Instructables

Replace you cars instrument panel lights with LEDs.

The bulbs behind my Tachometer burned out a while ago and I decided I would replace them with LEDs. I also replaced the ones behind the speedometer as well. Overall I probably spent more on this project than normal, but I bought a few miscellaneous items. My car is a 1992 Nissan Pick-up.

NOTE: This may or may not work for you. But it doesn't hurt to look and see if you really want to do it.

Tools:
-Standard Phillips Screwdriver
-Precision Screwdriver Set
-Leatherman*
-Vise Grip Pliers*
-Multimeter
-Soldering Iron
-Solder
-Alligator Clips
*Optional

Parts:
-4 Ultra High Brightness White (Or color of your choice) LEDs. These can be swapped for almost anything really. The brighter the better though.
-Resistors. Varies based on LEDs.

EDIT: Sorry for not having any before pictures. I took it apart before I knew I could replace them and then I just wanted to get it done.
 
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Step 2: Locate the lights.

Picture of Locate the lights.
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I located the bulbs that burned out as well as the ones that were still good. I could have replaced more than what I did, but these are used most often. I analyzed how they worked and where power was coming from. They have two metal pieces that touch the copper of the circuit board on either sides of the holes that send power to the bulbs.
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yankie.scholz made it!2 days ago

Great instructions, however if you can't be bothered doing all of that work EnlightenOz sells kits which just plug right into the original bulb sockets, plus they use SMD LEDs so the light is even and not patchy.
I was messing around with the different colours they have which looked pretty cool.
Here is their Facebook page: www.facebook.com.au/enlightenoz

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JakeThief2 years ago
Hey man just wanted to say, this looks like a great instructable and I really like your outcome. If everything checks out right tomorrow and I can do this with my car I plan on trying this. You used white LEDs but got a blue color, is that right? Also could I sand my LEDs to diffuse them to get more of a glow effect than a beam lighting effect? Thanks.
trayo (author)  JakeThief2 years ago
Thanks for the comment. I did use white LEDs, but my camera made them look blue. The color mostly looked like the original. You could sand your LEDs or you could cut off the plastic on the top like chrisayad points out in the comments below.

It looks like this:

www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FQM/Z1S7/FHY0I5KF/FQMZ1S7FHY0I5KF.MEDIUM.jpg
dush13 years ago
i make same 2 u!
MagicMikk4 years ago
I was interested in doing this also, but I notice the LEDs dont seem to balance the light, part of the guage displays are darker than others. I was hoping for more even light to light everything up the same

is there a trick to getting this? would the type of LEDs used determine the way they output light?


trayo (author)  MagicMikk4 years ago
 Yeah. Further down in the comments chrisayad pointed out that you can saw the plastic top off the LED and make the angle of the beam wider.

www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FQM/Z1S7/FHY0I5KF/FQMZ1S7FHY0I5KF.MEDIUM.jpg
could you answer the question for "zerocarpileup" on here because i would like to do this but i dont if the lights go out. thanks
trayo (author)  super_kool_dude294 years ago
In the instructable I soldered two resistors for each light. I could have used one resistor had Radio Shack had a 560ohm resistor. Since they didn't I settled with using a 470 and 100ohm together; so it would be like having a 570ohm resistor.

I never had any burn out or had any complications, but I also don't have the truck in the instructable anymore because it overheated one day and cracked the engine block. So it's resting in car heaven. :(
abadfart trayo4 years ago
what kind was it because i had a 82 Nissan truck that would have lived threw the apocalypse if i hadn't wrecked it
www.instructables.com/id/red-neck-truck/
 
trayo (author)  abadfart4 years ago
 It was a 92 Nissan Pickup. The freeze plug fell out and we were told that's not something you would notice losing. I think they also said it was possible that fell out afterwards.
abadfart trayo4 years ago
ya my sister had the same thing happen to her car i dropped the axle and almost got thrown because i wasn't wherein my belt but i can't get in to the car without putting it on
hivoltage5 years ago
hey what year hardbody truck is that? i have one just like it but the transparent part of the face of the panel is yellow. i wanna put purple leds in there but i don't think the purple would shine well through the yellow gauge... it would be really cool to maybe put some rgb leds in it so the color could be changed whenever you felt like it. maybe use an arduino or something to handle the color selection and pwm. my speedometer needle broke off too it must be a common problem with those trucks. i just replaced it with a new needle i carved out of a piece of wood.
 you need to make an ible for that wood needle i want one of those 
trayo (author)  hivoltage5 years ago
It's a 1992. I think purple would be pretty tight. How did you carve a new needle from a piece of wood? Mine is still broken.
hivoltage trayo5 years ago
yeah mines quite a bit older its a 1986. the gauges look the same though so maybe i can get ahold of some of those ones instead. i just took a small piece of wood and sanded it down with a belt sander until it was wedge shaped and then rounded off the end and sanded it pretty thin. i varnished it and painted the tip white and sanded down and glued the remaining stub of the old needle on the back to attach it to the actual gauge. dont make it too thick or heavy or itll read too slow before 55 and then too fast after haha
trayo (author)  hivoltage5 years ago
From the dealership the gauges were $200, but from a junk yard or something probably not so much. I'll definitely have to make a couple needles. I would want to replace the other one as well. Thanks.
hivoltage trayo5 years ago
i have access to a wire edm machine, so i decided im gonna have some new gauge faces machined out of aluminum. my trucks got kind of a brushed aluminum thing going on with the new custom paint so i think brushed aluminum gauges should go well with that.
couldnt find any of the gauge faces at pick-a-part so ill definitely be making some new ones. i also bought some rgb wide angle leds from ebay. now just to think of a way to control them... i have one of those arduino microcontrollers but i really don't know how to program it. i think ill just use the circuit from this instructable to control the colors. just need to find a place to put the potentiometers in the truck. could even change few parts out later and have it control some rgb led underbody lighting too.
trayo (author)  hivoltage5 years ago
Cool. That instructable is pretty neat and it sounds like a good idea. I don't know much about Arduinos but it seems that it would allow more customization.
Allow me to think outloud for a sec...

