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2005-2007 gauge cluster LED lighting

29301 Views 50 Replies 26 Participants Last post by  jsnali13
You might have seen the retrofit I did with Scottie's gauge cluster: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1209

Here's a thread describing how I did it. This works only with North American Escape, Mariner, and Tribute clusters from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 model years. I'll modify this post as I add some missing pictures and diagrams. For now:

1) Remove the two upper cluster bezel bolts with a 7mm socket, and remove the cluster bezel. Set aside the two bolts and the cluster bezel.

2) Remove the two upper and two lower cluster bolts with a 7mm socket, then pull the cluster out. Set aside the four bolts. Be very careful of the upper mounting tabs, because they can break easily.

3) Remove the cluster connector by pressing down on the tab and rotating the retainer downward. Remove the cluster.

4) Using a 1/8" flat-blade screwdriver, carefully pry the tabs (shown by the arrows below) upward while pulling apart the lower section of the cluster case.

5) Using a 1/8" flat-blade screwdriver, carefully pry the tabs (shown by the arrows below) upward while pulling apart the upper section of the cluster case.

6) Separate the cluster case and the cluster window.

7) Move the temperature gauge, tachometer, and speedometer needles fully counterclockwise, and move the fuel gauge needle fully clockwise. Center a small piece of transparent tape under each needle, and mark the location of each needle on each piece of tape. Do this accurately, because you're going to remove the needles, and you'll need to reposition the needles in their original locations when you reassemble the cluster.

8) Carefully grasp each needle at the center and rotate it against the "stop" while pulling upward. Do this slowly and carefully, because the plastic posts are fairly fragile.

9) Carefully grasp one corner of the gauge face and remove it from the cluster case. Do NOT bend or kink the gauge face as you remove it, and keep the adhesive away from dirt and dust. Don't lose the black plastic rings around the gauge openings.

10) Set aside the four black plastic rings.

11) Using blue masking tape, mask the entire adhesive side of the gauge face by covering the gauge face adhesive with the SMOOTH side of the masking tape. This will protect the gauge face adhesive from sanding and paint, and it will make removal of the masking tape easier. I added another layer of masking tape so that the smooth side faces outward. Make sure that the entire cluster is masked, except for the gauge markings.

12) Cover the front of the gauge face with clear food wrap. The clear wrap will protect the gauge face while you work, and it will allow you to see the gauge markings through the face as you spray them later.

13) Using 200 or slightly finer sandpaper, carefully sand away the white and green coatings covering the gauge markings. Try not to use too much force, so that the surface is smooth and not gouged. Remember that the red gauge markings are on the front of the gauge face, so they can't really be changed without major surgery. When the markings are completely free from the original coatings, finish sanding them with 400 and then 600 wet-dry sandpaper.

14) If you want to add any color to any of the markings, mask the markings that you do NOT want to color. The ideal blue color is Dupli-Color MC201 "Metalcast" Blue, which I found at Pep Boys. It's transparent blue, and it matches the color of blue LEDs perfectly when backlit by white LEDs. I also used "Whitewash" paint (Design Master #769), which I found at Michael's (it's a art-supply and home-decor chain) for steps 16 and 24, below. These paints are perfect for this application, because their lacquer bases create a chemical reaction with the gauge face plastic, forming a permanent bond.

15) Spray very light coats of the color base, and keep checking the color depth by holding the gauge face up to a wide source of light, such as a window. When the color is perfect, let it dry, then remove only the areas masked for color.

16) Spray the entire unmasked area with a light, uniform coat of the Whitewash paint. The purpose of this coating is to catch light from all angles so that the lighted surface shows through the gauge markings more consistently, and this particular paint is perfect for this application. Set it aside the gauge face and allow it to dry.

17) Remove the clear vinyl sheet on the back of the cluster case.

18) Remove the LCD display (or two LCD displays. depending on the E/M/T model) from the front of the cluster cavity.

19) Remove the circuit board from the cluster cavity.

