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Hoping for clarification on unlit needle issue

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Hoping for clarification on unlit needle issue

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Old 03-15-08, 01:38 PM
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drewkaree
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Default Hoping for clarification on unlit needle issue

I've read through eleventy brazillion pages of threads, both here and on other forums, about this issue. Nothing seems to definitively isolate one issue from another, and poor (IMO) language/definition of these problems makes everything clear and unclear - at the same time

Here are the issues as I see them:

Speedo/tach/gas/temp GAUGES are unlit. (big round "dials" aren't lit up)
Speedo/tach/gas/temp NEEDLES are unlit (indicator "lines" aren't lit up)

In EVERY thread, it always seems to devolve into others chiming in about their "gauges" when they're referring to the "needles", or other issues, such as the climate control panel, etc etc etc. You all can look for yourself and see what I'm saying. I can't do anything about it, and I don't see any use in adding to the "noise" in those threads.

I had a "needle" go out on me last night, and am looking to fix it, but for the life of me, I cannot suss out of the giant sticky whether the cap fix will solve it, or whether it's a completely separate issue. Also, I DO NOT WANT TO SEND IT TO MIKADO/DASH/BLAH BLAH - I want to fix this MYSELF, if at all possible. I possess reasonable soldering skills, and have replaced caps on a few electronics boards in the past.

Please - PLEASE - if at all possible, refrain from telling me about the service you received from so-and-so, or to read the sticky. I wouldn't be posting this if the sticky seemed to absolutely address my issue instead of "roundabout" addressing my issue, and I wouldn't be posting this if I wanted someone ELSE to do the work for me.

Here's a pic of what my ACTUAL ISSUE is so as to get rid of the "needle/gauge" confusion I'm seeing. Can someone point me to what I need to do, and isolate it to the info I need to fix this?
Attached Thumbnails Hoping for clarification on unlit needle issue-flickering-tach.jpg  
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Old 03-15-08, 04:12 PM
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LiCelsior
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doesnt the needle have some sort of paint that lights up?/ someone correct me if im wrong.
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Old 03-15-08, 04:19 PM
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Brazillion pages? 11 of them? You bi-lingual?

Yes, there is an electrically conducive material on our needles that indeed light up.

Capictors do NOT fix burnt out needles. This is the more expensive fix that you cannot do yourself, or at least no one has figured out how to yet.

This is one of the fixes that some of the more reputable guys like Walker I believe can do for 400$ or so. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is the sad fact. Caps only effect items that cease to function, are slow to function, or sometimes just don't work.
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Old 03-15-08, 08:46 PM
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http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Lexus...QQcmdZViewItem

I have exactly the same problem as you show in your picture. Perhaps these would work? I don't get why they don't specify the LS400 as well...
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Old 03-15-08, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by LiCelsior View Post
doesnt the needle have some sort of paint that lights up?/ someone correct me if im wrong.
That's part of the confusion in the other threads. Some folks say yes, others no, and it apparently seems to depend on the year of your car. Beyond frustrating

Originally Posted by Neofate View Post
Brazillion pages? 11 of them? You bi-lingual?
Counting the sticky (now up to 13 pages) and the dozens of other threads on this subject, I got the feeling I NEEDED to be bi-lingual to make heads or tails of exactly what the problem is.

It's nice to hear a definitive answer on caps not fixing the needles, and I wish the sticky could get cleaned up to reflect this too.

That flat-out sucks that I've got to essentially be without my car while they get fixed, on top of being expensive (but less so than a dealership's "fix"). At least it's good to hear one way or the other.

Originally Posted by fencera View Post
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Lexus...QQcmdZViewItem

I have exactly the same problem as you show in your picture. Perhaps these would work? I don't get why they don't specify the LS400 as well...
That auction is from Lextech. From what I've been able to glean, they don't offer ANY solution for LS400 folks, and given the wording on their website, they're quite adamant about "you must READ, we give no refunds", I'm not willing to "give it a shot" to someone so seemingly oriented against the consumer.

From my looking around, the circuit board the needles attach to is probably different in the LS than the SC. If you look on Lextech's site, they ONLY offer fixes for this problem for the SC and ES (and perhaps the GS, can't remember exactly).

You're also having to do the exact same thing with them, according to that auction - take out your cluster, send it to them, have them fix it, and send it back to you. Personally, while I don't relish the idea of having ANYONE else work on my cars if I can at all help it, I'd much rather deal with someone who gets rave reviews like Jim than the attitude I feel from Lextech. Others may have had success with them, but all it takes is a little looking around (and trust me, I'm a fast reader and have seen MANY responses) to see that for an LS, Lextech is NOT the route for me. YMMV
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Old 03-16-08, 07:44 AM
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I can confirm that unlit or half lit needles are a result of the conductive material on the back of the needle cracking or flaking off over time. As far as I know Walker is the only guy that can fix this. However, that doesn't mean it can't be done...hey, if he can do it so can someone else. I have contacted him and of course, he won't say how he fixes the needles.

