Dashboard Lights Upgrade

Crappy LED lights at a discount price are no bargain.

BA15S Bulb If you're thinking about replacing your dashboard's incandescent bulbs with modern LEDs, be wary.

The BA9S bulbs have been used for decades by nearly every auto manufacturer. They're small, cheap and put out a good amount of light but at 3 watts they tend to be hot, expecially if the sockets are a little corroded, which is a common problem with old cars. A popular upgrade is to replace them with new LED bulbs, which can be brighter, cooler, and feature different colors with a far smaller current draw, but not all bulbs are alike.

Cheap LED Car Lights There are plenty of sellers on eBay offering LED bulbs that are "ultra brilliant" and "brighter than stock" at amazingly low prices.

Save your money. They're cheap pieces of crap from China and typically dimmer than stock and have a disgustingly short lifespan. They're not designed to take the vibration and physical abuse from vintage cars like a 240z.

The ad at left is a perfect example. Ten "SUPER Bright" bulbs for a mere $6.99. The ad has an American flag, so it has to be legit, right? When you read the text there's no mention of how many lumens they put out because most people don't know what a "lumen" is, let alone care. All they see is "SUPER Bright" and that's good enough for an easy sale.

When you see a listing like this, look away.

Marine-Grade LED Bulbs If you want something that's genuinely bright, I found the perfect source - a place called MarineBeam that sells high output, rugged, water-resistant bulbs. They even come in different colors.

No, they're not cheap at $10.50 each, but they're definately brighter than stock, made in America and I can assure you they're bright. I think they're worth every cent. If they're rugged enough to withstand salt water and pounding waves, they're perfect for your car.

Their website is here .

LED Comparison Test I was lured into buying some of the bargain bulbs and naturally was disappointed. After finding the MarineBeam bulbs, I did a quick & easy test and here's how they compare.

On the left is the stock incandescent bulb. The middle pair are the "super bright" bargain bulbs, and at right is the marine-grade bulb. You can see just how crappy the middle bulbs are. I could have returned them for a refund but the cost of shipping would be about the same amount as the refund, so they got thrown away.

Good riddance.

LED Dimmer With the best bulbs being so bright, a dimmer is a good idea. Unfortunately, the stock 240z dimmer won't work with LED bulbs because they operate differently. MarineBulb has a quality dimmer, but it won't work with the way the dash lights are wired.

The ones I found online were pretty expensive but a friend sent a link to the perfect solution on Amazon. It not only works with LED bulbs, it even works with incandescent bulbs. The price is from 2019 but probably hasn't changed much and the shipping was free.

The shaft isn't long enough to work with the stock dimmer location, so I put mine in the glove box. It's not like I'm going to be adjusting it frequently.

240z Instrument Lights The stock dash lights are green. If you want to keep that color, all you need to do is dig around underneath the dash and (cautiously) pull the bulb holders out of the instrument housings and replace the bulbs. It's awkward and can be frustrating but doesn't require any tools.

However... if you want to change the color, like I did (to red) each of the guages has to come out and come apart. There's a little green plastic filter for each bulb and they have to be removed. Opening up the housings and removing the lenses isn't terribly difficult, but getting the gauges unhooked and unscrewed, then screwed back into place, is a major pain in the ass. I was fortunate enough that my dashboard was already out of the car, so doing the modification was relatively straightforward. If you're going to do it with the dash in place, be prepared for a day's worth of cussing. My advice is to stick your phone underneath and take a lot of pictures so that you can see where your hand needs to be and what needs to be disconnected.

An excellent write-up by WoodWorkerB on how to remove the filters can be found here .

A final piece of advice is to leave the turn signal bulbs and the high beam indicator bulbs white. I found that the red bulbs I used for the signals are fine at night but can't be seen during the day.

240z Guage Faces If you take the gauges apart to remove the green filters, you might want to consider getting new faces for them. It's cheap and easy to do. You can stick with the stock black background or go for a modern look with white. Either way, they'll look great.

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