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Old 12-27-2008, 10:55 PM   #1
Lightbulb Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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I'm putting a relacement instrument cluster into my '89 Spirit, because the odometer stopped working 6,400 miles ago. The traveler computer odometer has been keeping track for me.

I want to paint the gauge needles, because they are all faded to a yellow / white color. What's the best way to do it? It kind of looks like the color is only on the BACK side of each needle.

Sand them a bit and repaint with orange model paint?

Also, the odometer isn't right, and I'm anal retentive enough that it will drive me crazy. The replacement cluster is showing 113,900 miles, whereas the car is more like 118,500 miles.

How can I advance the odometer to match? I've tried taking it apart, and the speedometer needle won't come off even if I pull HARD on it, and I don't want to break it.

Can I put 12 volts on the odometer somewhere to make it spin fast? Or reach in there somewhere with a thin screwdriver and advance the numbers?
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:56 AM   #2
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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You can probably disassemble it, remove the speedo pinion gear or whatever they call it and just roll the numbers at will. I never did a cluster from a Spirit/acclaim though. On the G/J bodies, its so darn simple to do that I'd imagine that the Spirit/Acclaim ones are comparable.

As far as the needles go... thats my secret, but since you are on the right track, I'll spill the beans. Yes, they are "painted" on the back side only. The needle is clear so that it'll illuminate in the dark. Literally, pop the needle off, and scrape the backside of the needle with a dull knife or some other better method you may think of. The stuff flakes right off and then get some fluorescent orange model paint and carefully get it on the back surface only of the needle and you're good to go. Or if you want to be ricy, use blue, green, pink, etc.
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Old 12-28-2008, 08:04 AM   #3
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Thanks for the tips!

I'll try to get it apart. I have a soldering iron I could stick in there near where the speedometer needle presses onto the metal shaft, maybe that'll soften the plastic a bit and make it come off easier.
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:46 PM   #4
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Maybe I'll try a blue color on some extra gauges, like a spare battery / fuel gauge and see how they look.

A nice B3 blue color (Petty Blue) might look nice.
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Old 12-28-2008, 07:49 PM   #5
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Nah, that blue would be a dumb idea. Like 99% of the ideas that rice boys have.

I found a bottle of orange paint at a hobby shop today, it says it's for turn signals, so it is a nice bright orange.

I got the instrument cluster disassembled and cleaned up with paint thinner. That old sponge gasket they put in there is really annoying, as it turns to a gooey gunk after 20 years.

To get the gauge needles off, I quit being subtle, got 2 small screwdrivers, and just whaled them off. They all came off without breaking, to my surprise. The black plastic caps popped off pretty easily, then I scraped the old faded paint off the back of the needles and gave them their first coat of orange paint.

So far so good.

Immediately after popping the first needle off, I wondered something. How do we put the needles back on with them pointing in the right direction? Most of these gauges just spin around and around with no positive stop, except for the speedometer.

I guess I'll start the car with the old cluster in, mark down where each needle is pointing, swap it out for the repainted one (only partly assembled), then press the needles on right there. Then after checking it to make sure they are right, fully assemble it.

Now to try and take apart the odometer and adjust it!
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Old 12-28-2008, 08:34 PM   #6
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Sometimes it takes some authority to get those needles off-- a "thumbtack puller" is probably the best tool I've used to do it. It is basically a screwdriver with its flathead tip modified into what you would find on a nail puller. On the 1990+ G/J body clusters, the speedometer needle is, by far, the most difficult to remove and I'm at about 50% breakage on them. I'm assuming this is to help thwart odometer fraud. But I have spare needles! Ironically though, that is the one needle that doesn't fade.

You are correct on the re-installation method of the needles. You probably know the car pretty well and where the guages are supposed to be, so you just leave the clear cover off of the cluster, plug it into the car, start it up or whatever and carefully set the needles where they should be and press them on.

My '95 Ram had a white face guage overlay put on, and low and behold, the engine temperature read 225-230 degrees at normal operating temp. RPM was off and so was the speedometer. Hmm.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:19 PM   #7
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Update.

I got the whole cluster reassembled enough to test it out. Getting the gauges all pointing the right way was a pain, especially the battery gauge. Lightly press on the needle when it looks like it's pointing the right way, take your finger off, and it's pointed off to one side a bit!

But I eventually got them all on correctly.

On the test drive, everything worked, but the speedometer was messed up. It's response was VERY slow, and probably not accurate.

One thing I found during disassembly - all the gauge pointers are on plastic shafts which press onto metal splined shafts in the actual gauge. Except the speedometer needle. It has a metal tube pressed onto a metal shaft.

Since the speedometer wasn't working right, I took apart the cluster that came out of the car, since I know how to disassemble the speedometer now. I carefully and gently turned the speedometer needle counterclockwise while pulling up on it, after about 4 turns it came off the shaft.

In the other speedometer, I think I bent the shaft by prying the needle off with 2 screwdrivers.

Anyhow, I found the problem. This speedometer had about 6 teeth broken off the little blue gear in the odometer motor. I'll replace that gear with the one from the other cluster and put it back in and see how it goes. I already turned its mileage up to match.

Another disappointment was the color of the needles I painted. The orange paint looked pretty bright, but when the needles were against the black gauge faces, the orange was pretty dark. I don't think I'd have liked it that way.
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Old 12-30-2008, 03:44 PM   #8
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Everything is back together and working again in the original instrument cluster, I got the odometer advanced to where it should be and changed the little blue gear to make it work again.

:)
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Old 12-31-2008, 08:53 PM   #9
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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No, we're not done yet. The odometer made it 28.45 miles and quit working again. This time I'll swap the whole thing. I'll bet that little blue gear stripped off again.

While researching this odometer thing, I read somewhere they take a special lubricant. When I took the old blue gear off, it was pretty stiff. Guess I should've cleaned and WD-40'd the new gear.
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Old 01-01-2009, 03:20 PM   #10
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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Give this a try www. odometergears.com/subpages/chrydod.html
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:22 AM   #11
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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$25 EACH ?!?!?!

F that!

I'll go grab another junkyard speedometer and redo it to match my miles and be done with it.
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Old 01-04-2009, 01:06 PM   #12
Re: Paint gauge needles, advance odometer?  
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A rip-off right now because parts are still readily available, but as they start disappearing in the crusher, $25 may not be such a bad deal.

Hopefully shipping is cheap though.
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