G2: DIY: Appearance: LED Gauge Cluster

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This is the LegendWiki version of the DIY originally written by Roger for AcuraLegend.org. His original DIY is also available as a PDF download, the link is at the bottom of this page.

Required Materials & Tools

  • Spare Acura Legend gauge cluster (optional but recommended)
  • 4 Lexan needles (99-03 TL needles used here)
  • White 5mm LEDs (approx. 30)
  • Red 3mm LEDs (approx. 25)
  • 580Ω ¼W resistors (approx 40)
  • Red and Black wire
  • Soldering Iron, solder, flux
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Dremel, drill, sanding bits, drill bits
  • Chrome gauge rings
  • Round solder boards
  • 12V power source (emergency jumper, car battery, etc)

LED Backlights

1.

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step1a.jpg

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step1b.jpg

Assuming you have all the parts you need to complete this project, I would first begin with removing the red needles from whatever donor cluster you choose. Like I said I used 99-03 TL but you will need two TL clusters if you go this route because the speedometer and RPM needles are different lengths. You could however cut the Speedometer needle down to the length of the RPM needle if you are satisfied with the length.

2.

Now take your spare OEM cluster and remove the plastic cover and the plastic trim piece that sits over the front of the gauges. Look toward the back and you should see three screws that hold on each gauge, they are independent of the white plastic piece. Remove these screws, making sure that you hold the corresponding gauge in front as you remove the last screw (of each set of 3) to keep it from falling out.

3.

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step3a.jpg

Now lay out all 4 gauges to focus on for the time being. At this point I used my 9V battery and began to hook it up to the back of the gauges (you will have to put the screws in the gauge) . I was able to get consistent readouts from the gauge at certain configurations (See the drawings).

4.

I suggest at this point you tape up the front of the gauges with painters tape to avoid scratching or scuffing the surface. You must remove your stock needles. I suggest cutting them off with a Dremel and a small cutting disk very carefully! The RPM and Speedometer are fairly easy to pull off with your fingers or pliers, gripping very carefully in the middle and pulling straight out. However, the pegs that the needles sit on are very very very fragile!!! My fuel gauge needle was a bit bent from the needle removal and snapped like a twig when I tried to bend it back! Again this is why I recommend cutting them off to avoid any stress and strain on the pegs and the delicate motors they go in.

5.

After your needles are removed you need to peel the gauge face off. Use a butter knife and stick it in between the face and the bottom plastic and wiggle until the adhesive comes apart. Be very careful in these next few steps because you can easily ruin the face of your gauge if you aren’t careful. Take your rubbing Alcohol and begin to remove the paint coating on the back of the gauge face. Be careful not to get any of the alcohol near the edge or near the hole for the needle stopper. Any alcohol that leaks on the face of the gauge will also eat the paint off that side!!!
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step5a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step5b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step5c.jpg

6.

Now you can begin work on the lighting which will allow your needles to glow!! Take the smallest round circuit boards and 6 of your red LEDs. 2 series wired parallel with a 580Ω resistor on each series.
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step6a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step6b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step6c.jpg

7.

Now experiment with carefully placing your assembly over the needle motor. Be sure to cover the bottom of the circuit board so there is no connection made with any of the wiring on the motor. Next you must hollow out the needle holes in your gauge faces and the plastic that they attach to make room for your LED assemblies.
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step7a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step7b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step7c.jpg

8.

At this point I suggest you take a break from your needle work and start to focus on illuminating your cluster. This is very solder intensive. I suggest you take your 5MM white leds and first sand/cut the dome tips off. This changes the spread of light from a narrow to wide beam to avoid hot spotting. Although not totally necessary, I sanded the tips down with 800 grit sandpaper and buffed with PlastX for a totally clear top. This just slightly provides more intensity over the cloudy sanded finish. You can also buy LEDs that have already had their tops shaved flat, or even slightly inverted for an even wider dispersion.
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step8a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step8b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step8c.jpg

9.

