LED dash lights...opinions?

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Kit Sullivan

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My '71 has 350,000+ miles...each one put on by me! As is typical on such a high mileage car, the dash lighting just got progressively worse over the years until the gauges were near unreadable at night.

I took the clusters apart about 20 years ago to "fix em up", and I found that the little blue diffuser domes inside were so dried-out and clouded from heat and time that they could not be polished up or renewed in any way, so...I ditched 'em.

Along with just removing the blue domes, I cleaned and repainted the cluster housings, and just put them back together with new bulbs.

The bare bulbs in the clusters made a huge improvement: Brighter dash lighting than ever before, maybe even brighter than when new.

But it is harsh, white light...not the soft blue/green lighting it had when new.

So I was thinking of instslling one of those LED bulb kits. They come with colored LEDs to match the original color apperance supposedly.

It all sounds great, but that is the advertising. I've never seen it in a car in person.

Has anyone here seen or had any experience with this? Any opinions on it?

 
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I didn't use a kit, I just replaced my bulbs with the 194 style wedge based bulbs. I used 5k pure white LEDs and left my defusers in. My car only has 20K factory miles on it and it seems to have spent most of it's 41 years of life sitting in garages.

The LEDs do make a HUGE difference, considerably brighter. I was able to go from not being able to tell my dash lights were on sitting in my garage with just the garage door opener light on, to being able to clearly see the soft blue-ish white hue of them on.

That being said there were a few things of note:

LEDs are a Polar component, so you need to be careful about orientation when you put them in. I ended up marking my flex circuit with positive and negative and checking each LED as I installed it.

If you bulb sockets are corroded that can cause issues with the LEDs. RockAuto sells new sockets, 2 for $3 I think. I ended up buying a ton extra on accident because I thought they were 1 for $3, whoops.

The potentiometer in the headlight switch can very easily become corroded and lower the max voltage to the instrument cluster lighting, you'll want to try and clean this up as much as possible. When I started mine had a standing resistance of almost 30 ohms! This doesn't seem like a lot, but for something that's supposed to be basically a dead short when all the way on, it's considerable. Some time with a small wire brush and contact cleaner took this down to about 2 ohms. Much better! And more intensity to the lights.

In my opinion, totally worth it! Simple upgrade, cheap, and effective. I can't speak for the colored LEDs, but get them from a good supplier and I can't imagine you'd have any major problems.

 
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I got the factory color elite LED kit from the link below and it is a huge difference. Totally worth the extra when considering how often the bulbs go out IMO. I just also recieved a new printed circuit for the back of my gauge cluster because my original was in rough shape. Plan to replace it here shortly. Much brighter than stock even with all the factory bulbs operational. The elite kit maintains the adjustable dimmer circuit so you can adjust the LED's to a comfortable brightness.

http://www.hipoparts.com/1965-73-ford-mustang-led-gauge-light-conversion-kit/

 
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Kit Sullivan

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I tossed all the worn-out blue filters years ago, so I am going to use the blue LED bulbs. They won't match perfect simply because the original yellowish-white light from the stock bulbs filtering through blue lenses produced a greenish hue.

Too bad they don't make the bulbs in the exact greenish color to be used without the filter domes. I'm sure that's coming in a few years...

 

luxstang

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I have LEDs and it was the best investment ever.

Another good advice is to paint the housings inside in flat white. That gives an even reflection and makes the gauges much brighter.

I'm on my phone, so I can't look for my posts but try the search function for my posts with "LED" and my username.

I have posted various pics on here of the result.


Oh, by the way, check with "mustang project". They have the "original style" green LEDs.

 
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I got the factory color elite LED kit from the link below and it is a huge difference. Totally worth the extra when considering how often the bulbs go out IMO. I just also recieved a new printed circuit for the back of my gauge cluster because my original was in rough shape. Plan to replace it here shortly. Much brighter than stock even with all the factory bulbs operational. The elite kit maintains the adjustable dimmer circuit so you can adjust the LED's to a comfortable brightness.

http://www.hipoparts.com/1965-73-ford-mustang-led-gauge-light-conversion-kit/
Where did you get the printed circuit?



I have LEDs and it was the best investment ever.

Another good advice is to paint the housings inside in flat white. That gives an even reflection and makes the gauges much brighter.

I'm on my phone, so I can't look for my posts but try the search function for my posts with "LED" and my username.

I have posted various pics on here of the result.


Oh, by the way, check with "mustang project". They have the "original style" green LEDs.

I put white LED's in stock blue diffusers. I can see the guages great. The color 'may' not be original but I don't care! I can see how fast I am going, i can see the oil and temp, I can see the fuel and RPM. Just an awesome upgrade.

 
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I got the factory color elite LED kit from the link below and it is a huge difference. Totally worth the extra when considering how often the bulbs go out IMO. I just also recieved a new printed circuit for the back of my gauge cluster because my original was in rough shape. Plan to replace it here shortly. Much brighter than stock even with all the factory bulbs operational. The elite kit maintains the adjustable dimmer circuit so you can adjust the LED's to a comfortable brightness.

http://www.hipoparts.com/1965-73-ford-mustang-led-gauge-light-conversion-kit/
MechEng...That was a really good response to Kit. I bought a kit from hipoparts, they have 3 different levels of brightness (and prices)

. Their prices are actually pretty reasonable. I still have to install my new printed circuit board and my white gauges... hopefully this weekend.

