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  #51  
Old 06-05-2010
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Thanks,

I broke down & took apart my Explorer bezel the other day & I was wondering how to reassemble it once I get it painted.

I already cracked the clear cover in a few places, but luckily they were just around the flange area & didn't make it all the way to the "seen" area.

I'll try drilling a small hole & if that doesn't work, I'll heat up a piece of wire and melt some holes through both pieces for screws & nuts.
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  #52  
Old 06-20-2010
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Jp7

where did you get the knowledge of doing this?? I'm trying to learn how on my own. was there a web site you went to or something that explains this or was it trail and error ?
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  #53  
Old 07-31-2010
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Jp7

where did you get the knowledge of doing this?? I'm trying to learn how on my own. was there a web site you went to or something that explains this or was it trail and error ?
hidplanet.com has an LED forum that is absolutely fantastic. I am on there all of the time when I'm not working on something of my own or working on the dyno.

Last edited by Jp7; 07-31-2010 at 11:46 AM.
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  #54  
Old 09-08-2010
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Dang man looking good. I really love how you did the needles in your cluster. I did mine about a year ago painting the overlays blue using both blue LED strip and bulbs in my 2003 silver cluster. However the needles are orange thus they don't show up so well at night.

Where did you come up with the parts to do your needles including the rings? I know oznium sells SMD Leds. I think I'm somewhat lost to the process of doing this as well. Did you have to drill out the clear plastic base the overlay sits over around the needle hole?
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  #55  
Old 09-08-2010
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Dang man looking good. I really love how you did the needles in your cluster. I did mine about a year ago painting the overlays blue using both blue LED strip and bulbs in my 2003 silver cluster. However the needles are orange thus they don't show up so well at night.
Yes you can't use blue LEDs with orange needles. I did a study on that and posted the results on RF - you should search for it. Others may make that mistake.

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Where did you come up with the parts to do your needles including the rings?
You can buy SMD's on Digikey. The plastic I used was a piece of vinyl house gutter. The cut is a blank from a hole saw.

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I know oznium sells SMD Leds.
Sure - the quality name brands on Digikey are better.

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Did you have to drill out the clear plastic base the overlay sits over around the needle hole?
Yes, carefully: It took a few hours.
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  #56  
Old 09-09-2010
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Yes you can't use blue LEDs with orange needles. I did a study on that and posted the results on RF - you should search for it. Others may make that mistake.
yeah I think I may have seen that awhile back. Mine isn't actually all that bad in terms of visibility because i used all those LED strips in my cluster in the first place. Could be better though With the silver or white gauge overlays your kind of damned one way or the other. Either you put clear needles on and cant see it during the day or you stick with orange and you cant see them at night.

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You can buy SMD's on Digikey. The plastic I used was a piece of vinyl house gutter. The cut is a blank from a hole saw.
Digikey is awsome :D I've ordered a ton of resistors and some cree superflux LED chips off them. Always fast shipping as well. Actually I only thought of Oznium is because I currently have about 16 left over amber SMDs from them. I had attempted this sort of a mod before but I couldn't come up with a way to properly mount them under the needles. Also the problem i found with oznium SMDs is they are so small its almost impossible to solder them together. Hopefully the ones you go were easier.

Great idea on the vinyl gutter. I would never have been able to come up with something like that :D

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Yes, carefully: It took a few hours.
My problem is I'm not so sure I'd be willing to take a risk like that and start drilling holes through the clear plastic piece. I'd almost rather find a way to mount the LEDs right underneath it and above the motors.
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  #57  
Old 09-10-2010
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hrm I just realized I still have a spare cluster i can practice on.

I'm thinking about doing my cluster with dual colors. Keeping the gauge blue LED then amber LEDs behind the needles. From the looks of your pictures it looks like it will produce this neat halo effect around the needle hubs. I've seen this before in some cars(possibly rav4s).
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  #58  
Old 09-10-2010
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Originally Posted by crucialcolin View Post
hrm I just realized I still have a spare cluster i can practice on.

I'm thinking about doing my cluster with dual colors. Keeping the gauge blue LED then amber LEDs behind the needles. From the looks of your pictures it looks like it will produce this neat halo effect around the needle hubs. I've seen this before in some cars(possibly rav4s).
That would be easy. Buy Blue SMD's for the backing, and Amber for you needle donut circuits.
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  #59  
Old 09-10-2010
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yeah I already have the blue SMD strips in so all i have to do is the amber ones on donuts circuits. The fun part is getting to take my dash apart again to get the cluster out lol.

Apparently I don't have any small hole saw bits so I went and checked home depot and couldn't believe how much they wanted for them. Good thing for a local harbor freight tools. What size did you use to make your donuts?
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  #60  
Old 09-10-2010
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yeah I already have the blue SMD strips in so all i have to do is the amber ones on donuts circuits. The fun part is getting to take my dash apart again to get the cluster out lol.

Apparently I don't have any small hole saw bits so I went and checked home depot and couldn't believe how much they wanted for them. Good thing for a local harbor freight tools. What size did you use to make your donuts?
If I could do it again I'd use PCB's instead of strips.

