Eric A. Amador - firstname.lastname@example.org
I offer these instructions based on two experiences with this job, one with white gauge faces and one with yellow faces. I highly recommend selecting gauge faces that include the needle stop pins. (Stare at your OE gauges to see what I mean.) These instructions do not describe how to install such pins, for those of you unlucky enough to have bought a set that doesn't include them. They're a pain to install and you have to trash your OE gauge faces to do it.
I don't have any favorite brands or vendors to recommend, except to say that I've always had good experiences with Brainstorm, PBC, and the Dealer Alternative.
I think that everything I say below is accurate, but the last time I did this job was a couple of months ago (February 28 and 29, 1998), so please forgive me if I've forgotten anything, and feel free to send feedback to Miata.Net with suggestions or corrections.
Tools and materials needed: Sketch pad and pen or pencil, or Polaroid camera; long and short Philips screwdrivers; jewelers or small-sized Philips screw driver; flat-bladed screwdriver; electrical or duct tape; plastic bag; razor blade; paint (color up to you); small sponge.
Warm the car up thoroughly (go for a drive) with a full tank of gas. Come back and, with the engine idling, make a drawing or take a Polaroid photo of the gauges, noting the EXACT position of each needle, then shut off the engine. (The full tank notation ensures that, even if you use up some gas driving around to calibrate the needles (see below), you can always refill the tank to restore your baseline.)
Remove the four screws under the steering column cover from which the turn signal & light stalks protrude. Note where the one machine screw goes. Wiggle the cover (pulling the top and bottom halves gently apart, and moving them side-to-side in opposite directions), until it comes off.
Remove the two screws under the dash pod shroud (just above and to each side of the steering column), and grab the shroud firmly with one hand on each side, pulling it straight toward you as you sit in the driver's seat. Pull hard enough and it will pop off with a loud bang as the spring connectors let go. Wiggle the shroud off over the turn signal/light stalks.
Put some electrical or duct tape over the screw on the headlight/windshield wiper combination switch housing that faces the gauges, to protect the clear plastic gauge cover as you remove it.
Remove the four screws surrounding them, then pull the gauges toward you as far as possible (maybe an inch), then reach behind their housing and disconnect all the wires and cables (maybe four or five connectors) behind it. This job is easiest if you stand outside the car, leaning over the windshield to see how each connector attaches. The speedometer has a large connector with a molded-in retaining clip that you will need to hold open, before the connector will let go.
Lift the gauge assembly out and put in on your workbench.
Take a flat-bladed screwdriver and gently push down and out each of the tabs holding on and surrounding the clear plastic gauge cover. Ease the cover off and be careful not to break the tabs. Put the cover in a plastic bag to keep dust out of it.
Grasp each needle firmly by its hub with your fingers and pull extremely hard, straight away from the gauge. Believe it or not, each needle eventually will pop off. You may bleed. If you do, try to keep the blood off the gauges.
Unscrew and replace each OE gauge face with the respective new face, making sure that the clear light "guides" behind each face remain in place. (You'll see what I mean--it's no big deal.) If it is needed for contrast and visibility, use a razor blade to scrape the white paint off the back of each needle and paint it another color with a sponge. Let the paint dry. Leave the needles off for now. (I found that using a q-tip soaked in "goof off" removed the paint from the needles very well. Caution should be used with this product as it is quite strong. - from Michael Harney.)
Without replacing the clear plastic cover, put the gauges back in the car and reconnect them. Install the four screws that hold the gauges to the car.
Drive the car around to warm it up completely, then, while the car is idling, press each needle into place. To avoid binding, don't bottom the needles out against the faces.
Let the car idle and stare at the needles. Remove/reinstall any that are not in the right position. Drive around some more and see if they stay in the right position.
Once the needles are perfectly set, put the clear plastic cover back on, remove the protective tape from the combination switch screw, put the shroud back on while ensuring that the spring clips are aligned, screw it on, and replace and screw on the steering column covers, top and bottom.
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20 February, 1999