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      10-08-2014, 12:10 AM   #1
neuroclast
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DIY: Change your gauge cluster light colors!

This will show you how to change your orange gauge cluster to a nice, cool white color. It's pretty cheap as well. You need a soldering iron with a sharp tip, some soldering flux, and maybe some solder.

Here is a picture of my cluster with all but 6 of the LEDs replaced:



I left the center display the stock LEDs so you can see the difference!

You will need to buy the LEDs of your choice. I chose white LEDs, as I liked the color, but you can do any color you desire as long as they make LEDs for it!

If you want to change all of the orange to your desired color, you should order around 35. You will have a few left over if you don't mess up, but they are cheap and you will most likely damage one or two unless you are really good at soldering small components.

Here is a list of some LEDs you can buy that will work, in different colors:

Now for the tutorial!





Start by removing the two screws holding the gauge cluster in. They are a common smaller torx size, but I forget which.






With the screws removed and the steering wheel tilted all the way down, tilt the gauge cluster forward starting at the top. Once it is tilted a little bit, you will be able to pull it out towards you.





Once the cluster is out, look at the back. There will be one plug connecting it to the car. There is a lever on the plug which needs to be rotated up to allow the plug to come out:





Remove the plug and the cluster should be free. To start disassembly, look at the back of the gauge cluster. There will be 4 silver torx screws of the same size that held the cluster in the dash. Remove those 4 screws. I had two already removed in the picture below:





You will then need to gently pry the snap-fit tabs holding the front lens assembly to the back of the gauge cluster apart. There are I believe 6 of these black tabs. Work your way around slowly and gently bending them back and slightly separating the two parts. It should eventually easily come apart once all the tabs are released.

Now go back to the front of the now-separated cluster assembly:





You will need a knife or small screwdriver to pry the needles off their pegs here. Be very gentle and don't pry on the needles themselves, only on their circular hubs in the middle. Also be sure to put something between the tool you are using to pry (the knife in my picture) and the black gauge background. This material scratches really easily, and you don't want to do that!






It's not easy to see here, but the plug housing that was connected to the car is the only thing holding the circuit board and gauge face to the black housing in back. You can try to wedge something between the plug housing and the black back to help release them, or just gently tug the circuit board and black housing apart and it will eventually pop off. Don't pull too hard or you could break something, but it should eventually come off with just the right amount of force.



Now that the circuit board and gauge face is separated from the back housing, there are only 4 white tabs holding the gauge faces to the circuit board. Slightly pull those out and the gauge face should come right off, leaving you with the guts!





Now gently pull up the tabs locking the LCD cable in place, and the LCD and white backing plate will come right off. You're then left with the bare circuit board. Whew!





Now the hard part. All the LEDs outlined in the red areas below are the stock orange ones. If you want everything orange to be a different color, you need to gently remove these with your soldering iron. I would recommend only doing 1 at a time and then replacing it, because the polarity needs to be correct. The LEDs have a small indention in one corner, and you need to make sure the LEDs you solder on have the same indention in the same corner. If you don't, they won't light up!






After you desolder one of the stock LEDs, i recommend running your soldering iron over the solder pads to smooth out the remaining solder. Then put some flux on the entire area the LED will cover. This will help hold the replacement LED down while you solder it. You'll also probably have to hold it down with tweezers, because it will move when the solder starts going molten and sticking to it. A loupe or magnifying glass may be necessary if you can't see close up. These LEDs are very small (2.8x3mm!) and you will need a steady hand and good eyes to make sure the 2 solder points are done well.

Here is what mine looked like with all but the center display LEDs changed:





Once all the LEDs are done you can hook it up to the plug in your car to make sure they all light up. If they do, on to reassembly! It's basically the exact reverse of disassembly, so I'm going to skip most of it here. The only part I want to touch on is the needles.

After gently pushing the needles back on their posts, hook the cluster (without the lens back on yet) up to the wire and start the car. Then kill it. When in accessory mode on a cold car, all the gauge needles should be pointing to 0. There should be a little resistance from the motors holding them in place, but you should be able to move them to align to 0 if they don't. There is also the cruise control ring which goes behind the speedo area. You should have this turned so the white mark that indicates the cruise control speed is just barely hidden when the car is off.

After all that is done and the cluster is reinstalled, marvel at your new shiny cluster!






Last edited by neuroclast; 10-08-2014 at 12:20 AM.
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      10-08-2014, 02:56 AM   #2
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Well done! Kinda nervous but can't wait to give this a shot!
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      10-08-2014, 04:00 AM   #3
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damn this looks so nice but circuit boards and soldering expensive equipment is not within my tech abilities
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      10-08-2014, 04:47 AM   #4
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Looks good....would love to try this seems pretty straight forward but I may need to practice soldiering on a less expensive circuit board first haha!
How much would this cost someone who botched the job I'm curious lol?!
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      10-08-2014, 05:03 AM   #5
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Thanks for posting this DIY write-up and photos!
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      10-08-2014, 11:45 AM   #6
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Very Good write up. Probably won't have the balls to do it myself but always nice to read and learn.
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      10-08-2014, 12:05 PM   #7
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Great guide! We're very lucky in the UK - we have a forum member who will do this for us for $30!!

Here's his build thread:

http://www.e90post.com/forums/showth...ght=white+LEDs
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Last edited by Phil325i; 10-08-2014 at 06:30 PM.
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      10-08-2014, 05:43 PM   #8
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Looks awesome....love the white! Can the clock and temp be changed to a different color also....? Thanks
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      10-08-2014, 06:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roll_the_dice View Post
Looks awesome....love the white! Can the clock and temp be changed to a different color also....? Thanks
Definitely! The writeup actually shows you how to change those along with everything else, I just left mine orange to show the difference!
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      10-08-2014, 08:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roll_the_dice View Post
Looks awesome....love the white! Can the clock and temp be changed to a different color also....? Thanks
Yes, the same as the Odometer section was done.
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      10-08-2014, 08:27 PM   #11
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That's next on my agenda.

Attachment 1102035

Attachment 1102036

Easy Stuff.

Last edited by BMWE934me; 03-15-2015 at 01:13 PM.
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      10-09-2014, 03:14 PM   #12
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So awesome. Wish I had the balls and skills for this. All the power to ya man. Looks way nicer than stock orange
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      10-09-2014, 07:45 PM   #13
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It's really not that hard! You guys can do it!
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      10-09-2014, 08:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWE934me View Post
That's next on my agenda.

Easy Stuff.

Got steps on how to perform that on the center console, AC and radio? The gauges look involved and I'm sure the console, AC and radio is no walk in the park.

BTW, looks great.
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      10-09-2014, 08:25 PM   #15
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Do you know if I can get a used cluster to perform this experiment and it will work with my VIN on my car? or are the clusters programmatically tied to the vehicle?
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      10-09-2014, 08:48 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whateva View Post
Got steps on how to perform that on the center console, AC and radio? The gauges look involved and I'm sure the console, AC and radio is no walk in the park.

BTW, looks great.
Thank you. Everything has the same basic steps. Remove the component, take it apart, replace the LEDs and do the reverse.

The biggest problem, is the expense when you burn something up. Some components are much more involved than others. Color options are almost limitless.

I am doing a Instrument Cluster with a blue and white theme. Similar to the one above, but with blue fuel and oil temp gauges. I'll finish the last 4 LEDs tomorrow when my replenishment's get here.

Attachment 1102442

If I haven't run short on LEDs, its easy to do anything in a day. I'm building my LED inventory now.

Need help, PM me.

Last edited by BMWE934me; 03-15-2015 at 01:15 PM.
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      10-09-2014, 11:04 PM   #17
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I am having a hard time soldering these leds. What technique do you use? What solder do you used?
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      10-10-2014, 01:30 AM   #18
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Done this piss easy. Also changed the rings to M3 and M3 speed and revs. Keeped my 335i needles though, i prefer them

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      10-10-2014, 01:48 AM   #19
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I have a stock cluster if anyone is interested for a spare it has a mpg gauge, no oil temp.
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      10-10-2014, 10:37 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukeperformance View Post
I am having a hard time soldering these leds. What technique do you use? What solder do you used?
Any generic electronic solder will work such as the stuff you get radio shack. Honestly the best way is to smooth out the old solder after the LED is removed, put flux over the whole area, then align the new LED on the pads. Hold the LED down gently with tweezers or something, and then apply heat to the tiny bit of the solder pads still sticking out. This should reflow the old solder onto the pads. You shouldn't need to add solder unless something is slightly askew.
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      10-10-2014, 09:05 PM   #21
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I finally receive my LEDs today so I could finish up my cluster.

Unfortunately I can't capture the blue like it shows in person, but it's awesome.

Attachment 1102765

Attachment 1102766

Attachment 1102767

Attachment 1102768

Attachment 1102769

Attachment 1102770

Last edited by BMWE934me; 03-15-2015 at 01:15 PM.
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      10-10-2014, 09:41 PM   #22
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Looks amazing man!
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