I would share the instrument gauge cluster LED bulb conversion on 1st-gen RL. I bought the following “T6.5 3-LED bulbs” from an eBayer ID, warden_jp2002. The seller is an eBay power seller who lives in Hong Kong. He is an expert on LED bulbs business and ships the bulbs so fast. The most of buyers can expect to receive bulbs in 2-5 business days.
Disclosure: I'm not related with the seller anyhow.
Anyway, I bought the 4 pairs of Spark blue and 2 pairs of Xenon white LED bulbs from him at $18 ($3 x 6 pairs) plus $6.80 (shipping). What a big deal? You just need 10 bulbs but I bought 2 more LEDs as extra. You may figure out where the blue and white LEDs go on the photos……
The seller is no longer listing these bulbs on eBay, but you may ask him to list them (I’m sure that he is the cheapest and fastest in the world) or search on google to find the same LED bulbs. These are wide angle wedge based 3-power LED bulbs (Cross reference: #37 (6 mm) or T6.5) for using in instrument panel and gauges working at 12V. (#74 blubs (5 mm) are not right size on our RL, and single LED bulbs are not bright at all. They are not wide resulting to dim areas. I learned it from a trial and error)
FYI: Don’t buy the wire-lead wedge type LED bulbs (These LED bulbs that I bought are not). They are easy to be non-functional when you push them into the wedge base because the wire-lead between the resistor and LED is apt to be broken causing 99% of LED bulb problems. The LED itself has 180,000 hours of lifetime. The most of LED bulbs working on 12V directly have a built-in resistor which has 470 ohms. LED itself is only working at 3.2-3.6V, thus, it requires a resistor to drop the operating voltages and work properly at 12V by ohm’s law. But these bulbs doesn’t have resistors since those 3 LEDs are connected in a series resulting to drop the operating voltages on each LED to 1/3 by ohm’s law to work at 12 volts directly.
If you have those LED bulbs in handy, you can start following……….
96-04 Acura RL instrument gauge cluster removal procedure
It involves the removal of shift selector console, audio unit and climate control console, and instrument panel to remove the gauge cluster. You may need to refer the repair manual for better understanding.
1. Unscrew the shift knob.
2. Pop off the black gear select cover. There are four clips to pop off.
3. Pop off the wood console panel and pull it out to access the two bolts at the bottom (96-04). There also are four clips to pop off.
4-1. Remove the center air vent (96-98 only). There are eight clips totally. Four are up and the other four are down of the center air vent. Insert a flat-head screw driver under the center air vent to pry the clips up and pull it then insert the screw driver upper the center air vent to pry the clips down and pull it gently.
4-2. Remove the two bolts on top of the center console, then, carefully pull the climate control and audio unit assembly out. You don’t need to pull it out completely (96-98 only).
4-3. Remove the center console lower carpets from each side (99-04 only). You can see a screw bolt each side. Unscrew them and then, carefully pull the climate control and audio unit assembly out. You don’t need to pull it out completely.
Now you can start to remove the instrument panel.
5. Remove the two screws located at the upside of the instrument panel.
6. Detach the four clips by gently pull the right and the bottom of the instrument panel.
7. Pull the instrument panel form the right side and top down. Use a flat-head screw driver to push the two clips from the left side air vent and pull the instrument panel.
8. Remove a connector for select and reset switch.
9. Remove 4 screws holding the gauge cluster.
10. Pull the gauge cluster and disconnect the two connectors on top back side of it.
Now the gauge cluster is out and you need to remove the back panel of it to access the 10 bulbs.
11. Remove three screws and pull the white plastic face back plate. DO NOT try to remove the front plate of the gauge cluster and DON’T touch any needle of the cluster. Otherwise, you will need a new gauge cluster.
12. Remove totally 20 screws from the back panel. There are two types of screws (6 and 14 screws). The description of the screws is shown on the board but you’d better draw a diagram so that you don’t forget which one goes where.
13. Remove the board by pulling and swinging it.
14. Remove the 10 filament bulbs and replace with the amazing LED bulbs. LED bulbs have a polarity so you have to place them in right direction. You need to figure out which side is positive on the board. You’d better check which side is positive on each LED bulb by a 12V source even though the polarity is written on the LED bulbs. Manufacturers used to label the polarity wrong on the bulbs. It happened on me, and 4 out of 12 LED bulbs had the wrong polarity indication.
15. Installation of all things is reverse. (Caution: DO NOT push or over-tighten those 20 screws on the back side of the gauge cluster board when you unscrew or re-screw them. The plastic board is easy to be marred.) (Caution: You must be very gentle to unscrew and tighten screws on the back panel of the instrument cluster. Otherwise you will mess up the whole cluster. And also there are two types of screws so you must memorize which one goes where.)
Please correct me if I’m wrong.
Here's some photos of the 3-LED bulbs installed on my RL.
[T6.5 3 LED Bulb Dimension]
[Night shot photo of my 97 RL Instrument cluster]
[Nightshot-Fuel and Temp gauge]
[Day shot of instrument cluster]
[Day shot of interior]