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31 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Custom Gauge Lighting With L.E.D.'s

Inspired by Naskie18
Modded, Written, and Edited by ZachSettle
Updated: 10/06/2011

*Contact me directly with any questions at Zach.Settle[AT] as I don't visit ColoradoFans too often anymore.

*I've since sold my first colorado and my second, but I am still available for questions. Feel free to message me.
*Updated with some photos from my second LED swap on my automatic Xtreme.
*Spell-checked. :LOL:

*I'm still around and available for any questions you guys might have.
*Added two website I used to purchase LEDs from. Both are outstanding. has a larger availability.
*Condensed how-to

Disclaimer: This is How-To. This is a no warranty assoicated with this. If you break something or destroy your gauge cluster that is your own fault. By continuing with this How to you are accepting this responsibilty and cannot blame me at all.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Project time: 70 minutes
Cure time: 0 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Things You Need:
Solder (The thinner the better)
25w Soldering Iron (I used the yellow pencil kind)

(6) 3mm L.E.Ds
- Places to purchase LEDs:

Torex 10 screwdriver (T10)
Flat-tip screwdriver
Socket-driver and extension
7mm Socket
Sandpaper (any grit will work)
Needle nose pliers

Things to make your life easier:
An old t-shirt
A friend or "Helping Hands"
Fuse puller, Tweezers, or screw retriever
Magnetic-tipped socket driver
Dremel with sanding disk

**Resistors are not required. The stock bezel is correctly wired for LEDs bulb from the factory.

P-1. Sort out the L.E.Ds you want to use. You will need six to do all of the gauges.
P-2. Using your sand paper, sand down the L.E.D as small as you can without exposing the elements inside. You want to focus on the the top of the LED, but you can sand the sides as well if you desire.
Note: You can use a dremel with a sanding disk and this will cut down your preparation time greatly.
P-3. Clip your leads as small as possible on the L.E.D. with the pliers. Leave about 1/8" of an inch. (.125")
P-4. Using your pliers again, bend the leads opposite of each other, creating somewhat of a backwards Z shape with the leads. (See Figure)

Removing Your Gauge's Bezel:
1. Pull in the areas identified in the following figure. There is a lip that you can feel with your fingertips. Grab a hold of that and pull back.
Note: When returning the bezel to the gauge ensure you start from the bottom and place the lip of the bezel behind the dash. Take a look at your bezel and you'll see what I mean. Also, ensure the Trip Meter Needle is not obstructed.
2. The bezel is held in place by four (4) clips.
Note: If a clip does not stay attached to the bezel when you pull it out and remains in the dash DO NOT try to force it out! Instead push it through to the other side and fish it out underneath the steering column. This is the easiest way to do this and prevents you from breaking your clips.

Removing Your Gauge Cluster:
1. As identified in the figure there are four (4) hexagonal bolts. Remove these with a counter clockwise turn of your socket driver. You will need to use your socket driver's extention to reach the bolts.
2. Once the bolts have been removed, pull the gauge back, up, and out over the steering wheel. Do not pull too hard, it's still connected to your truck's harness. (See Figure)
3a. Rotate the gauge cluster so that you have access to the clip.
3b. While pressing down on the three bumps on top of the clip, simultaneously pull the bracket around the clip downward. (See Video)
3c. This should eject the harness from the back of cluster and allow you to remove the cluster from the confines of the vehicle.

Accessing the Printed Circut Board (PCB):
1. Flip the cluster over and place it on something soft like a fleece blanket in order to prevent scratching the plastic covering.
2. Using your T10 driver, remove the eight [8] torex screws with counter clockwise turns. (See Figure)

3. The cluster should now come apart into three parts.
  • a. The black protective spacer
    b. The gauges/PCB
    c. The plastic covering.
4. Setting parts a and b aside, flip the gauges back over so that the are facing you.
Note: Be careful not to bend or break the trip counter needle here.
5. With your flat-tip screwdriver slide it underneath the backside of the needle and slowly pry up. (See Figure)

