Earl

1941 Buick Speedometer Removal

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Say, have any of you guys tried to remover the speedometer from the dash of a '41 or so Buick without taking the whole dash out? I'd like to get mine working but really don't want to remove the whole dash. I have tried getting up in there but only spent about an hour at it and now that I have the radio and as much stuff as I can get out of the way, out of there, I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible. I was thinking the best route would be to take that section of the dash out that holds the three clusters of instruments loose but maybe that's not the right approach.

I can't be the first one to go through this so I thought I'd ask and find out if anyone else has had success. I'm thinking at this point an extra hinge between my elbow & wrist would be handy....

Thanks now, Earl.

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I replaced my temperature gauge last year on my 1941 Super, so I went through the process of removing the gauge cluster. There were four bolts that held the machined metal dash plate which holds the gauges. It required a bit of an awkward effort to get those loose but it wasnt too bad. This allowed the dash plate (with the three gauges) to come loose and move a few inches toward the steering wheel. In order to give the dash cluster enough play to move forward, I had to first unhook the speedometer cable from the bracket on the steering column in the engine compartment. Once the four nuts are removed from the dash plate it will come out about two inches or so which gives just enough room to remove the nuts holding the gauges in place. Although I didnt remove it, I think there were three nuts holding the speedometer onto the machined plate. When moving the gauge cluster, I used some towels to pad it to avoid scratching the dash, steering coulmn etc. There might be a better way, but that is how I did it. Getting everything back together was a little more challenging as it is easy to drop the nuts and tougher to find them. I have some pictures I took underneath the dash I could send you--I have no idea of how to post them.

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Well I got the thing out tonight and cleaned up the speedometer so if the cable turns, it should work just fine. It wouldn't have worked otherwise as there was some dirt stuck on the magnets in there so it just would have shot up to 120 mph no matter how fast I was going. So, I'm glad I got that all cleaned out of there.

You are right about it taking a little bit of dexterity to get to those nuts, but it really wasn't all that bad. My heat guage isn't working either and I might just repair that before I put it back together. The line is broken and I'll need to find a brass "straw" to solder the new end to the old and get it to work again. I might try getting that thing fixed tomorrow night.

As an aside, I did scratch the glas on the speedometer taking it out and it's a very tight squeeze to get it out of there. So I'll tape some cardboard from a cereal box over the front while I get it back in place. Fortunately I had some old glass so I cut another one out. It will be nice to know how bad I'm ticking the folks off behind me now while I'm going down the road in the old girl! I have found with my GPS unit that my "default" speed is around 50-55 in it. It really runs pretty quietly so it's hard for me to judge the speed by the sound of the engine.

Thanks now for letting me know it was possible to do this. This morning I was beginning to wonder. I need to put a new gasket under the wiper tower on that side as well, so I'll get that done now as well...

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Hi how are you? I was wondering how did you get the dash board off, the section with the 3 clusters. I wanted to change the water temp gauge, its recently stopped working. I can't find any screws anywhere to remove the cluster. I also wanted to change the base of the windshield wipers and on the drivers side it seems that I have to go by that side behind the clusters.

I hope you can help me with this. I have a 41 Buick Special. Thanks so much for your time.

Tommy

Miami Fla.

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Hi I hope you are doing well. I was wondering I have a 41 Special and wanted to change my temp gauge also. I can't find where the 4 bolts that you speak about?? Are they under the dash, I can't find them there. there is a plate on the left side of the steering column, right under the temp gauge that doesn't let you look at anything under that area.. If you can help me with this I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much in advance.

Tommy

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Hi how are you? I was wondering how did you get the dash board off, the section with the 3 clusters. I wanted to change the water temp gauge, its recently stopped working. I can't find any screws anywhere to remove the cluster. I also wanted to change the base of the windshield wipers and on the drivers side it seems that I have to go by that side behind the clusters.

I hope you can help me with this. I have a 41 Buick Special. Thanks so much for your time.

Tommy

Miami Fla.

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Hi how are you? I was wondering how did you get the dash board off, the section with the 3 clusters. I wanted to change the water temp gauge, its recently stopped working. I can't find any screws anywhere to remove the cluster. I also wanted to change the base of the windshield wipers and on the drivers side it seems that I have to go by that side behind the clusters.

