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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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EXPLODRR

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found out its NOT an easy removable film... for the 99xlt that is... may take some creativity, but the green color is 'painted' behind the opaque, so I did want to attempt with out a way to replace the opaque film.
 


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95Xsport

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Thanks for the write up, I'm thinking about doing this mod.
Are these particular LED's supposed to have a longer life than the stock 194 bulbs?
I prefer the stock look of the gauges so my only goal in this is to find a bulb that lasts longer.
 




Galactica

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LED's that are constructed well should have a life span around 100,000 hours, and will be brighter than conventional bulbs. Also, with their specific light output, they won't be as affected by films and whatnot on the back of clusters. Bulbs emit white light that is refracted by the films for a specific output color. LED's emit a single wavelength unless you get a white LED and that wavelength will cut through films and still come out the same color. I am considering changing everything in my Sport Trac to either red or blue (probably blue though since I have a couple bulbs out like the rear power window and the headlight switch.
 




95Xsport

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I know LED's generally last longer but just like CFL's, which also generally last longer than incandescents, there are certain applications where CFL's won't, ie. in places where they're turned off/on frequently.
I wasn't sure if there was anything specifically with the application of these LED's that would cause them not to have a significantly longer life than the stock bulbs. I have no idea what, but I figured I'd check anyways....

Would these work? LINK
I want a warm white (as close to incandescent as possible) and I'm having trouble finding them with SMD's, like these linked earlier: LINK
 




97LTD

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I have a 97 Explorer, and several of the dash lights went out for a while. The lights on the temperature and fuel gauges are dark at night. I see that there is 5 bulbs in a dash cluster am I correct?

It looks like the 194 SMD LED is the best bet to replace the burned out bulbs. Since my dash cluster looks blue but the bulbs is white right? I prefer the long lasting bulbs that will not go out again.

Thanks for the awesome info! :D

Edit: Would this http://www.superbrightleds.com/more...bulb-5-smd-led-wide-angle-wedge-base/206/919/ be the correct, brighter and even bulbs for me? Just wanted to be sure before I buy it.
 




MustangP51

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I have a 97 Explorer, and several of the dash lights went out for a while. The lights on the temperature and fuel gauges are dark at night. I see that there is 5 bulbs in a dash cluster am I correct?

It looks like the 194 SMD LED is the best bet to replace the burned out bulbs. Since my dash cluster looks blue but the bulbs is white right? I prefer the long lasting bulbs that will not go out again.

Thanks for the awesome info! :D

6 Bulbs in the cluster. As long as you buy good LEDs they will last much longer than the incandescent bulbs.
 








DjDom

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I still gotta get my lazy butt to order some LEDs..
 




Galactica

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I am having trouble identifying what type of LED's to buy as direct replacements for all the dash switches (headlight, foglight, rear window, 4WD). Any help would be appreciated.
 




MustangP51

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Galactica

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So soldering is necessary to do this? There are no direct replacements? Thanks for this anyway!
 




redexplorer5.0

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just put led in to my dashboard and led in the hvac controls love the way they came out
cluster 2002 explorer sport and hvac control are from a 2002 explorer sport trac

photo3_zps49f55f75.jpg


photo2_zps81306ed4.jpg


photo1_zpscdf2c6a7.jpg
 




DjDom

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Finally ordered LEDs. Once they come, I'll do the swap.
Hopefully mine won't be blue like many people here.

Edit: Got around to doing this.
Yup.. it turned blue

0be5yrDl.jpg

XWMN2Zul.jpg
 




halmn007

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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.


ZZ6IvLQ.jpg
 




Ozz1967

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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?
 




CDW6212R

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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.
 




Ozz1967

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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?
 




CDW6212R

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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?

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.
 




Ozz1967

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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.

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


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Ozz1967

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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.

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_20140817_224947_zpsdarvo8cl.jpg
 




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