| A popular upgrade for most car owners today is to replace the stock
gauge faces with custom or colored faces. In this tech article, I will go
over the steps involved in replacing the stock gauge faces with
aftermarket ones on the BMW E30 3 Series cars from 1984-91. This article
is specific to my E30 325is; however, the procedures listed here can be
applied to nearly every model of BMW. In most cases, adding different
gauge faces can greatly improve the appearance of your interior. I have
also seen some gauge faces out there that look pretty tacky, like having
BMW roundels as the actual gauge face. But as they say, beauty is in the
eye of the beholder.
The first step in replacing the faces is to disconnect the battery.
This will prevent any rouge spikes from going through the electrical
system, and possibly fry expensive engine controls, such as the ECU or DME.
Once the battery is disconnected, Get inside the car, put the key in the
ignition and turn it to the run position. This will unlock the steering
wheel. We will need to remove the steering wheel in order to remove the
gauge cluster from the car. The E30 used several different types of
steering wheels; those from 1990 and on had an airbag incorporated into
the wheel. In the case of the airbag equipped models, I recommend going to
your local dealer or shop to have the system deactivated as most home
mechanics will not have the correct tools to do the job right.
wheel removal is quite easy. Simply use a small flat-head screwdriver to
carefully pry out the BMW roundel in the center of the wheel. It will come
out quite easily; so try not to use a lot of force on it. Once removed,
you will see a 22mm nut securing the wheel to the steering shaft. Remove
the nut with a breaker bar, as itís torqued down relatively tight.
Before you remove the steering wheel, itís a good idea to make a scribe
mark or use some paint to mark the position of the wheel. This will help
you to put the wheel back on correctly.
With the steering wheel now off, look under the dash at the panel
the covers the pedals. There are three plastic screws that hold this panel
to the dashboard. Remove these screws and pull the lower dash panel off.
Now reach up under the front of the panel directly under the gauge
cluster. Feel around inside there until you feel a large knurled round nut
on either side. Loosen and remove the nuts. Now you will be able to remove
the panel under the gauge cluster and gain access to the screws that
secure the frame to the gauge cluster. Now use a small Phillips head
screwdriver to remove the screws along the bottom edge. Once all of them
are removed, carefully pull the frame off the cluster.
Now look up inside the dash above the cluster. You will see two
triangular ears holding the cluster to the dash. Remove these screws and
pull the cluster towards you. As you pull it towards you, rotate the
cluster so that the gauges face downward. This will give you access to the
various electrical connections on the back of the cluster. Itís a good
idea to mark each connection to where it plugs in, or make a diagram. In
most cases, the large multi-wire connectors are color-coded to the plugs
on the back of the cluster. Now unplug everything and remove the cluster
from the car.
Take the cluster to a good work area and look at the back of the
unit. You will see a series of Phillips head screws along the back of the
cluster. Remove all of them. Next, remove the back panel of the cluster.
Now is the time to use caution, as you will see the guts of the cluster.
Now, look along the edges of each of the gauges. You will see a series of
screws holding them in. Remove these screws and carefully pull up on each
of the gauges. They will pull out of the board along with the connectors.
Once the gauges are all out, we need to remove the Needles on the
gauges. The gauge face kit will include a tool that will help you do this.
I highly recommend that you not try to remove the needles without the
tool, as you will most likely damage the needles. Once the needles are
off, get the new gauge faces. In this case the new faces are a decal that
fits over the existing face.
To install the decals, first get a rag and soak it in soapy water.
Then very carefully, wipe the surface of the existing gauge. This will
keep the decal from sticking in place when you apply it. Be careful not to
get any of the water on the inside of the gauge.
Now peel off the backing on the decals and slide them onto the
gauges. Youíll see how handy the soapy water is. It allows you to
position the gauge face decal correctly. Just work quickly as the water
will start to dry quickly. Once you have the decal in the correct
position, use a squeegee or a straight edge to squeeze out any air pockets
under the decal. This will secure it to the gauge. Repeat this step for
all four gauges.
Once the decals have dried and are in place, we are ready to
re-install them. Before I re-install the gauges, I like to look at the
terminals that plug into the cluster and check to see if they are clean.
If they are dirty, use a bit of very fine emery cloth to clean them up. Be
very careful when doing this, as you can damage the terminals. Once clean,
simply plug the gauges back into place, and put the screws that retain the
gauges back into the cluster. Now carefully place the back panel of the
cluster back on and re-install the securing screws.
Take the whole cluster back to the car and place it just in front
of the dash on top of the steering column, and re-attach all the
connectors and wires. Now slide the cluster back into the dash and line up
the mounting brackets with the holes on the underside of the dash. Now
install the screws and tighten them.
Next, take the frame around the cluster and screw it back onto the
cluster. This is a tight fit, so take your time and use very minimal
force, as it is quite easy to break the plastic. Once secured, take the
lower fascia dash panel and put it back in place. Thread the two knurled
nuts behind the dash, but do not over tighten, as you can pull the studs
out of the panel (ask me how I know, JB Weld to the rescue) now re-install
the lower dash panel that covers the pedals and re-install the screws that
hold it in place.
Now re-install the steering wheel. Look at the scribe or paint mark
you made earlier, and line the wheel up so that they match on both the
steering shaft and the wheel. Once you have them lined up, place the
washer and 22mm nut back on and torque the nut to 58 ft./lbs. Now
re-install the small Roundel emblem in the center of the wheel. The last
step is to re-connect the battery.
Now turn on the
headlights and look at your newly installed and illuminated gauge faces!
And thatís it, youíre
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