I hope you can help me with this. I have a 41 Buick Special. Thanks so much for your time.

Tommy

Miami Fla.

If you get up behind the dash, you'll find nuts on the four corners behind that panel. You kind of have to be a contortionist to get to them, but I got one of those 3/8" spring extensions for my socket wrench so once I got the socket on the nut, I could get it removed. I was then able to pull that panel far enough ahead that I could get the instruments loose from the panel and then replace the heat gauge and speedometer. It's easier to do if you remove the front seat so you can lay down on the bottom of the car, but you can do it with the seat in the car, I'm just not as flexible as I was 25 years ago. Be really careful about replacing the temp. gauge as it's pretty easy to kink that feed line. I would also make sure to put some anti-seize on the nut that goes into the cylinder head so you can get it out if you need to in the future. I put some on the bulb as well but it's hard to say if that will do any good if I needed to pull it out again, but it can't hurt. If you unhook the speedometer cable it will pull ahead a little further. You should lubricate that while you have the dash apart as well. I used Vaseline on mine and that seems to work fine, but maybe someone else knows better on that one. I forget now where I was told or read to use Vaseline for that. You'll be able to get the instruments out and clean behind the glass as well. They probably have more dust behind them than you might think. If you want me to post a picture of what the dash looks like from behind, let me know and I should be able to come up with something like that.

Good luck with it now, It's not terribly hard to get at, but can be a little bit frustrating.

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If you get up behind the dash, you'll find nuts on the four corners behind that panel. You kind of have to be a contortionist to get to them, but I got one of those 3/8" spring extensions for my socket wrench so once I got the socket on the nut, I could get it removed. I was then able to pull that panel far enough ahead that I could get the instruments loose from the panel and then replace the heat gauge and speedometer. It's easier to do if you remove the front seat so you can lay down on the bottom of the car, but you can do it with the seat in the car, I'm just not as flexible as I was 25 years ago. Be really careful about replacing the temp. gauge as it's pretty easy to kink that feed line. I would also make sure to put some anti-seize on the nut that goes into the cylinder head so you can get it out if you need to in the future. I put some on the bulb as well but it's hard to say if that will do any good if I needed to pull it out again, but it can't hurt. If you unhook the speedometer cable it will pull ahead a little further. You should lubricate that while you have the dash apart as well. I used Vaseline on mine and that seems to work fine, but maybe someone else knows better on that one. I forget now where I was told or read to use Vaseline for that. You'll be able to get the instruments out and clean behind the glass as well. They probably have more dust behind them than you might think. If you want me to post a picture of what the dash looks like from behind, let me know and I should be able to come up with something like that.

Good luck with it now, It's not terribly hard to get at, but can be a little bit frustrating.

Hi Earl,

Thanks so much for your reply, will try it and see. Does your 41 start with, after turning the key on, with a bottom under the dash right around where the water temp gauge is ?? That how mine starts?

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I could write a whole page on removing the Spedo. Needless to say that it is not fun. I am not sure that you can without removing the dash. Then there is all the wires and bulbs that need to find a home once you are finished. My Speedometer had a problem where the needle ran aground at about 55 MPH. It turned out that the plastic piece that had the numbers engraved in it had lifted and was interfering with the needle travel. I made the mistake of using super glue on it once I came up with a way to clamp it in place. The problem with super glue is that it gives off vapors that fog the the plastic lens. Out it came again for a lens cleaning. It is at that point that I noticed that the white lettering for the numbers was going away. It sits in the engraved portion but after many years it turns to a brittle powder that crumbles and drops out of the engravings. After carefully repainting the letters I finally got it back into place. While the dash is removed it would be a great time to check for damaged wires, and ones that have been twisted and taped. This would be a great time to re lamp the whole thing since you will not want to get back in there again.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

