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Thread: LED Bulb Conversion (Whole Car)

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb LED Bulb Conversion (Whole Car)

    So I got this idea to convert my '84 Cougar over to LED. It didn't need the conversion but I simply wanted to see if it could be done successfully. Over the years I'd seen various scattered reports of people attempting it, with mixed results, and I thought, "It's 2018, this should be a no-brainer."

    Well, I dove right in and through a lot of trial and error, I made a game plan that so far is working great.

    First my rules for myself (because I'm a stickler for details):

    - Everything has to appear stock as much as possible.
    - ALL lights get changed. Every single one in the entire car. It's all or nothing.
    - If possible, keep the stock light range (~4500K).
    - Make sure I can switch back to stock incandescent bulbs in the future if I want.
    - All bulbs should remain dimmable if they were originally set up that way.

    I am failing at that third one, because even though there are a lot of bulbs to choose from, most seem to be in the 6000K light range which puts out a whiter-to-blue light pattern. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but not what I really really wanted.

    But everything else is good so far.

    I'm quickly finding out what works and what doesn't. I've got a few hundred dollars' worth of unused bulbs laying around doing nothing, because they didn't work for one reason or another. I've bought several packages of fuses due to some unexpected blowouts. And I've got a bucket full of the original bulbs from the car...and when I say 'original', I mean FROM 1984. It's possible that none of them had ever been changed!

    Anyway...I'm going to post progress photos here as I get them. The car is dirty and I need to get it a little more presentable for photos. It's also very difficult to photograph this.

    But I started with the dash bulbs, which are notoriously dim in 1983-84 dashes. They are 194 bulbs in the 6K range and are dimmable. See photos below...
    Last edited by EricCoolCats; 05-11-2018 at 09:22 PM.

  2. #2
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    I have an LED bulb kit for the gauge cluster that I bought 18 months ago. I may hook those up this weekend.
    '88 Sport--T-5,HURST shifter,TMoss GT-40 intake,Ed Curtis cam,Trick Flow heads,Scorpion rockers,70mm t-body,3G,mini starter,Taurus fan,BBK headers,O/R H-Pipe, Flowamaster 40's, deep and deeper Cobra R wheels,Mass Air, Mass Air and 24's,8.8 with 3.73's,140 mph speedo,Mach 1 chin spoiler,SN-95 springs,CHE control arms,aluminum drive shaft and a lot more..

  3. #3
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    Got some fresh pix...these are unfiltered, no color correction, right out of my phone camera.

    Clock and heater panel:


    Clock:


    Heater panel:


    Cluster illumination:


    Closer view of the cluster:


    Dome light:


    Footwell light, passenger side:

  4. #4
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    I never knew the dome light was even a bit clear...
    Quote Originally Posted by jcassity
    I honestly dont think you could exceed the cost of a new car buy installing new *stock* parts everywhere in your coug our tbird. Its just plain impossible. You could revamp the entire drivetrain/engine/suspenstion and still come out ahead.
    Hooligans!
    1988 Crown Vic wagon. 120K California car. Wifes grocery getter. (junked)
    1987 Ford Thunderbird LX. 5.0. s.o., sn-95 t-5 and an f-150 clutch. Driven daily and going strong.
    1986 cougar.
    lilsammywasapunkrocker@yahoo.com

  5. #5
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    I had an 84 LTD (fox) who's cluster was lit the same way (dim), and I swapped the 194's for 168's and was completely satisfied with it. Of course, it was 1999 and LEDs weren't a thing...
    Those small wedge base LEDs CAN be had in warmer, more original colors.
    1988 Thunderbird 5.0
    GT40P, TFS-1, KB domes, 30#, MAF conversion, Explorer GT40 Upper/Lower, Smog delete, Wide Ratio AOD Mod, Unlocked Speedo, 3G Charging System Upgrade, Hi-Torque Mini Starter, 3.73 LSD, BBK 1 5/8 unequal headers, H-Pipe.

