Getting the Best Replacement Instrument Cluster
What first came as an application for the '76 Aston Martin Lagonda has now become a standard part of automobiles the-instrument cluster. It provides every driver the vital information he needs at a glance and enhances the overall appearance of the cabin. More modern instrument clusters have even become an aesthetic section of the vehicle dash panels. But they also wear and become irregular over time, so replacements or upgrades are necessary. If your own instrument cluster starts to look bad, here are some of the factors that will help you get the best replacement for your ride:High-grade material
OE and direct-fit replacement
- Polypropylene (PP). Instrument clusters made from this plastic polymer offers as high as 320 degrees Fahrenheit or 160 degrees Celsius melting point. They can easily mix with dye, so you can expect them to come in different UV- and weather-resistant shades. This is a good choice of material for a sun-exposed part such as an instrument cluster.
- Styrene Maleic Anhydride (SMA). Instrument clusters made from this synthetic polymer are known to have very high heat resistance, but not as good as the ones made from polypropylene.
- PC/Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Instrument clusters made from this thermoplastic is known to have a melting point of 221 degrees Fahrenheit or 105 degrees Centigrade, making them a good choice of replacement. Still, they are not as good as those made from polypropylene.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Ranked as the third most used plastic in the world, PVC is also a good choice of material for instrument clusters. It is stronger and cheaper than copper or ductile iron but is softer and more flexible. It is a durable heat-insulating material, but not as good as polypropylene.
- Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) Powder. Reduced by electron beam processing, this elastomer is another good material for instrument clusters because of its significantly high resistance to heat. Still, it is more expensive than those that are made of polypropylene because of its production costs.
- Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO). Instrument clusters made from this polymer/PP filler blend is a cheaper alternative for those that are made from 100% polypropylene plastic. If you are a bit conscious of your budget, choose one that is made from this material.
- Leather. This is a durable and fashionable material used in most automotive upholstery, including the instrument cluster. This is made from tanned animal rawhide, explaining its higher price. If you want the best for your vehicle, choose an instrument cluster made from this material.
Replacements that exactly fit the specifications of your automobile are always the best choice for your instrument panel, so don't be misled by the various style and design choices in the market.
Step-by-step Installation of a Replacement Instrument Cluster
Because an instrument cluster is an important device and aesthetic enhancement to a car's interior, it needs to be maintained at its best condition. In case your car's instrument cluster looks worn, or you just want to have an upgrade, get one that is especially made for your car make and model. Doing so ensures easy installation, and here is the general step-by-step instruction if you will DIY:
NOTE: The law requires you to set your new odometer to the original mileage reading before the replacement. Or, mount a label that has the previous mileage reading of your old part and the date you replaced it.Level of difficulty: ModerateThings you'll need:
- Phillips screwdriver
- Set of wrenches
- 1/4-inch drive ratchet
- 1/4-inch drive sockets
- Always wear safety glasses and gloves when working on your instrument cluster.
- Wait for your engine to cool before removing your old instrument cluster.
- Disconnect the negative battery cable to avoid electrocution.
Step 1: Deactivate the vehicle's SIR air bag system by letting 10 minutes pass after disconnection of your negative battery cable.
Step 2: Remove the screws holding the upper trim of your instrument cluster using a ratchet and socket, and pull the lower section slowly to free the trim panel.
Step 3: Unbolt the mounting hardware that holds the ?carrier' of the instrument cluster. Pull the cluster and unplug its connector from the power source.
Step 4: Clean the carrier and install the new instrument cluster in it.
NOTE: Make sure there is enough space for the electrical wire and plug and ensure that the cluster's alignment pins are inserted appropriately.
Step 5: Push the carrier into its original slot, and install the screws on the trim panel.
To check your new instrument panel, reconnect your negative battery cable and turn the engine on. Let your vehicle run for a few minutes to see if the gauges and electrical wires are working. If they are, you have just installed a new instrument cluster!