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Rx400h Gauge Cluster “blue Rings” Project *pics*


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Hey guys, :D

As some of you may already know, I’ve been working on a few “personalized” projects for my Rx400h, most of which cosmetic. One of my most recent projects dealt with the modification of the gauge cluster needles, making them illuminate from the actual “center” which gave them some extra length and appeal. But still, I felt the cluster was lacking that extra “hybrid-ness” to set it apart from the rest of the Rx series model. <_<

The Rx400h is the “hybrid” version of the Rx350, and there are some cosmetic differences. For 2008, the hybrid Rx was given a “blue” accented emblem and blue accented “400h” in the rear. It’s even more apparent that the theme of “blue” is special to the hybrid vehicles while looking at the 2010 Rx450h and HS250h hybrid sedan.

In the 2010 hybrid Lexus’, the theme of blue is seen in a lot of places. Similar blue accented badges complete the exterior appeal, but more importantly the color blue shows up in the interior as well. :)

The 2010 Rx450h gauge cluster is accented with a nice shade of blue- although I find the placing a bit…odd. :huh:

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The 2010 Hs250h uses blue accent lighting beneath the “mouse” like device on the console, and also uses blue light in the gauge cluster, accenting the integer marks of the dials.

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But it’s not just the new Lexus hybrid cars that use blue lighting in the cluster, it’s common in many Infiniti and Acura clusters too, it’s very appealing! B)

Here’s the cluster from a newer Acura RDX.

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But the Rx400h cluster is absent of any blue accents. Here is the factory 400h cluster. :angry:

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I sat and thought about how I could add blue accents to the Rx400h cluster, and one night it came to me! :D

The factory Rx400h cluster has a set of white “rings” that surround each gauge. It’s illuminated separately from the rest of the cluster, and comes on when the doors are opened and for a few seconds after the car is turned off. It’s also found in the Rx330 and Rx350 models, but to a smaller extent.

The speedometer “ring” for the Rx400h is a little thicker, and illuminates the spaces between the integer markings for the speedometer. It’s also seen on the 06 Toyota Highlander Hybrid as well.

Here are the rings on the Rx400h cluster.

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When you get into the car, these rings light up, leaving the rest of the gauges blank. And when you turn the car off, the same thing. So I’d call these “accents” !! :D

So why couldn’t a turn these rings “blue”? It seemed like an easy job and thought it would look nice too. So I started the project. <_<

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The rings are made from small pieces of clear lexan plastic between the black bezel and the gauge face.

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And for the speedometer ring, the spaces between the integer markings are painted white to reflect the light from the rings forward.

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And on the main circuit board, are several white 3.2 x 2.0mm surface mount LED’s to illuminate the rings.

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So I purchased 8 (that’s how many illuminate the rings) 3.2 x 2.0mm BLUE SMT’s as direct replacements. I bought several different types because I wasn’t sure which would be the brightest. :rolleyes:

When they came in, I replaced the white SMT’s with the blue ones, but neither of them were bright enough for my satisfaction. The oem white SMT’s were being fed 3.2v and ~20mA of current- neither enough to produce enough light from a blue SMT… :(

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So I decided to replace the white SMT’s with 5mm standard type LED’s. They are MUCH more intense than SMT’s because of the dome-type head, and run on exactly the same amount of current and voltage. <_<

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The only drawback is that they are MUCH taller, about 2.5x taller. So the legs of the rings were now too long. :angry:

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And I wasn’t sure if cutting a good centimeter from the legs would affect the optics at all… But I gave it a try. I bought ANOTHER used cluster from an Rx330 (which uses similar rings) from Russia (gotta love ebay!!) for about $60 shipped to experiment with. :D

I shaved off about 1cm from each leg, sanded and buffed, and lit-up the LED’s. They looked PERFECT! No difference after shortening the legs whatsoever. :D

So I did the same to the Rx400h cluster rings. I put the cluster back together, and fired everything up. The rings for the power meter and fuel and temp gauges were OK, but the center speedometer ring still needed some work. With no outside ambient light, the blue reflects off of the white between the integer marks just fine, but during the day or in direct sunlight, the blue is washed out by the white paint. This was a definite No-No. <_<

So this became a new problem. How could I get the white spaces between the tic marks to be blue, so that if sunlight were to shine on it, it would only add blue instead of washing it out with white? And how could I get the lines to be PERFECTLY straight and evenly colored?