When an traditional lightbulb is replaced by an LED, like on your a car dash, the supply being V=12V and the say 3 Watt bulb I just saw was replaced with an 3.5V, 20 mA LED alongside a 560 Ohm resistor.

The LED draws power P=V*I=3.5*0.02=0.07 Watts
The resistor draws power P=R*I2=560*0.022=0.224 Watts
TOTAL=0.294 W say 0.3 Watts

You seem to have replaced 3 bulbs, so instead of 3*3=9 Watts you are spending 3*0.3=0.9 Watts. If all of the lighbulbs (including the headlights - everything - everything) were replaced with LEDs, do you guys/girls think you would be able to observe an increase in mileage???
trayo (author)  blakeredfield4 years ago
I replaced four bulbs, so it's actually 4*0.3=1.2W.

Although I don't think it would have any sort of noticeable effect other than not draining your battery as quick?
matthew-max5 years ago
is there a green defuser on the d21 faces? I would think so because the bulbs are clear, and those trucks dash light up green. great idea thanks!
trayo (author)  matthew-max4 years ago
The D21 faces? I'm not sure what that is, but there weren't any green filters anywhere.
Resourceful5 years ago
FYI you might want to use concave led they are a wide angle rather then dome like you have only makes pointing beam.
chrisayad6 years ago
dude u ffed up theres bright and dark spots you should have thought about the positioning Did you know that you can sand almost to the metal inside near the top of the led to make it have a wider light angle? there is a little gap above the metal part don't go too far but I have leds i sanded TO the metal and they still work. your problem is because you directed them outward, should have put a foil in front there or even bend the wires for the LEDS so they point. you did a good job but let a pro handle something you are going to have to look at every day, someone like me, lol. I do this for all my friends and if ur near fremont ill hook it up any color custom. i mean i dont mean to plug but you gotta see my car its pretty much my passion ill do ur car if u need help!
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like the lights in the vents man
trayo (author)  chrisayad6 years ago
I directed the LEDs outward? Bend the wires? What do you mean? I don't want things too bright and I don't mind the small gaps.
chrisayad trayo6 years ago
yeah dude also if you want theres a hella good website
http://www.ledwholesalers.com/store/
they have the pre-made bulbs for lazy ppl that use the reverse lens spreading the light pretty effectively although i made my own
trayo (author)  chrisayad6 years ago
I was wondering if you could explain a little better.
chrisayad trayo6 years ago
if you put them in a vice you can use a mini hack or something to cut them
forgot to attach
Photo 8.jpgPhoto 9.jpgPhoto 11.jpg
trayo (author)  chrisayad6 years ago
Oh. It widens the beam real well? I think I will give it a try.
ok since you obviously have a 12v batery at the pow fluctuates(sometimes 9v t0 14v) what kind of resistors did you use? and did you wire two of them to each led? im trying to do the same thing to my denali and id like to know if you made a good selection on leds and resistors? have any of them burned out since? or any complications? thanks if you can just get back to me at timbermancan@aol.com
Havok S146 years ago
This is a great instructable good job. Real good for DIY but just letting you know they sell different colored bulbs online and at some auto parts stores. I think they cost like $2-$3 and the colors are dispersed evenly throughout the gages. So you won't get that blue in some areas and brighter spots in others. I'm not knocking on your instructable at all, just shooting a little fyi.
trayo (author)  Havok S146 years ago
Thanks for the info. I tried searching, but didn't come up with good results. I still enjoy looking at my dash though.
ima go do this on my car once i get paid, im buying from the internet dealextreme.com free shipping
trayo (author)  Yerboogieman6 years ago
I'll have to check it out.
yeah, 20 UV LED's in the panel lights place.
trayo (author)  Yerboogieman6 years ago
Dang.
yeah its pretty kool. im glad its cheap though
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