1st gear)
100_1385.jpg


Step 8
Remove the 4 screws holding in the Gauge Cluster
100_1386.jpg

100_1387.jpg


Step 9
Tilt the Cluster back and remove the Shift Indicator from the cluster, there are 2 plastic tabs that must be held on each side to remove the indicator.
Disconnect the 3 wiring harness from behind the cluster, then remove the Cluster
100_1388.jpg

100_1389.jpg


Now Hopefully You are holding your Instrument Cluster and can go on to the fun part.

Remove the 6 back light bulbs from the cluster. (Circled in Red)
( I also highly recommend you also remove the THEFT light LED so you don't risk blowing it like I did when I was trying to figure out how to bench test the cluster)
The PC board on the back of the cluster is flexible so you can carefully pull the contacts where the wiring harnesses attach out of the sockets so you can attach alligator clips to bench test.
(The white wires are the - and the RED and GREEN are +)
100_1392.jpg


Here are the LEDs in the sockets. ( I used a bit of hot glue to make sure they didn't come out)
100_1390.jpg


I apologize for not having a night shot of the final product, but the camera I have with me is an absolute noise box and takes terrible low light pics. When I get back my Canon ill get some pics.

Good Luck!
 


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MustangP51

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http://www.superbrightleds.com/more...led-bulb-5-smd-led-wide-angle-wedge-base/206/

Im planning on doing this to satisfy my itch to get another project going on my truck while school is going on and Im not driving every day. I want Blue LEDs and I saw scrogathon's post (#137) and am wanting that color. Im new to the LED lighting field and was wondering if the lights I linked would work for something similar

Yes those are the correct LEDs, however to get the blue color you will have to scrape off the green film on the back of gauge cluster.
 


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interscope8

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Yes those are the correct LEDs, however to get the blue color you will have to scrape off the green film on the back of gauge cluster.

Ya thats what I figured... reading through the thread tho it sounded like the fella I was referring to did nothing but put the cool white bulbs in... guess I'll see when the time comes! :D

Do you have any threads on here for switching out the door button LEDs? I already went through all your sig'd threads haha. There was a write up on myST too for it but I always like finding 2 threads and comparing them
 




Hunter32

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Ya thats what I figured... reading through the thread tho it sounded like the fella I was referring to did nothing but put the cool white bulbs in... guess I'll see when the time comes! :D

Do you have any threads on here for switching out the door button LEDs? I already went through all your sig'd threads haha. There was a write up on myST too for it but I always like finding 2 threads and comparing them

I used this one :thumbsup:

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241185&highlight=switch+led
 




interscope8

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Thank you sir!! :D haha
 




wheels23

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getting ready

I'm finally getting ready to do the LED conversion on a '97 Mountaineer and have a couple of questions:

-Regarding polarity, is there a way to tell whether the LED bulbs are in the correct orientation without having to put the dash/etc back into place? I don't have access to any testing tool or anything like that. Is there some point in the process where you can easily test the lights before rebuilding the dash? Do you have to disconnect the car battery before starting?
- When I have the entire thing apart, is it worth changing out all of the 161 indicator bulbs as well (not replacing them for LED, but just putting in new ones) so I won't have to take everything down again?
- Is there a way to bring back the back-lighting for the buttons on the factory radio?

Thanks!
 




MustangP51

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I'm finally getting ready to do the LED conversion on a '97 Mountaineer and have a couple of questions:

-Regarding polarity, is there a way to tell whether the LED bulbs are in the correct orientation without having to put the dash/etc back into place? I don't have access to any testing tool or anything like that. Is there some point in the process where you can easily test the lights before rebuilding the dash? Do you have to disconnect the car battery before starting?
- When I have the entire thing apart, is it worth changing out all of the 161 indicator bulbs as well (not replacing them for LED, but just putting in new ones) so I won't have to take everything down again?
- Is there a way to bring back the back-lighting for the buttons on the factory radio?