I have read through many many threads and somewhere in those I found a post that said you can fix the needle if you buy a rear window defogger repair kit, mix a little black touch up paint in and repaint the needle back. I bought a repair kit but haven't gotten around to trying this out on a needle yet so I cannot confirm. What will make the job difficult is the fact that the needles are glass and extremely delicate...break them and you're screwed. If you give this fix a try make sure to take pics and I can do a tutorial on it - many people have this problem and would benefit from having another option for repair.

The Lextech auction is for SC/ES for a reason - those needles are NOT cold cathodes like LS's have, they're LED so no conductive backing. This is a HUGE difference!!! I know for sure that first and second gen LS's all used the cold cathode needles, third gen's probably do too but I haven't taken a close look at those for a while.

So, if you're going to attempt this you're going to need to pull your dash, take it apart, remove the needles, then repaint. I have a few tutorials that should guide you through the concepts at least, I see you have a second gen which is slightly different. That's your gameplan, good luck and let us know!
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Old 03-16-08, 08:11 AM
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Just wanted to let you know -- You wouldn' tbe 'without' you car. You take out the cluster yourself, instructions are provided and we can help if your stumped.

You send it to say, Jim walker -- and you drive without a cluster. Inconvenient, but definitely doable. Walker will turn around a cluster in a day generally. So if you ship overnight, you can have him ship back overnight (if you speak ahead with him via Email and pay the extra shipping fee). So essentially you could have it within 3 days max at that rate.

It is well worth having him recondition the entire unit PLUS fix your needles for 400-450$ than trying to do it on your own with a shakey plan. Yes, he doesn't use $400.00 in parts -- but he has it in knowledge. It is a third or less of what it would be for a new cluster.. worth it in my opinion.
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Old 03-16-08, 10:05 AM
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Its just the tach anyways. The LS is not a racecar, so its not that important. Now if it was a Ferrari, Lambo, Bugatti......now that would be of concern.
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Old 03-16-08, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by LexLS View Post
I can confirm that unlit or half lit needles are a result of the conductive material on the back of the needle cracking or flaking off over time.
I actually was able to WATCH the entire process of my needle going half-dark. Right around the area where it goes dark (halfway-ish down the needle), I started to see a little "glow" as the needle was flickering, almost as if there was a tiny spark/fire happening right at that point. Every time the needle would light up fully again, you could SEE the little spot get white-hot, almost as if it were burning through. I wished I had taken some video of this looking back, but I was kinda taken aback and wasn't using my head (plus it woulda been camera phone video ).

Given what I saw, in my instance anyway, I don't think it flakes off. I seem to remember a thread pointing out something about the dimmer switch seemingly passing some additional voltage along which, over time, is what causes this failure. That also might help explain the varying differences in WHEN this happens, since it doesn't appear to be a "set" time or mileage milestone.

It'd be nice to swap in LED's and have a reasonable fix (like in the GS fix), but it appears you'd have to do wholesale changes to the entire cluster panel in order to pull that off.

Originally Posted by Neofate View Post
Just wanted to let you know -- You wouldn' tbe 'without' you car. You take out the cluster yourself, instructions are provided and we can help if your stumped.

You send it to say, Jim walker -- and you drive without a cluster. Inconvenient, but definitely doable. Walker will turn around a cluster in a day generally.
I'm a terrible speeder. To the point that I lost my license when I was younger. TWICE

I've noticed it's W-A-Y too easy for me to quickly be 15-20 over the speed limit for me to drive without my gauges. I'm currently investigating a $900 '92 LS400, but if that falls through and I DON'T decide to give this a shot on my own, I'll be waiting for certain until midsummer to pick up another vehicle to drive while I hammer out all the little details I need to fix on my current LS.
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Old 03-16-08, 01:31 PM
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Your needle is covered with some sort of special paint that lights when electricity is ran from it, and the paint apparently loses its conductivity over time - which is the problem you're having. If you search ebay for cluster repair, - most of these guys can reapply the paint to the needles for $150. But if you do your research, I'm sure you can buy such paint in an electronics store and do it yourself.

Now, to be clear, it does not have to do with any capacitors or anything like that. If the cluster itself stops lighting up, then its the capacitors, but needles are just that paint.
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Old 03-16-08, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by drewkaree View Post
That also might help explain the varying differences in WHEN this happens, since it doesn't appear to be a "set" time or mileage milestone.
That is the truth - I'm running 230k and my gauges are perfect. *knock on wood*


It'd be nice to swap in LED's and have a reasonable fix (like in the GS fix), but it appears you'd have to do wholesale changes to the entire cluster panel in order to pull that off.
Indeed,.. LEDS would be nice. If the gauges weren't so 'delicate and important' I think this would have been figured out by now, as people would have experimented more. But since your odo is included in them, you don't want to mess it up as you can't just order another one for 'cheap'.

