Question for LED Gauge Cluster Modders... - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource


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  #1  
Old 10-24-2008
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Question for LED Gauge Cluster Modders...

I'm wanting to do do a LED mod on my gauge cluster, and I've read the write ups and I'm more looking for opinions from the experienced...

First, is it better to paint the overlays and have white or blue LEDs behind, or has anyone had success with just making the overlays clear and just putting colored LEDs behind.

Also, has anyone had a bad experience with the plug-and-play 194 LEDs. I see most of the modders on her use the component ones and solder them together using resistors (which I find very impressive). I'd rather just do the plug-and-plays but wanted to get some opinions first.

And last... has anyone done an LED conversion on a gauge cluster as old as my 93...?
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Old 10-24-2008
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My experienced opinion is that plug and play LEDs are never as good as component LEDs with the exception of L1224Rs when it comes to brakelights and turnsignals (even know they really aren't "plug and play"?)

The reason is this: a bulb is basically a bubble of light. It looks basically the same from all directions. LEDs are directional, sorta like an arrow of light that shines away from the source. If you want to take an LED and make it into a bulb like application you are taking multiple LEDs and putting them in different directions. So... why not just use LEDs that are aimed so that they only shoot in the direction you want the light? Think about it. The other problem with LEDs when it comes to clusters is that you want the light to be evenly spread so that it looks pretty to the eye. Bulbs work good at this. The way OEMs do it is they take a bulb and paint the overlay different thicknesses so that there is more paint near the bright spots, and less where it is dim. If your going to use plugin LEDs you might not get very good results here, so you need to engineer your way out of the problem. Things like shiny foil tape help. Adding extra LEDs helps. I think that component LEDs kick a$$ when it comes to clusters. You can put them wherever you want as long as you have a hot glue gun, and if you know how to solder. Adding resistors in isn't that hard, and I laugh when I see other ranger-forums members who get scared of this.

I really disagree with the whole "painting the back" theme. The reason is that whenever you pass the light through any kind of tinted color, you will lose brightness. Why not just buy the LEDs in the color that you want?

Oh yeah, on a 2004 Ranger the needles are orange. I noticed that you get almost no light through the needles when you use blue LEDs because blue and orange are opposites. White and Red LEDs work fantastic. You might want to look into getting aftermarket needles if you are a Blue freak like me. (well not in my Evo, its all Red or White)

If this is too overwhelming for you, I'm sure you can find another RF member to do the cluster work for you. I handle 2004 and up clusters, and I know of 2 other members who will no doubt hone into this thread too who do the older ones. The best bet is to be careful taking things apart, and use common sense. Making an LED modded cluster is like arts and crafts.

Here are some pictures of my work:










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Old 10-24-2008
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Thanks for the quick reply, and your cluster is one that has really encouraged me to do this, you put a lot of time and effort into it and it shows.

I also read that yours took you some serious time, and that would be fine with me if I had an extra cluster... but being that I have a '93, the clusters and overlays are getting harder and harder to find...

The only issue I have with the clear overlay with colored LEDs is that you might lose the red-limit spots, such as redline on the tach or hot/high on the temp and ammeter. So that's why I've been toying with the idea of painting so I don't lose those.
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Old 10-24-2008
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On my truck the red of the KPH and what not is on the front of the cluster, so there is no scratching it off (unless you want it to look retarded), the blue does struggle to get through there, but I have LEDs right near it and this helps alot. What color are you looking to do anyways? There are a bunch of other products that I might use if I had to do this again. Half of what took me so long was getting parts: Paint, Needles (ordered them 2 times, because the first batch was too loose) - Plus I kept changing the kind of LEDs I wanted to use, and then I kept running out of LEDs..

Last edited by Jp7; 10-26-2008 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 10-24-2008
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Heres some pics of mine i used inverted cone 194 wedge style leds from superbrightleds.com

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Old 10-24-2008
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I'd probably go with blue like you and Trevor did in the other write up, looks really good that way. Plus it would match my Alpine HU perfectly.

I think the needles on my display are just clear, b/c they have a incandescent (sp?) look to them when they're on, same color as the odometer, so a blue LED behind that might just work out.

And does anyone know of what other overlays might work for a 93?
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Old 10-24-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mudranger96 View Post
Heres some pics of mine i used inverted cone 194 wedge style leds from superbrightleds.com

I don't see any on your pics, but have you noticed any hot spots on yours at night time? (btw, looks really good )
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Old 10-25-2008
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Once you move the paint on the back you will get hot spots. Unless you mark where they had extra paint then reapply it after the green is gone.
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Old 10-25-2008
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Originally Posted by Blhde View Post
Once you move the paint on the back you will get hot spots. Unless you mark where they had extra paint then reapply it after the green is gone.

