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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Required Parts List:
Required tools:
  • A clear head, don’t jump into this if you’re tired or in a hurry. You’ll need to have steady hands and be able to focus on a lot of small parts.
  • Fine tipped soldering iron
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • A few small flat tip screwdrivers for opening the cluster
  • Scissors
  • Long razor blade
  • Blow dryer
  • Auto painters tape or similar low tack tape (not blue house paint tape)
  • Pen or marker
  • Clear packing tape or you can buy reverse polarity film with adhesive
Highly Recommended Tools:
  • Multi-meter with diode test mode
  • Forked plastic trim removal tool, helps disassembly without scratching stuff
  • Tweezers
Required Materials:
  • Acetone
  • Microfiber towel
  • An old towel you don’t mind getting dirty to lay the board on while working.
  • Super glue
*You won't have to use a multi-meter but it REALLY helps with this job because the of led polarity issue plus you can make sure the new led is soldered in properly before installing. Get one backwards and you have to do it again which sucks. Couple of tips that will help if you don’t have one, look for solid triangles on the circuit board because they indicate which way the current goes, on the led itself the end that has the green showing when you look down at the top of the led (side with the light) is the negative.

Steps:
1. First step
Don’t be lazy, disconnect your battery before doing anything else. And absolutely don't pull the wiring harness from the cluster with the key power on. Battery disconnected & keys out of ignition.

2. Remove the cluster from the truck.
- Pull the weather seal from around the door near the dash, pull off the lower kick panel + the plastic trim strip that runs up to the A-pillar. Remove the screws that hold the lower plastic panel below the steering wheel in. There’s one on the lower right and left and I think upper left behind the trim strip you removed earlier. With those out just pull on the panel and it should pop out. Next remove the screws holding the upper trim around the cluster and pop it out. Now you should have exposed the cluster. - Remove the 4 screws around it, unplug the wiring harness and remove it from the truck.


3. Bring it to your work area.
- Using the flat tips gently pry up the tabs holding the outer plastic cover on. Don’t lose the display controller stick thing. Pull it off and set aside. Now you need to mark the gauge needle positions so they are in the right place when you reassemble. I rotated the needles down as far as they would go, applied an automotive painters tape and used a sharpie to make a dot indicating the position.


4. Remove the needles and display
- Using the forked plastic trim removal tool, gently pry up on the base of the needles and work it until they pull off. Set aside. Remove the overlay and set aside. Now use the plastic tool to pry up the display at the point where you see all the wires going into the circuit board. The display presses straight into the board and needs to be removed the same way. Pry it straight up gently and set aside.


5. Flip it over
- Use the flat tips to pry up at the tabs holding the rear cover on and set aside. Now use the plastic tool to pry up at the tabs holding the actual circuit board in. Be gentle and work slowly, don’t scratch or crack the board. Now set the cover aside and you can begin on the actual board.


6. LED replacement
-Use the multi-meter to check the polarity of the existing led and remember it.
-Using the soldering iron to heat the edges of the leds and the plastic tool to gently push on the middle at the same time you can remove the old led from the board. I would push on the middle and go back and forth heating each side of the led until it eventually slides off. Be careful with the heat, you don’t want to burn the board or the new LED going in.



-Check the polarity of the new led with the multi-meter in diode mode if you have one and install in the same direction as the old. There should be a small triangle pointing in the direction of the current next to the led on the board also that you can reference. Use the tweezers to set the new led in place and then take the soldering iron to heat each edge for a few seconds. The leftover solder on the board should heat up and the led should stick. Don’t overheat it though because leds don’t like heat and it will basically fall apart. If that happens, remove it and use a new one.
-I replaced all of the leds minus the key icon on the board including the warning lights leds which appear larger. The 1206 leds work fine for all of them and the warning lights will still be brighter than the others.

Reversing display polarity (optional)
- To do this take the display and use a blow dryer to heat it for 1 minute, then take a long razor blade to gently separate the polarity screen on the outer part of the display (faces the driver). If it starts to stick, stop, heat it up again and go at it again. Just work slowly and keep the glue hot and it should eventually come off in one piece.
- Use the acetone + microfiber cloth to scrub the glue off the screen and display. Be very careful not to bend the film or you can tear it. Just work slowly and it will all come off.
- Now take the film, flip it over so that the side that used to have the glue faces outward and use a piece of the clear packing tape to attach it to the display. Or if you bought reverse polarization film, just attach it to the display.


7. Changing colors
Use the transparent overlays to change the color by cutting out small pieces and attaching them where you want on the back of the gauge overlay. Because you used white leds you can now make the colors whatever you want.
To do the oil/battery gauges you’ll need to pry those overlays out of the case. Change the colors and then reattach to board, I needed to use a little super glue on the edges.
Go nuts.


