How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

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How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Bing » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:01 pm

A nice little mod driven by a Z4-itis induced impulse buy of red ///M needles. I am not sure if anyone will ever need this as it is not a mod I have seen before, but you never know. I guess powerontap must have done it as the needles came from him – and credit for the description goes to him, pics taken by me.

Note that you do not need to disconnect the battery for this operation, however do NOT move the car once the cluster is out – if you do then the dash mileage reading and the engine mileage reading will not be the same, which I believe will lead to the dreaded tamper dot…

So, step-by-step, starting with removing the instrument cluster. No pics for this bit I’m afraid – but if I can figure it out then anyone can :

1. Lower tilt and pull steering wheel if so equipped

2. Remove the single torx screw at top center of instrument cluster. You will need a short torx screwdriver for this, or use a torx bit and some pliers as I did

3. Gently pull the whole unit out, tilting it over the steering wheel – takes a bit of wiggling but there are no clips to break so pull firmly

4. Only one connection needs to be handled - a white retainer clip needs to be tilted towards the cluster backing. Use a small screwdriver to push down the clip that prevents the white clip from tilting by itself.

5. Pull the harness off

Next, take the cluster someplace to work on it.

6. From the back of the cluster, you need to remove the 4 small silver torx screws – you will need a very small one, of the size used for opening up computers. Locations shown with green arrows below :

Image

Have a couple of small flat screwdrivers with you for the next step.

7. Start by releasing the 3 clips at bottom of cluster unit, marked with red arrows below :

Image

8. Then, one by one, release the two upper side clips as you are gently pulling the backing from the main unit, marked with the red arrow below :

Image

9. Now, you need to release the two upper side clips (white area) that will appear once the backing is removed, marked with the red arrow below :

Image

10. Only the two button shafts (clock set/reset) now hold the actual instrument electronics base to the front part. They are held by two small clips, circled in the pic below – use a small flathead screw driver to press each down in turn, giving the based a pull as you do each to keep it unclipped. Then gently pull straight out to separate the white cluster electronics base from the front housing.

Image

Now you have the gauge cluster face to work on.

Image

What is critical at this point is to protect your cluster face from scratches, as you will be using two spoons to pull the 4 needles off.

Powerontap cut a small square piece of parchment paper and then cut a small nook into it, enabling him to put the paper around the base of the needle shaft. You want the piece of parchment paper to cover about 4cm around the needle base. I used masking tape, pic below :

Image

11. Note the space between the needle and the gauge face, when you’re pushing the new ones in, this will give you a reference on how far down you need to push them.

12. You now need to position the needles at their start point. I had marked the start points at the end of the needles on the tape with a pencil. Note that they move REALLY easily, which can become a pain if you are not careful.

13. Now take two spoons and position the mouth part opposite to each other under the needle, right where the shaft is located. This position is important to avoid snapping the needles. Also, you probably want to use really diddy ‘sugar bowl’ spoons so you don’t have to force them under the edge of the needles. Since spoons have a rounded shape, this will enable you to push down on their handles while creating a rocking effect that will push the needles off from their base. The parchment paper on which the needles are resting during this procedure will prevent any scratches to the gauge faces. You also need to be careful not to bend plastics at the bottom of the gauge face on the rev side, and to not bend the top of the ODO plastics on the speedo side.

14. As you are pulling the old needles off, it's important not to have the needles move from their start point to ensure that the new ones will calibrate speed and RPM properly. If you have a spare person in the house have them hold the cluster for you so it does not rock. If it rocks, the needles move mid-operation… In fact the needles can move anyway just from uneven force on each of the spoons, so if they do then re-set them to the start point before trying again.

15. You should feel a small clicking noise once they start moving up, at this point you can finish the removal with your fingers if you have long / strong finger nails… I don’t, so I used the spoons the whole way till they popped off.

16. Repeat same procedure for all 4 needles.

Now you need to install the new needles, which needs some care :

17. Position each needle over their respective hole so that the tip is set at the start point you marked (should be zero position, first bar, however you want to call it)

18. The goal here is the push them straight in with your fingers, until you feel them clicking in. Have someone hold the cluster again because you absolutely need to make sure the needles don’t move the spindle in each hole… otherwise calibration will be out. More on that below… Before over-pushing, you may want to look at the space they sit from the gauge face, and compare to the space you noticed before removal. This will give you a good guideline on whether or not you need to push down some more. If you ever push down too much (needle actually rubbing against the gauge face, you'll need to pull them back out and start over. As a guide there appears to be two clicks – one and the needle is in, then one when it is sitting right. Again, make sure the needle doesn’t move.

