No announcement yet.

Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • canadian
    started a topic Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    I just finished installing a set of LED bulbs in the gauge cluster, replacing the stock illumination and idiot lights. I figured I'd document how I did it on my truck. There were a few catches so I hope this helps you out.

    I did a lot of testing on an old cluster that has issues. I used a factory cluster pig tail to test all of this before installing it back into the truck, but there were some issues were some bulbs are powered by 12v being applied, while others were when the ground was applied.

    Tools used:

    Pic set - this will help remove the factory bulb from the holders
    20 SMD LED bulbs - These are for the illumination. I wanted to make sure the gauges were bright enough so I went with the 20's
    1 SMD LED bulbs - These are for the idiot lights and heater controls
    Festoon dome light LED - This is for the dome light. I couldn't find a pack of 1, so I bought 4.

    Dremel if you are planning on using some 194 LEDs for overhead console map lights (like in a Typhoon or if you installed an overhead console in a Syclone)


    Remove your cluster. If you can't figure out how to do that, you probably shouldn't be trying this. If you can't figure out how everything comes out, try searching HowTune.

    Once your cluster is out, turn it over and take one of the illumnation bulbs out. You should have this:

    The factory bulb connections are spot soldered to the holder. The red arrows show where the wire wraps over the metal contacts:

    Use the pick set to break the wires free of the spot solder so you can remove the bulb. The red arrows show the wiring and where it was attached to the bulb holder

    Here is the bulb removed from the socket:

    The LED bulbs I bought are polarized. If you hook them up backwards, they won't light up. So you need to figure out which is the positive lead and the negative lead. I found that on mine there was a short lead and long lead wrapped around the bottom of the LED. On most of them (if not all), the short lead was the positive side. Red arrows show that one lead is shorter than the other

    Flip the LED over and this is the other side:

    Unbend the leads so they point straight down. You can see the length difference between the two leads better here:

    Here's a quick look at the light up

    Here's the basic way I test to figure out which is which

    Once you've determined which is positive and which is negative, make sure you install each LED into the socket the same way. On mine there was a PC194 and white line that I determined would be used for the positive side of the LED. Red arrow shows the line and you can see that the short positive side of the LED is installed on that side:

    Now use the pick set to bend the wires over the blade contacts in the holder. Red arrows point to how I did it. I suppose you could solder them in place if you want, but I didn't need to. They were held in there pretty tight.

    That's all there is. I marked the bottom of my bulb holders with a sharpie to show which side was positive. You will see later in this post why I did it.

    Idiot lights are a little different. The bulbs are spot soldered to a tab that slides into a slot on either side of the bulb holder. These are easier to get off than the illumination bulbs. To remove you just press down a tab and pull the bulb out of the socket. Below, the upper red arrow shows the tab you need to depress and the lower red arrow shows the spot solder.

    Here both tabs have been pressed and the bulb is being pulled out. Red arrow points to the tab that the bulb is soldered to:

    Once you get it out, break the wire holding the bulb to the tabs and you should be left with two tabs like this:

    Here is what the idiot light LED bulb looks like. Red arrow points to the leads. One short and one long like the illumination LEDs

    At first I tried installing the bulb like the factory did, but I wasn't getting a good contact. So, what I ended up doing was re-installing the tabs into the bulb holder and then bending the leads on the LED so they would get pinched between the LED bulb body and the tab when installing the LED in the socket. Like this:

    Blurry picture, but you get the idea of how to line up the leads:

    Slide the LED back into the socket and then test and mark which side is positive and which is negative:

    After installing the idiot lights back into the cluster in what I thought was the correct orientation, everything lit up EXCEPT the check gauges, check engine, and parking brake light. Turns out that I had the bulbs in backwards. Typical thinking is that you apply 12v to get the bulb to light up, but I *think* those gauges are grounded to get them to light up, so the bulbs had to be installed backwards.

    Remember when I said to mark which side was positive and negative. If you did that, then the following picture will help you re-install the bulbs. Yellow arrows point to the side of the idiot light that is positive.

    Here's the full cluster. Yellow points to positive side of LED in socket. FYI, you probably won't have the bottom left bulb. I had 2 clusters I was working with so I added one. That makes 8 out of the 10 194 LEDs. The other two will go in the overhead console.

    Overhead console.

