I had the pleasure of talking with Bill O'Neil, the owner of HiPo Parts, for 95 minutes this morning. He originally wanted to talk about my "tutorial", as he called it, on Painting Gauge Needles, but the conversation quickly turned to many other things, as you'll see.
He said he had been pointed to my "tutorial" by a customer, and I was initially apprehensive because his paints didn't fare all that well in my test. But, as it turned out, he significantly helped my understanding of gauge paints as well as lighting.
On the paint, he pointed out that while the Testor paint may have the best color match, it isn't really fluorescent but is just a bright orange. And, it is a heavy enamel that can affect the accuracy of the gauge just due to its weight. (Take a look at the looooong coiled spring to which the needle attaches and you can easily understand the issue there.)
Their paints are acrylic and were designed for gauges. They are very thin so you can build up the coating so that you don't have any more than needed and, therefore, keep the accuracy of the gauge intact. However, you really need to use a quality brush as cheap brushes will leave a rough finish - which is probably what I used and why I had finish problems on the larger needles.
And then the conversation turned to gauge lighting. Bill said that the reason Ford used the blue filters was because blue light makes the paint on the needles fluoresce better than other colors. As for the drop off in lighting that we've all experienced on the gauges of these trucks, that is due to three things: the paint no longer fluoresces; the light bulbs lose their brilliance; and the filters turn opaque. Turns out that the best paints only fluoresce for about 10 years - and our trucks are 35ish years old? And bulbs lose about 1/2 of their light output over their lives. However, the filters really aren't but about 5% of the problem in their measurements.
His recommendation is to use the new LED's they are just coming out with which give ~200 lumens of light, which is about twice what their other LED's produce. And, if you don't want to use blue LED's then use their warm white ones with the filters. (Clean the filters with a bit of plastic polish and the opacity will come back to where it should be.)
I'm really interested in the new LED's as I don't really like my blue ones. Every time I get in the truck at night the blue just looks "wrong". So I'm going to try the new LED's, which are bi-directional, in warm white and re-install the filters after cleaning them. And, I'll see if I have another set of gauges to coat with their paint and see what the overall effect is.
Oh yes, we also talked about the brown tinge that the back of the instrument mask gets due to the hot incandescent bulbs being so close to it. The mask keeps the light of the bulbs from hitting the driver's eyes, but is also supposed to reflect that light back onto the gauges. So, it is good to return the back of the mask to a white finish to reflect more light. But, instead of using an enamel white paint like I did, Bill recommended white header paint, which dries to a dull finish that will evenly scatter the light.
Also, when cleaning the bulb sockets or printed circuit board, use white vinegar. Put the sockets in a cup of the vinegar for a few minutes and any corrosion goes away. And using just a bit of it on the PCB will clean the contacts w/o abrasion, which can damage the trace. Also, use dielectric grease when installing bulbs or LED's to ensure that they go in smoothly as well as continue to have good connections.
And last, Bill volunteered to send me some samples of the new LED's, as well as information about them, so I can give them away to the participants of the show this fall. And, he had suggestions on hitting up other vendors for grab bags.
Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/soon-to-be ZF5/3.55's & EEC-V MAF/SEFI
Yeah, I figured out a lot of this stuff after I had painted my gauge faces silver w/black lettering and red backlighting. It looked really good during the day (and complements the AutoMeter gauges) but there isn't enough contrast at night; it's hard to see where the needles are actually at, and black lettering doesn't fluoresce AT ALL.
The Japanese import in the lane next to me at a stop light had a similar color scheme that worked really well, it's where I got the idea from.
I have another cluster around here somewhere in the basement, I'll probably want to revert to the factory original scheme someday... unless I can find a true fluorescent paint to use for the lettering on the gauge faces but I don't know what that color would be, it also needs to look good during the day.