by: K-Man S
There are some options that were not available when I ordered my car way back in 2005. One of those options was the speed yellow instrument cluster gauge faces. At the time I was actually on the fence about the option because I had seen it on a 911 and I didn't think the color yellow used for the gauge face was a very close match to the actual speed yellow color which I would have elsewhere in my interior. When I spoke to Porsche tequipment representatives in 2007 about the availability of a retrofit I was told two things. First, that there was a new red and a new yellow gauge faceplate coming out that provided better color matching and better legibility. Second, I was told that there was no option to retrofit the gauge faceplate as it would void the instrument cluster warranty if the gauge pod was opened. If I wanted it I would have to buy an entirely new gauge cluster and the price was prohibitive so I shelved the idea.In mid 2010 I was speaking with Rhonda at FVD and she informed me that FVD had new gauge faceplates available and that the design, materials and craftmanship were the same as the ones that Porsche produces. Why? It was because FVD used the same suppliers in Germany that Porsche uses. Typically FVD receives your instrument cluster and does the swap work and sends the completed cluster back to you. Unfortunately, this wasn't an option for me at the time and I'm sure for some individuals the thought of having their car "down" while they are waiting for an instrument cluster to return may not be acceptable. Additionally, it is going to be more expensive to have FVD perform the swap labor than if the individual does it themselves. I asked Rhonda whether or not I could do this myself and if so would FVD like me to create a 'how-to' article. Rhonda checked with Willy Brombacher at FVD in Germany and Willy said that I could do it, but that there were a couple of steps I might need help with but that he would tell me what to do over the phone, as well as FVD would send me copies the Porsche service manual pages for the instrument cluster removal. I agreed to give it a try and ordered up a new faceplate from Rhonda.Due to delays involving my work, my car being out of state for a period and other matters it was not until this past week that I had a chance to install the new faceplate even though Rhonda had sent it to me some time ago. I want to thank Rhonda and the folks at FVD for their patience and for their assistance in the process. Rhonda, as usual, has been top notch to work with. Let's get started with the installation. For this article I am going to attempt to use some new formatting features available here on Planet-9 and I will use 400 pixel wide thumbnails for the article. If you'd like to see any picture larger simply click on it to see a larger version or visit the Gallery section where I have uploaded all of the article images by Clicking Herehttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0808_thumb.jpg Here is a picture of my existing instrument cluster before I began the operation. As you can see it is the standard "S" gauge faceplate in the standard silver color. Of course a standard model Cayman or Boxster currently receives the black faceplate colored gauges. This modification applies to removing and installing any faceplate in a 987 series Boxster or Cayman. As far as I know there were no changes to the faceplate between generation 1 and generation 2 cars. The only difference would be whether you had a car with a manual or automatic or PDK transmission. You simply need to order the one that is appropriate for your car.The first order of business is to make sure you have the right tools. You are going to need a Torx T-10 driver, preferably a long-handled one as well as a Torx T-20 for the removal of most of the pieces to get the instrument cluster out. In my case I had a particular piece that simply snaps in cause me some heartache because it was so tight I thought I would break it. The dealership had a special tool shaped like a "T" with a bend at the end for "pulling" plastic parts apart. I would also recommend a plastic wedge tool for helping to get some parts out. Later in the process you will need an x-acto knife or similar tool and of course a steady hand. I should not let readers of this article underestimate the difficulty of this job. At times I felt like this job was a 10 on the difficulty scale, other times it felt like a 2. Now that I've completed the task it seems like it really wasn't all that difficult once I knew what to do so hopefully this article makes it easier on those who follow. I should also point out that my car is not under warranty so if I screwed anything up I was paying full price to fix it regardless. I didn't screw anything up!Step 1: Remove the steering column upper cover http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0810a_thumb.jpg The steering column upper cover is held on by 3 Torx T-10 screws. The first order of business is to loosen the steering column using the locking arm underneath and lower your steering column as far down as it will go and pull it out towards your seat as far as it will go. This will give you the room you need to work on removing the parts in question. The image shows the location of the three screws, one of them is near the lever arm. Be sure that you are loosening the screw that goes through the plastic, there is another screw nearby (of a different size) that does NOT need to be removed, simply make sure you have the right one. The other two screws are deeply recessed inside a fairly narrow opening in the underside of the steering column plastic casing. Normally I would use a Torx bit on the end of a ratchet and extension but these "tubes" that the screws are inside of were too narrow/small for me to fit an extension into. I had to find the longest T-10 tool I had which was just barely long enough. I would recommend a T-10 driver shaped like a screwdriver so that it is long enough to reach the two hidden screws. Once the screws have been removed the steering column plastic simply separates in two halves, an upper and lower half. You only need to remove the upper half as shown in the following photos:http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0819_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0820_thumb.jpg Notice in the photo on the right how the plastic is still attached to a leather piece near the dash. This is actually what Porsche uses for a flexible dust cover. It's designed to be able to move in and out with the steering column and also to act as a flexible connection between the steering column and the dash plastic. The two halves of the steering column plastic should separate easily, the lower piece can stay in place throughout the rest of the operation but the upper piece still needs to be disconnected from the leather to get it out of the way.