Instrument Cluster and Gauge Faces

Removing Instrument Cluster

The first step to removing the instrument cluster is to remove some of the trim around it. You first must remove the soft black trim piece that goes along the entire bottom of the instrument cluster. It is held in by three Phillips screws on the underside. After removing the screws, pull it out. Then you need to remove the cover on top of the steering column. On the underside of the steering column, there are two holes. Unscrew the Phillips screws in each of the holes and pull off the top.

Now you should have access to the three hex bolts on the bottom edge of the instrument cluster. Unscrew these with an Allen key. Don't adjust the plastic hex bolt, below the fuel gauge, however, or you will take the fuel gauge out of calibration. Now the instrument cluster can be removed.

Before you remove the IC, however, it would be a good idea to protect your wood trim from being scratched. I have used black electrical tape and paper masking tape on the top edge, and both work well.



The IC is probably in there pretty well, so it may be tough to remove. The trick is to grab onto the plastic tabs on the front (be careful not to break them) and wiggle it back and forth until it comes out. Once the IC is partially out, you should be able to reach your hand behind it to disconnect it. There were five wires on my IC -- one with a light bulb for the airbag light and four wide compound connectors. Disconnect all five, and you should be able to get the IC fully out.

Halfway Out

Halfway Out


Now you should bring the IC to a place where you can work on it. Someplace where you won't lose screws and where you have air conditioning (or heat in the winter) would be good.

Opening Instrument Cluster

Flip it over and remove the five circled Philips screws and the white cover that they hold in place. The right side will have some resistance because of an electrical connector that will slide out as you pull it up. The white plastic cover is hinged for access, but I ignored the hinges and just removed it.


At this point you can easily replace any burned out bulbs in the IC.

Now remove the next five circled Philips screws to remove the central gauges from the IC. The two circled in green were shorter than the rest on my IC, so set these aside. You'll also need to disconnect the blue connector on the left (on the right on RHD cars). On my IC, these screws were already circled in black marker, making them easy to find.


Now you can carefully pull the main gauge cluster out.

Main Gauges

At this point you can start putting contact enhancer (like Stabilant 22) on the Autocheck display contacts if it's doing weird stuff (horizontal lines or shimmering) like many do after a decade or so. This usually fixes it for a little while (I have yet to find a permanent fix). You could also resolder the ground wire near the top on the back of the main circuit board if you are having the short circuit problem where the high-beam indicator and opposite turn signal indicator flash with the correct turn signal indicator when signaling. I had this problem, too, as have some others, and resoldering fixes this.

Replacing Gauge Faces

If you are feeling brave enough, now is the time where you can start replacing gauge faces. Although some steps may take a LOT of force, you need to be careful to avoid breaking an indicator needle or scratching the gauge faces.

Start with the water temperature or fuel level gauge. Pull the needle straight up -- it comes out easily, held in only by the friction of plastic. Now carefully pull/pop the gauge off the two melted plastic heat stakes. A side profile of one is pictured below. As you can see, there is a lip on them that is holding the gauge faces in, but the faces are flexible enough they will pop right off.

Heat Stake

Now you'll want to put the new gauge in place.

The new and old gauge faces should be exactly the same shape. If not, be sure you have the right gauge face.

White and Black

White and Black

The gauge should now look like this:


Before you can install the new gauge face, you will almost certainly have to file down the "lip" on the heatstakes pictured above, because the holes are too small. I used a fine metal sanding Dremel bit, spinning at about 10,000 rpm or so, to do this, as pictured below. The Dremel did a very good job at this.


If you just file down a little bit, the new gauge face should pop right on and will stay in place nicely. Then you can push the needle back on (try to put it in the same position as it was before to avoid inaccurate readings).

Repeat this process with the other small gauge.

Next comes the hardest gauges -- the speedometer and tachometer. Removing the needles from them proved extremely difficult.