I forget what size hole bit I used. I just made sure the blank left over was 14.0mm
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  #61  
Old 09-12-2010
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If I could do it again I'd use PCB's instead of strips.

I forget what size hole bit I used. I just made sure the blank left over was 14.0mm
man I can just imagine how amazing that would look. The problem with strips I noticed is you still cant get them everywhere you need them. I'm sure a custom made PCB board would correct that.

I've noticed my cluster has a dull spot were it says RPMx1000 then the 100 and 120 KM/H symbols. Yours doesn't seem to be as bad most likely because its amber LEDs which due to due to its nature has a higher brightness output/lumens/mcd. The problem is the circuit boards for the tac and speedo block some of the light. I've toyed with the idea of trying to place leds on top those boards myself in my spare cluster. Particularly in between the the odometer and trip meter.

Anyways onto the donuts rings for the needles. So far all I have been able to find is 3/4"(aka 19mm) hole saw bits which might be to big. I'm thinking the smaller I can get away with making them the better.
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  #62  
Old 09-12-2010
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I'm sure a custom made PCB board would correct that.
Exactly

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Yours doesn't seem to be as bad most likely because its amber LEDs which due to due to its nature has a higher brightness output/lumens/mcd.
It's because I have 90 LEDs in the cluster. heh..

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Anyways onto the donuts rings for the needles. So far all I have been able to find is 3/4"(aka 19mm) hole saw bits which might be to big. I'm thinking the smaller I can get away with making them the better.
You need to measure the blanks, not the bit.
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  #63  
Old 09-12-2010
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It's because I have 90 LEDs in the cluster. heh..
hrm I had to go back and see how many i have. Luckily I have a pict. Looks like you have me beat


Btw I got both NFLS strips and WLED-xHP5 bulbs in mine from superbrightleds.com

maybe its time for me to add more strips :D lol. Actually i might have some left over.
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  #64  
Old 09-12-2010
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I got both NFLS strips and WLED-xHP5 in mine from superbrightleds.com

maybe its time for me to add more strips :D lol. Actually i might have some left over.
Are those waterproof enclosed ones ?
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  #65  
Old 09-12-2010
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nah there the regular ones. I figure it would be pointless to spend the extra money for water proof since they were in going inside in the cluster in the cab.
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  #66  
Old 09-12-2010
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nah there the regular ones. I figure it would be pointless to spend the extra money for water proof since they were in going inside in the cluster in the cab.
Your right for the wrong reason.

Waterproof ones hold in heat, which will kill your LEDs the fastest.
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  #67  
Old 09-13-2010
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oh haha well anyways that was the main reason. It makes perfect sense though.

By my count i currently have 76 LEDs in my cluster. Some of those are the plug-ins with side firing smds that are 3-chip.

When I get a chance I will probably redo the cluster. I found i have a length of those strips with 40 LEDs left over(not sure on length/they are in cutable sections of 3). Hopefully i can reuse some of my current strips already in the cluster but I'm afraid i might be better of just buying some new ones and starting fresh.
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  #68  
Old 09-14-2010
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Yesterday I found some 3/8"(9.5mm) plastic washers at home depot I was hoping that would work since I cant find a hole saw at any of the local hardware stores small enough to do the job. Seems they fit perfectly on the outer ring but the inner ring hole is too big. I believe the stock holes in the cluster is about 1/4".

Last edited by crucialcolin; 09-15-2010 at 03:00 AM.
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  #69  
Old 09-26-2010
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Finally I did some playing around with an old junk cluster(from a 96 explorer with blue overlays) I had and made a needle ring using SMDs i had left over.

First off I had a hard time finding a small hole saw bit(i think the size I used was a 7/16"). Also I don't have a drill press so I wasn't able to make my donuts as clean as JP7's Good thing I bought a large piece of vinyl gutter cover for $4 at home depot so I was able to make plenty and still have 2/3rds of the material left over lol.

SMDs glued onto the donuts:

The ones I used were some spare Blue 3.2v 20ma PLCC-2 SMDs i had gotten from Oznium awhile ago. I have plenty of ambers from them as well

Time for the light :

Here is a larger clear needle on top of the ring from the cluster. I ran this off a 12v supply and two 68ohm resistors for the test.

Installed in cluster:

I have it in the cluster with the needle ring being the only thing illuminated. However I didn't drill the hole for the donuts to fit into the clear plastic part of the face yet. So it was hanging below on top of the spedo.

Final Result(Both ring lights and back lighting on)

You can tell its much brighter then the stock needles that get their illumination from the back lighting.

Anyways that's were I'm at with this mod right now. Next up for me is to make smaller donuts. I found a much smaller hole saw bit as the current one turned out way to big. Then I will probably work on drilling the holes out in the spare cluster.

I'm also thinking about buying some amber OSRAM TOPLED SMDs in place of the amber Oznium ones that I already have and was planing on using under my 2003 clusters needles. The issue with the Ozniums is they aren't very bright(190mcd vs 737mcd). Also since my needles are orange I'm debating the possibility of going with whites instead of amber. Of course then I would have a white hallo under the needles instead of an amber color slightly different the needles. The upside to amber is I can get more leds into a ring because of their lower individual forward voltages.