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I could write a whole page on removing the Spedo. Needless to say that it is not fun. I am not sure that you can without removing the dash. Then there is all the wires and bulbs that need to find a home once you are finished. My Speedometer had a problem where the needle ran aground at about 55 MPH. It turned out that the plastic piece that had the numbers engraved in it had lifted and was interfering with the needle travel. I made the mistake of using super glue on it once I came up with a way to clamp it in place. The problem with super glue is that it gives off vapors that fog the the plastic lens. Out it came again for a lens cleaning. It is at that point that I noticed that the white lettering for the numbers was going away. It sits in the engraved portion but after many years it turns to a brittle powder that crumbles and drops out of the engravings. After carefully repainting the letters I finally got it back into place. While the dash is removed it would be a great time to check for damaged wires, and ones that have been twisted and taped. This would be a great time to re lamp the whole thing since you will not want to get back in there again.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Thanks so much for your reply, but my question was how to get the dash out, I can't find any screws? lol...

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I've got an entire dash loose out in my garage. I've got to move some snow today anyway to get the doors open, but I'll take a couple of pictures and post them. It will be a lot easier for you to see it that way. The nuts are there, but they are a little bit elusive! Once you get that panel loose, you can then remove the instruments MUCH easier than trying to do it without having that panel loose. I had a '41 Buick when I was in High School and I re-wired the entire car without removing any of that stuff. I thought I was never going to get it done, but that's another story. In those days I was afraid if I took it apart, I wouldn't figure out how to get it back together.

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I've got an entire dash loose out in my garage. I've got to move some snow today anyway to get the doors open, but I'll take a couple of pictures and post them. It will be a lot easier for you to see it that way. The nuts are there, but they are a little bit elusive! Once you get that panel loose, you can then remove the instruments MUCH easier than trying to do it without having that panel loose. I had a '41 Buick when I was in High School and I re-wired the entire car without removing any of that stuff. I thought I was never going to get it done, but that's another story. In those days I was afraid if I took it apart, I wouldn't figure out how to get it back together.

Hey Earl, yes that would be great to see some pics..its so frustrating!! lol... I would appreciate that so much... be careful out there with the snow though.

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I could write a whole page on removing the Spedo. Needless to say that it is not fun. I am not sure that you can without removing the dash. Then there is all the wires and bulbs that need to find a home once you are finished. My Speedometer had a problem where the needle ran aground at about 55 MPH. It turned out that the plastic piece that had the numbers engraved in it had lifted and was interfering with the needle travel. I made the mistake of using super glue on it once I came up with a way to clamp it in place. The problem with super glue is that it gives off vapors that fog the the plastic lens. Out it came again for a lens cleaning. It is at that point that I noticed that the white lettering for the numbers was going away. It sits in the engraved portion but after many years it turns to a brittle powder that crumbles and drops out of the engravings. After carefully repainting the letters I finally got it back into place. While the dash is removed it would be a great time to check for damaged wires, and ones that have been twisted and taped. This would be a great time to re lamp the whole thing since you will not want to get back in there again.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Barney:

I am to this point now with my speedo. What color paint did you use on the speedo letters and what type (laquer, enamel, modeling paint, etc)? It looks like the paint should be a cream color or a yellowish white. Trying to match.

Cheers, Dave

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I lied, there are 5 nuts that need to be removed. Three on the bottom and two at the top. If you look at the two pictures, you'll see where they go through the dash, and you'll see the longer one's on the back side of the panel you're trying to get loose. One of the bolts is twisted off on mine, but you can tell where they are at. I got mine re-nickeled but haven't gotten the jeweling done yet. That's kind of a pricey venture by the time it's done! If you need more pictures though, do let me know and I'll take them.

When I painted the lettering back in on my speedometer, I used an off white oil paint and kept some mineral spirits handy to wipe off anything that might go where it's not wanted. It went pretty smoothly as I don't remember anything unusual happening while I was doing it. the oil paint will dry slower and will level out better in the recess than latex will, but either will probably work just fine in the end. The mineral spirits won't eat into the plastic, so you are safe with that. The line on the speedometer is brown when you are under 50 mph and is red after that.

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After you complete the repair of the speedo and gauges, do not secure the panel with the original 5 nuts. instead go to a hardware store and buy 5 rubber grommets that are near the size of the nuts but with a small center hole that can be pushed on the studs where the nuts would normally go. if the grommets are the right size they will grasp the studs firmly. Push these on from behind as far as they will go. They should hold the panel in place for a good 10 years. if you have to loosen the panel again in the future just get a plastic trim tool and pry all around from the front. it beats wrestling with nuts again.

