NA Gauge Face Install


Warbird gauge faces
revlimiter Gauges waiting to be installed.

Your Shopping List


  • A set of genuine revlimiter Gauges. - You can buy them right here on this site! Check out the revlimiter.net Store. Other gauges may be of lesser quality or not compatible with the steps below. Don't settle for anything but the best!
  • Powder-free gloves - These come with your gauges. Because you'll never be able to wipe off finger prints from most gauges, including your old stock ones.
  • Pry tools - These come with your gauges. This is to remove your gauge needles without damaging the old gauge faces.
  • Needle Stoppers - These come with your gauges. If you have an old set of gauges before I started shipping needle stoppers, you can follow the steps below to liberate the stoppers from your OEM gauges.
  • Grab-Its dust cloth - This comes with your gauges. It's normal for gauges to become a bit dusty while you work on them. This cloth gets them looking good before sealing up your cluster.
  • Super glue - To stick the needle stoppers onto your new gauge faces.
  • Tweezers - to help in gluing on your needle stoppers.
  • Paper towels.
  • An X-acto knife - to aid in the removal of the needle stoppers from your OEM gauge faces.
  • 2 Phillips screwdrivers, one fine (#0) and one regular (#2).
  • Needle-nose pilers - to nibble out plastic from behind your tach face.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • I have an NB. Is it the same process?
    It's very close. The gauge cluster is much easier to remove from an NB, but there's a little extra work once you get it out. Hit my NB Gauge Install for something like 42 photos of the whole process.

  • How do I install the needles?
    Whoa whoa whoa. Getting a little ahead of things! That section is at the bottom of this document, under Setting the Needles.

  • Where can I get the gauges in these pix???
    I sell them here on this site! Check out the revlimiter.net Store.

  • I got a smudge on my gauge. Can I wipe it off with rubbing alcohol?
    NO!!!! No liquid should ever touch your gauges. Water, rubbing alcohol, spit, nothing. You can wipe the gauges a bit with the included dry dusting wipe, but not with anything else. If you have a smudge, don't worry too much. Try installing the gauges and see if you notice the mark when the plexi is in place. Mistakes like that usually vanish once the gauges are covered and in the shadows of your dashboard.

  • What's the deal with those funky gauges with non-stock zero positions?
    Miatas are quite blessed from the factory in that the tach and speedometer are round with the needle in the middle. The gauges have absolutely no idea where o'clock the needle is pointing. As long as you follow the Setting the Needles section correctly, the gauge will think that zero is zero. It doesn't matter if zero is at the stock 7 o'clock position or anywhere else. It will rotate all the way around and stop before it loops back on itself around the stock 9500ish mechanical hard stop.

  • How do I know the tach is accurate after doing this?
    There are a few tricks, the best of which is the 2500 rpm = 50 mph in 5th gear one. Really, the best way to assure yourself of tachometer accuracy is to take some readings before you crack anything open. Mark on a sheet of paper what speed equals what rpm in a couple of gears. After you're finished with the gauge face install, check against your own notes.

  • Will this make my odometer read wrong? Can I roll it back while I'm in there?
    No. Popping out the cluster and opening up the gauges doesn't affect your odometer at all. And if you try to roll it back, you'll just end up breaking it. I know this from experience. Not trying to cheat an odometer, but because I've been in the Miata world a long time and have had a half dozen gauge clusters in my possession at one point or another. I got a junky one and tried to roll back an odometer one day to see what would happen. I changed one digit and all of the numbers magically lost their alignment. None pointed in the same direction again, no matter what I tried to fix it.

  • What happens if I don't hack out the extra plastic behind the tach?
    That area on the bottom will not light up at all. It will be a perfectly black area at night. This is fine for a stock-style gauge with zero at 7 o'clock, but for any other gauge it will look a bit silly.

  • Some other shop sent me to this page. Is it cool if I use the info here?
    Well, sure! The thing I enjoy most is helping out my fellow Miata enthusiast. However, I'd greatly appreciate it if you would drop me a note and tell me about these other manufacturers who are ripping off my hard work.



Gauge Cluster Removal


screw removal
To get access to the gauge cluster, you need to remove two plastic panels - the steering column cover and the gauge hood - and 6 screws. Check out the diagram above and whip out your #2 Phillips screwdriver. Tackle the column cover first.