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At first I thought I could go over the white paint with blue permanent marker. So I tried it… But I couldn’t get the whole spaces evenly shaded without seeing the felt strokes, and also the color was too dark to reflect much blue light.

And also, I’ve noticed that the white areas don’t even line up with the clear plastic rings. It’s not like the ring is positioned wrong, it’s just that the white areas aren’t shaped properly- there’s a tiny sliver of space on the left and right of the gauges that seem to be missing the white paint causing for less reflection in those areas:

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So I figured I just had to re-paint them blue, and add the paint in the areas the factory white lacked. It may seem like an easy and simple process, but this was the HARDEST part of making this gauge cluster modification possible. It was very time consuming and tedious to get the tape cut and aligned perfectly to make sure the paint wouldn’t bleed or go somewhere I didn’t want it to go. It would be so much easier if I had an Rx330 or Rx350 whose cluster rings don’t illuminate the areas between the speedometer tic marks.

I tried cutting thin strips of masking tape to outline the white areas, but found the edges of the masking tape (even with cutting smooth with a razor blade) to be too rough. So I decided to use clear gift-wrapping tape. It’s very thin which allows for a very straight edge. So I outlined the edges where I wanted to paint with the clear tape, and cut very thin strips of the clear tape to cover the tic marks, and used regular masking tape to cover the places of the gauge I didn’t want painted. I installed the clear ring with the bezel onto the cover to see where the blue paint “should” be, and cut the tape to size with a razor. I wanted to make sure it came out perfect. <_<

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I bought a little bottle of Krylon’s Short Cut’s “ocean blue” (which is the perfect shade to reflect the most blue light) and used my airbrush to shoot the cluster face.

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I let the paint air-dry for 20mins or so, then proceeded to remove the masking tape to reveal the finished product.

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But it didn’t come out “perfect”… Some sections of the tape removed a little too much blue, so I had to touch-up a few spots.

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And after 15 minutes of touch-up, it came out pretty good!!

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If you look closely at the 2010 Rx450h cluster, you’ll notice there’s a section of the power meter that is green. On the Rx400h, there’s no green section. There’s just a small section between the blue “braking position” and “power” position that’s white. I wasn’t sure if these sections mean the same thing, but I figured what the heck, I want my power meter to have green too. So on the reverse of the cluster faceplate I added a small piece of clear tape and dyed it with green permanent marker to add the green effect. I did the same with red marker over the “WARNING” area of the temp gauge to make the red a deeper shade.

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But before I closed the cluster up, I decided I would add some white SMT’s to the needles, since I like my needles really bright! The needles for the power meter and speedometer are illuminated by four white 2-chip SMT’s. I found the + and – and added one more white SMT (from my donor Rx330 cluster) in parallel with one of the SMT’s to give more light in the 0 positions.

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So I the put the cluster back together.

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And here’s the final product!!!

When I enter or leave the car, the rings illuminate by themselves.

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When I turn the car on, the needles then illuminate.

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And then a few seconds later, the rest of the gauges illuminate.

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The whole “process” took about a day from start to finish, although it took days of planning and a lot of experimentation to figure out what to do. It was TOTALLY worth it though :D

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The whole “process” took about a day from start to finish, although it took days of planning and a lot of experimentation to figure out what to do. It was TOTALLY worth it though :D

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Totally unrelated, but in the above pic, I see your heated seat switches (looks like they're both on as they're lit up), but what are those other vertical orange lights to the right of the heated seat switches? I don't have those in my '06.

Actually, what is everything in that spot. All I have are the heated seat switches. Looks like you have fog light switch? And something else to the right of the vertical orange lights too?

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The whole “process” took about a day from start to finish, although it took days of planning and a lot of experimentation to figure out what to do. It was TOTALLY worth it though :D

ao53ba.jpg

Totally unrelated, but in the above pic, I see your heated seat switches (looks like they're both on as they're lit up), but what are those other vertical orange lights to the right of the heated seat switches? I don't have those in my '06.

