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Old 11-11-2009, 04:15 PM   #1
GCoop
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Cluster Repair DIY--Clock and Odometer Knobs

Note: This DIY Repair only addresses the push functionality of the knobs. The twist functionality of the clock knob is not covered.
Update 11/16/2009: User Scottjoh has a fix of sorts for the twist functionality that can be found at http://www.bmwgm5.com/E46_Clock.htm

If the twist functionality ever breaks on mine I will look into that repair but from the looks of it the level of difficulty will be much higher.

Preface:
My turn to contribute to the community.

Monday, 11/9/2009--In my attempt at achieving silver gauge ring/sharpie mod status I managed to break both of my cluster knobs. The small, fragile tips that control the push functionality of the knobs to be exact.

Turning to the forums and RealOEM to find a source for replacement knobs I discovered that I would have to purchase a whole new cluster just to get those knobs. My day was ruined.... At that moment I wished I had never even attempted taking the cluster apart. I also found from my searching the forums and the web countless posts of others in the same situation. It seems that I was also one of the unfortunate to have fallen into the unspoken, dirty underbelly, realm of the famous sharpie/Gauge ring mods.

So what was I to do about my self-inflicted torment? New cluster ~$500 plus recoding fee @ dealer--Out of the question. Local bone yards either didn't have anything or didn't want to help. Used cluster online classifieds/eBay--No guarantee that the knobs would be intact. Source them from Bosch directly--Yeah, right! Last ditch, Hail Mary effort was to see if Tischer could source just the knobs--No suprise there, no-go. If you are one of the OCD E46 owners, like myself, you hate for anything to be wrong with your vehicle. Something had to be done...

After beating myself up about my carelessness for the better part of a day I began to think about fabricating a new knob. The more I thought about that approach the more hurdles I came across. My thoughts then turned to modifying my broken knobs to perform the same task as before. I came up with a design in my head and found no reason on why it wouldn't work in practice and in fact after a couple of iterations I have something that I am comfortable sharing with the rest of the community.

DIY Repair procedure:
Take note that this is a general guide and not a step by step.

Materials/Tools Needed
  • Various assortment of Pliers--See attached pic(s) for the type that I used
  • .125 (1/8) Drill bit--To be used as a template
  • A few #1 paperclips--No Joke
  • Glue--Gorilla or equivalent, not superglue
  • Patience--This is not a time to be in a rush. Take your time and be very careful with everything, if you snap the knob in half because you were impatient or rushing its game-over man...
Starting with the obvious--Remove and disassemble cluster to get at the broken knob(s).

Once the knobs are removed set them aside and begin fashioning the replacement nub out of one of the #1 paperclips using the .125 drill bit as a template to approximate the diameter of the knob. (Pic 1)
Pic 1

You will find that the diameter of the wrapped/coiled wire will be slightly less than the diameter of the plastic shaft. This is on purpose in order to have the wire fit snugly onto the shaft. The objective is to be able to slide the coiled paperclip wire around the knob leaving enough extra wire to be bent and formed into the nub (Pic 2) that depresses the button on the cluster board (Pic 3) when the knob is pushed in.
Pic 2

Pic 3


Since, as previously stated, the diameter of the coil is slightly smaller than the size of the plastic shaft, be careful when sliding the wire on. The trick I used was to leave enough wire exposed on both sides of the coil (See Pic 1for reference) to open the coil back just enough to slide it on. The coil should act like a spring of sorts and try to return to the original diameter giving the snug fitment desired. As long as you don't overdo it. In its other life it was just a paperclip after all.

I did not have my caliper handy to record the final measurements but it was easy enough to fashion the nub by sight/feel, checking for fitment along the way. Also, I found the optimal number of wraps for the #1 paperclip to be 2.5. Any more than this interfered with the rubber part that slips over the plastic knob. Less than that didn't get, in my consideration, a good enough hold on the knob's shaft. (Stop smiling and FOCUS )

This is what I came up with on my first attempt. (Pic 4)
Pic 4

Let's call this the prototype/proof of concept.

Prototype Fitment Pics




Looks like with a few more tweaks this just might work.

As you can see from the assorted fitment pictures of the prototype, the end of the wire (Pic 5) that depresses the button on the Cluster board was quite small compared to the size of the button.
Pic 5


The prototype knob worked and would depress the button but it had to be directly centered on the button for it to work properly every time. With the natural looseness of the knob there was no way that it would always hit the center of the button. Also, the button itself seemed to be made of a soft rubber and I was afraid that over time the end of the paperclip wire would destroy it. I needed a larger surface area for the nub to get the button depressed every time and not be destroyed in the process.

This is what I came up with on my second attempt. (Pic 6)
Pic 6

You will, no doubt, notice the small bend on the end of the wire. This was all the surface area that was needed for a successful depress every time and not destroy the button in the process.

Once the wire has been attached to the knob, fashioned into an acceptable nub, and positioned appropriately its time to lock the two together for good (hopefully). Take a small dab or two of glue and apply sparingly at the base of the plastic shaft where it and the wire meet. I used gorilla glue and it seemed to work well. I would advise against any of the super glues as I havent had much luck with them on these types of plastics. I was also afraid of any off-gassing from the superglues that might fog the inside of the clear plastic face. Allow the glue to dry before final testing and reassembly.

Ending with the obvious--Assemble and reinstall repaired cluster back in vehicle.

