[size=12pt]How To: Changing Instrument Cluster Lights
For those of you who might need to change the lights of the instrument cluster, here's the way I went about it. Some important notes:
- [li]Always disconnect the negative battery cable before going in.[/li]
[li]Taking everything apart and putting it back together took me about 5-6 hours, but this included taking pictures, driving to the store with half a cluster on, and some relaxation time [/li]
[li]In the guide, the white arrows are usually for screw removal and should probably be done first. Red arrows signify pushing/pulling and should be done after the white arrows.[/li]
[li]There might be better ways of doing some of these parts, so feel free to use your imagination.[/li]
- [li]Screwdriver (normal and small sizes)[/li]
[li]LEDs (see Part VII)[/li]
[li]Knife or fork[/li]
A quick outline of the guide:
- [li]Part I. Cluster Removal[/li]
[li]Part II. Cluster Disassembly[/li]
[li]Part III. Changing LEDs[/li]
[li]Part IV. Problems I Had[/li]
[li]Part V. Soldering Techniques[/li]
[li]Part VI. Final Result[/li]
[li]Part VII. What LEDs to Buy[/li]
Ok here goes,
[size=12pt]Part I: Cluster Removal
1. Remove the side trim, first by getting rid of the fastener, and then pulling the whole plate out (if you want, you can remove the scuff plate right next to it first, just pull on it)
2. The next part may be kind of hard, but you'll need to reach the screw behind the handle that opens the hood
3. Pull the hood lever all the way back, and you'll notice a small black hole right in the middle. Put a flathead screwdriver in there and push hard up on it, then push it towards the front end of the car. It should unlock the whole lever.
4. Remove the screw behind the lever.
5. You'll need to pull the whole lower panel off. I did this by starting on the right side, just grab it on the bottom and pull, there are just a lot of tabs holding it on.
6. After you get the right side off, pull on the left side. The whole lower panel should detach.
7. The lower panel will still be attached by several connections on the left side. You can either leave the panel attached and put it to the side, or simply disconnect every one of the connections. Push on the little tabs in the middle of each plug and then pull the whole thing out. You'll probably have connections #1,2, and 4. In the picture my #3 is for my LED tubes.
8. Next, remove the decoration panel. I usually do this by opening the glove box, and sticking something flat where the white arrow is pointing. Then just pull away from the car and the tabs should release.
9. Pull all the tabs out, or at least all the ones on the left side. You'll need to do this to remove the next part.
10. Now look above the steering wheel. You'll see a rubber cover near the cluster.
11. Just pull up on the cover, it should come off pretty easilly.
12. Next you'll need to remove the whole meter hood. Do this by grabing and pulling the top. Then pull out the sides and the bottom.
13. This is what it should look like as of now.
14. Remove the 2 screws under the cluster.
15. Next, remove the single screw in the middle above the cluster.
16. In order to detach the connectors in the back, turn the whole instrument cluster around clockwise.
17. There should be 2 wide white connectors. Push on the tabs sticking out in the middle and pull the whole connector out. Don't worry about remembering which is which, since they are different widths and will only go in their own hole.
18. :shock: You can start crying now.
[size=12pt]Part II: Cluster Disassembly
1. It was extremely nerve-wrecking seeing the cluster outside my car.
Please note the diagram in the picture
, the cluster should not be placed with the gauge faces facing downward. This is in order to keep any grease inside from leaking from the meters.
2. There are 6 screws on the back that you'll need to remove.
3. After removing the screws, press the tabs all around the back plastic facing to remove it.
4. On the front, press in the 2 black tabs on the sides.
5. Pull the transparent front off the cluster.
6. Here's the front view of the cluster.
7. Here's the rear view of the circuit.
8. If you have any desire to remove the needles, then proceed with caution. I used 2 knives and pulled up on the needle, it came off quite nicely.
Or as I found out, forks work even better!
Try to remember the position in which you took them off
, if you mess up, read Part IV to see how to fix the needle positioning.
[size=12pt]Part III: Changing LEDs
- [li]The instrument cluster uses 21 large LEDs for the 4 main gauges (RPM, speedometer, temperature, and gas).[/li]
[li]There are more LEDs that make up all the other lights in the cluster (blinkers, high beams, oil change, etc).[/li]
[li]If you plan on using white LEDs, be sure to sand off the red film on the gauge face (seen in photo below).
[li]If you plan on using blue LEDs, don't expect them to be as bright as the original red ones. Blue LEDs operate at a different voltage than the reds and are simply not as bright, so don't be disappointed if they are not as bright during the day time (night time looks perfect!).
