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Old 07-09-2007, 09:11 AM   #1
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DIY: Dashboard light LED conversion

-=Description:=-
Following is a dashboard lights LED conversion.
The car is a 5th gen civic, but it is the same basic idea for other makes.
I'm not the author.I'm just translating and adding/removing bits and pieces.
The author is a german guy(Thank you). Source can be found:HERE
======================

-=Needed stuff: =-
* Sharp knife
* Pliers
* Screwdriver
* Soldering iron
* Aluminium foil(some that you can see your reflection in, like the one they use to wrap the chocolate bars)
* Silicone or heat melt glue(or other stuff to glue with)
* 24 LEDs(less or more depending on your own design)
* Same number resistors(if you use ~4volts LEDs)
* Some thin wire(about 20"-25" long) red for the(+) and black for the(-)
* Chrome spray *otional*
* CD cleaner (or something similar...)*otional*
* Dimmer switch(or just a dimmer)*otional*
* Circuit analyzer(for testing)*otional*
LEDs:
LED color is up to your likings.
Note,if you are not using 12V LEDs then you need the proper resistor or you'll burn 'em.
Different color LEDs need slightly different resistor to get the voltage right.
The guy uses blue LEDs with 470 ohms resistors
I used red LEDs with the same resistors(470 ohms)
You can accurately calculate needed resistance with the Multi-function circuit analyzer,
I'm just too lazy to do that so I used same resistors(works fine for now).
======================

-=Dismounting and taking apart of the dashboard=-
Good thread on removing and opening the dashboard on a civic: Click here
Unclip(you'll see the clips) the dashboard to remove the plastic cover.
Then unscrew all screws at the back to remove the gauges.One at a time.

======================

-=Preparing the dashboard shell=-
Trace the route for the wire and choose spots for the LEDs.
We'll use to wires one(red) for the (+) terminal and one (black) for the (-)(or ground) terminal.
Fix the wire to the dash shell with the glue of choice.
Don't worry about the LED soldering at this point, we'll cut the wires at the right place later.
Use with the removed gauges to check whether LED or wire will be in the way.
You have to use enough LEDs here to produce even light for gauge and avoid dim areas.
Another thing optionally to do is to file the top of the LEDs to cause more light scatter
I left my LEDs unfiled so did the author.
Glue reflective foil where the LEDs will be pointed at,
but do that before spraying with chrome spray(if you decided to use the chrome spray at all)
Here is a sample pattern:


Here is the moment where you can spray the surface with chrome spray,optionally.
This is done to improve the reflective capabilities of the dash surface.
Don't forget to block the holes for the sensor bulbs/indicator bulbs to avoid paint geeting in.
Here is a sample:

======================
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Old 07-09-2007, 09:24 AM   #2
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DIY: Dashboard light LED conversion #2

-=Prepare the LEDs and some soldering=-
The author suggests letting some silicone dry and cut it little less the legnth of the LED
then pierce it with the LED legs to avoid short.
What I did was glueing the leds themselves to the shell of the dash
and adding fresh silicone between the legs to hold them appart when it dries.
Ofcourse you have to do all that after you solder:
1.resistors to the LEDs.
2.LEDs+resistor couple to the wires.
Solder the resistor to the (+)terminal of the LED(usually the longer leg.see the picture).
Then the resistor to the red wire.
If a wire turns out to be cut short then just extend it with another piece of wire.
Here's a pic:

These are clickable:



======================

-=Cleaning the black grid for extra light(optional)=-
On the stock gauges you'll find two layers that act as a color filter-
the blue layer and the black grid.
The brightness of the LED lighting is substantially increased by removing the two layers
(e.g. with CD cleaner) or thinner.
I personally skipped this step and left everything stock.
Still got good result with proper LED alignment later.


