Digital Cluster Restoring

Repairing the Digital Gauge Cluster

The Corvette C4 digital dash panel is awesome to look at. There isn’t much out there like it. Commonly called the Atari dash by most it is in my opinion the best looking digital dash ever done.

Digital dash with woodgrain kit



Especially when you consider we could have had this for a cluster if the digital display had not been ready for production in time :

1983 Corvette Backup Cluster


But like most electronic things in a car time isn’t very kind to it. The bulbs go out, the polarizing film which makes it look solid black when the dash is off fades, solder joints break. The good news is all of these problems are repairable.

This section covers replacing the polarizing film for now but will include soldering and more later on.

If the cluster is dark but readable in some sections or possible all sections during the day and completely dark at night then more than likely the illumination bulbs are blown.

Go to this section for illumination only bulb replacement without having to remove the cluster from the car  : Changing the bulbs

Turn signal indicator bulbs and high beam indicator bulb will require going inside the cluster so you need to follow the information below to change those.

Below is the results of changing the polarizing film on my car.

When the film ages it makes the digital readouts unreadable. They blend in causing what I would best describe as a washed out logo effect.


I started out with a cluster looking like this :





Also the interior looked like this when I got it :




This is where I’m at right now. Still more to do of course. Notice how black and non see thru the left gauge (speedometer) is and how you can still see thru the film even off on the right panel (tach).
The reason I’m posting these is I figured it would make more sense why the interior changes so much doing the cluster redo 🙂



Here’s some more shots. Click on each for a better view.

As you can tell I still don’t have the tach panel redone. I keep using up the lens kits since for some reason I cant do one without wasting one. So I ran out again before getting to the tach. One day I’ll redo the tach panel but at least its not near as bad as the others were and is still readable.

If the dash is dropping digits in places its probably just the spots where the lcd panels make contact. There are weird rubber block things that go around the lcd panels that carry the current to the panels. I had problems with it dropping segments when I redid it one of the times. I cleaned the spots on the circuit board with a wire brush where the pads meet. Fixed it. I was going to take pics or redoing the inside but batee has such well made videos it was kind of pointless.

Its back in the car with mixed results.

I ended up with a few small air bulbs but nothing horrible in the end.

The biggest problem is a I don’t have a brayer tool. Without it its very hard to get the film onto the panels without air bubbles. I spent over an hour at Walmart after their website said they had one at that store trying to find one. No luck. Sad they cant just look up where something is in the store. Well the word pathetic came to mind after driving 30 miles one way.

Anyways my first attempt to put a film panel onto the speedometer ended with a few small bubbles. I should of left it alone. But batee’s video says “you can pull back the film to redo it by going past the bubble spot and repressing it on there”.

Erm don’t do that. Ended up with lines everywhere I semi stopped while pulling the film back. If I had of left it alone Id of been fine but my attempts to “fix” the problem ruined the film. So redid the speedo with the other film that was supposed to do the tach panel.

I picked up a lint remover roller thing since they didn’t have a brayer tool and it worked “ok”.

So the speedometer is redone with minor bubbles. The info panel for temps and the gas gauge worked great. The tach panel wasn’t that bad to start with faded wise so I just put it back together without redoing the tach panel since I ruined one sheet.

Hooked back up and it works and looks great. I have one led segment that isn’t working on the distance to empty/trip meter panel but I don’t know if it worked to start with. The rubber blocks that make contact to the lcd panels are pretty bent from age so I may order some of those from Batee when I order more of the film for the tach.


I called Batee and he helped me out with 2 more large film panels to redo the speedometer and the tachometer panel I didn’t do at all the last time. I also ordered the brayer tool from amazon (picture and info on the tool is at the bottom). I of course ruined one panel but I did redo the speedometer perfectly now. Still have to get another film panel for the tachometer AGAIN. I guess I’ll get 2 on the next order so I’m prepared to ruin one doing one again 🙂



Now that I’ve tortured myself a few times back to back redoing this lets try to sum up what I’ve learned.

