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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
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Step 2
Remove the 2 screws (circled in red)
Disconnect the 5 wiring harness behind the bezel (circled in blue)
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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
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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
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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

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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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wingcmdr

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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!

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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Afrojoe

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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.

 




Christifor

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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.


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.
 




GOVTMOD

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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?
 




Hunter32

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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.
 




GOVTMOD

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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.

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.
 




Mr. Alligator

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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.
 




Tifoez & Lavinia

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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
 




Mr. Alligator

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




CDW6212R

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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.
 




shucker1

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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
 




CDW6212R

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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.
 




shucker1

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Tifoez & Lavinia

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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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