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0821_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0823_thumb.jpg The upper steering column cover is held onto the leather via a series of 4 clips. These clips are very easy to access and simply giving them a light squeeze should allow the clips to pop out. Once you have released all four clips the leather will separate away from the upper steering column cover and you can then set the upper steering column plastic piece somewhere out of the way. This is the point where I ran into my first issue. The Porsche service directions do not show the leather and the plastic piece on the dash it is still attached to, nor do the service directions tell you how to remove it. I tried all sorts of things, looking for hidden screws and clips, poking, prodding, prying, tugging, etc. and the piece simply didn't budge. I called FVD and Willy told me that it should just pull out, it is only clipped in. I tried pulling harder, to the point where I thought the plastic would break and still the piece would not come out. I decided to play it safe and took the car to my local dealer. I know the service tech there pretty well and he at first laughed at me and said "that piece just pulls out". "Ok, give it a try" I replied. He climbed into the seat and tugged and started to frown. He had never had one not just pop out. He next tried a plastic wedge tool and still the piece would only flex but not pop out. Finally, he grabbed a tool that looks like a "T" with the handle being the top of the "T" and the vertical piece being a stiff wire that had a curve on the end of it.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0825_thumb.jpghttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0827_thumb.jpg You can see in the image to the left the tool he was using. Will such a tool be required by anyone else doing this modification? I don't know, some owners have reported that their same plastic piece pops right out, so maybe mine was the exception. After working the tool in behind the plastic and tugging forward in a couple of spots the piece finally popped free. According to the service technician this was the most difficult one he had ever removed, so much so he wondered if someone had used glue. They had not, but it sure felt like it. Once the piece was free in my hand I could see the clips that held the piece into place and they weren't anything special, just evidently a very tight fit in my instance. Here's what the piece looked like once it was removed from the car on the right. There are a couple of little elastic bands that hook onto hooks to hold the leather taught when in the assembled position. Nevertheless, I was happy to have this piece out of the car. Now the dash cluster once again looked like the Porsche service drawings which clearly showed that 2 Torx T-20 screws needed to be removed next at the bottom of the instrument cluster (they were hidden behind the leather/plastic piece).Step 2: Removing the Instrument Clusterhttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0831_thumb.jpghttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0838_thumb.jpg Once again my pieces were a bit "stuck" and a gentle tug on the instrument cluster did not slide it forward. There are two metal clips that hold the cluster in place on the back side so the technician loosened the cluster by using his special "T" tool and pulling from the back side. Once the cluster was loose he pulled it forward to show me the wire on the left side that was connected into the back of the instrument cluster. Porsche decided to use a locking style connector on this connection so the technician showed me the trick to removing it. It really takes two hands. One hand pushes on a little blue button like tab while the other hand pulls down on the black lever arm. As the arm comes down it literally hinges and pulls the blue connector out of the socket on the back of gauge pod. If you don't push in on the blue tab, the black lever arm won't swing, if the arm doesn't swing the connection won't come loose. Once he showed me it was pretty easy to do, but I could see where people might struggle with this if they didn't know what they were doing so I tried to show it and describe it here. I thanked the technician for his help, left the instrument cluster loose but in place and drove home to remove the cluster and take it apart to put in the new gauge faces.Step 3: Instrument Cluster Disassemblyhttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0840_thumb.jpg I suggest working on a padded surface so that you don't mar or scratch your instrument cluster. If you turn the cluster over you will see that the casing is held together by 6 screws, in addition to some plastic clips at the top and bottom. The first order of business is to remove the six Torx T-10 screws holding the case together. Two of these are in recessed cavities so it would help if you had a magnetic torx driver, but if not then I suggest taking these two out first so you can turn the cluster over and dump out the screw if necessary. None of the screws were particularly tight, just snug, so all six were easy to remove. Before I separated the outer shell I wanted to take a picture of where the needles were pointing before further disassembly. Why? Believe it or not, the needles are NOT keyed. That's right, you could put your needles on 180 degrees out if you want to, or any angle for that matter. You are probably wondering how does Porsche prevent needles being off or pointing in an inaccurate way? It's done through the magic of the PIWIS machine at the Porsche dealership. Using the PIWIS the service technician can set the lower and upper boundaries for the needles and make sure they are accurate and swinging the proper arc. I'm assuming most dealerships would charge you for such an exercise so rather than "guess" what my needles looked like I decided to take a picture and save it for future reference later in the assembly process.