8. Reassembly
- First take the completed board to the truck, plug it in, reattach the battery and make sure all of the leds are working. If all good turn the truck off, disconnect battery, pull the board out.
- Now attach the white plastic covers you removed earlier to the board.
- Reinsert the display, align the wires and then press it straight into the board.
- Reattach the oil/battery needles
- Put overlay back on board
- Reattach remaining needles
- Attach display controller stick
- Reattach clear plastic cover.


Old color

Finished pics:



If you mess up the needle placement
This is probably what most people are worried about screwing up because in theory you wouldn't be able to get the need as close to where it was from the factory. So when I was doing this project and I had to remove the cluster to remove the paint I put on the needles and I reinstalled it and saw my RPM gauge at 0 while idling I was a little worried. Honestly it turns out to really not be a big deal, here's what you do. I have one of those cheapo OBDII modules and the Torque app, you'll need both.

Step 1. Plug in the OBDII thing, get the app open and ready to use. I set up a screen with the RPM and GPS speed so I could leave it on that.

Step 2. Remove the clear cover from the gauge cluster, don't unplug it or anything else, just remove the 4 screws holding it in, pull the cover off, put the screws back in. Start it up, let it idle and even out the rpms. Look at where your needle is and compare it to the app reading. If it's good move on, if not, use the forked interior panel remover tool to gently remove the needle and reinstall it where it should be. Don't push it too far in, you just want it on there enough to compare the rpms. Repeat until it's where it should be. Make sure to drive it and keep comparing the RPMs until you confirm it's where it should be.

For the Speedo it helps if there's some empty, open road you can set the cruise to something slow like 40mph so you can compare easily and safely. I don't have that anywhere near where I live so it took about 45 minutes of driving, comparing, stopping, etc. Just note the difference in what you're seeing, pull over, move the needle and test again. It doesn't take long to get it accurate again.From the factory mine was set a little under the actual speed and that's what I'm used to so I set it back to that configuration.

For the oil and battery gauges there's obviously no numbers to align so you can just make sure they are pointing to where they would normally be while the engine is running and warmed up.

Step 3. Important! Once the gauges are where they need to be, turn of the truck, disconnect the battery first and then the cluster. Reconnect the cluster, then the battery and turn the key to ON, you should see the gauges do the zeroing out thing where they all rattle in place for a second or two.

Step 4. Reinstall the cover and everything else you had to remove to get to the cluster.

Also See:
How-to: Change Passenger Airbag LED Color


Coming Soon How-to's
How-to: Change HVAC Controls on 05-08 X's + Power Mirror led color
How-to: Change Power Window Control led color





***I've had a few people ask about me doing this job for them, just send me a PM if you're interested. You'd have to mail me your gauge cluster and I'd need a day or two to complete the led swap, add the overlays + invert the display, test it out and ship it back to you.***
 

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TNX Veteran
Joined
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541 Posts
Required Parts List:
  • Instrument cluster leds: 1206 SMD Cool Clear White LED's that I bought x50 from Lighthouse LEDs for $15 shipped.
  • For the coloring I used these vinyl transparent sheets. $7.95 for 3 sheets, can be 3 different colors if you want or 3 of the same. You won’t need much so it goes really far.
Required tools:
  • Fine tipped soldering iron
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • A few small flat tip screwdrivers for opening the cluster
  • Scissors
  • Long razor blade
  • Blow dryer
  • A clear head, don’t jump into this if you’re tired or in a hurry. You’ll need to have steady hands and be able to focus on a lot of small parts.
  • Auto painters tape or similar low tack tape (not blue house paint tape)
  • Pen or marker
  • Clear packing tape or you can buy reverse polarity film with adhesive
Highly Recommended Tools:
  • Multimeter with diode test mode
  • Forked plastic trim removal tool, helps disassembly without scratching stuff
  • Tweezers
Required Materials:
  • Acetone
  • Microfiber towel
  • An old towel you don’t mind getting dirty to lay the board on while working.
  • Super glue
*You won't have to use a multimeter but it REALLY helps with this job because the of led polarity issue plus you can make sure the new led is soldered in properly before installing. Get one backwards and you have to do it again which sucks. Couple of tips that will help if you don’t have one, look for solid triangles on the circuit board because they indicate which way the current goes, on the led itself the end that has the green showing when you look down at the top of the led (side with the light) is the negative.

Steps:
1. First step
Don’t be lazy, disconnect your battery. And absolutely don't pull the wiring harness from the cluster with the key power on.

2. Remove the cluster from the truck.
Pull the weather seal from around the door near the dash, pull off the lower kick panel + the plastic trim strip that runs up to the A-pillar. Remove the screws that hold the lower plastic panel below the steering wheel in. There’s one on the lower right and left and I think upper left behind the trim strip you removed earlier. With those out just pull on the panel and it should pop out. Next remove the screws holding the upper trim around the cluster and pop it out. Now you should have exposed the cluster. Remove the 4 screws around it, unplug the wiring harness and remove it from the truck.


