Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Converting gauge cluster to 12-volt

First, let me start this post by letting everyone know that I actually own two gauge clusters for the Studebaker, and that through this process I will be combining parts from both as I do this conversion; it is not my intention to confuse anyone, although if you'd like to turn this into a game of spotting the differences between the pictures, feel free.

Ok, with the official disclaimer out of the way, let's launch into the project.

I've done two things to the Studebaker resulting in a major impact on the gauges: first, I've put a different engine in it, which has different sensor output than the gauges are used to receiving, and second, I've switched it from 6-volt positive ground to 12-volt negative ground (the modern standard for the majority of automobiles.) While it would be possible to hook the gauges up to a twelve-volt signal using a step-down converter such as a Runtz capacitor, I would still not be sure how accurately they would read with the signal from the V8's sensors.  Fortunately, there's a relatively painless solution: the individual gauges from a 63-66 Studebaker Lark will fit with minor modification and are a match to the sensors on the new engine.

Here's the gauge cluster at the start:


The piece that contains the gauges detaches from the rest of the assembly by removing 6 screws:

Next, the old brittle wires were removed by pulling the bulb housings and removing the nuts from the back of the gauges.

The gauges are now easily removed.

Of course, I wanted to see if the new gauges really fit, so I tossed the temperature gauge in place. Then it was cleaning time.

The light, robin-egg blue color supposedly reflects a softer light across the gauges.  It cleaned up nicely--no need to repaint. Time to trim the two lower gauges (the others were just fine) and then  throw everything in place.

Hmm,  should I paint the speedometer needle orange, or the other needles white? Although that would be less work, I'm not sure how well that would go with the gold trim. Time for more cleaning. . .light soap and water for the glass bits, and a bit of microfiber and wax for the metal parts, with a light coating and buffing over the glass as well.

Complete--for now. I need put the lights in place (they simply snap into holes in the back) but want to see if I can source new replacements for those. And there needs to be a bit more cleaning around the switches, but that will wait for another day.

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