My Car

Bianca Miata - How-To
 

Ok ladies and gentlemen, it's finally here. The gauges how-to

Summary:

  1. Remove Gauge Pod and Gauges
  2. Scan Gauges
  3. Photoshop Image
  4. Print New Gauges
  5. Prepare New Lighting
  6. Install Gauges and Gauge Pod
Before I continue, let me note that these instructions are based upon my experience performing this operation numerous times on my 1990 Canadian Miata. Other years/country's, your millage may vary.

Serious Auto, makers of some Miata gauges, has an excelent set of photo-illustrated instructions for installing their gauges.

Remove Gauge Pod and Gauges

Before removing anything, it's probably a good idea to make a note of where all the needles point after the car is warmed up. Take the car for a good 5 or 10 minute drive to make sure it's nice and warm, and then note down somehow where all the needles point at idle.

Once you've done this, you can remove the gauge cluster. This is fairly straight forward. There are four screws underneath the steering wheel column that hold the plastic cover over the column together. Remove these. Note that one of them is a different type of screw. Remember where it goes. Next, remove the two screws at the bottom of the gauge pod cover. This should free the cover. There are a couple clips that still hold it in, so pull it firmly straight toward the back of the car, and it should just pop out.

Now you're ready to remove the gauge pod. If my memory serves me correctly, there are 4 screws around the front. Once these are removed, you'll be able to move it around a bit, which should make disconnecting the electrical connectors at the back somewhat easier. The trickiest part now is removing the speedometer cable. I've done it from the top before, but you'll probably have better luck from the bottom. Remove the two screws holding down the cover way down below the steering wheel. From there, you can reach up and push the little tab on the speedometer cable, allowing it to come off freely.

The gauge pod should be free now. The clear plastic cover, as well as the black backing, can be removed by pressing down the black tabs around the edge. Now, very carefully, remove the needles. I've had people suggest using a plastic fork. See the instructions from Serious Auto, above, for details on that. Once the needles are off, you can start removing the screws that hold the gauges in. The same screws also hold down some clear plastic light-guides behind the gauges.

Voila! Your gauges are out now.

Scan Gauges

If you don't have access to a scanner, you can use my high resolution scan.

To scan the gauges, you'll need to first remove the plastic stop pins. Serious Auto suggests using an exacto knife. Not having had the benifit of reading their instructions first, I removed mine with a soldering iron. Yes, that's right, a soldering iron. I melted the plastic bit of the pin that holds it on the gauge, and pulled it out the front.

Once that's done, you can lay the gauges out on the scanner and take a nice high resolution scan. Scan it much higher than the resolution you plan on printing at, as it will make any irregularities easier to get rid of before you scale it down for printing.

Photoshop Image

Being the complete Linux geek that I am, I didn't acctually use Photoshop. I used "The Gimp", an extremely powerful image manipulation program for Linux.

With Photoshop being the expensive piece of software it is, not everyone will have access to it. If you don't, I recommend downloading an evaluation version of Paint Shop Pro from Jasc Software.

Print New Gauges

When you're done modifying the image, it's time to get ready for printing. I printed mine on HP Premium Plus Matte Photo paper. The important characteristics are the thickness, and matte finish. The paper needs to be quite thick, so it has a good solid look, and doesn't look like crappy paper gauges. The matte finish prevents most of the glare you would get with a gloss finish.

Try printing a few times at low quality on regular paper, adjusting the scaling until you get the gauges the right size. Once it's right, go ahead and print on the expensive paper.

Before cutting the gauges out, you should remove the middle parts, such as the hole where the odometer will be, and the centers where the needles will go in. I did this by placing the gauges on a cutting board, and very carefully cutting them out with an exacto knife. Be careful not to smudge any of the ink.

Prepare New Lighting

For my lighting, I used a product called Power Neon Cable(You should be able to find it at just about any car-audio store). I experimented first with printing on thinner paper, and using the existing backlighting, but it just ended up looking very blotchy. In the end, I used thick paper, removed the backlights, and proceded to install this fancy neon cable.

Installing this cable was perhaps the most destructive part of this whole gauge instalation. In order to get the lighting from the front, I had to run wires from in behind the gauge cluster, through the edge of each gauge, and around the rim. I used a soldering iron (yes, again) to burn a couple holes through the bottom edge of each gauge, wide enough to route the neon cable through. I would suggest using a drill, if you have access to one. For the gauges that have chrome trim rings, I ran the cable around the inside of the trim, and the gauges that didn't have trim had indented edges that fit the cable just perfectly. A little bit of superglue around the edges, and it's in there nice and tight. Doesn't look like it'll ever come out.

One minor problem with the neon lighting is the dimmer. The dimmer knob reduces the power to the neon, and instead of dimming like incandesant lights, it starts to flicker, like bad fluorescent lights. The only time I ever use the dimmer is when driving on the highway at night. Night time in the city is still bright enough that the neon doesn't bother me. On the highway though, it's much too bright. I've found there are a few spots on the dimmer knob where it flickers at a rate such that it seems almost to be just dimmed, rather than flickering. This is tolerable on the highway.

Install Gauges and Gauge Pod

Installation is, for the most part, a reversal of the removal. There are a couple tricks to it though. Install the gauge pod in the car without the clear plastic cover. Start the car and place the needles on the gauges in the approximate position, but don't push them all the way on. Take the car for another 5 or 10 minute drive to warm it up, then remove any needles that are in the wrong spots, and replace them. When all the needles are right, push them in all the way. Take the gauge cluster out, reinstall the clear plastic cover, and put everything back in the car again.


Last Updated:September 15th, 2004
Email me: miata@lewisd.com
Derek Lewis