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Old 11-24-2009, 02:35 PM   #1
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2001 SL1
Information Experiences Changing IP Lights in my 2001 SL1

This weekend, I finally got around to replacing some burnt out lights in the instrument panel of my new (to me) 2001 SL1. I'm sharing my experiences here in case it might be of use to someone.

When I got the car in September, one theatre light wasn't working, so I popped the top off the dash and found it was just not turned far enough. An easy fix. However, after that, my odometer backlight stopped working, and I also noticed that my DRL indicator had never worked.

I then spent several weeks perusing these forums to decide what to do next. It was a toss-up between LEDs and light bulbs.

My first stop was PartsSource (a branch of Canadian Tire as near as I can tell, since they carry all the same stuff). They had the #74 bulbs used in the IP, but only as loose bulbs. Contrary to what the guy in the store tried to tell me, the bulbs cannot be unplugged from their blue plastic sockets and new ones plugged in. The existing bulbs have thin wire leads that are spot-welded to the contacts in the sockets.

After that, I decided to go with LEDs from I ordered them a few weeks ago and they arrived early last week. Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed. I bench tested all of them with a 12V supply, and two of them didn't light up unless I wiggled the LED. The LED in each of these two non-working units felt very loose, like it was held in by only one of its leads. I pulled it apart and found that that was in fact the case. The solder connection between the (unnecessary) built-in diode and the LED had broken. After repairing and reassembling the two defective LEDs, I was ready to tear the dash apart.

I followed the instructions at DifferentRacing's web site getting the IP cluster out: remove the dash top, remove the end panel (with the door switch), remove the panel under the steering wheel, remove the main bezel, unscrew and remove the cluster. I didn't have to drop the steering wheel; just adjusting it downward as far as it would go did the trick.

Once I had the cluster out, I took it into my workshop to put the LEDs in (I decided I'd plug it back in when done and rotate all the non-working ones 180 degrees after that). Guess what? They didn't fit!!!

The LEDs I ordered where the B8.4 style. I think I figured out what the 8.4 stands for: it's the size of the hole they fit into, 8.4mm. Well, the B8.4 units from where 8.8mm in diameter, and would not fit into the holes in the back of the panel.

Now what? It was Sunday afternoon, I had the dash in pieces, and I still had two bulbs to replace!

Well, I decided to make my own B8.4 LEDs for the odometer and DRL indicator:

1. I pulled the burnt out bulbs out of their sockets, clipping the wires where they were spot welded onto the socket's contacts.

2. I pulled the contacts out of the socket, cleaned the large flat area on each with very fine emery cloth, and tinned them with solder.

3. I drilled four 1/32" holes in the back of each socket (the hexagonal end), arranged in a diamond pattern. Two holes went through the ends of the screwdriver slot, and two were lined up with the metal contacts inside the socket.

4. Through one of the holes lined up with the contacts, I inserted a 680 Ohm resistor which I then soldered to the contact inside the socket (had to do this quickly to avoid melting the socket).

5. I inserted a length of solid wire through the other hole and soldered it to the other contact.

6. I took a clear-lensed ultrabright LED of the appropriate colour (I used green for the DRL and red for the odometer) and sawed the rounded lens off, giving a stubbier LED with a translucent surface.

7. I inserted the LED into ("onto" technically) the socket, with the leads going through the remaining two holes at the back of the socket. I soldered one to the resistor lead, and one to the wire, and clipped off the excess.

Basically what the above describes is how to make 12V LEDs like the ones that superbrightleds sell, except with the resistor on the outside, and no polarity protection diode (it doesn't need it, because an LED is a diode).

I inserted these into their respective holes on the back of the instrument panel, and they both worked (of course, I got them both in the wrong way around the first time).

This worked so well, I decided to replace the turn signal and high-beam lights with LEDs as well. I used green LEDs for the turn signals as one would expect, but for the high-beam I used a red LED instead of a blue one. I have always found the high-beam indicator to be too bright. Since it has a blue lens in front of it and a red LED emits only red light, I figured it would be much dimmer. It turns out I was right, and now my high-beam indicator is a nice purple colour.

Finally, I really liked the red instrument and theatre lighting that some of you on this site have done with LEDs, but I didn't feel like making any more 12V LEDs. So, I took a rather old-fashioned approach instead. I took the lamps out and painted the bulbs with translucent red enamel (Testor's "Ruby Red" plastic model paint). This worked quite well, although the lights on the tach are less red than the ones on the speedometer (a matter of how thick the paint went on).

Finally, I put everything back together, and it all works. While reassembling things, I came to the conclusion that I could probably have removed the instrument cluster by only taking the dashboard top off, which I'll try next time I have to replace a bulb.
Stefan Vorkoetter
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:46 PM   #2
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1999 SC2
2003 VUE 2.2L
Default Re: Experiences Changing IP Lights in my 2001 SL1

This is great information. Thanks for posting!

I replaced my wiper motor today...and in the proces, I think I broke my odometer light! (oops!) At least the odometer still works. So, I'll have to dig into my panel to replace my bulbs now.

At 140,000+ miles, I'm not sure if I'll go the LED route, but what's to lose?
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bulb, dash lights, instrument cluster, led, sl1 '01

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