At this point, your gauges are looking mighty good :

Image

In the pic above you can see where the spoons have rubbed on the masking tape, hence the need for it. I was worried this may somehow have transferred through onto the dials, but it was all fine, as you can see :

Image

19. Now bring the bare cluster back and plug it into its harness in the dash. When you do this you will hear a short buzzing sound – this is the speedo needle calibrating. Turn ignition on to second notch, turn lights on and check that everything is OK. Your fuel needle should return to its proper position and the 3 other needles should be at their start point. If for some reason the speedo needle is not at the zero mark, then you need to note the discrepancy and start over by removing it and correcting the distance it was off from its start point. If you don’t then your actual speed will be affected accordingly. I got the other three needles right, but had to do this 3 or 4 times – the thing is, you have to get the needle off from the wrong position straight, then put it back on at the correct mark straight… it’s just damned fiddly.

20. When everything is good, unplug and install the instruments back into the cluster covers. Make sure there is no dust or particles on the gauge faces before you put everything back together – mine had years of accumulated dust behind the clear plastic that had been annoying the hell out of me, so this was a ‘bonus’ of taking it all apart.

21. Simply follow the reverse procedure to lock the white cluster electronics base back against the front piece. Be sure to align the plastic guides of the front cover into their respective holes of the cluster base. I say this because you shouldn't be forcing anything, if the guides are not aligned to their respective holes you may end up scratching the centre part of the gauge face (the piece between the two main gauges). The clips and the holes they go in are circled / arrowed below :

Image

22. When those two pieces are well aligned, they will gently clip back together with no effort. Now you will see the two buttons (clock/reset) trying to move out as you are clipping the units together, no problem, you can simply align their shaft straight and push the clips back in.

23. Reinstall the back cover by clipping it back into place (very easy and smooth operation)

24. Put the 4 screws back in (don't over-torque them, it's all plastic in there).

All back together :

Image

25. Now just reattach to the loom, screw the instrument cluster back into place and enjoy!

Image

Not a great shot because of shadows :

Image


Have to say, I love this mod – very subtle, but just gives a bit more life to the dash. Thanks to powerontap for the needles and his comprehensive guide :thumbsup:
Last edited by Bing on Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Woody » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:33 pm

Wow, fair play to you Bing for doing this How To, must've taken you hours! Dedication to the forum right there :thumbsup: Thankfully I already have the needles, having an M already :wink: But I'm sure this will help a lot of people out :)
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Stuart Truman » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:34 pm

Nice write up and looking good! :thumbsup:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by pvr » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:37 pm

Good write up (except for the all important missing beginning bits :rofl: ).

Do I see some dust particles behind the plastic now? :evil:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Bing » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:51 pm

Cheers guys. Credit for most of the words needs to go to powerontap who sent me a lengthy email that I have just supplemented here and there.
pvr wrote:Good write up (except for the all important missing beginning bits :rofl: ).
I assume you mean the single missing bit, which would make the write up real short - "Buy an ///M" :D
pvr wrote:Do I see some dust particles behind the plastic now? :evil:
Nope, they were on the outside of the clear plastic. All gone now :wink:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Swiftly » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:52 pm

A very good write up Bing, and the red needle dials look fantastic :thumbsup:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by andysat » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:00 pm

Great job and write up mate!-you have big kahuna's for attempting this in the first place!-well done! :thumbsup:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Bing » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:12 pm

Thanks boys - it was actually easier than I expected, but it is a bit scary taking something so important apart :cry:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by andysat » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:20 pm

Bing wrote:Thanks boys - it was actually easier than I expected, but it is a bit scary taking something so important apart :cry:
+1 :cry:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by pvr » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:20 pm

That coffee spoon has seen better days though :P
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Stuart Truman » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:26 pm

pvr wrote:That coffee spoon has seen better days though :P
Good god, how OCD do you need to be to spot that? :poke: :lol:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Bing » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:19 pm

Stuart Truman wrote:
pvr wrote:That coffee spoon has seen better days though :P
Good god, how OCD do you need to be to spot that? :poke: :lol:
I keep the gold plated set for spooning oil into the car :roll:

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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by ZermattV » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:58 pm

Swiftly wrote:A very good write up Bing, and the red needle dials look fantastic :thumbsup:
+1 - good stuff - I'm smiling at the thought of sopers getting a few phone calls in the morning
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by srhutch » Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:08 pm

Well done bing :thumbsup:

That's your first real mod if I'm not mistaken.

Still would have been easier to buy and ///M though :poke:
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Re: How To Change Instrument Cluster / Dial Needles

Post by Bing » Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:24 pm

ZermattV wrote:
Swiftly wrote:A very good write up Bing, and the red needle dials look fantastic :thumbsup:
+1 - good stuff - I'm smiling at the thought of sopers getting a few phone calls in the morning
I did wonder if anyone would ask where they can get some - never thought of Sopers :slaphead:

They didn't cost much - $34 delivered from Canada IIRC, so cheaper than a decent set of wheel centre caps.

Should've said, all in it took me about 90mins. 20mins of which was getting the speedo right...
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