DIY 98-00 Cluster - white faces/red needles

Discussion in 'DIY - Do It Yourself Forum' started by RedRyder, Dec 11, 2010.

  1. RedRyder

    RedRyder Be a better driver

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    *As always, when attempting DIY projects it is no one's fault but your own should you mess up your car. Read through this completely before doing anything so you know what the process entails. This project was performed on my '99 V6 coupe.

    *This DIY will be updated with more photos for the needle conversion where noted.
    --------------------------------------------

    So I finally got bored of looking at my stock cluster after being in some newer cars, and wanted to upgrade the way it looked. I decided I wanted red needles, white gauge faces, and different lighting. I already had the chrome rings from a while ago.

    BEFORE:
    [​IMG]

    AFTER:
    [​IMG]


    Components:
    - Tail light tape or other red tape with high transparency and low tack
    - Gauge overlays of your choice (I used a set from Whitegauges.net)

    Optional Components:
    - Chrome gauge rings (hard to find - I bought mine off Ebay a while back)
    - LED bulbs - I went with LEDAutomotive's kits. Replacing with V-LED.
    - Spare cluster to practice on. (You can buy a broken one for cheap)

    Tools:
    - 10mm socket & wrench
    - X-Acto knife
    - Fresh X-Acto blades
    - Torx screwdriver
    - Flathead screwdriver (laptop size)
    - Philips screwdriver
    - larger bit works better for removing cluster from dash
    - smaller bit works better for removing rear cluster cover
    - Dish soap and bowl of warm water
    - Hairdryer/heatgun
    - Masking tape
    - Pliers
    - Good lighting
    - Patience

    Notes:
    - The orange layer that is on your stock needles needs to stay. It is used to distribute the light evenly. Do not use paint thinner, a razor, or anything else to remove it. And do not attempt to make your needles red by coloring them with a marker or nail polish...it will not work.
    - If you are doing an LED conversion and want the needles to be clear so they light up whatever color bulbs you install, I've seen people remove the orange layer, but this never ends up looking very clean. I would not recommend it. Either leave them orange, or convert them to red.
    - You do not have to remove the needles to install gauge overlays (at least they ones I used). The only reason you would ever need to remove them is if you want the pure white light from the numbers, tick marks, etc. But removing the needles is very tedious and not recommended unless you are very comfortable working around your cluster or if you don't care about its accuracy.
    - The instructions the overlays came with were enough for me, so you can skip that section and see the link below. I just thought I’d include my notes since there were a few nuances.
    http://ebay.whitegauges.net/product...rd/98-02/METRIC/instructions/instructions.gif
    - Pure white light can only be acquired by removing the light blue filter from the back of the stock faces.
    - LED lighting will most likely give you hotspots in your cluster, that's just the nature of focused light. The filment bulbs spread the light more evenly. But there are a lot of different options for LED bulbs out there, so the best choice is always the bulb with the best dispersal. You do not want LED bulbs that are forward-firing only. Regardless, the hotspots are not blatant.
    - The overlay will dim the tiny tick marks just a little, they are well made but not perfect.
    - When applying the overlays, you have two choices: You can either apply the overlays on the cluster to the best of your ability, then take the cluster out and plug it in your car and flip on the lights to see if you lined up the numbers, etc. OR, you can apply the overlays with the cluster plugged in and lights flipped on already. The latter may prove to be a little less taxing but either way works.
    - The order in which things are listed is important, follow from top to bottom. For example, it is best to convert your needles before applying the overlays, because if you have white overlays it's easy to get fingerprints on them when working around the needles.
    - Read over Shenaniganz08's threads on V6P for more information, his method was my model.


    NOW LET'S DO THIS! :eusa_drool:

    Cluster removal
    1. Move your car to a nearby area with low light (I used a carport at my apartment), this will help later on. Disconnect your battery and let the car sit for 10 minutes. If your head unit is stock, make sure you have the radio code.
    2. Tilt wheel downward to make more room.
    3. Remove screws (x2) from underside of top of bezel. Then place hands at both ends of the base of the bezel, and firmly pull outward.
    4. Remove screws (x4 - 2 at top/2 at bottom), then pull cluster out to get it off the pegs, then tilt the cluster so it is face down.
    [​IMG]

    5. Disconnect harnesses (x3) from rear of cluster. Tag them if necessary so you know where they go.
    6. Carefully pull cluster toward you until it is free of the dash, then remove it via the right side of the wheel.