One thing to note, you do NOT need to remove the metal knee guard that sits in the bottom dash area. The column cover can be removed just fine with that knee guard in place.


The column cover removed
After removing the 3-4 screws holding the column cover in place, you will be able to split it in half and set both halves to the side. It snaps together very lightly and shouldn't put up much of a struggle as it comes out.


Gauge hood removal
This is the first part of the job that will present a challenge. After removing the two screws holding the gauge hood in place, you'll have to pull it free. The dash is holding onto it by these three points and the plastic becomes brittle after years of baking in the sun. Pull it straight back (toward your face) in one motion. With luck, you'll not have any breakage.

The one pictured here is from Sharka's 1997 body. It has been removed and installed something like 20 times. It's still fine. The one from Sharka's 1995 body broke the first time I removed it. I wish you luck.


remove the cluster
4 screws are holding the cluster in place. Well, 4 screws and 3 plastic clip connections on the back side. We'll get to those in a minute. For now, just remove these screws and set them aside. Then pull the cluster forward slightly (less than 1 inch or 2 cm) to give yourself a little room in the back.

Sorry about the "Stock Gauges" edit. The gauges installed in Sharka at the time these photos were taken are actually the ones you'll see at the end of this tutorial. I installed the gauges first and then took the installation pix as I put things back together. Seeing the "wrong" gauges installed in these first photos was confusing, so I blacked them out.


gauge input connections
These are quite easy to remove, actually. With practice. But the first time? They're a huge pain. Just get in and out of the car a few times to figure out where each tab is and then shove your hand behind the cluster and try your best. The two top connections are electrical. The one lower connection is the speedometer's mechanical cable.


gauge input connections
I thought this shot might help out a small bit. These are the three connections. You can see the little tabs securing them a bit better in this photo.


gauge input connections
Some cars are wired for a rear defroster indicator light (it's the shiny thing above your gas gauge.) The little connector can be problematic to remove. It's covered in foam and it's hard to know where to press.


gauge input connections
This is how the defroster pigtail unplugs. A fingernail is enough to press down, but a small screwdriver might work too. And if you scrape off some of the padding, it's not the end of the world.

The connector will come off with your gauge cluster. It's screwed into the front cluster glass.



Gauge Face Installation


Take the cluster out of the car
Take the cluster out of the car and to a comfortable, dust-free work area. You might consider putting on your gloves now. The gauges I make are not unique or more delicate than others. No gauge face I've ever seen is able to have finger prints or skin oils wiped clean, not even the stock ones. If you think you'll ever want to go back to stock faces, put those gloves on now.


Separating the cluster cover
To get at the gauges, you'll need to separate the front cluster cover (the glass) from the rest of the gauges. It is secured by a bunch of little tabs that run around the outside. They are easily popped free with just your fingers. Press down on one tab with your right thumb (I like to start on a top corner) and wedge the cluster glass free with your left hand. It will open up very slightly. DO NOT FORCE IT. Then move to the tab next door and pop it free with your thumb while opening up the glass even more with your left hand. After two tabs are free, you're most of the way there. The rest of the tabs will open easily.

Incidentally, this is a great time to install a new cluster cover. The KG Works and AWD independent clusters will really make your new revlimiter Gauges look great. And if you do both at one time, that's one less time you have to remove that delicate gauge hood.


needle removal tools
Next, it's time to remove your needles. There are no better tools in the world for this than these small plastic pry tools. I include them with every set of gauges. Using the face mounting screws as a fulcrum, put one pry tool under either side of a needle...


needle removal
... then just lift up! The most stubborn needle will pop free with very little effort and no damage will come to your gauge face. If you rush, you might scratch the face slightly with the back of the pry tool, but any damage should be under the needle center itself.


Remove the screws
Next, remove the small screws holding the gauge faces in place. Be careful, since the metal is quite soft and the screws strip easily. Set the screws aside for re-installation in a moment. Hold the screw driver with both hands so that it doesn't hop off of the screw and scratch the gauge face.


remove light condom
If your new revlimiter.net faces light up in a color other than the OEM green, you'll need to remove each of the four bulbs and remove the little green bulb covers. Some folks call these "light bulb condoms". Whatever you call them, I'd recommend putting them in a baggy with your old gauge faces and saving them. It is very hard to get new little green condoms when you really want them.

