Installing LED Indicators In Your New Classic Dash

One of the primary benefits of replacing a clunky factory dash with a Classic Dash instrument panel for either analog or digital gauges is the ability to customize the layout. Analog gauges can be placed in user-selected openings and digital panels can be set up to display a myriad of screen configurations. While the height of the driver won’t matter much for gauge placement, it’s a very important consideration when it comes to installing the LED indicators that come with any installation.

classic dashes

Classic Dash offers dash inserts for many American muscle cars and trucks. Dashes are available that will use either analog or digital gauges and in several different finishes including carbon fiber.

According to Steve Hylan of Classic Dash, a large number of tech calls fielded by the Carson City, Nevada-based manufacturer are LED-related. Most installations involve right and left turn indicator lights (green), a headlight high beam indicator (orange), and a “check engine” light (red). Typically, turn indicator lights are positioned outboard on the right and left side of the panel and the other two near the center.

Installing LED Indicators

Hylan’s recommendation is to simply position strips of masking tape in the general area and pinpoint the location using a Sharpie or similar writing device. Depending on the height of the individual and the position of the steering wheel, the “sweet spot” will vary from installation to installation. This is why the placement of the LED indicators is left up to the customer. After roughly determining the best place to mount the LED lights you should use a tape measure or ruler to pinpoint the exact location where to drill the panel. The old adage “measure twice and cut once” certainly applies here.

classic dash insert

A layer of masking tape makes a great way to plot out where to place the LED indicators for clear viewing. The tape also protects the surface while drilling.

Classic Dash panels are manufactured from a very durable UV-resistant, ABS composite material. It’s much more malleable than acrylic plastic and not prone to chipping. But, it’s still a good idea to keep the masking tape in place. Use a 5/32” drill bit and a cordless or electric drill and try and let the weight of the drill motor do the bulk of the “work.” The drill should be perpendicular to the panel surface, and it’s also a good idea to make sure the panel is braced from the rear. And, of course, wear safety glasses.

drilling dash for LED indicators

Take care when drilling the dash for the LED indicators. Before drilling, measure the placement of the dots to ensure they are properly centered.

Once the holes for the LED indicators are all drilled, feed the LED lights into position from the front of the panel and flip it over to complete the wiring. We’ll presume the vehicle’s 12-volt battery has been disconnected as a safety precaution. Classic Dash includes wiring harnesses with its kits. There is also an illustrated 24-page color instruction booklet included with the LED kit so there is no question when wiring up your turn signal, parking brake, and high beam indicators.

All wiring harnesses include every wire and connector that you will need for a complete installation. – Greg Wambold, president Classic Dash

For most applications, a black/white wire is for the right turn indicator and an orange wire is for the left turn LED. The high beam indicator uses a red wire and the “check engine” light is black.

The LED indicators are color-coded and designed to integrate seamlessly into the rest of the gauge cluster.

With the wiring complete, it’s a matter of installing the Classic Dash panel, attaching the wiring harness to the factory loom, and restoring the 12-volt power. You can test the turn indicators and high beam —hopefully, the “check engine” light will remain unlit (it will have been tested at the factory).

LED indicators

If you have any reservations about integrating the Classic Dash panel into the rest of your car’s wiring, feel free to check out this story which includes ten tips to make your Classic Dash installation a success. With your Classic Dash installed, you’ll have a custom dash layout using modern digital or analog components and LED indicators that not only look great but are more precise and easier to be seen day or night.

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About the author

Bill Holland

Bill Holland has been involved in racing and the performance aftermarket since the 1960s in the capacities of racer, speed shop proprietor, journalist, street rodder, designer and advertising/PR/marketing professional. Along the way he’s raced Top Fuel and Funny Car, been editor of NHRA’s publication, National Dragster, was involved in off-roading as publisher of SCORE News, built a variety of Featured Vehicles for the SEMA Show, as well as a Track “T” that was a Contender for the AMBR award. He currently races vintage sports cars. Bill was inducted into NHRA’s California Hot Rod Reunion Hall of Fame in 2017.
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