    Prepping cluster
    1. Remove clear plastic cover. The last I heard, this cover is held on differently in 98-00 and 01-02 cars. In 98-00, there are torx screws (x2) at the bottom and an adhesive around the perimeter. In 01-02, there are only torx screws (x4 - 2 at top/2 at bottom). I may be wrong on this, but it's easy enough to tell when you remove your cluster, so take a look.
    2. If your clear plastic cover is held on by adhesive, get ready for fun. And by that I mean misery. This thing is a ***** to take off without damaging it in some way. Your car is 9-12 years old, so by now both the adhesive and plastic are both brittle. What I did was use the hot air from the hair dryer to go around the perimeter of the cover, to make the adhesive more pliable. Only work on a 2"-3" length at one time, heating it up with a hair dryer, and gently prying between the black plastic and clear plastic with a laptop flathead screwdriver. You really need to take your time here (heating up the adhesive also heats the plastic), and if an area is being stubborn, zap it with more hot air, of which there will be plenty coming from your mouth. lol Real key is taking your time. The good news is, if you do crack the clear plastic, you can always buy just that part and replace it.
    3. After the clear plastic cover is removed, lay cluster on its back. Remove the top screws (x2) and pull off the white bulb housing (where my thumb is). Follow the two wires down to the bulb they run into and remove that bulb by turning counter-clockwise and pulling out (already removed in this photo).
    [​IMG]

    4. Carefully remove the front bezel. Then remove the dimmer/trip controls by pulling them up and out.
    [​IMG]


    Red Needle Conversion
    1. Examine the red tape, to see if there are any light spots. Avoid using any areas of the tape that have uneven color.
    2. Cut strips of tape that measure 3/4" x the length of the needle + 1". The addtional inch is so that you have 1/2" of overhang at both ends of the needle.
    3. Work with the speedometer needle first - it's the biggest and will help you develop your technique. Gently rotate the needle 1" or so, so it is not right next to the stop. Or you can remove the stop by pulling upward on it with your thumb/index finger. If it is not coming off, wrap it with some masking tape then grab it squarely with a pliers and gently pull upward, while holding the cluster down with your other hand (ignore needle in this photo).
    [​IMG]

    (The needle will rotate slightly below the "zero mark", which is okay, nothing will become uncalibrated. This just makes the needle easier to work with when you don't have to hold it in place while trying to do everything else at the same time)
    4. Apply the strip of red tape you cut for the speedometer needle, and press to adhere. When presssing to adhere the tape toward the tip of the needle, there is nothing below it so it will want to flex. Break a pencil in half or use a small pocket knife and slide it under the needle to give it support while pressing to adhere the tape.
    [​IMG]

    5. Make an insert cut into the tape (one one side of the needle & perpendicular to the needle) just in front of the holder, and hold one edge of the tape taut so the blade has a firm surface to cut through. With a non-serrating motion, push the blade until it hits the needle (make sure your blade is fresh). Then remove blade from tape.
    PHOTO COMING.
    6. Turn the blade 90 degrees, and insert into the end of the cut you just made. Again hold one edge of the tape taut so the blade has a firm surface to cut through. Then turn the blade a bit more (sharp edge toward the needle) and apply gentle pressure so that you can slide the blade (with a non-serrating motion) all the way down the needle to the tip. Turning the blade past 90 degrees allows for you shave the tape along the side of the needle, going straight along the side will result in wavy spots that you will have to go back and shave off...then it gets messy. Do not press the blade against the edge of the needle too harshly, or you will shave off some of the plastic.
    PHOTO COMING.
    7. Repeat step 4 along the opposite side of the needle.
    8. Bend excess tape at tip of needle downward, then cut at the crease.
    9. Now for the base of the needle. There is a slight groove between the needle and the holder that an X-Acto blade fits into quite well. You'll want to use this to get a clean cut around the area of the needle held by the holder. Start at one end of the needle and work your way toward the base of the needle, using the groove to guide the blade. You can press a little firmly here to get a better cut, it won't hurt anything.
    PHOTO COMING.
    10. When you get to the base of the needle, make the small cut across the back to the other side, then proceed to do the remaining area the same way.
    11. Shave any excess/wavy tape and examine the needle (reassemble cluster and plug into car to see how it lights up). If you are satisfied, press on tape again all along needle and then you are finished. If you are unsatisfied, the tape should have low short-term adhesion properties, so you can easily peel it off from one end and do it again. The tape you are using should not peel off any of the orange paint already on the needles. I left tape on one of my needles for a few weeks and it came right off without any problems when I decided to do it over. Not sure what the max time is, so really decide if you want to convert them or not.
    12. When you finish the speedo needle, you can move to the tach needle, and so on. I put everything back together just to see red on black
    [​IMG]


    Applying gauge overlays
    1. Depending on what overlays you're using, this process could differ. I can only cover the ones I used from whitegauges.net (they have instructions you can use on their website as well). Grab a damp cloth and make sure all gauge surfaces are clean of dust, and that they are dry.
    IMPORTANT: The tach overlay I got from Whitegauges didn't have the cutout at the bottom like the fuel/temp overlay did, so I had to cut it out. I used the scrap from the fuel/temp overlay to get the correct shape. This area displays your CEL, oil, battery, and Maintenance Req'd lights so it's important. I did inform them they had made the overlay wrong, and I believe they have since corrected it. But FYI.
    2. Put a drop of dish soap in a small bowl and add warm water. Mix it up so the soap is diluted. Then take your tach or temp overlay and peel it from the backing. Lay the overlay face down on a clean surface and then cover the entire adhesive part of the overlay with the water, using your finger to apply. Don't drench it, but make sure there is enough to let the overlay glide on your finger.
    [​IMG]