Start by removing the headlight knob. There is a small slit located at the base of the knob that is the release for it. Use a small screwdriver on this and pull the knob firmly. It slides off. This of course causes your headlights to get turned on. Once the knobs off just push the shaft back in to turn the headlights off.

Now remove the 6 Phillips screws that hold the cluster panel on.

Next lower the steering wheel to its lowest tilt position.

Now remove the tilt lever from the steering column. It just unscrews counter clockwise. I always just do this by hand but if for some reason your lever is stuck you can see a small indention on the levers shaft for using a wrench to break it loose. Removing this lever makes getting the panel and cluster out much easier.

Now remove the dash pad. This isn’t required but I found it made removing the cluster a bunch easier. There are 2 screws in the center defroster duct area and several screws across the lip under the pad at the top of the dash panels that hold the dash pad on. Once they are removed the panel lifts up about an inch or so then pulls straight towards you till removed.

Now remove the 7mm bolts holding the cluster in place.

Cluster Mounting Screw

Cluster Mounting Screw


Now gently pull the cluster out some to gain access to the electrical plugs for it. I found removing the side towards the drivers door first the best way to do it since the plugs you need to unplug from the cluster are located on the other side that faces the center console. After pulling the drivers door side out some slide the cluster out and towards the door until you can see the electrical plugs attached to the side of the cluster. Remove these CAREFULLY. If you get in a hurry and damage this connector its going to cause you endless grief in the future.

After the plugs undone then slide the cluster out the rest of the way.

Congrats you have removed your cluster.

Take it into the house or somewhere VERY clean for the next part. This isn’t a yard job, garage job or anywhere that has dust, flying insects, etc around. Any random dust particles or dirt that gets trapped behind the film your about to apply will cause nasty bubbles and or distortion in the digital display.

From this point on be in a good mood. Don’t start this with “I’ve got to get this ready so I can drive to work”, “Got to hurry up because I have plans later on”, etc. I’m telling you now this needs to be your only concern before starting the redo. Steady hands are a must and patience.



To prep the surface for working on the cluster I bought a roll of rubberized/foam like shelf liner at walmart. I found this gave grip to holding the cluster in place during the job and kept things from sliding around while applying the film.

So if you have it I would use some to cover your work surface. Heck even a kitchen table place setting mat might work.

After getting this setup lay the cluster with the display side facing downward on the table.

Remove the 5 screws from the metal back panel. I thought I used a 7mm but my notes show 7/32. Use whichever fits of those 🙂

If your doing a 1984 model you will find another screw for a total of 6 screws. The 1984 models extra screw holds the metal plate edge to the electrical connector on the side of the cluster. Where the cars harness was plugged to the cluster.

Now remove the metal cover and lay it aside.

Now notice the round motor on the corner of the cluster. Its the odometer drive motor. Follow its harness to where it plugs to the large main circuit board that covers the entire cluster at this point. Unplug this connector from the main circuit board and push the harness to the side so its out of the way.

Now remove the 7 screws holding the main board down.

Now located the long plastic connector on the main board on the opposite side away from the odometer motor. If the odometer motor is on your right then this connector will be on your left.

What we need to do is remove the main board but unlike the metal cover its not going to just lift off because of a set of metal push pins that come up from the board below this one into that plastic plug I had you locate. So what you want to do is rock the board back and forth lifting on the side that has the clip then the side that has the odometer motor. Rocking the board back and forth while lifting upward to walk the main board out.

Here you can see the main board lifted off exposing the display driver board underneath and the light bulb sockets. Excuse the dirty work chair I had to use for this picture as I couldn’t get back far enough with the cluster on the table I was working on to show the entire thing.


Once the main board is removed put it aside somewhere safe aka non static surface.

At this point your looking at the display driver board itself.

