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Cars

Never easy...

The next item on my to do list for rejuvenating my 2000 Nissan Sentra SE, is something rather simple.  Changing gauge cluster and instrument panel bulbs.  In the past 12 years of owning my car, I've lost one bulb in the gauge cluster and one bulb in the HVAC controls.  But, light bulbs are kind of like lemmings.  When one goes dead, the others follow.  So, I ordered a bunch of new ones and changed them all out.

Now, Nissan for some reason uses a bulb that pretty much no auto parts store carries.  It's known as a Neo Wedge.  Some Ford trucks and cars I'm reading have them as well.  But these things are just a pain to locate.  Here is a pic of the old bulb on top, and the new one on the bottom.  The old bulb is noticeably taller.  It is also incandescent and gets ridiculously hot.  Hot enough to burn the plastic base that holds it.  A blue silicone cover is used to balance the yellow color cast to something cooler.  The one on the bottom is an LED.  Hopefully I'll never have to order these again, but just in case I ordered one extra.  I picked them up from www.superillumination.com, and they are the Type B Tall (T4) super whites.

While the temp, fan control, and vent control knobs are lit up by two Tall neo wedge bulbs, the three buttons that control the AC compressor, Rear window defogger, and fresh air control are lit up by a single short Type B (T4) neo wedge bulb.  This one also is a super white.

Luckily the gauge cluster isn't so difficult.  They can use the typical Type 72 or 24's.  In place of the stock bulb, I picked up a 3 SMT LED 74 T5 Mini-Wedge Bulb White 1408WH on amazon.com.  I used these to replace the four bulbs that light up the individual gauges and not the idiot lights.  Unfortunately, these LED's were a nightmare for me.  They didn't fit into the T24 wedge bases that were in the gauge cluster very well.  I had to pull out the copper contacts in the bases and recrimp them with a pair of needle nose pliers.  Horrific people, horrific.  I did buy two spare wedge bases just in case, and I'm pretty happy I did.  I only had to recrimp two wedge bases.  Still, I'm not sure my shade tree mechanic fix is going to last.  I'll probably have to pick up a few wedge bases and replace the ones I "Fixed" sometime soon.

Replacing the neo wedge bulbs in the HVAC would have been easy if I had known two things.  It is easy and recommended to remove the cables that control the vent and temp dials.  I struggled for a long time thinking it would be more of a pain to disconnect them.  Not so!  It's easy to remove and somewhat easy to put back together.  The second thing I wish I had known, was that neo wedge bulbs have a flat head indentation so you can easily turn them into their PCB seats.  I tried for a while with a pair of needle nose, until like an idiot discovering that pushing a door that clearly says pull, there is an easier way.

In the picture above, the two tall neo wedge bulbs on the top corners.  The lone short neo wedge is down by the white ribbon cable and is currently removed.  It is down there though.

The bulbs from amazon.com, 3 SMT LED 74 T5 Mini-Wedge Bulb White 1408WH are noticeably brighter and bluer than the typical incandescent glow.  But, this I knew before I bought them.  6K temp is what these are advertised at, while your typical incandescent bulb is far warmer and around 3K or so.  The big reason I went with a 3 SMT LED is because I didn't want hot spots in the gauge illumination.  With one LED firing up and two LED's firing to the sides on each bulb, it's easy to get a lot of light thrown out in all directions.

The bulbs from super illumination are also bluer, but they seem to have a higher temp/whiter in color.  I'd guess around 8K or so?  These were fairly simple front firing LED's with a bat shaped reflector.  An angle of illumination wasn't given, but I figure they were somewhere in between 90 and 120 degrees.  There are definite hot spots.  The A/C button is really bright as that's where the short neo wedge sits.  The tops of the knobs are also much brighter than the bottoms.  But, it's just nice having all of the controls lit up.  I haven't had a lit up temp and fan control knobs for several years!

The one last tip I have, is that if you are replacing incandescent bulbs with LED's and the LED doesn't light up when you put it in, remove the the LED, rotate it 180 degrees in the socket, and try again.  LED's do not work when the polarities are reversed.  It's that stubborn D in LED that's causing the problem.

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