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step9a.jpg

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step9b.gif

Next take all those LEDs and solder a 580Ω resistor to the longer leg on the LED (Anode). There are different ways you can do this but I choose to do one resistor per LED to be safe, I really don’t want any failures and it's always good to run eBay LEDs lower then they are rated.

10.

After you have all your LEDs ready to go, begin planning out where you want to drill the holes they will be placed into. Find a drill bit that is a slightly smaller then the led itself so you can tightly squeeze it into the hole. This will be a be hassle to keep all the LEDs in place as you move along if you don’t. Also I put a dab of gorilla glue around the backs of each LED to help hold it securely in place. If you place them all exactly like I have mine in the picture below you should be good on light distribution. (Note the changes in red)
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step10a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step10b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step10c.jpg

11.

Now this part can be difficult but you need to begin wiring all you strands together. If you went my route you already have the resistors on each LED so you just need to connect all the negatives and positives together while also making sure the circuit boards on the back will still attach and sit flush. If you followed my LED pattern you can also try and follow my wiring pattern if I have provided enough information in the pictures. (Note: I ran out of black/red wire, that’s why there are some that are all green)
G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11c.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11d.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11e.jpg G2 RogerGaugeLED Step11f.jpg


12.

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step12a.jpg

G2 RogerGaugeLED Step12b.jpg

After you finish wiring up all your LEDs you can jump back over to the needles again! First I suggest using some red and blue filter paper and slide it under the RPM redline and HOT/COLD marks on the temp gauge. With the LEDs shining through, the stock red tint will look orange compared to your bright red needles! This film will give them back the rich red and dark blue color. (Filter packet from B & H Photo)

13.

Now take your gauges, they should be all ready with your LED array that slips over the top and the holes widened on your gauge faces. You must use some type of adhesive to keep the gauge face against the plastic base because the glue that was previously there is useless now. Make sure you scrape all the old glue off and use something that is temporary because you may find yourself removing and replacing these faces several times. I used tiny pieces of rubber butyl, its like putty and has some stick to it but once stuck can be pulled apart rather easily.

14.

Once the gauge faces have been installed, you can now take out your 9V battery and attach it to the configurations you wrote down as you referenced my pictures. I think all the gauges are similar to these measurements but I am not positive, yours may be different. The speedometer and the RPM are by far the easiest to do, the movements are quick and precise so just connect the battery and stick the needle pointing toward the point you wrote down, I suggest 2 notches above because the weight of the needle will move it down about this much. Before you push the needle on put something at the base about 1-3 mm thick so the needle doesn’t push all the way down onto the pin. If it does it will probably be resting directly on your gauge face and will either not move, or you will get erratic jumping movement when installed in your car.

15.

The temperature and fuel gauges are the worst to both calibrate and install the needles on. The first issue depending on the needle you used are the pins, mine were smaller then the holes on the needle. I had to build up the surface of the pin for the needle to fit. I used a thin strip of foil tape. Scotch tape didn’t work, it would slide down every time. You might also have luck filling the hole on the needle with JB weld and drilling out a smaller diameter hole. Calibrating the smaller needles can be a pain! I had a problem with the polarity on the fuel gauge. When I hooked power up to the same point I had written down the needle was going in the opposite direction! I couldn't figure it out until I began to play with the pin, lifting it up and down it slide into different levels so to speak. Mine may have been damaged I’m not sure but once I had it in a point where it was traveling the correct direction it was fairly easy to calibrate to what I had in my notes. For the temperature needle, you can try your notes but in the end I just hooked my cluster up to my car after it was warm and stuck it on pointing toward the notch below half like it should be!! This has been working out great.

16.

Now you can run your wires for the needle lights through the back and attach it to everything else and be done!! Or you can stick around and really make some custom gauges!


Custom Indicator Logos

1.

