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      05-08-2014, 12:05 PM   #1
DrTom
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DIY: True, brilliant white LED instrument cluster conversion

Initially I converted my instrument cluster to white LEDs using the instructions in this thread:

http://www.1addicts.com/forums/showthread.php?t=771058

This was the result:



It was ok, but really needed red needles. Also, you can't tell in the pictures but it's not a true white, it still has an orange tinge to it. After WAY too much work, this is the result I ended up with:




It's a true white with glowing red needles. I'm going to give an outline here how to do it, but it's fairly complicated and honestly, if I had to do it over again, I would've done it differently. I will explain in the steps below.

Remove and disassemble the cluster
- replace the cluster LEDs with pure white LEDs. The steps to do this are described in this thread:
http://www.1addicts.com/forums/showthread.php?t=771058
- I used 3528 cool white SMD LEDs. Purchase them on e-bay, they're dirt cheap.

Red needles
- Get some transparent red vinyl like this:
http://www.metrorestyling.com/Red-Ou...redoutfilm.htm
- Cover the top, and sides of the needles in vinyl using a heat gun and razor blade. Leave the white strip at the bottom uncovered


Needle Illumination
- This is one area I would've done differently. The way I did it, I bought some circuit board from radio shack, used a dremel to make them into small doughnut shapes, soldered small red SMD LEDs and a resistor on them, then drilled out the center of the diffuser to make room for the circuit. I then drilled 2 small holes through the diffuser and plastic shroud to run the wires. I covered the center of the diffuser with flat black vinyl on the top to prevent the red from bleeding through and put some more vinyl over it. This was the result:



In retrospect, this is how I should've done it.
- Take your dremel, and dremel down the center clear part of the diffuser that is sticking up. Don't touch the rim, just get the central plastic cylinder down.

- Once it's taken down, cover the center with flat black vinyl. Use a heat gun to make it cover the inside, then punch a hole in the middle of it.

- At this point I built my circuit and set it into this hole. The simpler option is to buy like 6 of these:
http://www.superbrightleds.com/morei...ent-light/639/
- Mount one or two of this for the speedo/tach needles, and one for the fuel/temp needles. They come with double-sided mounting tape. In the picture below, I'm using forceps to hold it in place, because it was my tester and the tape lost its sticky.

- you can cut a small spot to run the wires, but if you're careful, you can probably adhere the wire to the center tube and run it down and out through the center. I wouldn't simply run it over the diffuser, it'll leave a dead spot.

Getting true white
- If you stop here and do nothing more, the gauges will be white but they have an orange tint to them.

The left is true white, the right is what you get simply by replacing the LEDs on the board.
- To get rid of this, remove the gauge face, and use 600 grit sandpaper to sand EVERYTHING off the back of the gauge face.



DECISION TIME
- In retrospect, I probably should've stopped here, tucked away the wires, reassembled the cluster, run the wires out of the cluster and hooked them to any grey/red wire running to anything that illuminates when the headlights turn on. I didn't though. I wanted brilliance. I wanted true, brilliant, bright, white light, so I went a little overboard. If you're sane, you won't continue. It will look good right there. If you want brightness, then continue on.

Further disassembly of the cluster
- Uncouple the LCD screen from the circuit board. DO NOT remove the white plastic shroud without disconnecting the connector ribbon. It is extremely fragile and if you put pressure on this connection, it will mess up the LCD screen (ask me how I know). To uncouple it, take YOUR FINGERS (do not use tools unless you have to) and try to move the black metal retaining clip down about 2 mm

- This will release the ribbon.
- Separate the white shroud from the circuit board
- Remove the LCD screen from the white shroud by carefully pressing the screen toward the top of the white shroud with your finger, and simultaneously gently lift the screen using a needle, pick, or probe. This will allow it to slide out.

- Remove the white diffuser below it.

Trimming the plastic shroud
- The idea is to add hundreds of LEDs directly below the gauge face to illuminate it. To do this, we need to get rid of that pesky white shroud in the way. Cut it out in a big circle where I have it marked. Make sure to leave the hooks and a small lip around the edge for the diffuser to mount.


Adding additional illumination
- Buy two 100mm cool white angel eye rings and two 80mm rings:
http://www.superbrightleds.com/morei...ent-lights/49/
- If you're a real badass, buy these instead:
http://www.superbrightleds.com/morei...ghts-cob/1135/
- You can see where this is going. You're going to mount these rings directly under the diffuser right on top of the circuit board. The 100mm rings will illuminate the outer numbers and the 80mm will illuminate the inner numbers. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of this. Essentially what you do is put the 80mm ring inside the 100mm ring. Desolder the wires off the rings, and use one set of wires to power both rings. I then insulated the bottom of both rings with black vinyl, and mounted them on the circuit board with some butyl rubber.

Reassembly
- Reassemble everything. I connected all the wires to a single set which exited the assembled unit. I connected these wires to the grey/red (+) and brown/black (-) coming out of the hazard button on the dash.


Results




I went through a lot of trial and error doing this, not to mention a few clusters. So I have a lot of spare parts if anyone is interested in experimenting without fear of damaging their cluster. Things like sanding the gauge face and cutting the plastic shroud. I have OEM needles, gauge faces, plastic shrouds, etc for sale on ebay.

Hope people find this useful.
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      05-08-2014, 07:24 PM   #2
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Red needles!!
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      05-09-2014, 07:29 AM   #3
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That looks distracting as all hell.
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      05-09-2014, 07:34 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkrom View Post
That looks distracting as all hell.
Yeah it's really bright. Luckily, to make it dimmer all you need to do is put a resistor in-line with the power. I might dim it down in the future.

Honestly if I were to do it again, I wouldn't have put the rings in it. Just do the while LED swap, red needle illumination, and sand down the back of the gauges. Call it a day.
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      05-10-2014, 10:29 PM   #5
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Well done! Looks really good, and thanks for putting up the detailed DIY....I will be giving this a try for sure
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      05-12-2014, 05:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TZANIDO777 View Post
Well done! Looks really good, and thanks for putting up the detailed DIY....I will be giving this a try for sure
Post up some pictures and let us know how you decided to do it, with the circuits or the little red dots.
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      05-14-2014, 04:03 PM   #7
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Glad my DIY could help you. Couldn't you just get any brighter white smd LEDs? With the wrap around the needles is it not enough light to illuminate? With my bright blue I have to keep the lights dimmed a little because it gets to bright. I wouldn't think you need to trim that clear backing. Glad it worked for you. Looks good but way to bright. That's what I was thinking if you would have got the brightest led you could get and mount them with the wrapped needles it should have worked but it would be dimmer than what you have now.
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      05-15-2014, 06:05 PM   #8
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The pictures make the lights look brighter than they really are. And plus the factory dimmer works well to dim them down.
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      05-15-2014, 07:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTom
The pictures make the lights look brighter than they really are. And plus the factory dimmer works well to dim them down.
Still wondering if you think just wrapping the needles, there would be enough light to light them up? I'm assuming you did that before you started cutting and adding?
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      05-15-2014, 07:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MuNkY6913 View Post
Still wondering if you think just wrapping the needles, there would be enough light to light them up? I'm assuming you did that before you started cutting and adding?
Yeah just wrapping them alone looks decent, but the light doesnt really project well through the needle. Plus it's white light. Don't get me wrong it doesn't look bad, but it doesn't look factory either. Putting the red LEDs behind the needles is really the way to go for illuminating them. At least with our clusters.
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