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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just occurred to me that a lot of people probably won't read a thread labeled "Just a Thought" ( http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f259/just-thought-207505/index2.html ), myself included normally, but it's starting to contain some very useful info if you are interested in modifying a 2005-2007 Elise / Exige gauge cluster. I figured a dedicated post may help organize things, and I'll probably upload some pictures as I proceed with the mods I'll be doing. Also the Mall thread isn't 'really' the place for general discussion, so this should work..

First off, there's the replacement faceplates. I'd wanted to do my own since I bought the car (never liked the white / grey look, and my backlight is almost non-existent these days). I traced over the stock face in CAD and printed it out, but hadn't had time to get farther than that. Recently I saw an innocent-enough post in the Mall by Sugeray selling a leftover gauge face he'd had made. ( http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f95/sale-custom-elise-gauge-faces-208033/index10.html ) It blew up into a quick group-buy, and Sugeray did a great job of wrangling cats to get an order placed. Much easier and quicker than finishing my design and getting them made!

In both threads mentioned, we brought up the fact that you can very easily (well, if you don't mind cracking open your cluster..) swap out the LCD screen for just about any color you can imagine. Literally - you can choose standard colors, or an RGB one that with a little extra wiring would let you pick any RGB color value.

Personally, I'll be installing a red faceplate in my car, replacing the needles with backlit red ones, and installing LED lighting instead of my burned out orange EL panel. Not sure how fast I'll get to any of this as I never seem to have time to work on anything these days, but let's get started... :)
 

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Bring the noise Rice! :up:

I have a gauge face and plexi coming from the group buy, but I'm happy to let that sit while the rest of the goodies get figured out. I'm a patient guy.
 

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I have the first black face cluster face installed in mines right now! Love the look of it, interesting in the EL color swap [into something brighter] and lit up needle!! SUBBEDD
 

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On some videos I thought I was seeing rpm/shift indicator lights on the dashes of some Eliges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
First some pictures for those interested about what's inside a stock '05 cluster. (presumably the same from '05-'07)

First, the inside of the front housing with circuit board (PCB) + LCD removed. All black plastic, so unfortunately just adding LEDs inside won't light up a faceplate..





Next, the front housing with the faceplate and LCD removed. I've marked this cluster where I'll cut out 'horseshoe' shapes and install white diffusing plastic. Then I'll install LED boards inside the cluster to backlight the faceplate.





Then we have the front of the PCB. One gauge motor has the black spacer (that the clear plastic rings clip into to hold the faceplate down), one does not. From the top of the motor to the back of the cluster housing is 6mm, so if you want to add an LED ring to light up a needle, it needs to be 6mm or thinner. (and you need to ditch the spacer, the clear hold-down thing, and make the needle hole in the faceplate bigger)





Close-up of the clip / spacer thing (LCD is on extra sockets here, it's not normally that high off the board). If removing this, you may need to use double-sided tape to hold the faceplate down, so it doesn't 'puff up' / come away from the cluster and hit the needle...





Here's the back of the PCB. Don't mind the wires I have there for testing... The 2-pin plug at the top is where the orange EL panel plugs in.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
For powering any backlight or needle lights, you could try the EL plug (it's something like 60vAC at full brightness I think), but I don't know how much current it can supply. You could string some LED's together (30 2v red LEDs would be about 60v), but it might be too much for the power supply to handle.

The instrument cluster is what generates the 'dimming' voltage for the HVAC panel - it sends a variable voltage (0-12v or something like that) to the HVAC board, which then uses that DC voltage to vary the AC voltage coming out of the Electroluminescent control box, which dims the panel. So.. You can most likely tap into the 0-12v power supply on the circuit board (it comes out the black plug that doesn't have wires attached in my picture), and use that to run backlight LED's. I'll have to dig into it a little more to see if it's really DC voltage, or a pulsed 'PWM' signal, and how much current it can provide. The alternative is to use that voltage to drive yet another standalone LED controller tucked into the cluster...

That's about all I got for now! More pics and info when I get my screens this week, or possibly the weekend.. Good luck and happy modding! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Here's a close-up of the EL panel from a 50k mile cluster... You can see the numbers burned into it from the sunlight.. I guess technically everything *but* the numbers is burned.. :)

Also looking at this now, there may not be enough coverage for the 'corrected' speedometer readings if it wraps much farther around to the right...

 

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Here's a close-up of the EL panel from a 50k mile cluster... You can see the numbers burned into it from the sunlight.. I guess technically everything *but* the numbers is burned.. :)

Also looking at this now, there may not be enough coverage for the 'corrected' speedometer readings if it wraps much farther around to the right...

RiceBurner, I know it's not your favorite, but if we can find an easy EL swap solution for these gauges I will give you my firstborn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
LOL I have a wife and a cat, that's quite enough! :)

Since I had the EL stuff out.... Here's a blue EL sheet partially lighting the OEM faceplate.



And a white EL sheet:



With a stock faceplate, the blue is kind of bluish-orange-weird, and the white is orange-weird.. For whatever reason the stock plate (even holding it up to a white light bulb) appears to have an orange tinge to it. It looks white on both sides, but lights up orange.. maybe the material in the middle? With Sugeray's replacement faceplates, the white will most likely light up quite fine. The problem is, for some reason I can't get this circuit board to light up the OEM EL or my other EL sheets.... I'm pushing the "trip odometer" button (well, the pin for it anyway) but nothing's happening. I either have the wrong pin, or the circuit gave up.

