Giving the Gauge Cluster a makeover

I currently own a 91.5 Dodge CTD and these photos and notes are from working on that truck.

All the images on this page can be clicked to view the larger version of the picture.

Gauge Cluster With Faded Needles.

Over the years the sun has taken it's toll on the factory gauges. After installing some new Autometer Z-Series gauges the factory gauge cluster looks down right sick. I decided I wanted to repaint the needles, polish the plastic lens and give it a new look.

Below I will outline what I did and what products I used to do the restoration. The match is pretty much dead on with the Z-Series needles. The flash tended to wash out the look of the finished gauges. Trust me..it looks good ;) And they are bright!

Removal From Vehicle.

Removal is very basic. The dash bezel must be removed, If you've replaced the stereo it's the same thing. If not here is how it's done.

  • Remove 2 screws holding the under dash light
  • Remove the screws under the top edge of the bezel and the one near the top of the radio
  • Set the temp control and fan to the middle positions
  • Set the parking brake and the shift the truck into 1st
  • Slowly work the bezel out from the top edge and be careful of the power mirror switch ( if equiped) and pull the bezel out top first
  • Slip the under dash light up throught the hole in the bezel
  • Reach over the top of the bezel and disconnect the round plug going to the message center
  • Remove the bezel

  • Before removing the gauge cluster, on automatics, you must disconnect the shift indicator. There is a small hook that slides into a notch on the column.

    There should be some extra string on there like a tail you can use to disconnect and reconnect the indicator. Make note of what slot it is in and gently pull the hook out.

  • Remove the screws around the top and bottom of the gauge cluster to remove it. It's the phillip screws, NOT the Torx screws.
  • Once you have the screws removed, look on the right side and you will see that the gauge cluster is hooked behind the climate control box. It just slips over the top of it. It acts as a reinforcement for the controls.
  • Slide the top edge of the cluster out and look for the two connectors on the back side. One is on the left side and it's grey in color. Disconnect that. Then on the right side there is a round connector that looks like the one on the message center. Disconnect that.
  • The cluster should be free to remove now.

    Disassembly.



    Here is the Gauge cluster before the needle restoration. Some care has to be taken once you get the lens taken off. Do not knock the speedo needle down past it's resting space. Care should be taken with all the needles while working on them.


    To remove the lens, remove the (8) T-20 (Torx bit) screws around the paremeter of the lens. Once the lens is removed place it to the side for now.

    Gently lift the black bezel of the front of the gauge cluster.

    This is what you should be left with. Notice the faded sections of the needles and the parts that were protected by the black bezel.

    Prep for Paint.

    Here's the items used for the project.

    Very fine paintbrush. I've had this brush for years. It's a Model Master #000 Red Sable Round. Very fine tipped brush

    Above is 2 pics of the paint. It's Testors Model Master Fluorescent Red #FS28915. It's bright and obnoxous looking. I bought 2 colors and the one I thought it was going to be was way to dark. This one was a great match for the Z-Series gauges. Remeber it's going on a narrow needle and it's surrounded by black. It looks great when it's done because the black actualy tones it down. I you understand colors and lighting you'll know the black is a light sponge.

    In this shot you can really see the faded sections on the needles

    I took some printing paper and cut small squares out. I cut a slit up the middle and then slid them under the needles and around the pins. No paint on the black parts. It's semi flat and you may ruin it trying to get the paint off. If you dont have a steady hand I suggest placing 2 pieces of tape on speedo needle where the round pin scetion is.

    Shake and Stir the bottle of paint. And then shake it again, And then some more ;) Did you shake it?

    Apply light even coats going from needle to needle. You'll notice that on the small gauges the round section and tail aren't exposed. You can save some time and ignore that part of the needle.

    I coated the needles making sure to run the brush the length of the needle so it would stay smooth and not have a bumpy/glopy look to them. I went around and did 3-4 light coats and then let it dry a bit. I took this time to polish the lens.

    Meguiar's Mirror Glaze #10 Plastic Polish

    This stuff works great. I've had it for years and I used it on my vehicles and around the house. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth ( non scratching cloth ) and start polishing. You can do the inside and outside. Just make sure the inside doesn't have any lingering fuzzys.

    As for the black bezel. Be careful with it. You can clean it up if you wish, but use a mild detergent or possibly household window cleaner. You can also use Q-tips to clean the areas like the numbers and lines. Don't rub to hard with a cloth because you may gloss the flat finish.

    Ok..back to the needles. Once you have a good coating on them, let them dry a bit before you slap everything back together. Below are some pics of the results. Like I said, the flash and the lighting don't do the end result justice. They look great in the truck!






    Site created and maintained by Denis Hruza hruzaden@yahoo.com Last Edit: 3/5/05