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Capri Mk1 Lights Upgrade

Upgrading  Capri Mk1 Dash Lights to LED

The instrument lights through to the Capri’s life from Mk1 right through to the last of the Mk3s were never the world’s best and in today’s world it is just as important to see the instruments more than ever.  Plus as our cars get older we need to be able to see if the temperature suddenly rises, oil pressure drops and also how much fuel have we got left before needing to stop.  Most of us I think use our cars in daylight hours only, but after a visit to my parents I found I had stayed longer than intended and had to drive on roads where I knew there were speed cameras and also down the M6 just after the toll ends.  This is when I realised how bad the lights were on the inside; outside the four halogens meant I could see really well!  To avoid accidently speeding past one of the many cameras on my way home my wife had to hold my mobile against the windscreen so that it could pick up a satellite signal and so indicate my speed.  This meant when I was at the NEC later in 2012 I was prepared, so over the winter months I decided to research which were the best LEDs to use.  On most of the Capri forums, the modifications were quite involved, soldering wires to the bulb holder inputs and using strips of LEDs shaped round the instruments.  I wanted something simpler and I found a blog where an MG enthusiast had compared quite a range of bulbs and the upgrade I have made are based on his findings.


As the warning lights were quite effective I only upgraded the four instruments cluster lights initially.  The picture below took a 2.5 second exposure with widest possible aperture setting, so don’t look too bad! (Dash Lights Std.jpg)


As the bulbs are directly behind the dials, most of the light from the standard 2.2W bulbs gets reflected back behind the instruments and very little makes it way past to be of any use.  Therefore I used a 5 SMD LED 360° Ultra White Bulbs from Amazon that have the equivalent of a 10W bulb but with a quarter the power consumption of the 2.2W bulb. (5 SMD LED 360° Ultra White Bulbs.jpg)


I found the bulbs were a bit of a squeeze once mounted in to the bulb holder going through the hole in the instrument cluster, but the top and bottom edge of the bulbs plastic base were gently filed down a fraction so they would fit easier.  LED bulbs are more powerful than a standard filament bulb, use less power but they also have a positive and negative side, so once slotted in to the bulb holder and placed in to the instrument cluster don’t worry if they don’t work, just remove the bulb holder and rotate 180 degrees.  This is made easier if you have already filed the edges down slightly. (Dash Lights LH Std & RH LED.jpg)



Above the bulbs on the right are the upgraded LED while the left is the standard bulb using the same camera settings as for the picture of the instrument cluster bulbs were upgraded.  As you can see there is a significant difference, the light is a nice white and you can see all of the fuel and temperature gauges.  The standard bulbs on the other side mean you can see much of the reading but little of the pictogram for battery condition and the oil pressure has very little visible. But once the upgrade is complete, all is clear. (Dash Lights LED.jpg)


It wasn’t until I was experimenting with exposure settings that I discovered that the heater controls were illuminated!  So these were next, I used a similar style of wide angle LED bulb; Ultimate 286 3 x Wide Angle BLUE LED’s Anti Canbus from (Ultimate 286 3 x Wide Angle BLUE Leds                           Anti Canbus.jpg)



As you can see, everything suddenly becomes nicely illuminated and isn’t overpowering, the heated rear window switch warning light uses the same bulb so this was upgraded too.  Despite the cigarette lighter being in place, with the ashtray open you can see the full glow, with the ash tray closed there is a line of light visible so I can now find the ashtray in the dark too. (All LED.jpg)


Of all the interior lights the clock was probably the best illuminated instrument and because the light looked creamy compared to the LED’s I decided that this, the cigarette lighter and the interior light had to be upgraded to everything looked the same.  Due to the size holed the bulbs had to fit through for the clock and cigarette lighter I had to use a different style of wide angled bulb, this time I used White BA7S Bayonet Ultra Bright 12v Dashboard LEDS from ACEPARTS on EBay. (BA7S Bayonet Ultra Bright 12v Dashboard LEDS.jpg



The interior light was a little harder due the polarity of the facelift interior wiring polarity; it is backwards for an LED bulb to be used as a direct replacement.  I did however find on EBay and Amazon a square of LED’s that had a connecter going to a fitting that slotted directly where the bulb would go.  Because there was a plug between these components, all I need do was reverse the plug connection.  So the light shone directly down unlike the original bulb where half the light is directed in to the roof space, I had to fabricate from a piece of brass a small bracket to wedge against the bulb holder. (Interior LED End.jpg)


Velcro was used so that should there be a need to change the LED unit, it could be done easily and the difference to the interior lighting now means that it is possible to read a map with straining your eyes! (Interior No LED Fitted.jpg & Interior Light LED.jpg



In fact you can now see on the right hand picture, the heater vent knob is now visible and more of the steering lock is illuminated.  The whole upgrade came in at less than £20 and that includes the replacement of the standard warning light bulbs which for a single bulb from Halfords was as much as a pair of the instrument clusters LED bulbs.  People within the club may be surprised that I have done this, but despite being a purist, I do accept that we do have to make concessions to ensure our own safety, that of others and to our cars so we can enjoy them for a long time to come.  Plus it is one of those subtle changes which unless I had told you about them, you would have never known!



Please note: No consequential damages accepted