View Full Version : Custom blue LED gauge/dash lights

04-30-2016, 12:12 PM
Not sure if this is the best place to post this.... This isn't complete, hopefully today I will finish my gauge cluster. And I WILL upload better photo's of it glowing! My phones camera sucks, so I'll use my girls phone after I revise my post.

So I've looked around and found various articles on fixing the gauge cluster, replacing bulbs etc. Two of my bulbs went out on the left side of my gauge cluster making the Tach and up to about 40mph not visible at night. I could have easily replaced the bulbs in a few minutes, but I decided to instead take the time to solder in 3mm blue LED bulbs. I picked up 20 3mm led's and 20mm resistors in a pack from Microcenter for only $4.99! Plus I had already got a bright blue digital voltage meter that I had on my dash, and the orange wasn't looking right with it.

I started with doing the AC controls first, it was pretty straight forward.
1. Pull the shift knob off, then pull the plastic that the shift boot is attached to off, it just snaps right out, I just stick my fingers where the boot enters the plastic, then pull out, and that piece pops off, then just disconnect the wire from the hazard switch.
2. Removing the cd player/AC control plastic, there are two (10mm I believe) bolts behind where the shift boot is. Once those are removed, the whole big piece of plastic pulls directly out, then you just disconnect the wires from the ac controls and the cd player.
3. At this point I take the entire assembly into the house, then remove the phillips screws holding both sets of AC controls to the dash. 4. Now the ace knobs, you must take them apart, and the "Faces" of them have a orange coating on the back. It's like a sticker and peels off, you need to remove this orange coating or putting colored LED's in there wont change the color. I used a razor blade to pick the corner of the orange up, then just peeled it off with my fingers, repeat for all sections of orange.
5. Now the fun part, you CAN purchase led's that bolt directly in, but from reading other guides, they don't "skatter" the light very good, and you end up with spotty lighting. Plus I believe those bulbs cost a considerable amount more, and well, I'm handy with a soldering Iron. Instead I just soldered led's in. The led's I used were 3mm, with a 420ohm resistor on each one. Following another guide, I "snipped" the tip of the LED, that makes the light skatter more instead of being like a beam. You just want to snip the round tip so its flat, but don't go too far so the LED doesn't work! Make sure to test the LED's before installing so you don't waste time!
6. On the AC knobs I used 3 led's total, there are two holes, one of the holes illuminates two of the knob controls, while the other one illuminates a single control. The one that illuminates two controls, I carefully bent the legs of the LED's so each one aimed towards a individual control, I did this so that the gauges would illuminate as bright as possible. I did the same for the other hole, using a single LED and aimed the LED toward the gauge.
7. I then cut the leg's of the LED's a little shorter, and soldered on a 420ohm resistor onto each LED, then hot glued them into place. Make sure the legs of the LED's do NOT touch the factor bulb connectors, the copper area on the circuit board, as one side is ground the other is 12v, and you could short something! I put a decent amoutn of hot glue in there to stop any chance of shorting. Then I added more hot glue to the outside to hold the legs still. I then soldered wires to the led's to run power, I just daisy chained the 3 led's, as they draw very little power.

Next step was the 3 buttons, recirculate, A/C, and defrost. These were a little easier, but basically the same process. I wont go into detail on these. If I remember right (I took these apart a couple weeks ago), there is no orange coating. All I did was pull the back portion of the buttons off, and soldered in a single LED per hole (2), I aimed the LED straight on these ones. I was going to use 3 like the previous controls, but 2 illuminated it great. Like before, I snipped the tip of the LED off so it was flat so the light would "skatter". Added resistors, hot glue, solder wire leads up, good to go.

A little bit of labor, aprox $1.50 in led's/resistors, soldering iron and hot glue, and my AC controls glow bright blue!

Like I said, they aren't the best pictures. If you aren't comfortable with a soldering iron or DIY, I wouldn't undertake this project. This portion of my project was fairy easy compared to the gauge cluster, not "much" that can go wrong.




Now for the second part. Doing the gauges. This part is a bit more tricky, a lot can go wrong, you can mess your gauge cluster up very easy if you are not careful! Do not undertake if you don't feel comfortable. I'm a DIY guy and I've been soldering on circuit boards since I was 11 years old, so it's hard to scare me away.

1. Pull the gauge cluster out, its pretty simple, using a pry tool, or old credit card, or a flat head screw driver (if you aren't scared of screwing up plastic) pull the trim around the gauge cluster out, it pops right out. Then there are 3 philips screws (I think it was 3? lol), and the cluster comes out, unplug the 2 connectors, and bring inside.
2. Now pull the white plastic piece off the back, the clear plastic off the front, pretty self explanatory. Honestly, if you can't figure out how to take the cluster "apart" then give up, you'll fuck something up! So I'll stop explaining this process.
2.5. Pulling hte needles off, they pry off very gently, I used a plastic card to pry 2 sides a few times then they pulled off. Be CAREFUL! You can ruin your gauges very easily. I've done this to many vehicles, I've also messed up a set before. I'll post more on how to calibrate them AFTER I'm done, as I'm going off hearsay of how to calibrate, so I wont post misinformation until I accomplish it on the ep3
3. Once you have the motherboard/gauge face sitting in front of you, you have to use a plastic card (credit card etc) and slowly, very gently pry the gauge face off. It is glued all the way around, it's a soft glue that's made to be removed. Be careful as your gauge overlay is easy to crack or break. I got mine off with no issues just took me a few minutes of slowly lifting it with a credit card.
4. Once the overlay is off, you now need to remove the orange coating from the back sides, where the gauges shine through. The orange coating isn't removable like on the AC controls. You need to use something to remove it, I've heard of people using acetone, but also heard its too strong and can mess up your gauges easily, instead people recommended acetone nail polish remover, which as far as I know, is diluted acetone. I used my girls Nail polish remover, and it says right on the bottle "acetone". I grabbed a roll of paper towels, would tear off a chunk of paper towel, fold it into a square about 4 layers thick, put some nail polish remover on it, and begin scrubbing. I started on the RPM gauge, and it started coming off very quick! I went through tons of "chunks" of paper towels, but it worked very well! I was happy, I was nervous I was going to ruin it, but it worked perfectly. It took me a good deal of work to get my entire gauge cluster cleaned of the orange, probably 10-15 minutes, mostly because I was scared of ruining it.

That's as far as I have got. Depending on my lazy level, I'm either finishing up the gauge cluster tonight, or tomorrow (has to be done tomorrow, I need my gauges to drive 40 miles for work monday) lol. I'm at the easy part now, just soldering led's in, just like on the AC controls. Off the top of my head I believe there are 5 holes for lights for hte gauge cluster, I plan on putting 2 led's per hole with them angled different directions, I want my gauge cluster to glow evenly, not be spotty. I will update this post as soon as I'm done, with better pics in the car of them glowing.






03-21-2017, 02:47 AM
Nice. I wanted to change the color of my dash lights also, but after seeing your work it looks a bit complicated.