If you ordered new bulb covers with your gauges, just slip them on now. They pressure fit on and don't require any tape or glue or anything. Usually you can install them easily with a twisting motion.



Tach Indicator Light Removal


  • Why does the bottom part of my tachometer stay dark at night?
    You need to follow the steps below. The partitions around the three indicator lights have to be cut out. It isn't hard to do this, but if you ignore this step, the bottom of your tach from 7:00 back to 4:00 will not light up.

Ready to remove indicator lights
99% of the gauges I sell require this step, even the ones with the needle position at the stock 8:00 angle. Unless you ordered a custom gauge set with indicator lights visible on the tach, you will have to do this. The cluster plastic is easy to chew away. My favorite tools for this are a pair of needle-nose pliers and a pair of wire snips. Don't use a dremel. The dust will get everywhere and be a pain to clean.


Remove the tint
Remove the little tinted rectangle to expose the work area. A blade or something slim makes easy work of this. You could also unscrew one of the bulbs and put a thin screwdriver through the back. Remember to reinstall the bulb!


Snip snip snip
Put on safety glasses. Cut the partitions into slices with your wire snips. Cut each wall so that it's a rectangular shape and you're not struggling to break off a partition with a bend in it. Lots of snips makes this an easy job. For more pix, check out the NB install.


chew away the partitions
Once you've finished with the wire snips, grab a set of needle nose pliers and pull out the partitions. They will come out very easily since everything is cut into squares. There's a good chance some of them will have come free by themselves.


Done!
This is what it should look like when you're done hacking away the walls. Nothing will be left between the light and the bottom of the tach. Even lighting shall be yours!

If you ever want to reverse things and go back to stock gauges, you can easily rebuild the partitions. Buy a set of spark plugs. They come with little cardboard tubes to protect the electrode. Those tubes are just about perfect for masking off the light for each of the three indicators on the tach. Secure the tubes with a few drops of super glue.



Needle Stopper Install - Poke Through


PUT YOUR GLOVES ON. You will working with your new gauge faces a lot now. Treat them like they would self-destruct the moment anything touches the front side. A few minutes of extra care here will be worth it. Would you like to stare at an oily (or even dusty if using powdered gloves) finger print for the rest of your car's life?

There have been three methods of dealing with needle stoppers over the years: 1) cut off and re-glue your originals, 2) glue on the needle stoppers included with your gauges, and 3) poke the needle stoppers through the little holes in your tach and OPG. For the past couple of years, genuine revlimiter Gauges include new stoppers for you to install. You shouldn't have to follow the cut-off-the-stopper procedure any more.


Poke through stopper
MOST of the gauges I'm making right now use this type of needle stopper. Check for the small hole in your tach near the zero. If there IS a small hole, you need to follow these steps. Custom gauges with different zero rotations usually ship with the glue-on needle stoppers.

Hold the gauge face by the edges. Hold the needle stopper with your free hand. Poke the stopper through the face.


Poke through stopper
If it's hard to get the stopper through the tiny hole, twist the stopper while you insert it. A drilling motion will let the stopper get through the face without much pressure.


Poke through stopper
Apply a small square of tape to the back to hold the stopper in place. Black electrical tape works best, but clear "Magic" tape is fine too. If you use black tape, make sure none of the numbers or tick marks are blocked by it.


Poke through stopper
Ta-da! Nothing to it. The gauge is now ready to be installed.


stopper installed
Install your new gauge faces. Smile a lot because you're almost done.



Needle Stopper Install - Gluing


needle stoppers 1
PUT YOUR GLOVES ON. You will working with your new gauge faces a lot now. Treat them like they would self-destruct the moment anything touches the front side. A few minutes of extra care here will be worth it. Would you like to stare at an oily (or even dusty if using powdered gloves) finger print for the rest of your car's life?

add glue
Check your tach face. If there's a small hole, you do NOT need to glue on a stopper to it. Follow the instructions above. If there's a small white dot, you'll need to glue on your needle stoppers. Most custom orders with different tach/speedo clocking require glue.