Good call...
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  #10  
Old 10-25-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KulpaKabana View Post
I don't see any on your pics, but have you noticed any hot spots on yours at night time? (btw, looks really good )
i only have one spot where its brighter then the rest of the gauge it is on the high side of the voltage gauge. Other then that they illuminate pretty evenly
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Old 10-25-2008
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I had bad luck with the inverted wedge 194 LED's. Not enough light at all. And I even used white. Everything else i was going to say has already been said. lol.
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Old 10-26-2008
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Well I'm probably going to start taking things apart on the dash today to see if I still want to do this... now has anyone done an LED conversion on a truck as old as mine? If so any tips/tricks/dos and don'ts (specifically for this year, I've already read the write-ups so no need to quote those)
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Old 10-26-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KulpaKabana View Post
Well I'm probably going to start taking things apart on the dash today to see if I still want to do this... now has anyone done an LED conversion on a truck as old as mine? If so any tips/tricks/dos and don'ts (specifically for this year, I've already read the write-ups so no need to quote those)
don't break anything..
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Old 10-26-2008
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^^ No kidding.
I don't think I'm going to do it after all, it doesn't appear to be as easy as it is for the newer models. It isn't just an easy pop and play overlay system, there are the servos that move the needles, and the plastic overlay parts are heavily glued to a plastic backing... plus I can't for the life of me get the stupid cluster out, I think one of the wiring harnesses in the back is kinked, so it's not giving any slack. Oh well, it was worth a shot.
The only way I might be able to do this, and it may sound stupid, would be to put bright yellow LEDs behind the overlays. That way, the yellow LED mixed with the green overlay would equal Blue... not sure if that would work but hey, maybe if I get really bored some rainy day...
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Old 10-26-2008
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Originally Posted by KulpaKabana View Post
^^ No kidding.
I don't think I'm going to do it after all, it doesn't appear to be as easy as it is for the newer models. It isn't just an easy pop and play overlay system, there are the servos that move the needles, and the plastic overlay parts are heavily glued to a plastic backing... plus I can't for the life of me get the stupid cluster out, I think one of the wiring harnesses in the back is kinked, so it's not giving any slack. Oh well, it was worth a shot.
The only way I might be able to do this, and it may sound stupid, would be to put bright yellow LEDs behind the overlays. That way, the yellow LED mixed with the green overlay would equal Blue... not sure if that would work but hey, maybe if I get really bored some rainy day...
yellow and blue give you green...it dosent work backwards... that would be like blowing the exhaust back through my turbo and pooosh! the tank fills up with gas...
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Old 10-27-2008
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^^hahahaa....kinda like a colbalt in reverse right?


I'm currently in the middle of doing LED's on my buddy's '82ish toyota. Pretty much the method is the same. My '71 chevy is next for me....i'm feelin' like red this time.

Just for funsies.....get an extra cluster and mess around with it. Seriously.....use it as a learning device so you don't mess yours up. OR...you might get the job done on your extra cluster to your satisfaction, and bam! you've got a spare cluster should something happen.
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  #17  
Old 10-27-2008
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^^ I agree, but I still for the life of me can't get the whole cluster out, and I can't see behind it to figure out what is holding it back. If anyone has any input on this it would be greatly appreciated. I know there are the two wiring harnesses on the sides, but there is a part attached to the back of the speedometer that prevents me from even pulling the cluster out more than about 1 1/2 inches (my chiltons manual doesn't go in enough depth on it either...)
Also, the needles don't show any way of coming off, I've tugged on them and looked for some kind of release, but no luck.

EDIT: After reading more, I think that it is simply the speedo cable, but does that detach right behind the cluster, or somewhere further down... I believe it's the cable though that's holding me back, not the wire harnesses...

Last edited by KulpaKabana; 10-27-2008 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 10-27-2008
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i vote speedo cable..those can be a royal pain sometimes. Now i know i dont have experience wtih your style truck, but i've torn down alot of cars/trucks....never seen a speedo cable that doesn't just screw into the back of the gauge.
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  #19  
Old 11-20-2016
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I know this is an old thread. I have a 2004 Ford Ranger and replaced the 11 lamps in the back with green LED lamps, and I lost the red needles when the lamps are on. Any further ideas, or are there lams behind the cluster that are not readily available?Name:  INSTRUMENT%20CLUSTER.jpg
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  #20  
Old 11-20-2016
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My guess is that the green light from the LEDs cannot pass through the red filter of the needle.
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Old 11-22-2016
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yeah, if he used any color led's except white there's a good chance that's the issue.
i aleays suggest using white led's woth red needles, you can mod the overlays & pant them to change color if needed.
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Old 11-23-2016
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Yeah what I had to do was wire in some white leds behind my needles to make them light up.
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  #23  
Old 11-23-2016
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I just want to thank everyone for their input. Never played with colors and thought the green looked good until I couldn't see the durned needles. Have ordered white LEDs. New at doing modifications to my 2004 Ranger, and since I am really close to retirement, thought I would spruce it up a bit. Guess I should have checked with someone who has done this first.
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Old 11-23-2016
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@Ozzie: You are welcome. Lots of information here for sprucing up your ride. If you can't find something, just start a thread and ask! Good luck with your ride and retirement! :)
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