Last edited by crucialcolin; 09-26-2010 at 07:01 AM.
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  #70  
Old 09-26-2010
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Next up for me is to make smaller donuts. I found a much smaller hole saw bit as the current one turned out way to big. Then I will probably work on drilling the holes out in the spare cluster.
Why don't you make them out of copper clad and actually etch them? You will get much better results and you can solder them directly to the copper. You would only need a band saw to cut the copper clad. This would be alot better than my original idea.

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I'm also thinking about buying some amber OSRAM TOPLED SMDs in place of the amber Oznium ones that I already have and was planing on using under my 2003 clusters needles.
Be careful you don't screw yourself by using LEDs that want too much current. The heat management gets considerably harder when you do. Do you have a spec-sheet for these?

Last edited by Jp7; 09-26-2010 at 09:44 AM.
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  #71  
Old 09-28-2010
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Why don't you make them out of copper clad and actually etch them? You will get much better results and you can solder them directly to the copper. You would only need a band saw to cut the copper clad. This would be alot better than my original idea.
Yeah that would probably be the best way to go. Problem is I'm pretty limited on tools :(

I attempted drilling some new donuts out with the smaller bit and about 4 out of every five I made came out bad so I wound up tossing them altogether.

I went to a home depot tonight and found some 1/4" plastic nylon washers in the hardware section which I think will work.

Doh! $16 wasted on a hole saw bit and materials. Whats strange is only 1 of the home depot locations in town carry these washers. I looked beforehand at the other closest to the house.

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Be careful you don't screw yourself by using LEDs that want too much current. The heat management gets considerably harder when you do. Do you have a spec-sheet for these?
I'm well aware of that(especially after the attempted SD style brake light led conversion i worked on awhile back lol). Plus the proper use of resistors to keep the leds from going up in smoke.
LED series parallel array wizard < great calc

I actually changed my mind on the OSRAMs as both would not work out well due to number/voltage requirements.
Instead I am now trying to decide between the following:
Oznium Orange(603 wavelength) 190mcd 2vF 20mA 120 viewing angle PLCC-2 SMD
Cree White(5500K wavelength) 1600mcd 3.2VF 20mA 20 viewing angle PLCC-2 SMD

With the Oznium's I would have to go with 3 SMDs per ring and hook two rings together to get a total of 6 SMDs in one circuit equaling 12v total. Hopefully i can run wire between multiple needles without coming across parts of the overlays that illuminate.

With the Crees I would use 3 SMDs per ring using a resistor to run them at a slightly lower 3.0v vs 3.2v thus equaling 12v total.

I wonder though if they would still light if the battery drops below 12v?

Now here is the curve ball. Is the voltage to the dash illumination regulated? I think I've heard some people say the dimmer switch does this on the ranger but I have not tested it myself. If not that means voltage can vary from 12v up to 14.8 which would throw my resistor calculations off. Not to mention cause extra heat to be burned off during a higher voltage situation(usually when truck is running off alt). I would have to use 14.5(supposedly the sweet spot) for the source voltage instead of 12v in the calculator.

Right now I'm leaning towards going with the white Crees. I'm assuming that as opposed to an amber halo effect that's slightly a different amber from the needles themselves(due to the needle orange paint) I would have white halos around the needle hubs. Thus I will have a tricolor cluster instead of dual. I will be keeping the back lighting blue.

Last edited by crucialcolin; 09-28-2010 at 07:39 AM.
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  #72  
Old 09-28-2010
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I just wound up buying the crees so I could go either route when it comes to needle rings.

Tonight I made an attempt at slowly drilling out some holes into the clear plastic face for one side of the gauge cluster by going up one bit size at a time trying to get the as centered as possible. However they still came out off center. It wants to work its way off to one side no matter what.
Ex:

Yours seems to be a little off but not nearly that bad. Maybe that's an advantage of having a drill press

I had to stop at 1/2" bit to avoid going any further. Since the hole needs to be bigger I haven't yet busted out the rotary tool to clean up the edges.

There has to be a better method to enlarge the holes.
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  #73  
Old 10-03-2010
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I really like what you guys are doing here. Really want to do this but i have a bad feeling im going to ruin my truck hahaha
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  #74  
Old 10-03-2010
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I really like what you guys are doing here. Really want to do this but i have a bad feeling im going to ruin my truck hahaha
Buy a spare cluster to work on and learn.
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  #75  
Old 10-03-2010
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Indeed a spare is the way to go. That way you get the **** ups get out the way

You can get them really cheap at a local junkyard. I got mine out of an explorer for $15. Also it doesn't mater if it fits in your ranger.

Btw JP7 a few questions. What did you use for gluing the rings to the plastic face? I'm debating between superglue or a small amount of epoxy. Looking for a strong bond that will last. Also where did you find the wire? I was going to buy 30awg myself which radioshack supposedly carried but none of the local stores have it stock atm.
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