2003 Thunderbird - Can the dash lights be replace with LED's?

Frankie the Fink

Well-Known Member
My 02 lights had original white bulbs and the housing was also white, so maybe the yellow was an option or only on later years - yellow LEDs are available.

And I only got into my instrument cluster when I discovered the gauge lights are on FULL time, even with the headlight switch OFF and do NOT dim. The mileage and heater control dimming follows a different path and continues to operate and dim properly.

On inspection I think the classic FEM failure occurred causing the instrument lights and shifter light to become non-operational. Some previous owner "hot-wired" my instrument cluster to provide full time power to the instrument bulbs. Rather than deal with the FEM issue just now, I'm installing 60,000 hour LEDs and they can just burn the whole time the car is running -- which is basically how my modern cars (e.g. Tundra) work... If I decide to fix the FEM later on there is no downside to having the LEDs. I am using "dimmable" LEDs to that end.

The instrument cluster removal is not that bad if you have some mechanical skills and follow the Workshop Manual.

The big problem is that LEDs are polarity sensitive (unlike incandescent bulbs) so I had to sort out where the "negative" side is for every bulb location in the cluster (ugh!) which I will share once I prove the LED conversion is completely successful and I haven't "screwed the pooch". I will post the whole evolution in a new thread if things go well.
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At least 7 of those bulbs look like typical "twist in" sockets with replaceable bulbs. I would love to know the numbers so I could get on superbrightLEDs.com and order LED equivalents and never worry about them again.
Those are the 7 I would change. The others are seldom on and full brightness since they are warning lights. I would pick yellow LEDs. The guy on YouTube that did the LS used white or blue. Just too bright.
 
Wow way beyond my mechanical expertise.. I have a feeling I would of been swearing up a storm in a matter of an hour or so.. :) I remember on my 1980 Toyota Corolla reaching up under the dash to replace a couple burned out dash panel bulbs.. Was life easier then?
 

Frankie the Fink

Well-Known Member
Those are the 7 I would change. The others are seldom on and full brightness since they are warning lights. I would pick yellow LEDs. The guy on YouTube that did the LS used white or blue. Just too bright.
I started out that way and upon reflection realized the turn signals indicators, door ajar light and seat belt and high beam light and cruise control light are on more often than one might think and I don't want to do this twice - so I decided to go "whole hog" and do 'em all. The red dots are the negative terminals for LED purposes. I'm a journeyman avionics technician so this stuff isn't that scary to me. I also did the shifter console light in an LED. I'm using "warm white" LEDs for the gauges (which I used in my 63 Corvette) so I'm hoping they aren't too harsh - the other colors I've seen are glaring for just the gauges.
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I started out that way and upon reflection realized the turn signals indicators, door ajar light and seat belt and high beam light and cruise control light are on more often than one might think and I don't want to do this twice - so I decided to go "whole hog" and do 'em all. The red dots are the negative terminals for LED purposes. I'm a journeyman avionics technician so this stuff isn't that scary to me. I also did the shifter console light in an LED. I'm using "warm white" LEDs for the gauges (which I used in my 63 Corvette) so I'm hoping they aren't too harsh - the other colors I've seen are glaring for just the gauges.
View attachment 5141
Let me know for sure if the LEDs respond well to the dimmer thumb-wheel function.
 
I'm new to owning this 2003 Thunderbird. Some of my previous vehicles, I've been able to swap out the old incandescent light bulbs with LEDs to brighten up the instrument gauges. Does anyone know if that is possible for the 2003 Ford Thunderbird instrument cluster? I've seen conflicting info, but have heard it is a sealed unit and bulbs can not be replaced. Does anyone know, and if so, has anyone replaced bulbs with LEDs?
They are yellow LEDs. Dim in twilight but OK at night.
You would need to cut the plastic sealed housing open and unsolder the LEDs. I would like to have blue LEDs.
Way too much work.
HKS
I wish there was a way--my radio and a/c lights are useless in daytime.
 
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