Actually, what is everything in that spot. All I have are the heated seat switches. Looks like you have fog light switch? And something else to the right of the vertical orange lights too?

Ha! Yes... those are all custom lol.

I have both remote radar detector and laser jammer systems installed in the car, and i made some custom buttons and installed them next to the headlight washer button (wanted them to look OEM). I made them from cutting an extra headlight washer button in half, creating the two switches. I created and printed clear transparencies with radar and laser icons on them, and molded them to the front. It was a little more complicated than that, but they came out BEAUTIFUL. Then i dremeled out the hole in the wood piece (same size as the headlight washer hole) and installed the custom switches. I illuminated them with some extra bulbs to match the surroundings too.. And i replaced the cig lighter unit with one from my old Rx300 that has the light-up ring... Perfect replacement!

I've gotta make a write-up on those <_<

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I also made a HUD display for the radar and laser- again, totally custom... When the laser goes off, i see a blue "LASER" floating on the windshield, and when the radar goes off i see a red flashing "RADAR" to it's left. I can't get the radar to go off but the laser has a default, shown here. It looks doubled but in reality the two images (from both sides of the windshield) blur into one.

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got pulled over one too many times with the windows down and radio too high and couldn't hear the beeping! lol

I haven't made an official writeup on the HUD because it's still in the experimental stage...

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Oh, yeah. Headlamp washer. I do have that, just that my washer pump is kaput, so I don't use it. A new pump is ridiculously expensive. Cheapest I could find is about $150 US.

Those are some cool mods. The HUD is nice.

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I think we have the next Chuck Foose right here in this forum.

Seriously, good money can be had in custom work for the wealthy.

Last year I put together a fiber optic demo system for high school students. It's not nearly as neat at Cduluk's creations, but I wanted to be able to trace wires to troubleshoot, occasionally. You can see what was involved here:

http://www.sme044.org/technology_for_students.htm

I like doing this type of stuff, but spare time seems to be getting more scarce as I get older!

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You are my hero. The gauges look outstanding and I want you to do mine :D I also like the the radar/laser buttons too and the headsup.

Haha thanks :D I can do yours for you but we can't talk about it on the forum (it's considered solicitation) :rolleyes: but you can PM me and we can talk about it through e-mail if you're really interested :)

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WOW SKILLS!

I love your "I want it to look custom" mindset! It's the only way!

I especially like those radar and laser buttons, they look awesome!

Nice job!

And yea, I agree with the next Chip Foose comment!

Thanks <_< I too have never been fond of the ricer looks some cars get by adding to much aftermarket junk... Especially on a Lexus. I try to make everything i do look neat and very OEM, like it came from the factory that way. It's the subtle things that make all the difference!

I've just seen too many "hack jobs" on cars... :rolleyes:

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I know I've given you a hard time about your mods over the years...but this is pretty cool and you are definately getting really good at it.

I know you're going to school to be an engineer...any thoughts on doing something in automotive design when you get out?

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I know I've given you a hard time about your mods over the years...but this is pretty cool and you are definately getting really good at it.

I know you're going to school to be an engineer...any thoughts on doing something in automotive design when you get out?

Thanks SW :)

I've actually since left engineering, i'm now studying in math/technology education. I couldn't imagine myself working all day and all night every day a year on projects someone demands i work on :( I do my best when i have a little control, when i'm in the drivers seat. I have several teachers and educators in my family who love their jobs- love the kids, love the hours, love the summers. I think i'd be best working with and teaching others and doing projects on my own time <_<

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:lol:

Only problem with teaching is the money, otherwise I would have loved to be a teacher too. Hard to afford a Lexus as a teacher ;)

Kudos to you though...

Oh trust me i've thought of that :( But i'd rather do something i love for a little less than something that annoyed me every day.

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the gauges look AMAZING.

But I noticed the RX450h has the READY sign green. But you didn't make yours green. :P

I was gonna, but i like the white "ready" over the green one. Since it's on all the time, i thought the green would look out of place <_<

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