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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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CDW6212R

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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.
 


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Ozz1967

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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.

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




CDW6212R

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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.

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.
 




Ozz1967

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




Millertime1987

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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.
 




cloud2or3

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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.
 




Fordmanstrawser

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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.
 




Millertime1987

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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
 




astanford

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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

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!
 




vipjeff

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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:
 




Flash Gordan

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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?
 




97LTD

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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.
 




Flash Gordan

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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.
 








Mr. Alligator

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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.
 




Ozz1967

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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.

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.
 




Ozz1967

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1997 Explorer XLT
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.

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.
 




Afrojoe

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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.
 




wingcmdr

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1997 Mercury Mountaineer
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
 


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Christifor

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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!
 




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