Sick of your old car buttons? Have they worn through? Are the letters gone? Are annoying bright white lights blinding you in the night? Does it hurt your finger when you press the sharp little suckers? Do you mind making it look like a hippy van inside your car? Well now is your chance! You'll be the talk of the hippy hitchhikers or those people you meet on Craigstlist rideshare! How admirable your new buttons will be!
Step 1: Enter the Junky Car's Air Controls, or Even Other Controls
For this first step, it is important to understand that although replacing certain parts may be cheap at a junk yard, it is not entirely necessary, so you will be using plastic model glue to weld letters together, but not for attaching them to the surface.
For surface attachment I recommend automotive 'Goop', because unlike plumber's Goop adhesive, it'll take great heat and this might be important on a hot day.
First you need to prep the surface. All the buttons shown here are backlit already, but holes have worn through some more than others. This is very annoying to touch, but also impossible to read since the letters are gone. Good job Ford.
So I take a routing tool on a Dremel and ream out holes to let light through all the buttons the same. This also makes a rough area for the glue to make a better weld.
You'll need to prep all your letters with plastic weld 10 minutes or more, before you attach the groups over the buttons. Make sure you measure! I used a machinist's digital caliper and found that some Michael's arts and crafts letters intended for bracelets and such were just the right width to be effective. You can also use a labeler with silver letters on clear tape and adhere the letter strips to sections of polycarbonate or plexiglas for a better look. Cutting colored plastic/vinyl transluscent folders can add color to your work for a nice lightshow.
After setting your letter groups using mode glue, attach them with Goop and generously use the Goop! It scrapes and or carves off easy later.
You'll need to put tape over them while they dry or gravity will make a mess of your work.
Step 3: Test and Done!
You may find that some letter groups do not light up properly as I did. The far left group is dark for some reason, probably because the air system is actually 'off', so these will light up when it's on I suppose. I didn't start the car after this step.
It is possible I overdid it with the Goop on that one, obstructing the light source behind it. Goop is clear, so it's a mystery.
I found pushing buttons so annoying that something had to be done! This might be Mickey Mouse, so later I may redo, or at the very least, add black strips above and below each letter set. I might even grind down sections of stainless steel rod to attach there.
I forgot to mention that these letters come with holes through them, so if you like, you can use a piece of elastic cord to fasten them all together. This would be useful if any of the buttons are falling out.
Perhaps one day I'll find a way to do a far better job by making my own holographic photography images and implanting them in polycarbonate, colored, but this time they'll be recessed into the dash with the old buttons entirely removed.
BTW; this is one a 1993 Lincoln Mark viii w/142k miles.