Note: More force than you think necessary will be applied. They are stuck on there pretty good.
Tip: I used an old t-shirt and wrapped the tip of the screwdriver in it to prevent scratch the gauge faces.
6. If you are afraid of breaking your needles, start with least important gauge and work your way up. For me I did them in the following order: Temperature, Gas, RPM, and then Speed.
Note: Try not to move the needles. They are calibrated correctly and are pain to fix. DON'T WORRY if you move them. I'll teach you how to calibrate them later on in this How-To.
7. Once you have taken off the needles, the PCB should slide right off the gauge faces.
8. Set your needles aside and bask in the glory of Chevrolet engineering. :roll:

Identifying the LEDs to change:

On the lower left hand side you have

a. DRL Indicator
b. Airbags
c. ABS
d. Check Engine Light``
e. Seat belt
f. Battery

On the lower right hand side you have

g. Emergency Brake
h. Cruise Control
i. Shift Light
j. Security Light
k. Oil Pressure

l. On the bottom row are the LEDs that illuminate your H.U.D.

In the middle you have

m. On the right: two (2) LEDs for Speed
n. On the left: two (2) LEDs for RPM

At the top you have
o. Gas
p. Temp
q. Right Turn Signal
r. Left Turn Signal
s. High Beam Indicator

Note: You can change out all of the LEDs but I do not recommend it. If you would like to change the color of your indicator lights and turn signals simply remove the plastic film over the cutout on the gauge face and replace with the color of your choice.

Desoldering the factory LEDs:
1. Heat up your soldering iron.
2. Located the LED you want to remove.
3a. Starting on a single side, heat up the solder by touching it with the tip of your iron.
3b. Slowly pull up on the LED, you will feel it budge slightly.
3c. On the opposite side of the LED, heat the solder and pull up on the LED. It should come off.

Note: Using a screw retriever, needle nose pliers, fuse puller, or tweezers is much easier than your fingers. And less painful.

Soldering the replacement LEDs:

Assuming you were able to desolder the LEDs ok, you can now move on to soldering the replacement LEDs.

1. Adjust the new LED so that polarity matches up with the figure.
2. Solder each lead, ensuring you don't solder the leads together.
3. Repeat with each LED you want to change out.
4. Here's a shot of the "Helping Hands" and the "Helping Hands" in action.

Note: The temperature LED has a reversed polarity. Make sure that you solder your LEDs the correct way. The negative lead should be on the top.

Note: For the LEDS that illuminate the information center, they point directly up. For these it essential you bend the LED's legs in the same direction. See photo for reference:

Operation Test
1. Take your finished worked to your Colorado, holding the PCB by the edges.
2. Plug the harness back in. You should hear a click and a winding sound. This is ok. Your cluster is being powered on and your truck's ECM is sending information to be displayed in the information center.
3. Turn your headlights on by turning the headlight wheel to the right one or two clicks.
4. Does everything light up?

If Not - Check your connections, check your polarities, and check that you haven't soldered two leads together.

Reminder: All of the LEDs have their positive polarity marked with a "K" next to them on my 2007 board out of my Xtreme. This made things much easier. On my 2005 board, there were no markings. Wiring the LEDs in backwards does not harm the PCB. They will simple fail to illuminate.

If They Do - Pat yourself on your back and move on to the next step.

Assemble the Gauge Cluster

1. Align the gauge face and the PCB.
2. Ensure your new LEDs are not too tall and prevent the needles' post from sticking out on the gauge face. If they do you can either go back and shorten your leads on your LED or do the following.
3. Once you have gauge face and PCB aligned, place the needles as close to zero as you can and gently press the needle back down. "Zero" being their calibrated starting point, not the actual number.
4. Once you have placed them on the post check their tension. Do they slide easily or is there some resistance?
5. If there is some resistance chances are that the needles won't move once the vehicle is started. The only way to tell is to fire her up and drive her around the block (or down the street and back).
Note: To alleviate this problem, try not to press down to hard on the needle. Place it on the post and only press it down only a little bit. It worked for me.