Joe BCA 33493

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Hello all, and thank you for the Valuable info, I'm currently going to Restore my Dash Cluster on my 41 Special and convert into the 21st century, I'm having a time finding a good restoration place, but May have found one today with Bobs Speedometer shop, http://www.bobsspeedometer.com/1/120/index.asp, but maybe someone else may know of someplace that can do this kind of Job ? thanks for reading and or responding inadvance,,,, Richard C

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Hi all:

 

I am reviving this thread because I am also planning some dashboard work, and I'm hoping I can get some advice.  I am brand new to Buicks, but not to old cars (having owned a '48 Chrysler back in the 80's).  I bought a '41 Super Touring Sedan about 10 days ago, and I'm just at the stage of doing a general inventory and seeing what improvements I want to make.  The car is a solid original/older restoration that seems mechanically sound.  I'm not planning anything major, I just want a dependable driver that looks completely stock and correct.  One of the first things I want to take care of is getting all the gauges to work, and the ammeter/temperature gauge is a mess from too many years in the hot California sun.  (See photo.)  The ammeter works, and the temp gauge may also work as well, but the needle can't move because it is blocked by shards of melted plastic.  And it's just not something I can live with cosmetically.

 

This thread has been invaluable to me as far as figuring out how to get the instrument cluster out of the dash, particularly Earl's photos.  But today I used my camera to take a bunch of photos up under the dash (where it's hard to get my head), and I was a bit concerned by the general state of the wiring under there.  (See photos.)   The cluster of frayed wires coming out of the headlight switch in particular looks pretty unsafe.

 

So ... what to do?  I have no problem with splicing in modern wire to repair everything since it will be hidden under the dash.  But I'm worried that if I attempted it without removing the dash I would end up needing several years of Chiropractic care.  I took the dash out of my Chrysler, and it wasn't too bad.  Can anyone tell me what's involved in removing the entire dash?  Or any other ideas about what I should do?  Is the wiring as bad as it seems to me?  Can I get away with just pulling the instrument cluster and repairing/replacing the bad gauges and leave to old wiring where it is?  Thanks in advance.

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Unless there is a removable panel in the firewall I would remove the front seat first.  That is a relatively easy R&R and it sure makes working under the dash easier.

Good Luck.

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Ooooh yeah.....you got a dash panel pull in your immediate future!  I see bad wires and previous repairs with electrical tape that is removing itself. Just take it slow, get nut drivers on those 5 studs. (My 1940 only has 4). Then ease it forward, removing the oil pressure line nut and speedo connx. Then remove the wires and light holders. Label as you go if you can. Put a towel or rag on the steering column so you don't mar it. I assume you have looked at the link I sent you. It's not too bad, just have patience. Are you going to repair or new harness?

 

cheers, Dave

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BE SURE TO DISCONNECT THE BATTERY BEFORE GOING UNDER THERE WITH A NUT DRIVER OR WRENCH IN YOUR HAND!

 

LABEL, PHOTOGRAPH EVERYTHING!

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And where wire replacement might be too difficult, at very least apply shrink tubing.

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10 hours ago, Daves1940Buick56S said:

Ooooh yeah.....you got a dash panel pull in your immediate future!  I see bad wires and previous repairs with electrical tape that is removing itself. Just take it slow, get nut drivers on those 5 studs. (My 1940 only has 4). Then ease it forward, removing the oil pressure line nut and speedo connx. Then remove the wires and light holders. Label as you go if you can. Put a towel or rag on the steering column so you don't mar it. I assume you have looked at the link I sent you. It's not too bad, just have patience. Are you going to repair or new harness?

 

cheers, Dave

 

Hi Dave: I just went back and took a more thorough look at your excellent thread on your gauge repair.  I guess I wasn't very articulate with the question I was posing here.  I understand that I will have to pull the instrument panel out to do the gauge repair/restoration that I need to do.  What I was trying to ask was whether, in order to fix all the bad wiring, it would be easier just to remove the entire dash -- not just the panel over the steering column.

