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Tutorial: Secondary LED indicator in Instrument Cluster
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Author Topic: Tutorial: Secondary LED indicator in Instrument Cluster  (Read 45403 times)
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SmartieParts

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« Reply #105 on: September 10, 2009, 03:54:41 PM »

Hey John... I hope the move is on good news, not bad!

Do you use the 3M green tap splices?  The ones with the gel filling?  I ask because I misordered and bought 2000 pcs instead of 200.  If you need any :)

Steve
John_H
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« Reply #106 on: September 10, 2009, 10:36:00 PM »

Whoops!

I provide both the green and the orange 3M splices.  The gel filled are really superb.  But I already have many more than I'll need of both!

To me it's a little disappointing splices are even needed - if there was a connector from the cable to the switch, adding an external LED wouldn't need a splice at all!  But I'm happy that the splices don't cut into the smart wiring harnesses.
__

The move is something I've wanted for a while.  I just need to make sure I'm employed quickly.
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« Reply #107 on: September 10, 2009, 11:54:33 PM »

Back when we were doing the development and seeking people's input, it would have been nice if more people indicated a desire to have an external LED!  I specifically recall a discussion where we gave the various options and the majority response was to have it on the stalk despite the (accurate) prediction that it would be blocked by the steering wheel because a) who needs a light anyway, and b) it was a simpler install (and that's true).  Of course, some may also recall that back then with the only two early cars we had available to us, there was no cruise icon in the dash!  They said "ECO" (which we now know to be related to the micro hybrid drive) in that spot.  When it turned out that most of the production US cars had an unused cruise icon, that made it a no-brainer.  By then we already had 1000 cable sets produced and it was too late.

However, the modification is relatively simple and you're splicing into a $10 to $15 staight forward cable that we provide rather than the $1800 harness that smart provides :). Wreck the cable and its really not that big of a deal.

If the tap splices you're referring to are the "UG" ones, then they are the perfect choice.  They make a positive connection almost 100% of the time thanks to the snap action, plus they are easy to use and the gel filling assures that corrosion won't be an issue.

Horseman
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« Reply #108 on: September 12, 2009, 08:21:03 PM »

I can tell you that, unequivocally, the reason I didn't harp on the dash install more was BECAUSE the icon in the dash was thought to be ECO. Had I known that there was a cruise icon in there, then I would have been much more insistent that at least an OPTION for installing an LED in there were available.

Having said that, the LED modification that John has provided is excellent. Thank you so much!
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« Reply #109 on: September 13, 2009, 09:50:29 AM »

Agreed.  We were all operating on the best information we had at the time. 

Once I'm done with our software upgrades, I'm going to look at how we can modify our switch assemblies to be pre-spliced for easier modification.
wizard of ahs
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LOVING MY AREA 451 C/C WITH OPTIONAL LED !!


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« Reply #110 on: September 13, 2009, 05:10:11 PM »

I believe, WAY back when, the LED install WAS discussed and ultimately dropped!  Correct me IF I'm wrong  :P  I believe it was dropped because the manufacturing process was easier putting it on the stalk  8)

Mike
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« Reply #111 on: September 13, 2009, 09:26:08 PM »

Ok, I'll correct you :)

You must have misunderstood because the manufacturing process would absolutely be easier and cheaper by NOT putting it on the stalk.  That LED on the stalk was actually quite restricting in the mold design and took a lot of work and ended up requiring specialized and (relatively) expensive components compared to a simple cable and LED.

It does make for a far simpler installation though, by not having to pull off and take apart your speedometer.  And that did factor into the decision.

I'll state again that at the time we were working with imperfect information and all things considered I still think we did a pretty good job.  Sure, now that we know the icon's there we may have designed it a little differently... but then again, the existing design is simple to modify to add the remote LED if you want.  Splicing car wires is bad... splicing our switch wire is no big deal.

John_H
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« Reply #112 on: September 13, 2009, 10:59:25 PM »

The stalk LED install is a good idea in the end, IMHO, because there are many people not interested in taking apart their instrument cluster for fear of breaking something or voiding the warranty.

I've only provided instrument cluster LED kits to a small percentage of Area451 cruise control owners.  The limited penetration is perhaps partly because I haven't been "pushing" the hand-built boards, but "letting" people buy them from the information already on this forum and over at SCOA.  Additionally since the Area451 isn't marketed with the LED as an option there's probably a large group that doesn't even know the kit is available even if they were okay with taking apart the cluster.

I'm looking forward to having my move behind me, getting a job, and getting into the LED kits again.
wizard of ahs
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« Reply #113 on: September 14, 2009, 05:22:18 AM »

Art,

I meant no disrespect in the decision process.  I only mentioned it as there were NOT enough people interested in the "alternate" installation.

