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-   -   The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement (http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=152386)

themrfreeze 03-26-2010 07:06 PM

The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Hi all.

There seems to be quite a few different threads about replacing the bulbs in our S-series instrument clusters, but none of them providing explicit instructions for the whole process. As I have a Gen3 SL2 and needed to replace some bulbs, I thought I'd try to write up a definitive guide for this.

If you have a Gen3 (2000-2002) S-series Saturn, and you notice that some bulbs in the instrument cluster appear to no longer work, then you need to replace some, if not all, of the small light bulbs in your instrument cluster. These bulbs not only provide illumination of the gauges at night, but are also responsible for your DRL indicator, turn signal/flasher indicators, and high beam indicator. Other indicators (like your parking brake light, airbag light, etc. are permanently installed LEDs, and should never need replacing).

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of bulbs you will use. The Gen3 Saturn cluster uses two different kinds of bulbs:

(quantity: 10) Saturn part# 21019274 incandescent bulbs with blue bases
(quantity: 1) Saturn part# 21019273 LED bulb with white base (for odometer)

These bulbs can be purchased from any Saturn parts vendor for $3-$5 each.

You can also opt to replace the bulbs with aftermarket LEDs. LEDs (light emitting diodes) are more durable than incandescent bulbs, and should last the life of the car. The downside is that it's a more involved process to install them, and since the light from an LED is directional, the brightness of your gauges will be a little uneven.

The most popular source for replacement bulbs is [url]http://www.superbrightleds.com[/url]. Their part number B8.5D-W is a direct fit replacement for the factory bulbs, and cost $1.60 each. Note that the -W (white) LEDs have a bluish tint to them, not the amber tint of an incandescent bulb. I'll show you a picture of that later. :) I also suggest you buy a few extras, in case you damage any during installation.

Here's a pic of the blue-based original bulb, and the white-based replacement B8.5D-W bulb:

[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/bulbs.jpg[/IMG]

It is also possible to reuse the existing bases and replace just the incandescent bulb. However, it's a tedious process, and given how cheap the LED replacements are, doesn't seem like a worthwhile use of time (IMHO).

Installation
---------------

The first thing you need to do is disassemble the dashboard so you can remove the instrument cluster to work on it. There are already some good guides online for doing this, provided by other Saturnfans members. Here are two:

[url]http://www.differentracing.com/tech_articles/00-02cluster.html[/url]
[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5araI3Lu6OE[/url]

Note that some guides say you need to unbolt the steering column itself, while others say that removing the shroud behind the steering wheel is sufficient. I found that removing the shroud worked just fine for my car. There are some tricks to doing this though, as described in this video by Richpin:

[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNWe8Vgan6k[/url]

Once you have the cluster removed, look at the back. There's a thin cardboard cover...remove it. Now, it should look like this:

[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/orig_cluster.jpg[/IMG]

Here, you can see the 10 bulbs with blue bases...8 on the back providing rear illumination, and two on the top of the cluster, providing front lighting. You can also see the white base of the LED bulb that illuminates the digital odometer (highlighted by the red arrow).

If you have purchased the Saturn replacement incandescent bulbs, then it's simply a matter of removing the old bulb assemblies (turn them 1/4 turn with a screwdriver, then pop them out), and popping in the new ones. Test them per the instructions below, and you're done.

If you have opted for the LED replacements, then installation becomes more difficult. Unlike an incandescent light bulb, an LED has a specific positive and negative side to it. If you install the LED backwards, then it won't light up. You *could* go through the process of trial-and-error to figure out how to orient all of your LEDs, but I'll show you a quick way to get them right the first time.

First, you need to identify which side of the LED is positive, and which is negative. They are not marked in any way, so you need to test them. To do this, grab a standard 9V battery.

[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/bulb_battery_test.jpg[/IMG]

Lay the LED across the two connectors on the battery (the small connector is the battery's positive terminal, the large connector is negative). If it doesn't light up, reverse the connection. When it lights up, you've identified which side of the LED is which. Mark the NEGATIVE side on the bottom of the base.

Here are some pictures of my cluster with the replacement LEDs in place and oriented correctly. Note that each base has a black '-' sign on it...this identifies the NEGATIVE side of the LED:

[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/mod_cluster_center.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/mod_cluster_right.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/mod_cluster_left.jpg[/IMG]

You'll notice in this last picture that the bulb in the top right corner isn't the same as the other replacements. It is, in fact, the original LED bulb from the odometer. For reasons I couldn't quite figure out, none of my replacement LEDs would work in this socket. Original incandescents worked, and the original LED worked, so I just used the original LED.

In fact, I found that the replacement LEDs were a little finicky, and I had to remove some and bend their contacts with a needlenose pliers to get them to work.