This is where you would stop if you just wanted to change the bulbs. All bulb holders are removable now so just change them like any dash light bulb in any other car by turning each socket a 1/4 turn and removing them. Replace the bulb and reinstall them. If this was your only reason for diving into the cluster you would just reverse the above instructions to this point and put the cluster back in the car.

Here are pictures of my LED bulb upgrade over the factory halogen bulbs.

Factory Bulbs installed.


First factory halogen Illumination bulb removed.

Notice how bad the circuit board is damaged by the excessive heat of the factory halogen bulbs. The LED bulbs will keep anymore damage from happening in the future.

Side by side of the factory halogen and the new LED replacement bulb.
Another angle of the new LED vs the old halogen bulb.
LED Bulb installed and the old halogen still laying on the board.

After I changed the bulbs it went from this :

Old halogen dash bulbs

To this :

Top Left bulb not working on dash cluster

Which was much brighter but one of the bulbs wasn’t making good contact. So the top left of the center information panel was dim. So after taking the cluster back out and completely taking it back apart AGAIN I cleaned the contacts better and got this :

Top left bulb fixed on cluster

It is now lit evenly and very bright. Of course it still looks bad since the film hasn’t been replaced yet. But that will be taken care of further down in this howto.

You can also remove the bulbs to protect them during the rest of the repairing process too. Either way if you remove the bulbs for replacement or to protect them remember to clean the surface with a brush before reinstalling the bulbs later as they have a tendency to not make a good connection when reinstalled.

Now you need to make a decision at this point. The first time I did the repair I removed the odometer and its probably what you want to do since its completely out of the way and it allows you to really clean the cluster bezel with it removed. But it isn’t required to do the repair so its up to you.

If you decide to remove the odometer for better cleaning (and its probably the best way if this is your first go since the bezel will be pretty dirty if this has never been done before) you need to remove the 3 screws from it. Then it will lift out pretty easily. Now set it aside.

Now if you having problems with the dash not dimming correctly or not dimming at all in day/night use the photocell or its supporting parts may of failed. Batee has a kit to replace this. To test to see if the photocell is working right you need to measure the resistance on pins 2 and 3 of that connector we wiggled the main board off of earlier. Pin 1 is towards the center of the board aka away from the outside edge. If the resistance is high (around 150 or so) with the sensor covered (panel laying face down on the table) and resistance goes low with light applied (flashlight to front of the sensor or just lifting the cluster off the table to allow light to get at it showing 450-500 or higher) then its working right. If the resistance doesn’t vary then its toast. You need to get the kit from Batee since it comes with the sensor, transistor and capacitor.

Ok we need to remove the display board next but I need to explain a few things to you before we start taking the screws out. This board has a bunch of orange rubber like blocks stuck to the back side of it from age. When it was first assembled they were completely free floating.

So what is under the board that you can’t see right now are the lcd panels laying in the bezel frame with a bunch of these rubber blocks sitting on top of them. The blocks make contact between the driver board and the lcd panels. Pretty wild which you will see when we get there. But the reason I’m making a big deal about this has to do with the rubber blocks becoming sticky with age. If you remove the board quickly the rubber blocks can actually take the lcd panels with them which is bad. This could even allow them to drop back down from the board during removal thus breaking them. So when you remove the board on the next step be very careful to take your time and make sure the board comes free without taking the panels with it.

Now we need to get the display driver board out. Remove the 22 screws from around the outside of the board.  Now carefully lift the driver board off making sure the glass lcd panels are not stuck to it. Some of the rubber blocks may go with the board which isn’t a big deal as they can be pulled off after the boards out.

Now is a good time to clean up any blemishes on the contacts on the back side of the board. I used a wire brush I bought for this and it worked great. I only had to clean 2 spots on mine but make sure all the gold colored contacts are free of tarnish. The factory halogen bulbs cause so much heat they actually damage the board and the contacts over time. After you have the contacts cleaned set the board aside.

