Tech Tips

'Bolters helping 'Bolters is a beautiful thing!


          Instead of buying an expensive reproduction gauge cluster from an after market dealer, why not refurbish your's yourself. You save some money and have that great feeling of you doing it yourself! It only takes moderate mechanical ability and is easy to do. I am available to help a fellow Bolter" one-on-one if someone gets stuck and needs help. Just send me an email and I am sure we can figure something out if there is any trouble understanding the way I explained the decal refurbishment.

Refurbishing Dash Gauge Cluster
By John "53John3100" Rooney
1953 Chevy 3100 1/2-Ton
Bolter # 23211
Fairfield, California
  June 2010
The before picture is how the gauge looked in my '53 3100 with a 216. You can see the oil pressure only goes to 30#'s so it is a 216! For higher oil pressure, they include both decals in the kit. Also for higher temperature, they include both decals also. Be sure to ask!


  Step by Step

What you'll need:

  • Very light weight sand paper
  • Bowl of water; damp paper towels; flat paper to use as backdrop for painting gauge needles (see #6)
  • Paint that matches your gauge needles (see #6)
  • New refurbished gauge decals kit (see #7). These can be bought at all the refurbishment warehouses. Here is a what a "kit" looks like.
  • If needed, gauge cluster glass face, bezel, and rubber gasket. Get the rubber gasket for sure - makes it easier to re-assemble.
  • Damp paper towels

1> Check to see if all of the gauge quarters (they all operate separately) are working properly. If so, great! (All mine were.) If they are not, repair or reorder that ONE quarter of the cluster you need to fix the cluster.

2> The bezel is bent on to the gauge housing to hold the glass in and the seal tightly. Take a screw driver or small needle nose pliers and bend the bezel back and the gauge cluster should come apart easily.   

3> Avoid bending and moving the indicator needles as much as possible.

4> Lightly sand off the high spots and the rust from the cluster quarters. They seem to have been silk screened so they are not high so they will sand off easily if they were baked like mine were in California.  

5> Take a damp paper towel and gently wipe off the sanding dust and any left over dirt from the gauge face.

6> Take a sheet of paper and tear a slit into it so it goes right up to the bottom of the needles. << Image 19 >> Spray paint it with the proper color (in my case, my 1953 1/2-ton had white needles so I used white Rustoleum spray paint).  

7> Time for the decals. Choose what decal you want to start with first. Put the decal in a bowl of water << Image 22 >> to help you with placement. When the decal hits the gauge face and it's wet, it doesn't stick fast when it touches the metal. Continue until all the decals are on. Take your time to look at the bottom of the decal and the "needle travel" to properly place your decal. You don't want to bind up the needle by placing it on crooked. If you purchased a new gauge quarter as discussed in #1, I would suggest replacing the cluster decal even though it is a brand new quarter. This way the color of all the decals match evenly when you put them back together.    

8> I needed and ordered a new gauge cluster glass face, bezel, and rubber gasket. (If they are not needed, at least order a new rubber gasket as it will make it so much easier to place back together, as the gasket "gives" when you are replacing the bezel. The old gasket is hard and the possibility of the glass being broken increases.) Place the gasket into the bezel. Clean the glass with Windex or a similar clearner, so that the glass is spotlessly clean. Handle the glass with damp paper towels to place it into the bezel. There is nothing worse than looking at the gauges and seeing a finger print on the glass on the inside! Especially after the old Bolt finally falls apart and the glass cluster gauge is the last thing in the garage.   

9> Use the line up tab and place the bezel and the new gauge cluster and then bend the bezel back on to the cluster housing so they hold together. I found the replacement bezel was actually a little stout so it made it a little difficult to bend it into the housing. A pair of pliers, a small hammer to dent it and pressing hard with your thumbs quickly tightens up the unit and you can tell by feel the gasket and cluster is back together and tight.





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