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Spotty electroluminescent gauges

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So, this weekend, I picked up an '06 Outback XT Limited 5-speed (wanted a LGT wagon, but as y'all know, are hen's teeth rare, and with a price to match). The car is...well, let's say, not perfect. It definitely needs a lot of work on the suspension (HEAVY body roll over uneven bumps. Kind of feels like a Jeep with a bad UCA/ball joint on the rear axle). That, I can fix, but what's got me stumped is the gauge cluster.


There are dark spots at the 12:00 positions on the speedo, tacho, and the fuel gauge, and there's some condensation behind the lens. I was hoping to just swap it out, but that doesn't seem possible thanks to the immobilizer, and the nearest dealer that's willing to do the cluster reprogram is like 2 hours away.


Has anyone ever dismantled one of these to swap/solder in new lights?

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Alright, I think that worked. The pictures are awful, but one is midday, and the other is later in the afternoon.


You can see the top parts of the gauges are noticeably dimmer in bright sunlight. In fact, they're almost impossible to see (both pics are at max brightness).


Weirdly, there appears to be some condensation behind the lens in spots, too. You can see it in the second photo, where the needles are for the fuel/temp gauges.



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I came across a thread on one of the UK Legacy forums, and it looks like someone's run across this before. I'll take a crack at it and see what I can do. Hopefully, I don't irreversibly break the gauge cluster.


It's no wonder the car was so "cheap" (well, as cheap as a car can be in this day and age). It's definitely a work-in-progress, that's for sure. Yesterday, it's the gauge cluster. Today, the air bag light's on - but I'm going to try the solder fix in the map light cubby on that one.


That said, even with all of it's faults and "quirks", I'm loving the car so far. It's way quieter and more comfortable than my 4EAT FXT.

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Another forum member just did some mods to his gauge cluster. He provided a link to a youtube video which may not necessarily help your case, but still.




12 years ago, I did take apart my gauge cluster (partially) because my airbag light was not working at all. Well, whoever rebuilt our car were crooks and covered up the airbag light with tape. But that's when I found out the gauge cluster uses LEDs.

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So looks like you found the link to the UK Legacy board. Here it is in case anyone else wants it.


Legacy LED Replacement


Here's the thing with the needles. If you can get the needles off without pulling the metal rod out of the stepper motor then you are ok. If the metal rod comes out with the needle you'll be banging your head against the wall trying to get the stepper motors acting normally again. It isn't too difficult, just lots of trial and error.


Definitely watch the video before you pull the needles off. Sort of shows you what you're dealing with.


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Based on him not getting quite the right brightness, might be best to replace all at once.



You mean replace all LEDs at once, or the whole gauge cluster? If you mean the latter, what about the car mileage? Do you know if it is recorded in the gauge cluster or somewhere else in the car (e.g. BIU)?

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I've got the same problem, but mine isn't as severe so I've never prioritized fixing it. What brightness are your dash lights set to? Does changing it up or down lessen the visual impact of the low spots?


So, I've got the dash set to 100%, all the time. If I dim the cluster and it's dark outside, the dark areas in the cluster dim slightly, but I think it's just bled off light from the other LED's.


As to the car's history, it's "only" got 210,000 miles. Aside from the weirdness in the air bag lights (I think it's the stupid overhead console) and the gauge cluster, electrically, it seems pretty sound. The sunroof drain does appear to be clogged, though. It was the cheapest 5-speed XT/GT on AutoTrader at the time, so you get what you pay for, I guess.


As far as I'm aware, the mileage is stored in the cluster. I was considering just doing some research and tearing the cluster down to test/replace the LEDs in the dark spots. I hopped on eBay, and there are a few manual XT/GT clusters, but the mileages would be off (of course). And changing that involves EEPROM programming, which is a whole other ball game. I don't think it's possible for a dealer to do with an SSM3, but I don't know for sure.

Edited by killjoy323232
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It looked like the LCD display that shows mileage comes off the circuit board. It's clipped in and there's a ribbon that attaches it to the board. I undid the clips but didn't try and remove the connector from the board. I was worried about ruining it.


If the mileage is stored there then just swapping that display might make gauge cluster swaps easier.

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