Here I will show you how to really update the look of your cluster by changing your instrument icons from blinding lights with an outline to nice crisply illuminated icons. Fist you need to locate your icons for the project. I had some help with a few of the stock ones from a forum member who had made a template. I however wanted to change all the icons that used letters (ABS,Cruise,Brake,SRS) to actual icons. I search the web and found some images on a vector image web site, but they were only samples unless you wanted to purchase them. I used these but because they were so small the quality was not good enough so I basically traced them in Photoshop. (See the bottom of this page for some templates and pre-made logos, ready to print)
G2 RogerGaugeInd Step1a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step1b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step1c.jpg

2.

Once you have the icons you want, you may want to arrange them so they print out evenly in the spaces they will display. Do this through trial and error or scanning the little plastic piece they will go behind on the trim piece. There are several ways you can print these out but I have only tried one so far and it is working very well so I have no plans on changing. Three options are adhesive vinyl sheets (Papilio makes good papers), Reprofilm (from an art or print supply store), or overhead transparencies. I used overhead transparencies and layered them 4 deep to completely block all the light from passing through the black areas.
G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2c.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2d.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2e.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2f.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2g.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step2h.jpg

3.

If you have TCS and would like to do something similar with those icons you are limited on options. You cannot remove the letters “TCS” that is printed on the face of the RPM dial. Well, I take that back, you can but you will ruin your dial in the process! The solution to this and much cooler way is to relocate these two indicators over to the left where you have 2 empty spots all ready to be used! (USDM only of course). I relocated the pins on the circuit board, but if you're lazy you could just solder the legs to the empty spots. Then you just link the wires over with jumpers. Not sure if it matters but I cut the link between the mounting points and the circuit board so I wasn’t sending current into the connection.
G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3c.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3d.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3e.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3f.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step3g.jpg

4.

Next you need to use your rubbing alcohol and remove sections of the paint so your icons can shine through. I taped out the sections as good as I could and carefully used a Q-tip to remove the paint. Make sure your tape lines are straight!
G2 RogerGaugeInd Step4a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step4b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step4c.jpg G2 RogerGaugeInd Step4d.jpg

Chrome Gauge Rings

1.

G2 RogerGaugeRing Step1a.jpg

G2 RogerGaugeRing Step1b.jpg

Now you should be ready to put your gauge rings on. Not much to these, just stick them through the hole, preferable on a flat surface. Next fold the small aluminum flap over with a pen.

Done

1.

Now reassemble and be done!!! At least until you completely recalibrate your gauges!
G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1a.jpg G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1b.jpg G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1c.jpg G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1d.jpg G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1e.jpg G2 RogerGaugeDone Step1f.jpg

Gauge Indicators

Here you will find templates and sample logos made by AcuraLegend.org forum members, ready to print. Note that if you are printing on adhesive paper, you must flip these images horizontally before printing. If you are using non-adhesive papers (ie. overhead transparencies) you do not need to flip them because you can flip over the papers instead.

Templates

These are the original plastic inserts in a stock cluster, scanned by Quaraxkad. You can use them as a template to create your own logos and ensure that they are all aligned when printing. The third image is for the ABS indicator, it has no logo because it had already been polished off before being scanned.
G2 RogerGaugeInd Template Indicators.png G2 RogerGaugeInd Template Cruise+Fuel.png G2 RogerGaugeInd Template ABS.png

Quaraxkad's indicators

These are Quaraxkad's indicator logos. They use all the stock logos with one exception: The original "CRUISE CONTROL" logo now says "CRUISE".
G2 RogerGaugeInd Quaraxkad Indicators.png G2 RogerGaugeInd Quaraxkad Cruise+Fuel.png G2 RogerGaugeInd Quaraxkad ABS.png

Roger's indicators

These are Roger's modified indicator logos, combined into one image for easier printing.
G2 RogerGaugeInd Rogers Combined Indicators.png


Forum Link Code

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Links

Roger's DIY thread on AcuraLegend.org
PDF version of Roger's original Custom Gauges DIY
Back To G2: DIY: Appearance
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