NBS instrument panel relamping example with photos

Discussion in 'GM Electrical Tech' started by Jamm3r, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Jamm3r

    Jamm3r Member 2 Years 100 Posts

    Well everyone loves pictures of a good project and I'm here to please. A couple of weeks ago it was time to Do Something about the dash lights that were going out in my '04 burb. Thanks to Pikey I was able to determine that the gauge cluster had already been rebuilt once before beginning, and I did discover a rebuilder's tag on it showing that it was rebuilt when the truck was about two years old.

    I got a little bag of solder-on lights from dallasclusterrepair.com.

    So here's the cluster out of the truck and with the the cover and the back carefully pried off. Not much to it, just use a screwdriver, go slow, and be careful not to break any tabs.
    Now I moved all the pointers all the way to each one's most counterclockwise position using my fingers. This is further counterclockwise than the "rest" position that the instruments will have with key off. Then I took photos so I knew exactly where each pointer must go, for re-installation, with particular attention to detail for the speedometer and the fuel gauge.


    Then I removed the pointers by using a dinner fork. I put the fork under each one and pulled straight up. It took a fair amount of force.

    I went back to the truck and with great care reconnected the connector. With the rear housing gone the connector key isn't there. The connector is always hot and so if I had lined up the pins off by one I could have toasted something. But I wasn't sure at this point whether I was going to replace all the lamps and wanted to mark the ones that were bad. The white area is the area that is illuminated. The lamps outside this area are for the cruise and the turn signals. Here's what it looked like with the headlamp switch on. If you look carefully you can see that four of the lamps are burned out:


    Well it turned out to be no big deal at all to do these so I ended up replacing all of them. Here's an example. The plastic tower thingies are there in the stock lamps just to make automated pick-and-place work out better, and so I didn't reuse them. The new lamps were a little taller and just to avoid clearance problems I put them on their sides:


    The actual soldering was the easy part. After everything was together I went back to the truck for an operational check:

    Then it was easy enough to reassemble the pieces and push the pointers back on. I was careful not to get any dust or fingerprints inside and wiped off the inside of the clear plastic cover with a lens wipe.

    The final results with the trim on look like this:


    So I was very pleased, it all looks just like stock, cheap, and not a difficult repair really.

    Then it was onto the HVAC controls.


    This is a more complicated piece for two reasons. The lamps are soldered thru-hole making them somewhat more difficult to remove:


    And they have this blue plastic cover on them to give the light a cooler quality. I suppose with some more checking I could have found lamps that were just right, but I had some more of the ones from the cluster in hand and used those. It took some fiddling to get them soldered in sideways in a way that everything would fit together without the lamps hitting the housing, and also in such a way that they wouldn't short out later:


    The appearance is OK and I can see which button is the rear defrost now at night.


    But the color cast is a little towards the warm side and they're a tad too bright to match everything else. Not bad. I think if I had it to do over again I'd pay rock auto the $100 for a new control, but I'm going to leave my repair in place for now.
  2. BRB46

    BRB46 Rockstar 100 Posts

    Nice job and writeup. I am going to be doing mine in blue LED soon.already have everything done but the cluster. How much clearance is there from the solder points to the back of the piece with the numbers on it. I have some LED's with built in resistors but they maybe too tall to use. It would simplify the upgrade as well.
  3. Jamm3r

    Jamm3r Member 2 Years 100 Posts

    There's quite a lot of room and also the possibility of putting the resistor and led on its side.
  4. BRB46

    BRB46 Rockstar 100 Posts


    I was able to take out the cluster and install the LED's. there was plenty of room to use the ones I had with built in resistors. Entire process took less than an hour. I will need to remove it again as I didn't put the oil pressure needle on quite where it was and a couple lamps have a bit to much glare for me. Should be able to angle them back to fix that.
  5. Smoke Em All

    Smoke Em All Member

    Good write up!! Can someone point me in the direction of a good place to buy LED bulbs and what part numbers I need for all the various places to replace such as cluster, ac controls, door switches, and radio if possible. Thanks.
  6. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    great write up. As far as the little bulbs in the climate control go, they are the same as the ones in the steering wheel controls. I used 272-1092 bulbs from Radio shack, they are 12v 60ma. They run $1.99 for a pack of two. Alternatively, you can use 272-1154, they are 12v 50ma. They come with a new plastic base and run $2.20 for one. You can then pull the blue condom off of the old bulbs and install them on the new bulbs. I installed some without the blue cover and they looked rear yellow compared to the stock bulbs, so I disassembled again and added the covers
  7. Smoke Em All

    Smoke Em All Member

    I'm looking for colored LED bulbs. is this what you are refering to?
  8. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    no, they were standard bulbs
  9. Smoke Em All

    Smoke Em All Member

    Oh ok I'm looking for the leds. Thanks though I appreciate the attempted assist.
  10. Cheez

    Cheez Rockstar 100 Posts

    I usually order my LEDs from ebay. If you're impatient like I usually am be sure it's a US seller.

    To replace them all takes a bit of work but it can be done with a bag of 100 LEDs or so (you'll only need 20-30) and some 470 ohm resistors.

    Very nice writeup Jamm3r! I've never seen somebody replace them with incandescent.

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