20) Remove the six bulbs shown below. The only other bulb with the same socket is for the high-beam indicator. Do NOT remove that bulb.

21) Download this 1200-DPI image: files/JP-2005-2007-LED-cluster.jpg
I've changed the design of this board since I changed my first cluster, but the instructions are the same. You may need to right-click on the link and click Save Target As, then save it wherever you can find it later. Print this image using a laser printer (set to maximum darkness and maximum sharpness), on Epson S041141 glossy inkjet photo paper. I've had by far the best results with this paper, after trying several other brands.

22) Using an iron or laminator, transfer the printed side of the paper to a 1/16" circuit board. Allow the board and paper to cool, and without moving the paper, soak the board and paper in warm water for 15 minutes. The paper should remove easily from the board, leaving only the black laser toner. Etch the board, then remove the laser toner with a ScotchBrite pad.

23) Cut out the individual boards, and grind them perfectly to the edges of the copper.

24) Spray the copper sides of the boards with the Whitewash paint. This coating will protect the board traces, as well as reflect light inside the gauge cavities.

25) Remove the Whitewash coating from the pad areas on the boards.

26) Using a Dremel tool and a #72 drill bit (which is very small), drill through the round mounting and power pads. Install the LEDs (LiteOn LTW-150TK white 1206-sized LEDs) and 1206-sized 1/4W resistors. The large boards use 680-ohm resistors, and the small boards use 470-ohm resistors. I don't have a parts-location picture ready, but I'll put one together and post it here when it's finished. I attached black wires to the ground power pads, and red wires to the + power pads.

27) I replaced the three dim green surface-mounted LEDs under the LCD window with LiteOn LTST-T670TBKT blue PLCC2-sized LEDs. If your board has two LCD windows, there will be another set of three LEDs on the left side of the board as well.

28) Since these blue LEDs are extremely bright using the stock 220-ohm resistor (shown below), the brightness is more consistent with the gauge brightness if this 1206-sized resistor is replaced with a 1K-ohm resistor.

29) I don't have pictures of this step. I'll repost them when I can take pictures again. Feed the power wires of each board through the corresponding bulb openings in the cluster case, then position the boards in the center of each gauge cavity. Drill through the existing retention pad holes in the boards and through the cluster case. Bend pieces of bare 24-gauge telephone wire into 1/2" U shapes, then feed them through each pair of retention holes from the back of the cluster case and through the corresponding retention pad holes. Tighten the wires and bend them sideways to hold the boards in place, then solder the wires to the retention pads. Feed the power wires through the corresponding holes in the main cluster circuit board, then reinstall the cluster circuit board. Finally, remove small areas of coating from the traces shown below on the main cluster board. Solder the black (ground) wires to the lower trace, and solder the red (+) wires to the upper trace. I did this on four separate areas of the board, since the traces span most of the width of the board.

30) Remove all of the masking and clear wrap from the gauge face. Reinstall the four black plastic rings (from step 10) on the back of the gauge face. Center the gauge face on the front of the cluster case, and press it evenly across the surface of the cluster case.

31) Reinstall the four needles. Press each needle lightly onto the gauge motor post, then gently rotate each needle while pressing downward. Adjust each needle so that the markings (from step 7) are aligned with the tip of each needle when against the full counterclockwise stop (or full clockwise stop for the fuel gauge needle).

32) Reinstall the vinyl sheet (from step 17) on the back of the cluster case.

33) Snap the cluster window onto the cluster case.

34) Reinstall the cluster:
* install the cluster connector
* install the cluster using the four bolts set aside in step 2
* install the cluster bezel using the two bolts set aside in step 1

35) Here's a test I made of the cluster before I reassembled the cluster and shipped it to Scott.

36) Here's Scott's picture of the cluster after he reinstalled it in his Escape.

I may modify 2005-2007 Escape, Mariner, and Tribute clusters if there's enough interest. I haven't set a price yet.

That's it for now!
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the thread is thorough but still sounds complicated, do you think it will be easier than it sounds if i did it myself?
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