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36threewindow

1936 Buick gauge cluster lighting

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I have a 1936 Buick Special 3 window coupe and am converting over to 12 volt electrical system and all new wiring. All the lighting is working well so far except the gauge cluster. There are 3 new -12 volt bulbs in the cluster, one of which lights the high beam headlight red light . The other two bulbs illuminate the cluster from 2 quarter inch slots one on each side of cluster. All three bulbs light but are very dim, the back face is a cream color but solid with no light coming thru from behind just the dim light from the sides. You can make out the numbers on the speedo but can't see/read gauges or odometer.

Any thoughts appreciated

 

Thanks

Al T.

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Check the ground connection to the cluster.

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I have no experience in a 6 to 12 volt conversion, and would not recommend it, but since you seem to have already done that the only two ideas that I would have for why your gauge cluster bulbs are dim is a bad ground or the wrong bulbs. Perhaps you have 24 volt bulbs instead of 12 volt bulbs. They do make 24 volt bulbs in the same size as what I suspect you are using. I would think that a bad ground is a more likely problem. Assuming the 36 gauge cluster is similar to my 1937 and 1938 clusters, I would think that some corrosion could be causing your problem. It might be easier to simply run a separate ground wire from one of the screws on the back of the cluster to a known good ground somewhere else on the dash rail.

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Posted (edited)

Maybe the light switch?

Is it one of those that dim the dash when you turn it?

Possibly not compatible with 12 volts.

Edited by JACK M (see edit history)
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If that buick has dimmable panel lights its possible the dimmer rheostat may be bad or has dirty contacts. It might be in the headlight switch or somewhere else. Check the contacts in the bulb sockets with a voltmeter for 12 volts. If you have less than that the lights will be dim.

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Posted (edited)

Al T, attached is a picture of my cluster lit up in the dark with 2-12v bulbs.. When I rebuilt my cluster I did away with the yellow/cream, painted mine silver metallic. Originally no dimmer, I`m using a later model light switch with reostat..

DSCN5347.JPG

DSCN5352.JPG

Edited by pont35cpe (see edit history)

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I seriously doubt that a 1936 Buick is dimmable. I would expect to see the same kind of combination maplight/dashlight switch usually seen in mid 30s GM cars, dashlights to the left, maplight+dashlights to the right, center off. No dimmer. Can any other 1936 Buick owners confirm?

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1 hour ago, Bloo said:

I seriously doubt that a 1936 Buick is dimmable. I would expect to see the same kind of combination maplight/dashlight switch usually seen in mid 30s GM cars, dashlights to the left, maplight+dashlights to the right, center off. No dimmer. Can any other 1936 Buick owners confirm?

 

I am fairly certain the 1936 has the simple maplight/dashlight switch. I know my 1937 and 1938 Buicks both have that. 

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On 1/6/2019 at 8:09 PM, pont35cpe said:

Al T, attached is a picture of my cluster lit up in the dark with 2-12v bulbs.. When I rebuilt my cluster I did away with the yellow/cream, painted mine silver metallic. Originally no dimmer, I`m using a later model light switch with reostat..

DSCN5347.JPG

DSCN5352.JPG

 

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All good responses gentlemen - We didd run a seperate ground wire originally & have rechecked that, we also are using a new headlight switch with reostat dimmer for the gauge lights. Picked up a new headlight switch w/ dimmer today at Napa as we were having some issues with headlights (Napa switch appears to have more sturdy connectors than original) and will install that.

 

To Pont35Cpe - Thanks for the pics looks great & exactly like mine. We are running new sockets & wiring using   VDO 600-802 bulbs they are 12v- 2 watts 9/32 base because they fit. We are thinking that the 2 watt bulb may be the problem here. Can you tell me what kind of bulb and what wattage it is. Your lights look great.

Thanks all

Al T.

 

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Al, I just checked the bulbs, guess I never changed them, they are 6-8v, may not be as bright with 12v bulb..  Tom

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We replaced the new switch with another new switch and tried 12v  3.8 watt (originally used 2 watt) bulb. Surprisingly the 2 watts were brighter but still cluster was very dim.

 We are going to try halogen next and see if that brightens it up.

 

Al T.

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Ive cleaned the connections and switch, and installed higher wattage white 6v LEDs in my '37 Buick. All lights work including the map and clock light. You cannot see the gauge cluster lights during the day. I always joke with passengers about how hard Ive worked on the lights and flick the switch on and off and ask excitedly "You see that?!". They always say no I dont see anything. But at night it decently lights the cluster up. So I'm just hoping thats as good as it gets.

James

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Until fairly recent times it was customary to run your dash lights extremely dim, with only enough light to see the markings on the gauges. This was to avoid your eyes adjusting to the presence of light, and reducing your ability to see the road at night.

 

On a car originally built with no dimmer I would expect the dash lights to be dim by design.

 

22 hours ago, 36threewindow said:

We replaced the new switch with another new switch and tried 12v  3.8 watt (originally used 2 watt) bulb. Surprisingly the 2 watts were brighter but still cluster was very dim.

 

Assuming both the 3.8 watt bulbs and the 2 watt bulbs were 12 volt, and assuming you are not confusing watts with candlepower, you still have a wiring problem. Less light from a higher wattage bulb points to resistance in the wiring.

 

Double check the ground on the cluster, and make sure you are getting 12v to the bulbs (should really be over 13v on a 12v system with the engine running). I'll bet you aren't getting enough voltage to the bulbs.

 

I would be a bit cautious about drastically increasing the bulb wattage. Is there any plastic in that cluster that could melt? Are there painted surfaces near the bulbs that could burn? Double the wattage is double the heat.

 

LEDs are a possibility to brighten things up, but I am not sure whether they would dim on the dimmer. Probably not.

 

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On 1/8/2019 at 1:29 AM, pont35cpe said:

Al, I just checked the bulbs, guess I never changed them, they are 6-8v, may not be as bright with 12v bulb.. 

They will be brighter and have a very short life with the higher voltage.  Basic physics.

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1 hour ago, Tinindian said:

They will be brighter and have a very short life with the higher voltage.  Basic physics.

Oh yeah, I do plan to change the bulbs to 12v, if I ever get this car back together..

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