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0841_thumb.jpg One of the other things I found this image to be handy for is the position of the two little knobs in the lower left and lower right for adjusting the illumination at night and the time on the clock. Before you can separate the cluster plastic pieces you need to remove these two knobs. Initially I thought there might be litte set screws or some sort of release for these knobs but in fact with a little tugging they just come off. Please note that these knobs ARE keyed, meaning they only go back on one way. You can look at the shaft and the back of the knob to determine what way that is, but I thought it worth pointing out that in this instance Porsche did "key" the parts that go together. I would also recommend taking a few minutes just to familiarize yourself with the clips and how things go together. One of the things I noticed on my cluster was that Porsche uses some sort of black padding tape at the bottom near the illumination and clock adjustment shafts. The tape is designed to prevent dash squeaks but I noticed that the tape also covered both halves of the pod that I needed to separate so I had to carefully pull back a little of the tape. There's no need to remove it all, just pull enough back to allow the two halves to separate.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0842_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0843_thumb.jpg These photos show the case as I was starting to separate it so you can see the clips and how they connect, but additionally it is important to note that at the top of the cluster there are clips as well. I found the clips at the top a little harder to get apart because the act of separating the two halves was placing a bit of a bind on the clips at the top. A small, flat-blade screwdriver can assist at this point in releasing the clips and allowing the two halves of the cluster to come apart. I have to be honest here, I snapped part of the middle clip at the top, nothing serious and nothing that prevented anything from going back together but just a friendly warning to make sure you don't put too much pressure on plastic parts or things can split, crack or even break clean off. Luckily, I didn't have any catastrophic problems and I'm sure those that follow will find it easier than I did pioneering this project.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0845_thumb.jpghttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0847_thumb.jpg So now we have the cluster apart and we can see the gauge faces up close along with the needle assembly. I have to confess this was the point I was most worried about, getting the needles off. People in the forums speculated that it takes special tools, or that the needles would simply snap since they are plastic, etc. I have to tell you that it really wasn't that bad. My technique was to use my fingers. If the needle were facing twelve o'clock then I would have one finger at nine o'clock and the other at three o'clock. I gently worked my fingers underneath the needle and slowly pryed upward with an even pressure. In ever instance there was a small give followed by some resistance and then pop the needle came off. I tried not to move the needle back and forth when pulling upward but just to use an even pressure until the needle released. I was able to remove all four needles without issue in this manner. In fact, it was easier than I thought it would be!http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0848_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0849_thumb.jpg Of course nothing is as easy as you think it might be. I had thought that after I got the needles out I would simply swap the faceplates. Not so fast! Porsche, in its infinite wisdom decided to use press fit retainer rings to hold the gauge face down where the needles are. Not only were these rings press fit in, they were single use rings, meaning once they went in they expanded and would not come back out. The only way to ever get them back out would be to complete disassemble the electronics and gearing in the gauge cluster to where they could be reached from the backside. That approach would have taken hours with no guarantee of success and was a lot more risk than I was willing to take. Futzing with plastic bits is one thing, messing with electronics and circuit board attachments something else entirely. So I gave up and went to bed.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0852_thumb.jpg The next day I called Willy in Germany and he explained to me that what needs to be done is to cut the rings in half and remove them. This is done carefully with an X-acto type knife shown in the photo on the right above. If you look at the rings you'll see that they are already notched from the bottom in two spots 180 degrees opposite of each other, this is what allows the ring to be inserted in a compressed fashion and expand once it is in the hole in the first place. You need to cut only a very small amount at these points for the rings to separate into two halves at which point you can get a fingernail underneath them and pop them up and out. If you look carefully at the two halves of the removed ring in the picture you can see how it goes down into the hole where the needle is and expands so it can't pull back out. I did have one half of one ring want to drop down inside the hole where the needle is so turning the pod over and letting gravity help you as you try to get the rings out might also be a helpful tip to avoid any issues. I must also admit I was hesitant to cut these rings figuring that I'd ruin them, but since Porsche does not offer these rings as a replacement part I had no choice but to hope for the best.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0853_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0854_thumb.jpg Once the rings were remove a half at a time the faceplate itself is just held on by some clips at the top that it fits underneath so it was easy to flex the faceplate enough to slide it out from under the clips over the pins and completely off. The image at the right shows what the cluster looks like with the faceplate removed. You can see the variou LED lights down inside of the different sections for the check engine light, airbag light, etc. I thought it was interesting that the area and LED lights are there for the automatic version of the car which should mean if you ever take your manual transmission out and replace it with the automatic you can just change your faceplate and reprogram your cluster to work!Step 4: Installing the new Faceplatehttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0855_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0856_thumb.jpgI wanted to lay out both faceplates next to each other so you can see that there are only minor differences between the two and that the faceplate from FVD is of the same quality as the one from Porsche. Rhonda did offer me the opportunity to have a Planet-9 logo screened onto the faceplate but I declined, I suppose I could have done something here myself as well, but again didn't feel it necessary but those who want to truly custom faceplate can inquire with FVD about your needs. The installation of the new faceplate is simply the reversal of the removal of the old one. I slid the faceplate under the the retaining clips and over the positioning pins and everything fit the same way as the factory faceplate fit.