Time for a "If I knew then what I know now....." moment in regards to how and why these little plastic nubs are so easily broken. When I first disassembled the cluster I neglected to remove the rubber "boots" that cover the plastic shafts. When the cluster case is opened the shafts are taken out along with the clear plastic window portion of the cluster. This would be all fine and dandy except for the fact that there is a tab on the lower instrument placards that the nub has to be forced past. It is either during disassembly or reassembly with the knobs still attached to the clear plastic window via the rubber "boots" that the nubs will get broken. So, lesson learned--When disassembling the cluster--ALWAYS REMOVE THE RUBBER "BOOTS" FIRST!!

I hope what I have presented here will help some of you suffering from the same issue and maybe even prevent it from happening for others.
-GCoop


All pictures that were taken are attached, in no particular order.
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Last edited by GCoop; 11-16-2009 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:20 PM   #2
zhp pilot
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Very nice. Subscribed in case this ever happens to me.
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:20 PM   #3
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awesome write up man, A+
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:22 PM   #4
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Props for taking the initiative to make a write up!
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:23 PM   #5
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Well done.
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:31 PM   #6
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Even though this doesn't address the twist function, were you able to determine what controls it? I.e, what registers that the knob has been turned?
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Old 11-11-2009, 05:20 PM   #7
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This is great info, my ODO knob broke the second time I took out the cluster. Looks like I will be going in a final time. Thanks OP!!
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Old 11-11-2009, 05:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zhp pilot View Post
Even though this doesn't address the twist function, were you able to determine what controls it? I.e, what registers that the knob has been turned?
Yes I was. If you closely examine Pic 3 from the DIY (included below) you will notice the two white "wings" to the left and right of the knob hole. These plastic wings are actually part of the cluster board assembly.

Looking even closer underneath the tip of the wings you can see buttons that are identical to the one I was after. Those buttons are what control the clock forward/backward functionality. The way it works is that the cross piece of the knob pushes the wings down when the knob is twisted. See the fitment pics above for a detailed view. (Ill include one below)

From the looks of this setup there are 3 main reasons why that functionality would be lost:
  • 1st would be that either one or both of those wings on the cluster assembly has broken. Probably the most likely of the possibilities and bad news all around. If something like what I did could be fashioned to make contact with one or both of those buttons you would be all set. If not a new cluster would be needed. Not sure at this point how doable it is swapping just the white plastic part of another cluster.

  • The 2nd and most unlikely possibility would be that the cross piece of the knob or the knob itself has broken. This is all around better news in that you could swap the knobs as the trip odometer knob doesnt need them.

  • The 3rd reason that I can come up with is that the buttons themselves have somehow failed. Bad news here again as a new cluster board would have to be obtained. Unless your soldering skills are top notch replacing just the buttons would be tough work.


Pic 3 From original DIY post


Prototype Fitment Pic

Last edited by GCoop; 11-11-2009 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 11-11-2009, 07:27 PM   #9
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i recommend ctrl + p any page into a PDF instead of just bookmarking it...just in case something unthinkable happens to pictures or whatever else. just my .02
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Old 11-11-2009, 07:34 PM   #10
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great write up btw
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Old 11-11-2009, 08:03 PM   #11
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Nice work.
I had same problem and thought about a similar solution, but then I saw a cluster on craigslist for $50 and within walking distance. Now I've got a spare pin (I had only the one on the left hand side broken) among other spare cluster parts, may I never need to use them.
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Old 11-11-2009, 08:10 PM   #12
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By the way, for those considering instrument cluster gauge rings/trim mods, these pins are easy to break if the cluster is not disassembled and reassembled properly. Both pins have plastic covers. Pull these out at the very beginning - before opening the cluster, push them in only after the cluster is reassmebled.
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Old 11-11-2009, 08:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Megalocnus View Post
By the way, for those considering instrument cluster gauge rings/trim mods, these pins are easy to break if the cluster is not disassembled and reassembled properly. Both pins have plastic covers. Pull these out at the very beginning - before opening the cluster, push them in only after the cluster is reassmebled.


I made reference to this in my "If I knew then what I know now..." section. If any of you out there are considering taking your cluster apart for any reason it can not be stressed highly enough to remove the knob covers first. It will save you from much agony.
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Old 11-15-2009, 10:26 AM   #14
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Since my nob wasn't fully broken, I just took a piece of plastic and placed it on the button. That allowed the remaining piece of the nob to make contact and resulted in the odometer button working once again.
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Old 11-15-2009, 10:39 PM   #15
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I have (sort of) addressed the "twist" functionality of the clock set knob on my web site. Take a look. http://www.bmwgm5.com/E46_Clock.htm

The "sort of" is I took away the 12/24 hour functionality and replaced it with time forward functionality. I figured it was more important to be able to set the clock then switch between 12 and 24 hour modes.
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Old 11-16-2009, 12:53 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottjoh View Post
I have (sort of) addressed the "twist" functionality of the clock set knob on my web site. Take a look. http://www.bmwgm5.com/E46_Clock.htm

The "sort of" is I took away the 12/24 hour functionality and replaced it with time forward functionality. I figured it was more important to be able to set the clock then switch between 12 and 24 hour modes.
Nice work! This is great information to know. I will link your write-up from my main post, if you dont mind.
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Old 11-16-2009, 01:15 PM   #17
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GCoop,
No, I don't mind.
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Old 11-16-2009, 02:12 PM   #18
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Awesome repair! Free too! Well done!

Reminds me of this:
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Old 11-16-2009, 08:58 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by paraklas View Post
Awesome repair! Free too! Well done!

Reminds me of this:

LOL. Exactly what the wife said when I had the cluster all apart on the kitchen counter. "You're not Macgyver you know!"
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Old 11-24-2009, 08:34 AM   #20
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Great detail & Illustration
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