Out of the box, it's a great, easy install and I believe you made the right decision.

So, I stand corrected  :P


John_H,

Good luck with your move and we all wish many good things for you  ::)

Mike
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« Reply #114 on: September 14, 2009, 12:17:06 PM »

John, its no longer really my place (I'm in charge of the software side only now) but if you want to work with Steven I think there are some possibilities.  We haven't wanted to step on your toes on the one hand, but even if it isn't an issue nobody's really ever had time to look at doing it in-house.  Hand made isn't an option here.  Some thoughts:
  • You keep doing what you're doing - no changes
  • You keep doing what you're doing but we (Area 451 and/or SmartieParts at least) start marketing it as an option. I'm sure an email could even go out to all existing customers.  Because you're right - maybe people just don't know.
  • You send us the design and leave it up to us.  I don't recommend it because as I said, hand made won't happen and we no longer have hardware people on staff so we don't have the in house talent to make the appropriate files to send to a PCB house.  I forget what those files are called right now, but there's a standard design set.  With the other stuff we have going on and who is and isn't readily available, I see it likely not happening for a long time.
  • You figure out the production say for 100 units at a time and sell those to us.
Just random Art thoughts.  ;D
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« Reply #115 on: September 14, 2009, 12:19:45 PM »

Quote
I forget what those files are called right now, but there's a standard design set.
I just remembered... Gerber files.
GilbertoDiaz

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« Reply #116 on: August 11, 2013, 12:02:37 PM »

Purpose: To illustrate how owners can utilize an unused instrument cluster spot as a secondary cruise control indicator.
Difficulty: If you've tinkered with electronics then it is not particularly difficult. Soldering skills are helpful.
Cost: $5 to $10
Warranty implication: Modifying the product of course voids the warranty for the component(s) you modify and any damage to the vehicle is obviously your responsibility. With that said, it is our estimation that the likelihood of causing any problems with the car is very low and damage to the cruise control is completely avoidable with reasonable care.

READ THROUGH THIS ENTIRE TUTORIAL AND ASK ANY QUESTIONS YOU HAVE BEFORE PROCEEDING!  And don't proceed if you don't feel comfortable doing so.

Summary:  Tap into the red (cathode) and black (anode) wires of the cruise control switch cable and run a common led light into a cavity found in your car's instrument cluster, illuminating an unused icon that is there.

Tools and Materials required:
  • Discrete LED (see specifications below)
  • 4 to 6 feet of 20 to 24 AWG wire
  • Splice taps (optional)
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Wire cutters/stripper
LED Specs: Color as per your preference. Max 20mA. Forward Voltage between 1.85V and 2.5V.  3mm seems to be a good size (3mm and 5mm are the two most common sizes).  In the tutorial, we use one with a 125mcd (brightness) rating but you can buy > 1000mcd if you want brighter.  Whatever your local electronics store has is probably suitable.

Step 1: Remove the instrument cluster.
First you simply grasp the instrument cluster (ie. speedometer) with both hands and tug straight toward you. Only two basic clips hold it in place. Once removed, you then disconnect the single cable going into the back. This is done by rotating the gray swing arm 90 degrees to unlock then pull the connector straight out.



Step 2: Disassemble the instrument cluster.
First you take off the decorative frame at the front. Be careful, but there's really no trick to it - you just carefully pry it loose. It is held on with several somewhat delicate clips.



Next you pull down the lower hinged part of the main plastic body as shown. It is held in at both sides but a little finesse with your fingers and you should have it free with little trouble. Not much force required so if it isn't coming try pushing gently in different directions to get it to unlatch.



Now to remove the electronics from the plastic body.  In total there are 7 clip points holding the plastic body on.  All have to be loosened for it to come out so if it isn't coming, double check that one you loosened hasn't found its way back into place.  With all 7 loose, it should separate with little issue.  To get the three white ones in the back, use a small screwdriver or similar tool and gently push the white areas in (don't force!).  To get the two on the front simply pry the plastic away from the "guts" gently until it pops.  Note the first picture only shows 1 clip.  The other one (not shown) is on the other side of center.





Next you drill a hole of appropriate size for the LED you have chosen.  The hole goes either into the upper right cavity as shown, or the one next to it depending on your car.  Both of our early-release cars have an "ECO" icon in both positions but if yours has the preferred cruise control icon, it will probably be in the 2nd position from the top. If you pry the circuit board up a little you can easily see where the cavities are and shining a flashlight down the channels should reveal what the icons are.



Solder two wires to the LED and tape it appropriately (if you aren't into electronics at all, please enlist someone to help so you don't fry something by causing a short circuit).  Be sure to mark the wires or use different color wire so you know which side is the cathode and which is the anode (tip: the vast majority of LEDs have a long lead and a short lead. The long lead is the anode).  It is wise to think of how much wire you might need and probably double it... better too long than too short.  Once you've soldered and taped your LED, go ahead and stick it in the hole you drilled. Try to make it so the LED is pointing as straight down the "tube" as possible for best light transmission but don't shove it all the way to the end.