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0857_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0858_thumb.jpg The next step involves rings and needles. Reinserting the ring halves in the holes was pretty straight forward, this simply pop in and you can hear them click as they go down flush. After you insert both halves the faceplate is held down just as it would be by and unbroken ring. I don't see any way these rings can back themselves out with the way they snap in as it takes a pretty good tug with a fingernail to pop them out and the needle sits right on top of them, there wouldn't be enough clearance for them to come out even if one were to somehow come lose so I consider the use of the split rings a non-factor. Next I started reinstalling the needles. Note I have the printed picture of my cluster before I removed the needles above to make sure I had the needles lined up appropriately. I used the two finger method again, but this time pressing down on both sides 180 degrees apart and with a smooth and even pressure. The needle would slide on, meet some resistance and then pop all the way down into place. Only one time did I take a needle back off and resposition because I wasn't happy with where it had ended up slightly different than the original picture, but after the removal and reinstall it was where I wanted it.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0859_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0860_thumb.jpg Next simply install the rest of the needles until you are satisfied with their positioning. Once you are satisfied then it is time to put the two halves of the cluster back together. I found this to be easier than separating the two halves, as long as you have everything lined up the halves go together and snap into place and the various clips engage. I then took the time to take the black padding tape and lay it back down over the areas I removed it from and I reinserted the knobs for dash illumination and setting the clock. You will need to turn the cluster over and insert the 6 Torx T-10 screws that you removed previously and tighten them down until they are snug. Don't overtighten or you could crack the case. A magnetic driver can help position the two screws that are in the recessed area but I was able to do it by hand.Step 5: Installing the instrument clusterhttp://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0863_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0864_thumb.jpg You are now ready to reinstall the instrument cluster back into the dash. The process works pretty much in reverse of how you removed the cluster. Note from the image on the left the two spots below the cluster where the Torx T-20 screws secure the cluster to the dash, I did not have a good picture of those during the removal process. You might also note how the black lever arm is down on the blue connector. As you push the connector into the back of the instrument cluster pod the black lever will hinge up and then lock into place once the connector is completely secured. Some have speculated that you could simply drop a 997 gauge cluster in place instead and have 5 gauges instead of 3. As you can see that would not be possible due to the increased size without replacing the entire top portion of the dash. That might be a project for a different day!http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0865_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0867_thumb.jpg One of the things I've learned through the years of doing modifications is that you don't want to get everything back together only to find out that you forgot something or something isn't working as intended. Therefore, I recommend testing the instrument cluster before you secure it to the dash and replace all the plastic bits. You can see in these two photos I captured that the cluster does indeed work and that all of the lights that are supposed to light up on ignition on do in fact light up. This was a verification that I had at least not messed up the electronics. If you feel compelled to you could go for a short drive to check all of the needle positions but it was snowing out so I was unable to do so, but I don't anticipate a problem in that regard. Once you are satisfied simply snug down the instrument cluster using the two Torx T-20 screws at the bottom that were removed earlier.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0870_thumb.jpg http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0875_395883_thumb.jpg Here is that plastic piece that I had so much problem removing and had to have the dealer remove. You can see the 4 clips that will attach to the plastic piece that fits on top of the steering column, which in a sense restablishes the connection between the dash and steering column via the leather. The clips are pretty easy to operate and I was able to snap the items in place by hand without any difficulty. The plastic piece that goes on the dash took a bit of force to press back into the dash again establishing what I suspect is once again a very tight fit. As you can see in the photo on the right I have placed the plastic piece back on top of the steering column and have attached it to the leather piece coming from the dash. Snapping the two halves of the steering column piece was also pretty easy to do.http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/files/3/img_0876_656836_thumb.jpg At this point you only need to re-install the three T-10 screws holding the two halves of the steering column plastic together and you should be finished. I took this photo to show what the completed installation looks like. Overall I'm pleased with the look of the gauge face and I found Willy and Rhonda at FVD to be very helpful during the installation process. As I mentioned previously there were a couple of times I was frustrated during the install, but that's part of the learning curve for the person who goes first. I would hope that anyone who reads this article and can handle a few basic tools would be able to replace their own faceplate without too much trouble. For those less inclinded, you could always just send your instrument cluster to FVD and let them take care of it for you.