3. Bring it to your work area.
Using the flat tips gently pry up the tabs holding the outer plastic cover on. Don’t lose the display controller stick thing. Pull it off and set aside. Now you need to mark the gauge needle positions so they are in the right place when you reassemble. I rotated the needles down as far as they would go, applied an automotive painters tape and used a sharpie to make a dot indicating the position.


4. Remove the needles and display
Using the forked plastic trim removal tool, gently pry up on the base of the needles and work it until they pull off. Set aside. Remove the overlay and set aside. Now use the plastic tool to pry up the display at the point where you see all the wires going into the circuit board. The display presses straight into the board and needs to be removed the same way. Pry it straight up gently and set aside.


5. Flip it over
Use the flat tips to pry up at the tabs holding the rear cover on and set aside. Now use the plastic tool to pry up at the tabs holding the actual circuit board in. Be gentle and work slowly, don’t scratch or crack the board. Now set the cover aside and you can begin on the actual board.


6. LED replacement
Use the multimeter to check the polarity of the existing led and remember it.
Using the soldering iron to heat the edges of the leds and the plastic tool to gently push on the middle at the same time you can remove the old led from the board. I would push on the middle and go back and forth heating each side of the led until it eventually slides off. Be careful with the heat, you don’t want to burn the board or the new LED going in.

Check the polarity of the new led with the multimeter if you have one and install in the same direction as the old. There should be a small triangle pointing in the direction of the current next to the led on the board also that you can reference. Use the tweezers to set the new led in place and then take the soldering iron to heat each edge for a few seconds. The leftover solder on the board should heat up and the led should stick. Don’t overheat it though because leds don’t like heat and it will basically fall apart. If that happens, remove it and use a new one.
I replaced all of the leds minus the key icon on the board including the warning lights leds which appear larger. The 1206 leds work fine for all of them.
Reversing display polarity (optional)
To do this take the display and use a blow dryer to heat it for 1 minute, then take a long razor blade to gently separate the polarity screen on the outer part of the display (faces the driver). If it starts to stick, stop, heat it up again and go at it again. Just work slowly and keep the glue hot and it should eventually come off in one piece.
Use the acetone + microfiber cloth to scrub the glue off the screen and display. Be very careful not to bend the film or you can tear it. Just work slowly and it will all come off.
Now take the film, flip it over so that the side that used to have the glue faces outward and use a piece of the clear packing tape to attach it to the display. Or if you bought revere polarization film, just attach it to the display.


7. Changing colors
Use the transparent overlays to change the color by cutting out small pieces and attaching them where you want on the back of the gauge overlay. Because you used white leds you can now make the colors whatever you want.
To do the oil/battery gauges you’ll need to pry those overlays out of the case. Change the colors and then reattach to board, I needed to use a little super glue on the edges.
Go nuts.


8. Reassembly
First take the completed board to the truck, plug it in, reattach the battery and make sure all of the leds are working. If all good turn the truck off, disconnect battery, pull the board out.
Now attach the white plastic covers you removed earlier to the board.
Reinsert the display, align the wires and then press it straight into the board.
Reattach the oil/battery needles
Put overlay back on board
Reattach remaining needles
Attach display controller stick
Reattach clear plastic cover.


Old color

Finished pics:
AWESOME WRITE UP!
 

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What would be reasoning with using the white LED's w/vinyl over colored LEDs? Cost or functionality?
Not only that, but there are some indicators that you can change the individual color, such as the gas meter or the coolant temp like I did on mine. White works better for the backdrop behind colored film.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
What would be reasoning with using the white LED's w/vinyl over colored LEDs? Cost or functionality?
Basically what everyone else said, it gives you the ability to change color in the future much more easily. You'll understand why after soldering all the new ones in haha, it's pretty time consuming.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
OMG! This is making it harder to not just order the stuff and get started. Thank you very much for the How To!
Thanks man, I hope it helps you out whenever you go to do it!


Great write-up, obvious you took the extra time while doing the work to be ready to do one :thumbleft:
I always take a lot of pics when I do stuff like this so I can refer back to it later if I need to in case something goes wrong, I was looking at them and realized I basically had the order of a how-to in front of me haha.
 

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Basically what everyone else said, it gives you the ability to change color in the future much more easily. You'll understand why after soldering all the new ones in haha, it's pretty time consuming.
Not only that, but there are some indicators that you can change the individual color, such as the gas meter or the coolant temp like I did on mine. White works better for the backdrop behind colored film.
easier to change color in the future if desired.
Ahhh I see...

This is going to a fun project when I decide to tackle it, thanks again guys for the write up and following answers, I do love this forum
 

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2,648 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Ahhh I see...This is going to a fun project when I decide to tackle it, thanks again guys for the write up and following answers, I do love this forum
GL man, looking forward to seeing what you end up doing! Let me know if you run into questions when you do it and I'll help if I can.
 
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