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Discussion Starter #1
I have an '04 E, with the RED/ORANGE needs on the gauges.
I was wondering if anybody has successfully modded the needles to a different color, or replaced them with a different color, aftermarket or switch?

-I found one aftermarket place, but they don't have a compatible set, and it says needles NEED to be compatible. They are also expensive. Not willing to spend money on a guess... (~$70) http://www.importintelligence.com/

-I found a good thread on modifying the needles, but it's OLD. Also, I don't want to mess with the needles and screw it up. I'd rather have a simple method, or a direct replacement. Also, the one needed pic doesn't load anymore. http://forums.evolutionm.net/lancer-how-requests-questions-tips/134881-how-change-color-your-gauge-needles.html

-I thought about getting a NEWER Element gauge cluster (with white needles) and changing the light color, but good luck on locating BROKEN Element parts to pull apart, because you can't afford used/new gauge clusters. (~$300+)

-Any ideas on compatible needles from other clusters that may be WHITE/CLEAR?

-Other ideas?

Thanks guys.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I read some more on Import Intelligence, and it's actually a light RING that sits under the stock needle = doesn't change existing needle color.

Import Intelligence also now replied and says:

The IntelliGlow needle kit is compatible with the OEM Honda Needles, this car would require a 2 Large and 2 Small Kit.
(~$80)

However, my '04 has 1 large, 1 MEDIUM, & 2 small needles. Tiny diff, but that may mean the glow ring sticks out on one gauge. Maybe not, but I'm not going to find out the hard way, especially when it doesn't fix the actual needle color.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Black Cat Custom has some, but they just confirmed that none will fit the Element =(
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Needle Exchange (lol)

More research, 03-06 needles just pop up. 07+ apparently twist, THEN pop up while twisting more. Sounds like a swap for newer Element needles won't work.

I'm sure there are other needles on other vehicle that would work, but there is no easy way to find out what.
 

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I read some more on Import Intelligence, and it's actually a light RING that sits under the stock needle = doesn't change existing needle color.

Import Intelligence also now replied and says:

(~$80)

However, my '04 has 1 large, 1 MEDIUM, & 2 small needles. Tiny diff, but that may mean the glow ring sticks out on one gauge. Maybe not, but I'm not going to find out the hard way, especially when it doesn't fix the actual needle color.
Part of why they say that is because they're in the business of selling those coloured rings. I know for fact that the '90s GM panels with the orange needles were in fact coloured orange, as I did a face swap on the cluster out of a '94 Astro Van. I suspect the 1st generation of the Element IP has needles that are coloured red. If the red and white needles fit on differently, that could be problematic, but really, as long as you can get the starting position correct and the needle will remain affixed to the thing that moves it, I think it'd work.

Honestly, the only reasons I haven't tried it yet are A) getting ahold of a 2nd generation panel for something approaching reasonable money, and B) once you take a dash apart, they're impossible to get put back just right and they squeak forever. Chrysler LeBaron, Buick LeSabre, Astro Van, all squeaked after I messed with the dash. I don't want any more squeaks in my E.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I haven't had time to work on it for quite a while. However, I will be risking the squeak whenever I do. Doing needle colors/gauge faces/LEDs all at once to minimize dis/re/assembly. Probably going to scrape colors off current needles, repaint with model type paint, or touch-up paint.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Had some time to work on this again. Scraping the paint off the back of the needle didn't go as smoothly as anticipated.

You actually have to remove a portion of the black plastic backing to get ALL the existing color off the needle, near the base. (see red arrows for removed portion). I sliced it off very carefully with an Xacto.

Green needle (testing paint types) is shown after cut.

Any other ideas on a paint remover? I don't feel like the scraping off was clean enough.

IMG_4009.jpg
 

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Not sure on a paint remover since you would not want to damage the needles assuming they are plastic.
Would be cool to see what color you end up doing .
 