    88 Thunderbird/Cougar EVTM
    (Thanks to Trinom for hosting)

  6. #6
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    WOW!!! Sure makes the factory lighting look primitive. LOL.
    '88 Sport--T-5,HURST shifter,TMoss GT-40 intake,Ed Curtis cam,Trick Flow heads,Scorpion rockers,70mm t-body,3G,mini starter,Taurus fan,BBK headers,O/R H-Pipe, Flowamaster 40's, deep and deeper Cobra R wheels,Mass Air, Mass Air and 24's,8.8 with 3.73's,140 mph speedo,Mach 1 chin spoiler,SN-95 springs,CHE control arms,aluminum drive shaft and a lot more..

  7. #7
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    I should get on this. I'm pretty sure 99% of the interior bulbs on my car are 30 year old factory bulbs. Plus LEDs will put less of a load on the charging system.
    '88 Thunderbird LX: 306, Edelbrock Performer heads, Comp 266HR cam, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, Edelbrock 70mm TB, 76mm C&L MAF, 30lb injectors, 2.5" exhaust, AOD with 2800 PI converter, 8.8 with 3.73 gears, 31 spline Traction-Lok, 31 spline Moser axles, 04 Cobra front arms, Maximum Motorsports extreme duty rear arms, subframes.
    '11 Focus, '12 Mustang 3.7, '17 Accord EX-L V6

  8. #8
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    I put LEDs in my digital cluster. Totally would recommend, cuz the old bulbs, in direct sunlight you couldn't really see the display.
    1986 Ford Thunderchicken, 5.0 AOD w/ Shift kit, 354,XXX miles. 1-Family owned. Original engine+trans.
    8.8 Disc Rear w/ 3.73 Posi. CHE Control Arms. '04 Cobra brakes all around. 2000 Cobra R wheels. Tubular front LCA's. MM Steering Shaft. Unlocked Speedo, Lowering springs, Eibach sway bars front and rear. Ram air intake.

  9. #9
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    Yes!!!! I love this.

    Converted most of my bulbs to LED a few years ago. Never got around to finishing the whole car although that was the whole idea. The 30-something 194 bulbs in the 87-88 cluster threw me off for a while. I got some cheap ones on ebay 7 or 8 years or so ago, they were total garbage, so bad it made by stock bulbs look good...

    It was a great upgrade that really helped the car feel (a bit) more modern.
    Last edited by sarjxxx; 05-12-2018 at 03:14 PM. Reason: speeling
    --Steve
    1988 Cougar LS 3.8L
    2012 F-150 XL 3.7L
    2011 Mustang 3.7L / 6-spd

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarjxxx
    I got some cheap ones on ebay 7 or 8 years or so ago, they were total garbage, so bad it made by stock bulbs look good...
    BINGO. That's the problem I had with a lot of them...the eBay bulbs would either be too dim, or not put out the correct light pattern for a 168/194. And those are the majority of the interior bulbs, plus several on the exterior. They've gotta be right or else they're just not usable at all.

    So the down-low is...you get what you pay for. Every worthwhile LED bulb cost in the neighborhood of $9 US each. And that's alotta cheedah. But for a quality name brand that is super bright and puts out the correct lighting pattern, it's worth every penny. I doubt any of these bulbs will die in my lifetime.



    Quote Originally Posted by Haystack
    I never knew the dome light was even a bit clear...
    I have some resources...



    Quote Originally Posted by thunderjet302
    I should get on this. I'm pretty sure 99% of the interior bulbs on my car are 30 year old factory bulbs. Plus LEDs will put less of a load on the charging system.
    It's for people like yourself that I'm sharing this info here. You will definitely appreciate it and undoubtedly enjoy doing the conversion. Like I said, it's a little expensive, but I really did enjoy going to every AutoZone, Advance Auto, and O'Reilleys in the area to hunt down all the bulbs, several at a time. It was the sense of accomplishment that made it all worth it.

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