This is the circuit board you will get after disassembly.
The main 4 gauges consist of 21 large LEDs.
Here's the plastic covering that goes over the circuit board. You often need to go back to this piece to figure out which LEDs need and which don't need to be removed.
Front view of gauge face.
Rear view of gauge face. Notice the red film around most of the digits. If you plan on putting white LEDs in your gauges then be sure to sand the red film off.
Also, while I was at it I replaced my low gas light with a super bright white light, since I never noticed my dinky old light when it went on.
[size=12pt]Part IV: Problems I Had
1. First, just be careful with your work environment. You don't want to lose any screws, or your cluster...
2. When putting the trasnparent plastic part back on the cluster, be sure to clean it very well. Any big dust particles will be visible later on and you wont want to go through all this again just to clean the plastic. I went and got some of the air blowing cans to clean it out before putting it back on.
3. When putting the needles back on, they seemed to sit a bit higher than they sat before. If I pushed them in further, they seemed to sit a bit lower. I tried both ways and I don't think it affects the functionality of the needles, but I would probably stick with the higher position, since there's no friction with the gauge face.
4. Needle problems:
Being me, I probably moved the needles when I took them off. So when I put them back on, I obviously put them on in the wrong place :P This caused a very weird needle effect. Every time I would start my car, the needles would jump back a bit and then raise to their normal height. When I would turn the car off they would fall to their normal position, and about 5 seconds later they would just jump back half an inch. It was pretty funky and scary, but here's how you fix it.
-Take the needles off, you can do it with them on but it'll just be an extra step
-Connect your cluster to the car but don't put any of the covers on it yet (so you can still add/remove the needles)
-Turn your car on, let the needles rise if they're still attached, turn your car off, let the needles fall
-If the needles are still attached, take them off carefully
-Put the needles on exactly where they should be in their turned off state
-Turn the car back on and off again and make sure the needles are in correct position throughout the whole time, if not then do the above steps all over again until they are positioned correctly
[size=12pt]Part V: Soldering Techniques
I won't lie, these LEDs are tiny, and soldering them may be a pain in the neck. Here's their relative size to a quarter.
All you need is a steady hand and some tweezers to hold them.
The soldering technique you use is entirely up to you, in fact I'm sure there are better ways of doing this than I did, but here's my method (you can refer to the picture for the steps).
1. Grab one side of the LED with tweezers. Bring the soldering iron up to the existing solder on that side and melt it while pulling up on the LED with your tweezers.
2. One half of the LED should come off the circuit board. Next grab the other side of the LED with tweezers and do the same thing with the soldering iron on the opposite side.
3. Both connections of the LED should have melted and the LED should have come off by now.
4. The previous LED should have left some solder on it. If it did not, be sure to touch the contact with your soldering iron and bring some solder next to it. This should add a bubble of solder on the contact.
5. Using tweezers to hold one side of the LED near the solder bubble, use the soldering iron to melt the solder and connect one side of the LED to the circuit board.
6. Push down the other side of the LED and either use the existing solder on the circuit board or add some more of your own and connect the other side of the LED.
The polarity of the LEDs is very important when you put them in. If you solder the LEDs backwards they won't light up. Refer to the diagram below for the correct polarity. The diagram will help you determine which part of the LED is positive and negative. Furthermore, it shows the symbols on the circuits signifying the direction you should solder the LEDs in.
After soldering the LEDs, be sure to test the circuit back in the car. No need to reassemble your head unit or instrument cluster, just bring the circuit back into the car, plug in all the wires, and turn your car on. Turn the headlights on just in case as well (some of the LEDs only light up with headlights). You should see if your LEDs were soldered correctly or not.
If you come to the conclusion that you simply are unable to solder these tiny things, I would recommend taking the circuit and the LEDs to a local electronics store. They can solder it for you, and they're usually hella good at it too. If that doesn't work, you can try posting on the forums to see if somebody who's done it before is willing to help out.
[size=12pt]Part VI: Final Result
This is the result of the first LED swap that I did to my car.
Eventually I got tired of the red/blue combo and wanted to change things up a bit, and here is the result of my second swap.
[size=12pt]Part VII: What LEDs to Buy
The instrument cluster uses 21 large LEDs
for the 4 main gauges (RPM, speedometer, temperature, and gas). There are more LEDs that make up all the other lights in the cluster (blinkers, high beams, oil change, etc).
Hope this guide helps some people out in the future, and if you have any questions I'll do my best to answer them.
And btw, I joined the club