    The dome light LED is straight forward. If you can't install that, sell your truck. Remember that these LEDs are polarized. I thought I had two bad right out of the package until I tried reversing polarity and they lit up.

    The front map lights for a Typhoon style overhead console takes some minor modifications. The swivel body that holds the bulbs has an opening that just barely fits the stock bulbs so you are going to need to grind away some material to get these to fit.

    I've installed a Typhoon style console in my Syclone (there's a thread on here somewhere, search for it). Here's how I did the map lights.

    Make sure you mark which wires go where. Yellow arrows show the screws to remove and the wires to remove:

    Once you have the swivels out, it's kind of hard to remove the bulb. You can see it hidden in here.

    To get the map light clear cover off, you have to use a small screwdriver, slide it into the slot next to the bulb and pop it off. I found out that trick from this page Here's what it looks like:

    Once you get the cover off, you have to remove the bulb. The only way I could do it was to gently wiggle the bulb with a pair of needle nose pliers and pull it out. Make sure you don't hamfist it and break the bulb.

    Here's how tight the fit is. Red arrows mark where the LED bulb body will interfere:

    Once you get the bulb out, grind a little material off of those two points. Test fitting the LED bulb will show you where you need to grind. Here you can see where it will hit:

    Before grinding where the red arrows are:

    Crappy picture, but you can kind of see how I ground it down:

    Put the bulbs in, test that they light up and re-install everything. You're done. If you want to do the A/C controls, they will take the 1 SMD idiot light LEDs. If you bought the package I linked to you will have a bunch left over. The A/C control bulbs just pull out and are replaced with the LED (no pin bending or anything, real easy).

    I don't have any comparisons, but they are a lot brighter than the stock bulbs. I've tested that the dimmer works as well. The overhead console is MUCH brighter now.

    Hope this helps.

  • Pertti K
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    The map lights on my '93 Ty are slightly different and much easier to change the bulbs. Just undo the inserts by rotating them counterclockwise by fingernail or screwdriver using the star shape grooves in the middle. No need to remove the console. I had to sand some .05" off of the bulbs' diameter to make them fit. All in all, a 20 min job.

    I have still the shifter bulbs to go to finish installing the Sportmachines' LED kit (good quality easy to fit kit it is). But there's no bulbs for the rear view mirror's lights - has anybody changed them into LEDs? No need to change them otherwise, but they are so much of a different colour. "Natural" LEDs are a bit too blue for my taste and for such an old truck, but still happy to have the brightness and less heat and power consumption. No need to undo the battery or fuse anymore while cleaning the truck.

    Leave a comment:

  • Davemc1963
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Just as a FYI, I used bulb holders from a 77 Firebird cluster that I had when I did mine, if anybody wants to use that as a reference for replaceable bulb holders. They were the exact same fitting, but for replaceable bulbs. I'm sure they must be readily available in the 'Help' section over there or in junk yards.

    Leave a comment:

  • SYO237
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    This information is now archived on HowTune for quick searching as well.

    Gauge Cluster Writeup:

    Overhead Console Writeup:

    Leave a comment:

  • V8 Sonoma GT
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Originally posted by canadian View Post
    To get the map light clear cover off, you have to use a small screwdriver, slide it into the slot next to the bulb and pop it off. I found out that trick from this page Here's what it looks like:

    you can just use your index finger and thumb press up and twist counter clockwise
    Originally posted by canadian View Post

    I personally ground down this part of the bulbs instead of the sockets. so as to not jack with the stock sockets. also the overhead is the same in other s blazer/jimmys if you break something. my 2 cents

    nice write up. one of these days ill do that cluster. sean k had a write up on them too somewhere...

    Leave a comment:

  • IGottaSy
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Have any before / after pics? For the dome light, I think I will use a LED strip or two about 12" long. Good job. Old light bulbs add heat which further degrades plastic.

    Leave a comment:

  • atkonkler
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Nice write up...very informative!

    Leave a comment:

  • Quickstop [UK]
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)


    I bought new bulb holders for both the smaller and the larger sizes. It was good to have them as some of the stems of the original soldered bulbs broke and the connections messed it up a bit.

    Great write up!

    Leave a comment:

  • fauXGT
    Re: Gauge cluster LED install (how to)

    Informative post.
    The idiot LEDs I got had the factory base on them already, but they were so bright that it made the red look almost pink.

    Leave a comment: