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Old 04-08-2010, 12:07 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: UK
Posts: 590
My Ride: 325ci 2001
Smile Instrument Cluster LED Conversion (pics)

Ok first up, thanks to wooboodoo for his thread here on how to make this possible. This is my first DIY so i'm going to try do it right!

This is how my Instrument Cluster (IKE) looked before I started:

I wanted it to have white dials/clocks, a blue LCD, red needles and the silver gauge surrounds. The red needles were done with the usual Sharpie DIY, i got a set of silver gauge rings off ebay for Ģ18 delivered and bought all my LED + soldering equipment from

OK first up removing the cluster, there are 2 x T20 screws above the clusters front 'window'. Remove those and the unit will slide forward. Depending on your driving style you may need to drop the steering wheel and pull it back. Use the lever underneath. The IKE will come a way out before the cables snag. There are 2, if you look they are similar in style, push the catch down and the lever arm will slide over and release the clips. You will be left with a nice hole:

To dismantle the cluster first remove the 'brow' from the top of the unit on the front. This is simply 2 little clips you press and it will slide out:

Next flip it over and remove the screws. Not all of the holes on any cluster i have seen seem to be populated so remove any Torx screw. Screws removed:

There are then a set of plastic clips around the two halves holding it together. Gently release them:

Now with the cluster sat on its back hold the front face down and pull off the trip reset and clock adjust knobs. They are just rubber covers and will pull off, do it slowly. Once these are off simply lift the cover up and it will come away from the unit:

You can lift the gauges out of the back cover but i found it makes a perfect holder so i didn't damage components on the back and left it there. The two plastic overlays at the bottom (one on the left and right) that cover your warning light areas just lift off, remove them. Now the tricky part, the needles. Starting with a less important one (I did fuel and temp first) pinch the centre cap of the needle between thumb and finger and rotate it anti-clockwise whilst lifting. Ignore any slight resistance you feel this is fine and lift the needles off. Remove the MPG before RPM or you will get stuck!

Once the needles are off the plastic overlay with the markings on simply lifts off. If you lift the PCB out of the back half of the housing there are 4 metal clips where the LCD is that need to be unclipped before the front white plastic cover will come off:

Now i have not soldered anything for well over 10 years (the last time i did it was in school for some lame project) so you do not need to be a whizz at it. All you need is patience, you don't want to lift any traces or break anything. The little cluster of LED's around each pin is what illuminates that dial. Wooboodoo has a great image in his thread. There are 4 LEDs on the RPM and Speed, 2 on fuel and temp and 1 on the MPG. Please remember LEDs have a polarity, indicated by a notch on the corner of the LED. When fitting a new LED please make sure you put them back the right way! Here is my first LED removed from the Speed gauge, you can see it just behind the pin sticking up.

They are easy to remove. Gently heat the solder joint on one side of the LED and using a pair of tweezers or very small pliers gently lift that side once the solder has melted. Repeat on the other side and the LED will come off the board. PLEASE DO NOT RUSH THIS. You could lift a trace off the board which would be a PITA to fix. I did this whole thing with no muck ups in around 2 hours. Here is my first 'aftermarket' LED installed. You can see it has a yellow top compared to the BMW ones which have a white top.

Now after i had done the speed and rpm LEDs i plugged it in with the car lights on to test if they worked. If you can imagine the centre of each dial you can see the new white LEDs. Excuse the bad photo it was broad daylight outside...

Now i know it was working i carried on with the rest of the LEDs. Once these are done it is on with the LCD. IMPORTANT - As soon as you lift the LCD out mark which of the two 'foam bits' is top and bottom, this will save you big headaches. The LCD is fragile glass so be careful with it.

In the above image i have already removed the orange backing on the LCD to get rid of the orange glow it has. This simply peels off the back of the screen. IMPORTANT - There is a very fine blue film under this orange film, make sure you do not lift this as it is a part of the LCD and will break it. With this film removed you can pop it back in place as that is now ready. After putting it all back together i didnt like how the LCD looked, the orange film made it glow rather than be a bright illumination. I cut around the orange film on a piece of normal white paper and put this in its place. Perfect. The paper 'glows' blue from the LEDs behind and the LCD looks good. Camera was crap so you can't see the LCD well and the blue looks a different colour...

At this point you can swap any LED in the cluster you want. Simply hold the plastic overlays on the board to see which LEDs do what and away you go. I swapped the ones that do the picture of the car which shows when doors are open. Thats now white also.

This is the finished product, i will get some night shots in a few hours when it goes dark. The neighbours think i'm a moron for taking pictures of my dash with a towel over my head...

As the saying goes, re-assembly is a reversal of removal or something like that.

**When you come to put the needles back on start with the needle at the top end of the dial. As you SLOWLY and GENTLY push it down and turn it anti-clockwise you will have to push it down enough to be on firmly but not to touch the dial face. As you turn it you will feel a point where it kind of stops. Keep pushing this anti-clockwise until it reaches where the needle should stop normally. It should now turn clockwise freely to the top of the gauge and then freely back until it hits the stop point.***

This is my first DIY and constructive criticism is welcome. I did break my clusters the first time i did this and had to buy a new set and get them coded to my car. Cost me just over Ģ100 to do this so i hope this DIY means other people can do it without that expense. If you want larger images emailing to you PM me and i will fire them over. There are also a lot more than shown here.


Last edited by Scott87; 04-08-2010 at 12:12 PM. Reason: More Image Links...
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