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Aftermarket Gauges In A Stock Chevy Dash

Posted in How To on January 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Contributors: Agustin Jimenez
Photographers: Agustin Jimenez

Have you ever looked at your stock Chevy dash and thought to yourself, Man, I bet I could fit Auto Meter gauges in that dash bezel if I just tried? It is possible. We saw it in a truck one time and decided we had to have that in our own Chevy. There is nothing that brightens up a stock ’73-to’87 dashboard like completely replacing the instrument cluster with an array of Auto Meter gauges.

Stock Gauges: Before

It’s not too hard once you actually get into it. If you can do some simple wiring and soldering, then you can make the conversion to your own dash. Most of the time, we see it done on Jeeps or ’73-to-’87 Chevys and GMCs, but there is no limitation to custom work.

Auto Meter Gauges: After

01. Four gauges are shown. The two on the left are short-sweep electric gauges. On the right are full-sweep electric gauges.

Short-sweep electric gauges are the earlier instrument design in use since at least the ‘80s. They use an resistive type sensor that relies on making a ground connection with whatever they are threaded into. They utilize a 90-degree sweep to cover their entire scale, making fine distinctions between numbers more difficult to discern while traveling at speed. They are a cost effective upgrade over conventional original equipment instruments and are suitable for street and high performance use.

Full-sweep electric gauges represent top of the line gauge technology. They have a 270-degree sweep with a higher degree of accuracy than both the (short-sweep) electric or mechanical gauges. They use solid-state sensors which are more compact and resistant to vibration. But the cost for a full-sweep gauge is about double what you would pay for a short-sweep one.

Auto Meter’s Kris Carlson recommends using a combination of both short-sweep and full-sweep gauges to get most bang for your buck. Oil pressure and temperature gauges can benefit from a full-sweep range, but you can probably get away with short-sweep gauges for fuel and voltage readings.

02. A fair amount of the old Chevy dash bezels crack in some way—including ours—so it was a no-brainer to start with an LMC Truck replacement dash bezel. Since we were putting in such nice gauges, it seemed silly to put them in anything less than a brand new dash bezel.

03. To plug the gauges into the dash bezel, we started cutting the rings on the bezel with a Dremel cutting tool. If you’re doing this on a ’73-to-’87 Chevy, please note that all dashes are not the same! The four smaller holes on the left of the bezel are actually different sizes in the ’80s dashes when compared to the ’70s. For the ’80s bezel, you might find that 2 5/8 gauges work better than the 2 1/16 gauges (which work better in the ’70s dashes).

04. After we initially cut the gauge holes of the bezel, we switched up the Dremel bits and then sanded the holes smoothly, taking time to check the hole size as we went along.

05. As you cut, constantly check the fitment of the gauges into the dash bezel holes as you trim and smooth the holes for the gauges. Ideally, you want the gauges to fit snuggly in the bezel, even without the backing cups. And you definitely don’t want to make the holes so big that the gauges fall through the bezel!

06. Depending on what size gauge you’re installing or what dash bezel you’re working with, you’ll need to trim, cut, and smooth until you’re satisfied with how the gauges fit. If the gauge’s fit in the bezel is very snug, you may be able to get away with not running the backing cup, but we put backing cups on all our gauges so they never vibrate out in off-road conditions.

07. Wiring up gauges is not difficult but it is time consuming, and doing a good job takes even longer. Auto Meter includes all the sensors and senders necessary with each gauge. Wiring for most gauges consists of a power wire, a ground, a sender wire, and the illumination wiring.

08. To add the Auto Meter gauges into your Chevy dash bezel, you’ll need to cut out and remove the factory instrument cluster and wiring behind the dash bezel. We suggest not trying to reuse any of the old wiring, and instead just get rid of it. You’re better off running all new wiring to each sender or sensor for your Auto Meter gauges.

Sources

Auto Meter
Sycamore, IL 60178
866-248-6356
www.autometer.com
LMC Truck
Lenexa, KS 66219
800-562-8782
www.lmctruck.com

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