Return the Gauge Cluster to the Dashboard
1. With the needles in place and zero'ed in, go ahead and place the gauge face back inside the plastic cover and return the black plastic back panel on top of that.
2. Screw all eight [8] torx in clockwise.
3. Return the gauge to the harness and screw all (4) four bolts clockwise.
4. Snap the gauge bezel back in place, paying attention to the bottom. Ensure the bottom slides behind the dash before snapping in the top.


Project & durability update: (5 years later)

After having the green LEDs in for a few years I noticed that two on the left side of the gauge cluster would becoming dimly lit or would black out altogether. From my understanding this was due to a bad connection from the soldering breaking loose from the cluster's PCB, most likely from a cold solder. This is from rushing the process and not heating up the the entire solder past it's melting point.

On a happier note I traded in my '05 for an '07 Xtreme with an automatic transmission and will be updating the tutorial to reflect an automatic transmission gauge cluster.

Using a single color on the cluster prevents brighter colors of different shades from washing into each other. I was not impressed with using white on the information center. It caused the information center to display in purple.

31 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Hey guys, I know not all the images are there. Half of these were left on my camera and laptop and the rest are on my desktop down in Orlando. I will update this weekend with all the pictures you could want and a little extra information.

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Thanks to Naskie18 for the inspiration.

31 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
hashnrown1087 said:
zachsettle did i take it you dont have to use resistors with these leds?? and where did you get those ledds they look like the one from advanced auto or autozone
My friend, no you do not have to use resistors. That is some of the information I was going to add later.

No, I did not get the LEDs from advanced auto or autozone.

Actually they were salvaged from some LED case fans I had from a friend's old computer.

If you're looking for LEDs I HIGHLY recommend:

The guy who sells the LEDs is an honest, down-to-earth character. I've bought from him 3 times and never had a hassle or trouble.

168 Posts
wow awsome write up... makesd me want 2 do mine now and i think i might i am just not 2 skillfull with the soldering iron :( and i dont wanna mess nothin up

13,029 Posts
ZachSettle said:
If you're looking for LEDs I HIGHLY recommend:

The guy who sells the LEDs is an honest, down-to-earth character. I've bought from him 3 times and never had a hassle or trouble.
Those are some expensive LEDs, though :?

blackmax said:
what size led did you use 3mm or 5mm?
I'd bet he used 3mms. 5mms would probably be too big.

wwrgsww said:
*COUGH ^ *
Somebody get the 12 year old some cough medicine, please ;)

31 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you everyone for your compliments.

As far as ease with the soldering iron...this isn't very hard to do at all.

I've always said that if God wanted us to solder, he would have given us three arms. This is where a friend comes into play:

You'll need to steady the PCB, hold the LED in place, as well as control the solder and the iron. Having a friend steady the board can allow you to use your hands to solder.

As far as difficulty I'd say out of 5 stars, (5 being the hardest) this is most likely a 2. There aren't many things near the LED stations you can destroy by over heating them with the iron.

I recommend using a 25w soldering iron or less. The How-to has been modified to reflect that.

P.S. Yeah, the LEDs are on the expensive side. And yes, 5mm LEDs would be WAY TOO big.

41 Posts
Cool Im still in high school and i have electronics class i do many types of soldering projects i cloud probably get some leds for free yup it looks like and easy project.
Im going to try this mod nex month in somer when i get bored.
great write up!!!!!!!!!1

258 Posts
May even be able to aquire SMT=(Surface Mount Technology) LED's at a local electronic supply house. I have HSC Electronic Supply near me that has them in a Rainbow of colors. (Red to Ultra-Violet)

120 Posts

9,256 Posts
Good luck on that. The radio is a pretty big pain.

13,029 Posts
goleee33 said:
Nah the display on the odometer. Its just 4 LED's that light it all up, but im not sure what kind of LED's they are since they face upwards.
I assume you could use whatever type you used for the rest of it, just orient them so the light beam is pointing upward.

I'm going to do it in mine as well, as mine are also blue and I'd like to change that to match, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Don't know where my LEDs went, they're somewhere in this mess I call a room, just haven't found them yet :?
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