Where did you get the printed circuit?
NPD, CJPony, and Cal-Mustang all carry the circuit board.


Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk

 

72HCODE

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couple things.

there are a few different blue or green led kits, i honestly do not remember which company i used,

but i did have some issues.

first,, if you have not done this is years, Change out the voltage regulator on the dash circuit board that is the little device that connects with the 9Volt battery connectors. that is a source of lighting issues, better today is replace the old Bi-metal version with a solid state regulator.

getting to the leds.

1) first the color is horribly off from the originals i guess there is no way around that.

2) do not use the bright LEDS for the turn signals, keep the incandescent bulbs for the turn signals. This is for 2 reasons.

1) i put leds there and every time i signaled for a lane change at night i had a green 100000000 million candle watt beam of light shooting into my eyes.

2) it effects the flasher circuit for emergency lights and turn signals causing the flash unit to malfunction, you would have to retrofit a digital hazard and signal light flasher unit up above the glove box and next to the fuse box. totally not worth it.

3) when you install the leds, you have to double check installation polarity is important and the LEDS are VERY FINICKY and can go intermittent

remember what a pain those black plastic blub screw holders are? well leds make them a real bastard sometimes.

Test with a 9volt or 12 volt battery and some jumper leads on the work bench to make sure everything is lighting up correctly before you go ahead and install into the dash or plug the harness into the Mylar board. that was another problem it would work on the bench and when i went to install it things would move around and stop working again. i used a lot of dielectric grease to keep the points from oxidizing and causing the leds to flutter.

4) I had a major problem with the LED and the brake warning light, it was constantly flicking on and off and i had to go back to a incandescent bulb

now i seem to remember they also gave me a red LED bulb in the kit for the High beams warning light, and i found between the red filter and the red LED it did not work well and i put a incandescent there as well.

So the tally for me was LED kit installed minus 4 LEDS replaced back to original bulbs because of problems.

* turn signals left and right

* high beams indicator

* brake warning light

you already took the blue filters out but for people that didn't you have to remove them and once you do they usually snap apart and fall apart and there is no going back to original.

 
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Where did you get the printed circuit?
NPD, CJPony, and Cal-Mustang all carry the circuit board.
Great post from everyone as I am currently working on the same exact thing...the gauge cluster is out and I am cleaning off each diffuser and just going stick with the standard bulbs/look, just replacing with fresh bulbs. I am also currently working on cleaning all of the lenses (which I used one of those car headlight restore kits) and its looking great...and as far as the circuit board sheet on the back of the cluster, I am picking one up today at my local NPD. $79.95. The current one has got a little bit of corrosion going on. Not bad for over forty years though. Between all of that, the gauge lights should improve prettty good. Not great, but definitely better.

 
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Kinder,

If you're picking up a new circuit maybe consider a new headlight switch as well! If your old one is corroded it could be affecting your lights
Good call...and actually I had to do that about six months back because mine went out on me. I'd be driving at night and every few miles they'd all turn off and eventually come back on. Lol

 

72HCODE

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if your headlights are cycling on/off then your main lights are too high wattage, it gets worse as the switch is older.

but if you want to use more modern halogen bulbs then you need a headlight relay conversion. that will take the load off the headlights switch.

inside the headlights switch is a bi metal fuse(overload) when the headlights switch gets hot this fuse goes off and makes the headlights flicker on and off as it cools and heats up again. that is why an older switch will pop off worse then a new one but you are right on the edge of overload.

the best is a relay bypass kit, or use OEM wattage bulbs.

 

D-Maxx

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Excellent commentary everyone. I will be replacing all dash lighting when mine comes apart. Thanks!

 
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The suggestion not to swap out the turn signal bulbs is good. I didn't experience the blinding light (I didn't try to swap them) but I had never had issues with seeing the turn signals so I left the bulbs in and am happy. I also left bulbs in the high beam and brake indicator lights. My biggest issue was I could not see the gauges at night. Now I can and they look GREAT.

 
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midlife

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couple things.

there are a few different blue or green led kits, i honestly do not remember which company i used,

but i did have some issues.

first,, if you have not done this is years, Change out the voltage regulator on the dash circuit board that is the little device that connects with the 9Volt battery connectors. that is a source of lighting issues, better today is replace the old Bi-metal version with a solid state regulator.
I'm sorry, but that statement is incorrect. Dash lamps are powered through the headlight switch and not the voltage regulator.

 
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Good thread guys...

Question related to headlight comment. I would like to be able to buy some headlights without having to install a relay kit for the higher wattage ones. Does anyone know a brand/part number headlight that will work without issues that has a stock wattage?

Thanks

 
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I tired the "stock color" hipo parts kit. It was better, but not what I really wanted.

IMG_14531.jpg


IMG_14541.jpg


Then I got wide angle green SMD LEDs from superbrightleds.com and that is more like it.

IMG_0104.jpg


And x11entybillion on not using LEDs in the turn indicators. Bright light right into the eyes... "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFFFFFFF!!!!!!1!" I took them out of the mustang and put them into the '73 F-350 instead. They were dim, and aren't inline with my eyes like the mach1.



Good thread guys...

Question related to headlight comment. I would like to be able to buy some headlights without having to install a relay kit for the higher wattage ones. Does anyone know a brand/part number headlight that will work without issues that has a stock wattage?

Thanks
Just get regular halogen replacements. I like the GE Nighthawk line.

 
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