Now we need to remove the 3 plastic frames that hold the rubber contact blocks in place. They simply lift out. This is also a good time to organize things so you can remember how to put all of this stuff back correctly later 🙂 Up until now nothing required much organizing. But this gets a bit more complicated.

The orange rubber blocks may or may not come out with these frames. Its not a big deal as you can just put them back later.

Now remove the 3 plastic (clear with white backing) light diffuser panels and lay them aside.

Next is color sheet for the actually display. This plastic sheet is what makes the lcd display show as different colors. The lcd panels themselves are simply clear or black. They have no color of their own. This sheet is super important so take your time and lift it out. It has holes in it that are pushed onto pins on the bezel itself. Again just lift it off CAREFULLY and then set it aside.

At this point we are left with 3 lcd panels and a bunch of orange blocks and 4 red rubber block keepers and 2 blue rubber block keepers.

Remove the orange blocks  and set them aside. Next remove the 6 rubber keeper blocks that hold the lcd panels in place.

Now lift the 3 lcd panels out carefully. Any scratching of these can render them dead. So be very careful. Set them aside for now.

You will notice a small silver clip close to the odometer. This slides off and can be set aside. I took it off the first time since I was cleaning the bezel. I left it on the next time since I was only messing with the panels. I would take it off if you are going to wash the bezel. Also remove the clear odometer cover panel from the front of the bezel. It is held on with a plastic push pin from the front side. It slides out easily.

At this point take a break and clean the bezel itself. Also clean the plastic film cover you took off that goes over the odometer and set them all aside for drying. Get a cold drink and relax a bit. You don’t want to be stressed for this next part 🙂


Replacing the polarizing film

Before we start lets go over the dangers here. The side of the lcd panels you removed the rubber blocks from is referred to as the backside of the panels. The opposite side which is the side that faced outward (the side you see when sitting in the car looking at the dash) is the front side.

The back side has NO protection. Scratching the backside will RUIN the panels. Thus the reason I like that shelf liner stuff I mentioned since its soft and sticky. The panels don’t move when on it. So if you don’t have the liner then at least use a microfiber cloth or a towel to protect the backside of the panel. The backside will be laying on whatever surface your going to do the work on.

The front side has the polarizing film on it that we need to remove. Its just glass on that side so running the razor blade over the front side to remove the polarizing film and for cleaning it after the films pealed off is safe.

Now that we have that out of the way lets remove the film.

The film is basically just very stiff window tint. Use a razor blade to lift one corner of the film up from the glass panel and them peal the film off. Go slowly thus giving the adhesive time to let go. If you bend to hard while pealing the film off you could break the glass lcd panel. Again taking your time at this point is super important.

Once the film peals off you still need to clean the surface you removed it from. I used the razor blade to remove as much as I could and then used glass cleaner and paper towels. Then I went back over it with the razor blade again. I finished cleaning it with a micro fiber tower.

You have to get it completely clean. No glue, no dust, no fingerprints, etc. COMPLETELY clean.

If your using Batee’s kit pay attention to the labels he has on the film showing this side up. This is to get the maximum effect of light filtering so be sure to apply the film that way. If you using bulk film bought elsewhere (use the Batee stuff) then you need to try the film at different angles to figure out what works best.

Once the panel is clean you need to peal the backside off the film. I have done it by completely removing the back of the film and applying the film to the lcd and I have used the lifting it off partially and pulling it off while applying it. Mixed results either way. The key thing is to use the brayer tool to roll the film only the glass. Trying to smooth it onto the glass any other way resulted in nasty bubbles. Also remember to start at once side and work you way across the glass pressing the film onto the panel. Don’t try to lay it on there flat and work the bubbles out as this will not work.

Once the film is applied then use a razor blade to trim the excess film off so that its even with the edges of the panel. Be careful not to scratch the backside of the panels were the traces come to the edge of the glass.