    For remainder of overlay steps, consult guide:[B/] http://ebay.whitegauges.net/product...rd/98-02/METRIC/instructions/instructions.gif

    3. Now you have two choices (mentioned in Notes): You can either apply the overlays on the cluster to the best of your ability, then take the cluster out and plug it in your car and flip on the lights to see if you lined up the numbers, etc. OR, you can apply the overlays with the cluster plugged in and lights flipped on already. The latter may prove to be a little less taxing but either way works.
    4. When all of the adhesive is covered with the warm water, form it into a "taco" and insert the needle through the center hole from the back. The tricky part here is getting the hole inthe overlay under the base of the needle holder (part that rotates), so you can slip the rest of the hole around over top of the back of the needle. If the immediate area around the overlay hole gets a little mangled, it's okay as it will not be seen because the needle holder will cover it.
    5. Once you get the hole over the holder, hold the very extreme left and right edges of the overlay with your thumbs and index fingers, then slowly apply it to the factory gauge face, lining it up the best you can. You will have to move it around and in some cases completely remove it from the factory face and try lining it up again (took me a few tries, but these are forgiving overlays to work with). This is what the soap and water was for, to temporarily weaken the adhesion so you can move the overlay around on the factory face. When you get it where you want it, stick the whole thing down, and press on it with your fingers from the inside (near the needle) to the outside to press out any present air/moisture.
    6. If the overlay is not lined up as well as you would like, at this point you can still remove it slowly, and try again. If you are satisfied, proceed to the tach/temp overlay, then the speedometer overlay. You may need to trim some of the sides of the speedo overlay so it doesn’t overlap with the tach/temp overlays.


    Applying gauge rings
    1. The set I bought from RActive had to be modded slightly. Actually just the speedo ring did. Basically the center ridge that goes above the odometer LCD needs to be crimped a tad in the middle so that when the butt of the needle comes around, it doesn't get stuck on it. If you never go more than 75mph, then this is not a problem. So do this if it applies to you.
    2. Take the black bezel from Step 3 (from Prepping Cluster), and apply each ring to it. Shave any excess or bubbled adhesive from the back to keep it clean.


    *Once you have everything the way you want it, you can reassemble the cluster and enjoy the results.

    **I did not cover LED lighting since that's been discussed so many times before. There are great instructions on LEDAutomotive's website you can download (PDF), that will tell you what you need to know. Between talontsiawd's LED threads and the aforementioned, you should have what you need to convert.



    Thanks for reading, and hope this helps. :)



    STOCK LIGHTING - NIGHT:
    [​IMG]


    LED LIGHTING:

    NIGHT:
    I haven't yet gotten a photo I thought did it justice, but I will. For now see talontsiawd’s thread, mine looks pretty much the same besides the odometer.

    DAY:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2010
  2. mkdb89-02se

    mkdb89-02se Well-Known Member

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    nice i love the white background
     
  3. AllGOnoSHOW

    AllGOnoSHOW Banned

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    God I'm jealous. That looks Amazing. The rings really make it.
     
  4. CG6Lemon

    CG6Lemon Detailing Enthusiast

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    damn nice write up and awesome work on the cluster :omgbd::omgbd::omgbd:
     
  5. imaricer:)

    imaricer:) Well-Known Member

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    looks good and all but wouldnt it be easier to do led conversion and get the ebay gauge glow overlays and then do red needles?

    also if u remove the needles you run the risk of them never working/moving again.
     
  6. Vlad02coupe

    Vlad02coupe Well-Known Member

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    Looks real nice man, good job.
     
  7. RedRyder

    RedRyder Be a better driver

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    Thank you. :)

    Thanks Matt, yeah the rings help set it off.

    Glow gauges do not use the stock lighting, and I personally don't like the way any of them look. From what I've read overlays are much easier to install than glow gauges. In any case, I just wanted to upgrade the stock cluster.

    And as stated in the DIY, you don't have to remove your needles when using overlays.
     
  8. itsallgsho

    itsallgsho Well-Known Member

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    RedRyder..... once again you have proven you is da man. Thnx again for detailed DIY.
     
  9. imaricer:)

    imaricer:) Well-Known Member

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    @redryder

    ok i know what you said lol i was just adding that if any one decides they want to they run the risk of them not working anymore.
     
  10. shenaniganz08

    shenaniganz08 Well-Known Member

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    Damn need to get cracking on my LED Gauge Cluster DIY after seeing this :p
     

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