I powered these with an old white-face-gauge EL control box, I think it puts out more voltage than the Lotus circuit board does. I'll have to power up the other cluster and see what happens.. Unfortunately I don't have a red EL sheet to play with. I'm not sure where the EL sheets came from; they were leftovers from a project at work that I saved from the trash years ago... Just have to keep in mind that not all EL sheets work at the same voltage or current levels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
And just for giggles before I go to bed..

Here's the LEDs from the iPad display (forget if this was a 1st or 2nd gen..):



And the melt-your-eyes bright lit up panel.. The total thickness of the diffuser sheets is .83mm, while the stock EL is .3mm.. So it's a little thicker, and the LEDs won't be easy since they'll need to curve around the whole top, but I'll give it a shot one of these days!
 

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:popcorn:
 

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Ok I dug out my old pictures from 2007 when I changed my EL panel to white in an attempt to make it a white gauge cluster... I also dug up my old backup EL panel to power it up to show you. I had used too much heat soldering the copper contact traces and damaged it...

You can see the black spots where it arced through the EL material. Thank God there was enough material for at least two panels!

I basically traced the outline of the stock panel onto the new EL material and cut it with scissors. I used a hole punch for the led and needle holes. The only rule is that you must have both contact traces touching each section. No biggie.
 

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More pictures - these are from 2007.

1. Unpowered sheet is pink. Weird! Stock EL panel and gauge face sitting on top.

2. Powered up entire EL panel with stock gauge face on top. Not happy that it's not pure white! :(

3. Special picture. Powered up both stock EL panels and new EL panel on each half of the gauge panel to see the color difference.

4. Held the stock gauge panel up to a 100w halogen ceiling bulb. Nope - not pure white.

5. Close up of my new EL panel before cutting out holes (see sharpie outlines!). If we used Lexan reflective needles and made the needle holes only 1/8" or so then there would be PLENTY of light to illuminate the needle bases.


Enjoy!
 

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It is a much lighter ... yellow. I can see why you were annoyed. Good thing the gauge faces that sugeray posted are actually white for the face. A red el would be good, but I think they would look pink.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Great pictures Darksol! Before looking into the custom gauge face thing I figured it would be quick and easy to get the stock face to illuminate brighter and whiter... Sadly disappointed.

It may be enough light to light needles, I'll give it a shot and see.. -> I just tried it with an EL gauge face and a nice needle from the GTO cluster (they light up very evenly, as opposed to the Ford Focus ones I tried). It's juuuuust barely visible if I hold it in the dark. It would be better than nothing, but not sure it would be enough to see in all lighting (or dark?) conditions.

Another option to EL illuminate the numbers on Sugeray's new panels is instead of using a full-size sheet (since most of it is unnecessary) maybe use some "white face" EL gauge overlays from another car. You'd just need to find one that doesnt have cutouts in the wrong spots, and remove the numbers. The benefit would be it should be easier on the inverter as it should require less power. An EL sheet is only like $30 though, so maybe not totally necessary but an option..
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Here's some quick info on needles, for those interested..

First a shot of the cluster with a Lotus needle (right) and a Pontiac GTO needle (left). You can see the Lotus needle is definitely shorter, and has a smaller "hat" / hub section. Some GTO needles were white, some red, depending on the color of the gauge face. (The factory had different color options, go figure!)





Then a shot with a Ford Focus needle. I like the color when it's off, but it illuminates pretty terribly. Not even brightness from end to end, much brighter at the base.





Then a shot of why you can't just use a normal needle on the Lotus cluster.. Most of them will be too long as-is, and will need to be shortened so they don't hit the frame, or just stick out too far depending on your likes. I don't mind if they're a little longer than stock, but they have to work.





And finally a shot of the needles compared. The GTO needle has a much better light pickup / dispersion design. It picks up light through that little window at the base, then reflects off the angled section of the clear plastic inside, then projects down the needle. The Focus needle has an entirely open base to collect as much light as it can, but the internal structure doesn't project the light very well down the needle. And of course the Lotus needle. It is light weight, I'll give it that!

 

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And finally a shot of the needles compared. The GTO needle has a much better light pickup / dispersion design. It picks up light through that little window at the base, then reflects off the angled section of the clear plastic inside, then projects down the needle. The Focus needle has an entirely open base to collect as much light as it can, but the internal structure doesn't project the light very well down the needle. And of course the Lotus needle. It is light weight, I'll give it that!
I like the looks of the Gto needles, but wonder if the hat hits the plexi? I can trim the needle tip, but it doesn't look like there is much clearance to the plexi from the gauge face.

I also found Cadillac needles on eBay, but the VW mk4 needles looked interesting/promising. Would it be worth it to purchase some of those Gto needles with the tall hat? Maybe putting reflective tape on the inside to aide in the dispersion up the needle?
 

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Great info!

I just ordered a set of Jetta needles off eBay. They supposedly are right in between the length of the GTO and Focus needles at 1-7/8" (47.6mm).

They look like the color is all the way through (would be AWESOME).

Nothing that 9mm of snipping and sanding/polishing won't fix. I would like the new needles to be just a hair longer than stock.
 

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