Once all 3 panels are recovered you can touch up any missing black surface areas on the back side of the panels with paint. If you ordered the Batee kit it comes with the paint. If not you need to come up with paint for that part. I used the Batee kit myself. Either way be careful to only touch up missing spots and not where its supposed to be clear.

Congrats you just replaced your polarizing film.

Normally I would use the canned response that you just reverse the howto to reassemble your cluster and put it back in the car. But there is a bit more to it on this so I’ll keep going a bit further.


First you need to place the bezel back onto your work spot so to speak.

Reinstall the clear odometer cover film and its plastic rivets that hold it in place.

Now put the metal tab you took off earlier back into the bezel. This keeper holds the center lcd panel in place so pay attention to it when installing the center panel. Simply push the edge of the metal away while putting the center lcd panel in. Its probably best to put that panel in first to make sure this metal tab is seated right.

Next place each of the 2 remaining lcd’s back in the correct spot in the bezel making sure that they are PERFECTLY flat. If you do not get them perfectly flat back into the bezel you could crack them during the reassembly process. There are tabs made onto the bezel that the lcd panels must clear. If the panels get caught up on these tabs they will break for sure. So take the time to make sure they are seated right.

Place the red and blue blocks back around the panels to secure them to the bezel. The blue ones hold the center panel and the red ones hold the speedometer and tach panels.

Before going further recheck those plastic tabs that are made onto the bezel I warned you about earlier. Make sure they are all clearing the lcd panels and not under them or you WILL break the panels.

Now put the plastic color sheet back in place making sure the pegs from the bezel push thru the sheet to hold it in place.

Next install the light diffuser panels.

Now install each of the 3 plastic frames that hold the orange rubber blocks that make contact with the display driver board making sure the holes line up with the pins on the diffuser panels. After the 3 frames are in place reinsert the 16 orange rubber blocks into the slots on the plastic frame.

Next lay the display driver board back onto of the assembly. Put about 6 screws back into the board evenly spaced out but do not tighten them down. Just slightly snug them. Were wanting to hold the board in place so we can turn the cluster over and make sure the lcd panels are installed correctly. Once you make sure its right then lay the cluster back face down on the table and install the rest of the screws. Tighten all 22 of the screws now.

Now reinstall the 4 illumination bulbs and the 3 indicator bulbs. I put my led bulbs I ordered from Batee as an upgrade over the factory halogen bulbs at this point. The led bulbs make no heat and actually seem brighter. So its a looks upgrade and makes the cluster last longer. Win win.


Next place the main board back on top of the assembly. You need to pay attention to the locator pins making sure they are lining up right with the main board and then press the connector on the driver board straight down onto the pins from the board below. Put the 7 screws back into the main board and tighten them.

Now reinstall the odometer and put its 3 screws back in place. Then plug the odometer wire back to the main board.

Next lay the metal back panel onto the assembly. Put the 5 screws back in (6 if its a 1984 cluster).

Congrats you have redone your cluster !

Simply reinstall into the car reversing the removal instructions above.


This was how it all looked when done :

Digital dash with woodgrain kit

If you can possible get by without the cluster and are willing to risk shipping it to Batee I could easily see it being worth the money to just pay him to do the job. I have a car show at the end of this month or I would of shipped mine. I did NOT enjoy this repair at ALL.

It worked but having a root canal probably would be more fun.

Get THIS tool if your going to redo your cluster film :


Link to amazon for the tool  Inovart Snap Out Brayer Set


Best $13 your going to ever spend when it comes to doing this.

Its the only thing I found that works worth a flip.


Also as mentioned earlier Batee’s site had TONS of very detailed pictures, howto videos and all the parts you need to repair your cluster. Here is a link to his site  Batee

Highly recommended.

I will post more repair shots from inside the cluster when I get my next film kit in. Each time I’ve done this I have been at home alone and had no one to hold the camera  and trust me it takes both hands to do the film replacement.


Back to my vette


The Nest – All things crowz….