Testing
-----------

Once you have the bulbs installed, you now *need* to test them. Reconnect your cluster and turn on your lights...the gauge illumination lights (rear and front) should come on. Turn on your flashers to see if those two indicators work. Put your key in the 'run' position to see if your odometer illuminates, then turn on your lights, turn on the high beams, and see if that indicator illuminates. Then, disengage your parking brake to see if the DRL indicator illuminates. If everything lights up, you're good to go. If not, verify that you've installed the LED correctly. If the orientation is correct but it doesn't illuminate, remove it, adjust the contacts, and try again.

Eventually, you'll get them all to work. :) Then reassemble your car in the reverse order you took it apart, and pop open a cool one...you're done.

Here's what my instrument cluster looks like with the 8.5D-W LEDs installed...goes well with my aftermarket blue radio:

[IMG]http://mrfreeze.worldwidewhitney.com/saturn/blue_gauges.jpg[/IMG]

ajs_saturn 03-26-2010 08:07 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
On my 2000 SL my odometer bulb was an incadescant with a frosted lense before i replaced it with a blue LED

ruley73 03-27-2010 06:45 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
This is an excellent writeup. It'll come in handy when I install LEDs in my gauges later this year.

FYI it would also be helpful for 2002-2003 Vue and 2000-2002 L-Series owners. They have essentially the same gauges (save for a few miniscule differences).

ajs_saturn 03-27-2010 07:16 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
no, the 2002-2007 vue and 2000-2005 l-series have the same gauge cluster

ruley73 03-29-2010 08:49 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
[QUOTE=ajs_saturn;1603841]no, the 2002-2007 vue and 2000-2005 l-series have the same gauge cluster[/QUOTE]

Only the models I specified have the black face gauges like those in 3rd gen S-Series. The L-Series changed to white face gauges with orange needles in 2003 and the Vue did the same in 2004.

Electrically, the 2003-2005 L-series gauges appear to be the same as the 2000-2002 counterparts. The 2004-2007 Vue gauges are different in that they no longer have the front "theater" lights and don't use a replaceable bulb for the DRL indicator.

Regardless, after researching a bit I think this post would suffice as a good reference for any of these gauge clusters.

lukesteeler89 04-07-2010 03:19 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
dude.... thank you very much!!!

Ashyukun 05-14-2010 09:06 AM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Great write-up!

Is there a definitive guide that you know of that lists just what each bulb does and what color filter (if there is one) is in front of it? For another of my cars, the LED bulb replacement for the cluster uses the specific color LEDs for the application (i.e.: for the green-filtered turn-signal bulbs, use green LEDs) since the full power of the bulb will be transmitted through the color filter vs. filtering out all but the desired color from the full-spectrum (or close enough to it...) white light.

At minimum I'd like to know for certain which (or at least how many) bulbs are used to illuminate the main gauges from behind- given I do a good bit of night driving and as such keep the lights dimmed WAY down I'm looking at replacing the white illumination with red.

Thanks!

themrfreeze 05-15-2010 08:33 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
[QUOTE=Ashyukun;1621214]Great write-up!

Is there a definitive guide that you know of that lists just what each bulb does and what color filter (if there is one) is in front of it?
[/quote]

The only bulb in a Gen3 that's tinted is the odometer bulb...it's tinted yellow (since the LED display itself is clear, the bulb has to provide the color). As such, you don't need to buy tinted bulbs for a Gen3.

The plastic gauge facings are tinted to provide color where needed. This includes the DRL indicator (green), turn signals (green), and high beams (blue). Assuming you put white LEDs behind them, the colors will appear as they should.

[quote]

At minimum I'd like to know for certain which (or at least how many) bulbs are used to illuminate the main gauges from behind- given I do a good bit of night driving and as such keep the lights dimmed WAY down I'm looking at replacing the white illumination with red.

[/QUOTE]

There are two "opera lights" at the top of the cluster that illuminate the cluster from in front of the gauges, and four that illuminate it from behind. If you look at the pic of the cluster I posted above, the bulbs all by themselves on the left and right side are for the gauges. The white one is the odometer. The one in the upper right corner is the DRL indicator. The five that form the "U" in the middle of the cluster are (in order): turn signal / gauge / high beam / gauge / turn signal.

The LEDs are a little dimmer than the incandescent bulbs, but they *will* dim down a bit with the dimmer knob. You cannot use the knob to turn them off though.

Ashyukun 05-16-2010 05:51 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
[QUOTE=themrfreeze;1621631]The only bulb in a Gen3 that's tinted is the odometer bulb...it's tinted yellow (since the LED display itself is clear, the bulb has to provide the color). As such, you don't need to buy tinted bulbs for a Gen3.

The plastic gauge facings are tinted to provide color where needed. This includes the DRL indicator (green), turn signals (green), and high beams (blue). Assuming you put white LEDs behind them, the colors will appear as they should.