======================

-=Aligning the LEDs for best result=-
For best results we'll align every LED individually.
Best to be done in a half-dark room.
Use a 9V or 12V DC power source and connect it to the red
and black wires( (+) goes red and (-) goes black).
Trial and error untill you get it the way you like it.
Just bend the LEDs till you get them into position.
These are clickable:



======================
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Old 07-09-2007, 09:28 AM   #3
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DIY: Dashboard light LED conversion #3

-=Connecting the wires and optional dimmer=-
You can use one of the orphaned bulb sockets to power your new LED lights.
Remember that you have to connect (+)red wire to (+)on the socket and same with (-)
Test it with the circuit analyzer or trial/error it. Either way works.
Like so:


It is a good idea to install a dimmer so you can adjust the brightness of the LEDs.
The dimmer is connected on the (+)red wire.Just cut it and solder both ends to the two dimmer wires
I skipped this part for now,but will probably add a dimmer in the future
Ok.Put everything back together and enjoy your new dashboard light.

======================

-=Final words:=-
I probably made this look difficult,but in fact it is very easy.
You'll figure it out even by looking only at the pictures.
Hope this is useful to someone as it was to me.
And at the end work carefully so you don't damage your car
======================
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:14 AM   #4
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two tiny things,

1. if you tap into an "orphaned bulb socket" for power, won't that come with a dimmer usually?

2. you can save a few watts by doing a series-parallel thing with the LEDs


(I think I got the polarity wrong, but you get the idea)
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Old 07-10-2007, 08:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skewbe View Post
two tiny things,
1. if you tap into an "orphaned bulb socket" for power, won't that come with a dimmer usually?

2. you can save a few watts by doing a series-parallel thing with the LEDs
...image skipped...
If I understand this correctly you mean the case if your car already has a dimmer.If so, then Yes.
And maybe yes to #2,but you have to change the wiring obviously) I think
it will fit no problem.

Everyone is free to change and adopt the DIY to ones needs.
Add stuff, remove stuff - it is open for modification .
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Old 07-10-2007, 08:12 AM   #6
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And here is how it looks.
Not that the needle of the speedometer has been changed that's why it is red and glowing.


I've done mine with red LEDs so if anyone is interested in pictures I'll make some.
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Old 07-15-2007, 10:48 PM   #7
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This can actually be done in a much less labor intensive manner with the proper LEDs. I used 360° output white LEDs... More to improve appearance than to save energy.
Here's a comparison pic I took... The top is the white LED, the right side is a stock incandescent bulb, the bottom left is a drop-in replacement red LED.

And here's the finished cluster - 5 LEDs total in the stock bulb locations with stock orange filtered needle lighting:

None of that patchy lighting like you get with focused LEDs. The pinkish hue on the speedo is spill over from the needle lights.
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Old 07-16-2007, 05:57 AM   #8
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Bobski, can those LEDs be dimmed any if they are too bright?
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Old 08-09-2007, 07:26 AM   #9
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Series-Parallel With One Resistor

It seems like every wiring diagram I see for LED's shows an individual resistor for each LED. I was wondering what was wrong (if anything) with wiring it up as in my illustration.
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Old 08-09-2007, 08:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill in Houston View Post
Bobski, can those LEDs be dimmed any if they are too bright?
Yes. They're connected to the stock dimmer circuit, though they don't dim at the same rate as the stock incan bulbs. LEDs get less efficient as they're driven harder, incan bulbs get more efficient. The converse is true - as you drive the LEDs with less current (turn down the dimmer) they put out more light than the similarly driven incandescent bulbs. The maximum brightness of the LEDs can be changed by using different values of current limiting resistors, though you can only increase it so far before you shorten the LED's life span.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chromedome2000 View Post
It seems like every wiring diagram I see for LED's shows an individual resistor for each LED. I was wondering what was wrong (if anything) with wiring it up as in my illustration.
That should work, so long as the LED's specs are compatable. LEDs, being diodes, exhibit a voltage drop across the component. Running them in series will actually take care of some of the power limiting work when running them in a higher (than the unlimited LED can operate on) voltage system. Running them that way will allow you to use a lower value, lower wattage resistor. In my above conversion, I needed 5 LEDs. 4 were run in series and needed something like a 47 ohm, 1/8th watt resistor. The remaining LED, being run on it's own, needed something like a 240 ohm, 1 watt resistor.
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