Apply a drop of super glue to the back of the needle stopper. Don't be shy. Make a big dome-shaped drop on the back. You'll remove most of that glue in the next 3 seconds.


remove glue
Use the corner of a paper towel to remove most of the glue from the stopper. You want to end up with just a thin layer of glue covering the back. This way, you won't have any excess glue seeping out from the edges of the stopper, making your new gauge faces look bad.


glued
That's what you're after. Just a little glue. Let it dry for a few seconds according to the glue directions and then start practicing gluing it.


needle stopper gluing
Rescue the sheet of paper marked "needle stopper glue target" from your gauge pack and start practicing. I find it best to use tweezers to hold the stopper before dropping it onto the dot. Tweezers are more accurate than your fingers, especially fingers covered in gloves.

Drop and remove. How did the dot of glue look. Too big? Apply less and try again. Too small a drop? Don't remove as much with the towel and try again. Did you miss the dot completely? Try another 3 times at least. Be very happy with how you're dropping the stopper before you move onto the gauge.


glued
When you're ready, bring a gauge into your work area and glue up your needle stopper. Drop it on there. Move onto the next one.



Setting the Needles


Needles set.
There is no good way to photograph each step of this. Sorry, but this involves a lot of reading. I'll try to make it as easy to understand as possible.

Speedometer: This is the only gauge needle that you can set while the cluster is on your table inside. The speedometer is self-zeroing. That means you can carefully and gently place the needle on the zero position and probably get it right. So stick it on there very lightly and then spin the needle up to 20 mph or so and let it fall by itself. Did it return to zero? If so, then give the needle a little extra press to make sure it's on there and then call it good. If it didn't return to zero, pull it off and try again.

Take the cluster back out to the car and reinstall it with the glass covering removed. Connect all three inputs on the back of the cluster. I like to also screw in 2 of the 4 cluster mounting screws to hold it in place and keep it from rattling around too much. Then turn the car on.

Oil Pressure: This is usually the second needle I put into place. With the car on and the engine cold, your oil pressure gauge will read very near the maximum value (the highest oil pressure) it will ever show. Point the needle to that spot and gently press it on. Not too hard! If you get it wrong and it starts showing low oil pressure when the engine is hot, you'll want to remove this needle and try again. And, obviously, cars with dummy oil pressure gauges don't really matter. Just put it on pointing at the middle.

Tachometer: When your engine has warmed up enough and you hear it idling normally, pop the tach needle in place with it pointing somewhere around 850 rpm. Next, rev up to your rev limit. Verify that the needle points to this value. I say "this value" since many cars have aftermarket ECUs with non-stock rev limits. For stock cars, it is 7200.

If you have an aftermarket ECU, it is very easy to set the tach needle. Just plug in your laptop and monitor the engine speed. If you see the needle is grossly incorrect, pop it off and try again. But if you don't have this luxury, there is a trick: for cars with the 4.1 rear end (94-97), 50 mph = 2500 rpm in 5th gear. For 90-93 cars with the 4.3 diff, I'm not sure of the magical check point. At any rate, once you're satisfied with the tach needle, you should press it firmly in place.

Water Temp: Once you've finished messing around with the tach needle, your engine should be warm enough to put the water needle in place. The stock position is approximately 11:30 o'clock. Put the needle in place and then press it down firmly.

Fuel: Last but not least, the gas gauge. I like to leave this needle off and drive to the gas station near my house. Then I fill up. Then I drive back to my house and sit in the driveway and put the fuel needle a bit above the F mark. It takes a little over a mile for a full tank of gas to register, so keep that in mind.

Lastly, turn the car off. Keep the cluster glass off and verify that the needles fall to their correct zero zones. If you didn't press the needle on hard enough, you'll have a droopy gauge. I'm talking to you, Mr. Water Temp. The tach and oil gauges both have stoppers. The fuel gauge doesn't fall. The speedometer self zeroes. But the water gauge can droop if the needle isn't pressed on hard enough. Once you're satisfied, give your new gauge faces a quick dusting with the very edge of a clean paper towel (don't use pressure to dust!) and then snap the glass cover in place.

And that's it. It sounds like a lot of work, but really the process is quite straightforward. With a little bit of care, it's very easy to swap out gauges and put everything together with that OEM fit and finish.

Cliff notes: Take everything out. Put on gloves. Put everything back in.



Additional Images


Warbird
Poor Sharka has worn over a dozen sets of gauges in the past few years. Some extra pix were required.


Stirling


night mode


Rossa


Prototipo


Sunstorm


Miaka


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