There are two "opera lights" at the top of the cluster that illuminate the cluster from in front of the gauges, and four that illuminate it from behind. If you look at the pic of the cluster I posted above, the bulbs all by themselves on the left and right side are for the gauges. The white one is the odometer. The one in the upper right corner is the DRL indicator. The five that form the "U" in the middle of the cluster are (in order): turn signal / gauge / high beam / gauge / turn signal.

The LEDs are a little dimmer than the incandescent bulbs, but they *will* dim down a bit with the dimmer knob. You cannot use the knob to turn them off though.[/QUOTE]
That pretty much answered my question, though not quite exactly as I had intended. :P

I realize that putting white LEDs behind everything will result in everything being the right color, but the idea was to put the appropriately-colored LEDs behind the already tinted faceplace, the idea being that the nearly-monochromatic light from the colored LEDs would pass through the colored faceplate and lose less overall brightness than the white ones where much of the light would be blocked. For the things that are tinted (DRL, High Beams, Blinkers) you need to be able to see them well in the daylight, so less lost light is better.

I'm planning on picking up (and have ordered) red LEDs to replace the four general cluster backlights and potentially the opera lights as well- hopefully that will give me the effect I'm looking for when driving at night. If not- since they're cheap, I also ordered the white LEDs for the same locations in case I really don't like how it looks.

themrfreeze 05-16-2010 07:59 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Ah, I see what you're saying. I'll be curious to know if matching LED color to the filter in front of it actually has an affect on brightness of the indicator or not.

patty_b 05-20-2010 07:58 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I ordered 2 extra bulbs and thankfully I did, the top (opera) ones snapped while trying to put them in. I like the op only had to take off the dash cover which made this quite easy.

I've left the dash cover off after this project to see if I can find a horrible rattle that seems to be coming from under the dash cover. We'll see.

This is a great car for a tinkerer like me.

pushead2 05-31-2010 02:45 AM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
I have an 1992 Saturn and I'd like to replace my GE 73 bulbs with LEDs. Is it even possible and which bulb would I need?

isoOctane 07-27-2010 08:07 AM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Do the high power LEDs also work in this application, and would they illuminate a bit more evenly?

Has anyone used the blue over the white and preferred it (or has pictures of the blue, low or high powered?)

TvSteve 07-27-2010 03:00 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
I was lucky to find a 99 SL2 white Homecomming IP at the pick&pull yesterday. I put it on the bench today and I found a surprising note. The 4 rear gauge illumination bulbs do absolutely nothing. The white gauge faces are solid. The only light on the panel is from the 2 opera lights. That sucks for modding the IP. I pulled out an extra 98 IP and yes the rear lamps do backlight the IP.

IVIYTH0S 11-20-2010 05:09 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Kickass!! Just installed all mine, though I ordered the "HP" (High Power) versions of the LEDs from that awesome website.

I had to take everything apart twice since I didn't test them the first time :rolleyes: . Though now I'm a pro at getting that sucker out....I realize in the future I'm going to have to take it apart AGAIN since I forgot to put that cardboard backing in there :dizzy:

I found a trick to get them all to work was to pull them outwards once they were turned in the right way, it did the trick for getting them all to fire :yes:

IVIYTH0S 12-17-2010 10:07 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Better late than never, here's my shot with my "HP" Led install
[IMG]http://i222.photobucket.com/albums/dd109/iviyth0s/HPLedDash.png[/IMG]

themrfreeze 12-18-2010 11:06 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Nice! I'm wondering if you find the dash too bright, or are the high power ones okay? The regular ones are fine, but I think they're a bit dimmer than the stock incandescent bulbs.

pamartin7 12-20-2010 02:27 AM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
Would these work on a 98 sc too? or would it require a different size bulb? because I want those blue HP LED lights that will go with the cd player I'm putting in before long, thanks :D

themrfreeze 12-21-2010 07:58 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
The different generation S-series cars have different cluster layouts, and take different bulbs. As such, these instructions aren't accurate for a '98. I think that if you do some searches though, you'll find threads that talk about the 2nd gen clusters.

alordofchaos 12-22-2010 05:04 PM

Re: The definitive guide to Gen3 S-series instrument cluster bulb replacement
 
[QUOTE=themrfreeze;1693146]The different generation S-series cars have different cluster layouts, and take different bulbs. As such, these instructions aren't accurate for a '98. I think that if you do some searches though, you'll find threads that talk about the 2nd gen clusters.[/QUOTE]
This one, for example
[url]http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=136986&highlight=bulb[/url]

Note that even in the 2nd gens, there were variations in the bulb holders used. I posted a picture of the back of my 98 somewhere and it is slightly different than rc1488's.


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