 

Now that I have taken a closer look at your excellent photos, it looks like I will have sufficient access to the area behind the dash once that panel is off to redo the wiring without too much trouble.  It looks like it really helps to remove the steering wheel to get better access to the area.

 

In terms of repair versus new harness, I don't know.  I was thinking it would just be easier to splice in modern wiring from the point in the old harness where the wires are wrapped in the black tape (and presumably still okay).  As I said earlier, I just want to keep my car "looking" stock, so I don't care about putting non-stock modern wiring under the dash where no one will see it.  This quote from your earlier thread kind of sums up what I was planning:

 

"One of the things that was messed up in the car originally was at the wiring was in bad shape behind the instruments, which is why I started this to begin with. So I basically cut out all the bad wiring and where necessary, replaced with modern wire. Since this is a driver I was not too worried about keeping it original, I was more worried about safety. If you are restoring your car and your wiring was as bad as mine then I would recommend a new harness. Once you get the instruments out and take it all apart it really doesn't look like it would be that difficult to replace the harness. But I patched everything up, and in many cases, especially for the lights, I extended the wiring and connections so that there would not be as much pressure on the wiring putting it back together. This way I was able to loom everything very nicely with everything out of the way and make it really easy going back together. I also fixed some problems that were there originally, such as the map light not working. So basically all the wiring patch ups were done."

 

 But now you've got me thinking -- as long as I'm doing this, maybe I should just get a new "front" harness and do the job right.  Funny thing about old cars -- one thing inevitably leads to another! ^_^

 

 

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10 hours ago, Grimy said:

BE SURE TO DISCONNECT THE BATTERY BEFORE GOING UNDER THERE WITH A NUT DRIVER OR WRENCH IN YOUR HAND!

 

LABEL, PHOTOGRAPH EVERYTHING!

 

Yes, George, some good advice.  I learned the rule about disconnecting the battery the hard way the first time I got under the dash of my '48 Chrysler with a wrench!  It's only 6 volts, but you can sure feel it!  And I am really enjoying my re-entry into the old car hobby in the digital photography age.  It makes things so much easier now that we can easily take as many photos as we want.

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Neil

 

You know the old expression: lift up hood, replace everything, close hood.  And the 4 most expensive words for old car people: "While I'm in there..." (also applies to surgeons).

 

Yeah, removing the dash is nasty - you have to remove the windshields too. I did ok with just the panel and I think you will as well. And it does help a lot to pull the steering wheel - I had to replace the horn wire also so I had to do it anyways.

 

If you repair the wiring, the most secure splice is a Western Union (double twist) that is soldered. Then heat shrink over that. Electrical tape will eventually unglue. F4 tape is better, but shrink is the best by far. If you do crimped butt splices, be prepared for intermittant electrical problems once a couple of years have passed that will drive you insane and will result in another panel pull and doing it all over anyway. Just Say No to crimped splices. And on the crimped spade or round lugs, I let a bit of wire poke thru the end, then solder that to the lug after crimping. Let the solder wick up the wire inside the crimped joint and you will have a forever fix.

 

Cheers, Dave

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31 minutes ago, neil morse said:

 

Yes, George, some good advice.  I learned the rule about disconnecting the battery the hard way the first time I got under the dash of my '48 Chrysler with a wrench!  It's only 6 volts, but you can sure feel it!  And I am really enjoying my re-entry into the old car hobby in the digital photography age.  It makes things so much easier now that we can easily take as many photos as we want.

Back in the early 70s I was helping a friend at school change his alternator (I actually did it and he watched). It was a 68 Dodge and Chrysler alternators of that time had an exposed terminal for the main lead to the voltage reg. So I stupidly didn't disconnect the battery and, as I was lifting the alternator up to undo the wiring, the metal band of my wristwatch made contact between that terminal and the holding bracket. Big Spark! Followed by me jumping around trying to pull off my watch as fast as possible! It welded 3 links of the wristband together and I got a 2nd degree burn on my wrist. Let me tell you that band heated up fast! Lesson learned!!

 

Cheers, Dave

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