While searching for the best low consumption bulbs that will make my dashboard back lights pretty, I decided to make an informational post about the differences between some various aftermarket bulbs that are available online, and physically fit VDO vision series gauges and Ford Capri instrument cluster. With colors that are pleasing to the eye, I tried to achieve just the right brightness, so my eyes won’t get tired while driving, either from the light overexposure or underexposure. Usually the manufactures choice has dialed it in really nicely.
I need to mention that I have tried to put the correct data, but since I’m not an expert, there can be mistakes, so don’t take these information for granted, because I could be wrong.
Front and top view.
Ford Capri instrument cluster.
My project – VDO vision custom instrument cluster.
VDO vision original bulb – this looks really nice, however, I wanted some less power consumption and a bit different color to make it perfect.
Original Capri bulb – well, those were found in the dashboard, but after 45 years there is a good chance they are aftermarket replacements and not original bulbs. They are basically the same as new vision bulbs, and between those two I don’t see any difference in lighting, except the fact they draw little less current.
Under the pretense of cluster bulbs, they sent me side blinker bulbs. First I need to say : NO, NO, DO NOT put them in the the dashboard! They get super hot (mine did), they can melt the cluster and they are a potential fire hazard. But since I work under controlled conditions in my workshop and have a fire extinguisher in the arms reach here ya go. As expected, they were just to bright.
Wedge type LED bulb – they can be seen in pitch black, and since I don’t drive a car sealed in a black box without any lighting that wouldn’t work for me. They will be useful for some other project though.
5SMD 5050 LED – those were still too dim for my taste, and the build quality was less than impressive. After connecting to my laboratory power supply, they started glowing yellow, few minutes after they turned orange and started releasing weird electronic smell. Also, they produced temperatures that are little to high for my taste. Maybe it was just a bad production batch?
T10 COB Silicone LED – I almost gone mad from searching, and then I decided to give it another try. Those things shine like the original and draw substantially less current which I really like. I would like for the color to be more orange but they are close enough. Now before installment to my instrument cluster I will wire them in my workshop, just to see how they behave in the long run and is there any long term problems or overheating issues.
Conclusion – usually the manufacturer has it right. I don’t recommend mounting any aftermarket bulbs and stuff that isn’t specified by the manufacturer for your vehicle. There are bulbs you can stick in your instrument cluster but that doesn’t mean you should, since the market is swarming with low quality and misinformed stuff that can potentially led to fire hazard and burn your beloved car, even worse things can happen if you get stuck inside! And all because of the stupid dashboard bulb.