I tried using my fingernails, only to have no success and just painful sore fingernails. I ended up removing the black plastic cover from the center of the needle first. It is melted in place, so you have to break the plastic rivet, but you can pry it up with a jeweler's screwdriver and glue it back (white school glue works well) afterwards.

Next, I removed the two flathead screws with a jeweler's screwdriver. Be careful not to scratch the black paint on them.

The needle is held in with a metal needle bearing (or something like that). After removing the cover, it should look like this:


To remove the needle now, I was able to slide a fork underneath. Go from behind the red indicator, so the red indicator goes between the tines of the fork, so you don't damage the indicator. Be careful not to scratch the gauge face. I had to pull EXTREMELY hard, so hard that the fork started bending (I had to get a new fork since I'd weakened the metal of the fork). Pull straight up, and eventually the needle will come off.

The removed needle should look like this:


When the needle is off, it should look something like this:

No Needle

Remove the old gauge face (it should be loose), set the new one in, put the two black screws back in place, and press the needle back in. Again, try to pay attention to alignment so that it's still accurate; I think mine may be a few miles per hour off now because I couldn't remember the exact position before.

Now you can repeat the process with the other big gauge. Once you have done this, you can reassemble everything back into the instrument cluster.

The next step is the three smaller gauges on the side. These are a little different from the first two small gauges.

First remove the six Phillips screws that are indicated below. Be sure the blue connector is disconnected as well. This part of the cluster is held in with some plastic tabs as well, so it won't pull right up without some effort.

Side Gauges

Now you have access to the fronts of the side gauges. The needles are much more similar to the big gauges than the other small ones, so they will require some force to remove. I was able to remove these with my fingernails, however, but it took a lot of force and caused my fingernails to be sore for a good day afterwards.

Note that these gauge faces are held in yet another way. They don't have the heatstakes like the other two small gauge faces. Instead, they are held in with adhesive and aligned by two posts, one on each side.

Side Gauges

Carefully pull up the old gauge face. I was able to reach under the tabs next to the side posts with my fingernails and, slowly working around the gauge in a circle, was able to peel it up off the adhesive. Be very careful, only pulling up a little at a time, so you don't damage the gauge face.

Now you can place the new gauge face on the gauge. You will notice that it is slightly too wide for the distance between the posts. This is a good thing. Because you no longer have the adhesive (and I don't recommend using new adhesive), since the old adhesive is still stuck to the back of the old gauge face (at least it was in my case), you need a way to hold the new gauge face in place. The friction provided by the posts is perfect.

I used my Dremel again, with the same bit as before but only at 5,000-8,000 rpm or so, to file the notches in the tabs of the new gauge face, making them slightly bigger than they were originally. I made the notches just big enough to hold the gauge face in place by friction without bowing up too much. The filed notches can be seen below.


Repeat for the other two smaller gauges, and put everything back. Your gauges should now look something like the following:


Now you can put the IC back into the car in the opposite order in which you removed everything.




The new gauges give an approximation of the gray gauges in the 1992-1997 S4 and S6, giving a more sporty appearance. Daytime visibility is better than the regular black gauges. On the other hand, nighttime visibility is slightly worse, because any ambient light reduces the contrast of the backlight numbers.

The addition of numbers on the water temperature and fuel gauges, like the European stock gauges already had, is a nice added touch for the US market. For example, the 50-120 degree C markings are much more useful than the "C" and "H" on the US temperature gauge.

Unfortunately, less attention was paid to maximizing consistency in backlight brighness than Audi paid, so some gauges, particularly the tachometer, have much more uneven lighting. Audi used about four different levels of opacity in the factory faces; the white gauges have fewer. Also, the backlight on the CAC logo (a modified Audi Sport logo) is annoying (not to mention uneven), so I would advice putting something opaque behind it before installation. The white gauges are also slightly more shiny than the black ones, potentially increasing glare, but I haven't had a problem with glare.

Last updated 2004-07-11
Eric Rechlin