Thanks!

Yes you can check to see if the LEDs polarity is correct without having to put the cluster back in the car. In my first post I explain how to do it, look for the picture with the jumper wires in it.

I did not disconnect the battery, but it would be a good idea to to so working in close proximity to the airbag.

I would recommend replacing all of the back light bulbs with LEDs, I do not recommend you change out the indicator bulbs with LEDs. When the system does a bulb check when you initially turn the key, it will think that all the indicator bulbs are blown and the door chime will sound.

Yes you can repair the lights on the radio, but it requires a high level of proficiency with a soldering iron. The LEDs are SMDs (Surface Mound Diodes) and are very tiny, and are extremely easy to damage from the irons heat.
 




wheels23

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Yes you can check to see if the LEDs polarity is correct without having to put the cluster back in the car. In my first post I explain how to do it, look for the picture with the jumper wires in it.

I did not disconnect the battery, but it would be a good idea to to so working in close proximity to the airbag.

I would recommend replacing all of the back light bulbs with LEDs, I do not recommend you change out the indicator bulbs with LEDs. When the system does a bulb check when you initially turn the key, it will think that all the indicator bulbs are blown and the door chime will sound.

Yes you can repair the lights on the radio, but it requires a high level of proficiency with a soldering iron. The LEDs are SMDs (Surface Mound Diodes) and are very tiny, and are extremely easy to damage from the irons heat.



Thanks for the reply.

I apologize, but I am completely new to this and ignorant of what I would need to bench test the board. What is on the other end of those alligator clips?

For the indicator lights, I wouldn't change them for LED's, just wondering if there is any utility in changing out the bulbs that are in there now and working (just because they have been working fine since 1997). Or is it one of those "if it ain't broke..." kind of things?
 




MustangP51

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Thanks for the reply.

I apologize, but I am completely new to this and ignorant of what I would need to bench test the board. What is on the other end of those alligator clips?

For the indicator lights, I wouldn't change them for LED's, just wondering if there is any utility in changing out the bulbs that are in there now and working (just because they have been working fine since 1997). Or is it one of those "if it ain't broke..." kind of things?

No need to apologize, the alligator jumpers are connected to a 12v power source. I use an old computer power supply, but you can use a 12v car battery or any power supply that puts out 10 to 13.5 volts.

I would feel guilty if I told you that you don't need to change out all the indicator bulbs out, and a month later you have a bulb blow on you. So all I will say is that in my experience I have not had an indicator bulb blow on any of my vehicles. Even brand new bulbs blow out, so there is no fail safe answer to give.
 




wheels23

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No need to apologize, the alligator jumpers are connected to a 12v power source. I use an old computer power supply, but you can use a 12v car battery or any power supply that puts out 10 to 13.5 volts.

I would feel guilty if I told you that you don't need to change out all the indicator bulbs out, and a month later you have a bulb blow on you. So all I will say is that in my experience I have not had an indicator bulb blow on any of my vehicles. Even brand new bulbs blow out, so there is no fail safe answer to give.


Would something like this work somehow? I already have one at home.

http://www.sears.com/diehard-gold-p...71987000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2#desc
 




MustangP51

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RoCkrMAN

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I have a 97' XLT and I changed the gauges and heater controls out with some out of A 01 explorer sport and I put in my Red SMD LEDs and the heater controls look like crap (can hardly see them at night, and I only got a few bulbs working on the cluster and they don't light up. I'm really upset cause I have read all of the post saying how good they look and all. Could someone help me?
 












willindsay

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They come on, they just are not bright...:(

Where'd you purchase the LEDs from? All are not created equal might just be that you got some low power ones.
 


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RoCkrMAN

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Where'd you purchase the LEDs from? All are not created equal might just be that you got some low power ones.

I got them off of ebay, but I went and put my original heater controls in and I took out the blue film and they are bright and nice, is it just the sports heater controls and cluster? Thanks!
 




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