View Full Version : Change the color of your gauges

AWD Bishop
10-18-2010, 12:38 AM
Well this is my first DIY. I didn't take pics along the way (except the completed project) and I am not trying to get super detailed, I just wanted to share my process to do this.

For those who own a 2000 RS or older (and possibly some newer) you know that one big cosmetic issue is the lights in the gauge cluster. They are this hideous dim green. It seems like, unless it is the dead of night, there is no illumination. Well, I decided that I wanted to change that. So I started looking around the different subaru forums and found a thread on how to change out the lights on your gauge cluster. So I decided to do it (with a little modification)

The first thing I did was purchase some LED bulbs for the cluster to make sure that there was plenty of light. the ones for my cluster were 3 #74 and a single #194 for the main cluster. There are also about 12 more #74 bulbs for all of the various warning and other notification lights.

you can find the #74 bulbs here http://www.superbrightleds.com/cgi-bin/store/index.cgi?action=DispPage&category=CAR&Page2Disp=%2Fspecs%2F74_t15.htm
and the 194 here http://www.superbrightleds.com/cgi-bin/store/index.cgi?action=DispPage&Page2Disp=%2Fmini-wedge.html

I chose to go with cool white bulbs because it fit the styling of my car best.

The cluster itself is pretty easy to remove. 2 screws at the top, pull out the bezel (there will be 2 pieces that pop out at the bottom) followed by 3 more screws (one at the top and one at each bottom corner to remove the actual cluster.

There are 3 connectors at the top rear of the cluster that must be disconnected in order to remove the cluster. Once that is done, the cluster should come right out.

Now, a big reason for the dim green lighting is due to this horrible green film on the back of the gauges. In order to get to this, you must remove the needles from the cluster to remove the gauge skin. Be careful because you do not want to snap the needles. they come out but you must pull them straight out and with a little force, you must also remove the clip under the needles before the gauge skins will come off.
Also, something within the gauge cluster calibrates the needles and when putting them back in, after everything is all done, it is likely that the needles accuracy will be off. I will address this later.

Once the needles are removed, you will see a green layer under a black and white dotted layer. both layers need to be removed so that there is a clear view of the back side of the gauges.there are two ways to try and remove the crap off the back either denatured alcohol / solvent alcohol or an X-acto knife. I tried to find denatured alcohol but had no luck, so I went with option 2, the X-acto knife.

The process was fairly easy. after about 45 minutes, the back was clear of any of the green crap. You can choose to either clear the entire back or just focus on the lettering and ticks on the gauges.

once the crap is removed, you can put the gauges back together in the reverse order you removed them. I suggest leaving the plastic cover off the gauges so that the gauges can be adjusted for accuracy.

Next is to put your LED bulbs in. For the main cluster lighting, there are 3 twist lock bulbs that are blue and one twistlock on the right side (the same side as the gas and oil temp gauges) that is larger than the rest. Replace the blue ones with your #74 bulbs and the large one, you will need to pull out, remove the bulb in the twist lock and replace it with the #194 LED bulb and put them all back in. at this point you can choose to remove the other twist lock bulbs and replace them with LEDs but these will only show when the pertaining warning light goes on.

now put the cluster back in. At this point the cluster should be all ready to go and should be much brighter and the color you chose. The one thing that will still need to be tested and addressed is the accuracy of the gauges. the must have been calibrated before leaving the factory because when the needles are removed and placed back in the cluster, they tend to be inaccurate.

So what I did was to have a friend drive my car, and drive at a set speed (have someone else drive next to you) now I pulled out the needle slightly adjusted the needle to the correct speed and popped it back in. This worked for the speedometer. I suggest for the gas, remember its location before starting this project so you can adjust it back (if needed) when complete. For the oil temp, take a drive before and after the car has been driven for a bit, note when the needle sits. Now after the project, go on that same drive and at the point you noted the needle before, make the change so it matches. Now for the tach, the best thing to do is to note what your RPMs sit at when driving a certain speed. Once you have all your other gauges set, go and take a drive and set the tach in relation to that speed.

So that is it. While not a difficult project, it can be a little tedious. Here is a pic of my finished gauges:


You will notice that the fuel gauges is much brighter and that is because it is directly in front of the #194 bulb. I am thinking that the best way to resolve that would be to use a couple of light coats of black model paint. This would be a bit of a trial and error to dull the brightness down but it should work.

10-18-2010, 03:24 PM
Nice...that looks sharp! And BRIGHT 8) !


AWD Bishop
10-18-2010, 10:52 PM
Thanks. I am happy with the mod except 2 things. The fuel gauge is too bright and the needles still aren't configured right. Needles with just take some playing with. The bright fuel gauge, I'm not sure what I'll do but I am happier with it now than when it was the ugly dull green.

10-21-2010, 01:52 AM
Thanks. I am happy with the mod except 2 things. The fuel gauge is too bright and the needles still aren't configured right. Needles with just take some playing with. The bright fuel gauge, I'm not sure what I'll do but I am happier with it now than when it was the ugly dull green.

This is why you don't take needles off. I learned the hard way on my old crx. Broke the fuel gauge needle on that cluster and had to go by the milage from then on.
I thought I had seen you can take a piece of sandpaper in between the gauge face and the green layer. Sand off the green layer and you done. It might be a little more tedious but sounds safer.

It does look good though.

10-21-2010, 02:07 AM
Yeah. Just slide the paper under without removing the needles.

I did that.

AWD Bishop
10-21-2010, 09:27 AM
Yeah. Just slide the paper under without removing the needles.

I did that.
Where were you guys before I did this? :lol:

I am happy that I didn't break them it is just they are a little out of calibration. I think they are all back correctly but need to have someone drive along side me to match speeds. I used my GPS to get my initial calibration. I know that my GPS is approx. 3mph off of actual so as long as that stays true, speed should be dead on.

Calibrated the tach based on idle (considering I didn't have a read on my tach prior to doing the gauges. I could be 100-200 rpms off but I think it is tied in now.

Fuel gauge seems to be good but need to run through a few tanks of gas to be sure.

Only one that I think is still a little off is the Oil temp. before it would be in the bottom 1/4 of the spectrum after driving, right now it is a little higher than 1/3 so still need an adjustment.

AWD Bishop
10-21-2010, 09:31 AM

The pic of my finished gauges is slightly skewed. On the Speedo and Tach, there are some dim spots. For this reason, I think I am going to get 2 match color LED strip lights and run them along the inside edge of the cluster so that I kill any dead spots.

11-06-2010, 11:50 AM
when i did this to my stock cluster i was almost done an the speedo needle popped off. It never went right again and my tach was a little slow. i ended up just buying a new cluster.