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What did you use to scrape the paint off? A blade? Try fine sandpaper, preferably on a sanding block. Normally I'd say use a solvent to strip off paint, but a solvent strong enough to remove the paint (e.g. acetone) might also damage the plastic, and clear plastics seem particularly vulnerable.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
What did you use to scrape the paint off? A blade? Try fine sandpaper, preferably on a sanding block. Normally I'd say use a solvent to strip off paint, but a solvent strong enough to remove the paint (e.g. acetone) might also damage the plastic, and clear plastics seem particularly vulnerable.
Thought I mentioned. I used an Xacto. Worked ok (didn't sand yet), except at the base of the needle where I just couldn't get in there. That's why I am looking at other options now.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Tiny update. I went and talked to some hardcore model builders, and they tried to take the color off my test needle using "Mr. Thinner (400)" and it started working! This would be ideal if it allows the paint to be 'wiped' off without surface damage (scrape, sand/ etc.). I went and bought a full bottle at the hobby store, but never got around to using it.
 

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How do you guys anticipate changing the color of the needles?
The gauge's circuit board has very bright red SMD LEDs mounted at the base of the needles which is why they are so bright & so very red.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
How do you guys anticipate changing the color of the needles?
The gauge's circuit board has very bright red SMD LEDs mounted at the base of the needles which is why they are so bright & so very red.
I wish you had said that 4 years ago when I started looking into this. Somewhere I was under the direct impression they were just white, and the needle paint was responsible for the coloring. I can confirm on my test 03-06 gauge faces that the LEDs are in fact red.

I'll have to dig out some of my extra LEDs and see how easy a switch it is.

IMG_2204.jpg
 

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Sorry to rain on your parade, thought you guys had something cool figured out.

I wish Honda would have just put LEDs throughout the gauge cluster, instead of feeling the need to stick worthless & sickly looking incandescent bulbs in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Sorry to rain on your parade, thought you guys had something cool figured out.

I wish Honda would have just put LEDs throughout the gauge cluster, instead of feeling the need to stick worthless & sickly looking incandescent bulbs in there.
Honestly, switching LEDs is probably the easier part, compared to recoloring the needles.

But yes, drives me nuts when some things are LED and some are Incand. in the same part. :x
 

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I'm happy with my red ones. I just needed to pull them to get to the teal gel honda used to turn the ODO color that factory color. I couldn't read mine at all during the day without doing so. Maybe I took the hard route. The slightly sickly reds in the minor speed tick marks bother me a little bit, but not enough to pull all of the needles again to scrape the flim off the back of the cluster graphics.

Something that may be helpful though Is that the needles are supposed to register to 0 on both speed and RPM when you pop them back on. I mis remembered the speedo and tach sitting a notch or two below, but noticed they were way off when I was driving around after I reinstalled them. When the 0 Is the resting registration the speedo reads 2-3mph fast (by design - it also did this before I removed the needles). I don't mind the difference as I'm shopping for larger AT tires and the fastness will help me from speeding on the interstate (where I think I'll be going 5mph faster than the speedo reads)

I had something funky happen with the Tach and super over corrected when I put the needle back and now 0 = 3k. Easy enough to fix, but easier to get it right the first time (learn from my mistakes)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Something that may be helpful though Is that the needles are supposed to register to 0 on both speed and RPM when you pop them back on.
On the 03-06, I believe they just pull up (no orientation to attach), but it's recommended to mark the location of the needles PRE-removal.

On the 07+, I believe you don't need to mark them, because they only attach at one orientation.

Honestly, I'm still looking into this, but It will take me some time to decipher the existing LED specs, order replacements, change needle colors, install new LEDs, etc. I need to have enough money saved so if I fry the cluster, I can afford a new replacement.

If anybody more knowledgable can figure out the existing needle LED specs, it would be great. Maybe in the manual or elec troubleshooting manual?

Likewise, anybody know if LED replacement (under needles) can be tested on a spare cluster, then just switch clusters? Or do they have to calibrate/match the specific vehicle somehow? New territory for me.

I'll keep an eye on ebay for a spare cluster if they CAN be switched.
 

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03-06 clusters can be swapped between vehicles without any calibration but your odometer will be wrong. I replaced my cluster when some bad LEDs fried something (still no idea wtf happened), and I just desoldered/resoldered the EEPROM on the backside that stores the mileage information.

Replacing LEDs can be very tricky because they are often not just a light source but an integral part of the circuitry. Using a replacement with greatly different specs could introduce issues. Red LEDs are also the most energy efficient, typically requiring less voltage to reach their full output, so swapping in a blue LED for example may result in a dimmer needle glow.
I have a dead cluster I can try to pull a few of the LEDs for testing, they look like a 3528 SMD LED.
 
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