Feed the other ends of the wires through a hole in the back and close everything up (the picture shows us using an existing hole but that may not be the best idea if it can cause pinching of the wire. Consider drilling a new hole instead).  Be careful putting the plastic housing back on and make sure all 7 clips find their ways back to the proper places.



Feeding the wire from the upper part of the dashboard down the few inches to the lower part (where the wiper arm is) was probably the hardest part of this, but as this picture shows it is possible.  A stiff wire would really help here if you have one handy.



With the wire fed through and the instrument cluster cable reconnected, you can push the cluster back onto the dash.  Just line it up and push lightly and it should go securely back into place.  Now we get into the tricky parts.  You need to expose the wires in the cruise control switch cable.  There are various ways you can go about this and you may find the simplest is to just cut the wire and splice everything back together afterward.  I used a good quality auto-ratcheting wire stripper to strip the outer sheathing away in two places and then carefully used a razor blade to slice and remove it, thereby exposing the three internal wires as shown.



Remember that you marked the wire to keep the anode and cathode separate, right?  Tap the anode wire into the black cruise wire and the cathode wire into the red cruise wire.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  You can strip a section of the wires and solder them or you can use tap-splices like I did. Tap splices come in a few styles, these are high quality ScotchLok taps by 3M.  The green one is used to truly "tap" a wire (split off a signal without interrupting that signal) while the red ones are really just fancy butt connectors.  You would use the red one on the red wire IF you want to disable the existing LED. In other words, cut the red wire and leave the original LED disconnected.  Use the green one if you want the original light to illuminate as well.  The black wire must remain connected in either case.  You do nothing with the white wire!



You're pretty much done!  Depending on how you did your tapping/splicing you may want to wrap it all up in electrical tape and/or use nylon zip straps to make sure too much strain isn't on the connections.  Then put everything back together and go for a test.  You should see the appropriate light come on the dash.  Some cars will show the "ECO" like ours does but many (most?) should show a little cruise control symbol.  Both of these stem from when smart was being indecisive about whether the MHD (pseudo-hybrid) version or the cruise control would be available... in the end it was neither.  For those that think a cruise light in the dash might mean a factory cruise is on the way, keep in mind that the "light" doesn't even have an associated LED on the circuit board so don't get too excited.  They were just covering their bases and got production under way before decisions were made.



By the way, you can test without actually driving or even cranking up the engine by just putting the key to auxiliary power, shifting into D with your foot on the brake and then press the button... the light will flash because it doesn't like you pressing the brake and button at the same time.

Troubleshooting: I'll add to this as people run into problems and ask questions but here are a few that come to mind.

Problem: Light doesn't come on.
Solution: Perhaps the anode and cathode for your LED are reversed. Try switching the two wires and see if that helps. The bulb could be the wrong voltage or designed for a different power system, etc. Or it could just be a bad bulb. You may have missed a connection - check again. If you didn't disconnect it... does the original light still come on?  That may help in your troubleshooting.

Problem: The light comes on but it doesn't look very good. (sort of like ours in the last picture above)
Solution: The dash was designed for a specific LED and it is a surface mounted one that sits in a very exact way and shines directly at the icon from behind. So LED position can make a big difference and you may want to play with pushing the LED in further, or pulling it back, or adjusting the angle. If none of that helps then maybe using an LED that is more or less bright can help.  There are also a myriad of LED bulbs with different viewing angles, light intensities, etc and it may just take some trial and error to get it to look perfect.  There was a reason, after all, why we put the LED on the stalk instead of making this mod part of the standard installation.

Problem:  Uhoh! I managed to damage the cruise cable when trying to remove the outer insulation (or whatever).
Solution:  Don't worry about it too much.  There's nothing overly special about that wire so if you are handy with soldering you can probably manage to fix it on your own.  If not, you will be able to purchase a replacement switch cable from us directly.  Price and availability of spare parts are yet to be determined but the expensive part is the main cruise box so it shouldn't be too bad.

Problem:  Uhoh! I managed to damage the instrument cluster when [insert major oops here]!
Solution:  Ouch.  Let this be a lesson to others to proceed carefully!  A new instrument cluster will set you back quite a bit.  So if the damage is just cosmetic or you broke a clip, try to fix it best you can with glue and/or paint or whatever is necessary.  I've had our instrument cluster apart and put back together probably over 30 times now and it is still in perfect condition so the key is to never force anything, take your time, and pay attention to details.[/u]

Wonderful tutorial.. Thanks for sharing detailed information..Very helpful..
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