I'll just send mine off to Walker when that happens.. unless someone comes up with a solution , but I wouldn't do much fiddling with it because Walker specifically states that he doesn't repair what users break. Or it isn't part of the original cost.. and sometimes if 'we' screw something up it permanently alters the gauge where a repair isn't possible in certain areas.



I'm a terrible speeder. To the point that I lost my license when I was younger. TWICE

I've noticed it's W-A-Y too easy for me to quickly be 15-20 over the speed limit for me to drive without my gauges. I'm currently investigating a $900 '92 LS400, but if that falls through and I DON'T decide to give this a shot on my own, I'll be waiting for certain until midsummer to pick up another vehicle to drive while I hammer out all the little details I need to fix on my current LS.

Oh come on. -- I drove for 3 years without a working speedometer. No tickets . (In a 240sx). For the couple days you are without your cluster you can just just stay with 'traffic' and go slower than normal.. so it is impossible to be pulled over.

If you really want, you can buy a cheap speedo gauge and wire it up and just rig it where your cluster was to have a "temp" speedometer while your cluster is sent off.
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Old 03-16-08, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Och View Post
Your needle is covered with some sort of special paint that lights when electricity is ran from it, and the paint apparently loses its conductivity over time - which is the problem you're having. If you search ebay for cluster repair, - most of these guys can reapply the paint to the needles for $150. But if you do your research, I'm sure you can buy such paint in an electronics store and do it yourself.

We need someone who has found the paint, who has done it, and it HAS worked.

Then we work up a Picture DIY on it.

Also a picture DIY on the capacitors , where to get them, and what type for each area. THEN it might actually help people with their clusters. Instead of a 'brazillion' pages of confusing , non specific discussion.
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Old 03-16-08, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Neofate View Post
We need someone who has found the paint, who has done it, and it HAS worked.

Then we work up a Picture DIY on it.

Also a picture DIY on the capacitors , where to get them, and what type for each area. THEN it might actually help people with their clusters. Instead of a 'brazillion' pages of confusing , non specific discussion.
See, I used to have a perfectly working cluster, but then my car got stolen, and when I recovered it two weeks later, it was missing its entire interior, including the cluster. I rebuilt it, and the cluster I got wasn't lighting up. I've sent it to Walker and her repaired it, and he also offered to recoved all the needles with that paint for $150, but I didn't opt for it. My needles are fine, except for the speedo needle not lighting up at the very top, about 1/4 of an inch, and I can live with that. However if someone finds information on the paint, I'll defenately attempt to recover it.

I also had sticky speedo and tach needles, and I repaired them using my own method which I described in the sticky thread. It is somewhat of a crude method, but it worked, - I've had it like this for over a year and still works fine.

https://www.clublexus.com/forums/sho...2&postcount=30

If you think about it, its unbelievable how many problems the LS400 cluster has. At least three separate problems, sticky needles, failed backlights, and failed luminous needles. Of course you have to give Lexus a credit, LS400 cluster was industry's first lumunous cluster, but it's so half assed, and Lexus should've had the courtesy of issuing a recall on it.

However things do improve. For instance the cluster in my GS430 so far didn't have a single problem (knock on wood), meaning that Lexus engineers did their homework and worked out whatever issues that plaqued early clusters.
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Old 03-16-08, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Neofate View Post
We need someone who has found the paint, who has done it, and it HAS worked.

Then we work up a Picture DIY on it.

Also a picture DIY on the capacitors , where to get them, and what type for each area. THEN it might actually help people with their clusters. Instead of a 'brazillion' pages of confusing , non specific discussion.
Well, I laid out a game plan and said where the paint can be found (any auto store), someone needs to follow through. I just don't have time now.

I agree about a tut on cap replacement, it's actually on my tut list but again, my time issue. I have read through most of that huge sticky and it really is confusing, conflicting and difficult to understand unless you know a thing or two. Oh and I've been saying this for years but might as well say it again - 90-92 clusters are DIFFERENT than 93-94 clusters!
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Old 03-16-08, 08:31 PM
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What do you guys need to know about capacitor replacement? I just replaced a half dozen of my capacitors, probably more than needed.

Where to buy?
What to replace?

I had issues with my gas gauge taking forever to climb, dim backlighting, backlighting completely off and flickering on, and an issue with the dimmer switch and backlighting intensity. Everything works perfect now aside from half of my RPM needle.
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