How to remove the instrument cluster, dim the high beam light, and adjust the speedometer needle

difficulty: 1/5
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Introduction

This article shows how to DIY instructions on how to remove the instrument cluster on a mk5 VW Jetta TDI.  Some reasons to do this are to dim the bright high beam indicator or adjust a fast speedometer.

A mk5 car is shown but this procedure should also work on mk6 golf and Sportwagen. For the Jetta, see 1000q: mk6 Jetta cluster removal.

I find that the high beam indicator is way too bright on VW instrument clusters.  The problem is that it doesn't dim with the instrument cluster dimmer like the rest of the cluster and the radio.  To fix it, I removed the instrument cluster and put some sharpie marker over it.  A clear film would be best because the sharpie marker does leave some marker lines and the film should give a more consistent dimming effect but this is what I had on hand.  The bright LED backlight is bad for night vision but you don't want to completely disable it.

If you have a mk5 car with OEM HID headlights, you can also do the 4 headlight mod to improve the high beams.  See 1000q: 4 headlights for more details - it will only work if you have HID and it's only the high beams.  To the right is a demo picture.

I also wanted to adjust the speedometer needle.  A common problem is fast speedometers even though the odometer and fuel economy gauge are correct.  The allowable error can sometimes be as much as 10%.  It's possible to adjust the speedometer electronically but it also adjusts the odometer and fuel economy gauges. See 1000q: speedometer adjustment for details.

There is no speedometer sensor on the car - the car calculates the speedometer reading from the wheel sensors.  Calculating how many turns it makes lets the car know how fast and how far it has traveled.  This is why changing the wheel and tires sizes can cause a speedometer/odometer error by changing the rolling diameter.  Take this into account when considering the speedometer and/or odometer error.  See 1000q: wheel/tire calculator to see some examples.

This is also a good time to polish the plastic gauge lens.  The previous owner used paper towels to clean the plastic - never use power towels on plastic because it causes micro scratches and can damage any anti-glare coating.  Only use soft cloths or clean microfiber towels.

Tools

T20 torx screwdriver
10mm socket

How to remove a Jetta instrument cluster

First disconnect the battery.  Use the 10mm socket to disconnect the negative terminal.  If you need more tips, see 1000q: battery removal and battery box removal.

Tilt and telescope the steering wheel towards you and down.  Pry the steering column upper trim towards you.

There are 2 metal clips holding the trim (yellow arrows below).  Fold the trim back to expose 2x T20 torx screws shown below (green arrows).  Take care to not scratch the cluster or trim.  Some plastic trim removal tools are suggested vs. using a screwdriver.

Gently pull the cluster towards you.  There are no other plug locks or lock tabs on the mk5 car.

How to disassemble the instrument cluster and dim the high beam indicator

Release the plastic clips holding the clear plastic cover.

It should look something like this.  Gently rotate the tachometer needle all the way clockwise and counterclockwise to confirm where the stops are.  Make sure you put it back at the same position.  The needle will come off if you gently wiggle it while pulling it out.  There are no clips holding it in.  Remove the gauge face.  

As you can see, the TDI gauge face has a lower rpm but also has some things that aren't on other gauge faces like the glow plug or DPF warning light.  Since my car is a 2006, it wasn't even equipped with a DPF.  It looks like there's also a spot for the convertible top so I'm guessing this face was also used on European Eos TDI (The Eos is the Jetta hardtop convertible w/GTI engine).  

I used a marker on the back of the gauge face to darken the high beam spot but a dark window tint film would work better because I ended up with marker lines - the marker doesn't deposit evenly across the gauge plastic.  I thought about taping a piece of dark paper to the back but I was afraid that it would diffuse the light.  If you do it, please share a picture in the forum as a follow up and to help others.  Hold the face up to the light to check your progress.  

Here are before and after pictures with/without flash.  Before the high beam indicator is the same brightness as the other warning lights.

Afterwards, you can see that the high beam indicator is noticeably dimmer.  It's certainly bright enough to see at night, especially since I turn the instrument cluster dimmer to minimum to preserve night vision.  Note how bright the high beam indicator is in relation to the tachometer numbers and dashes in the pictures without flash.  All the pictures are shown with headlights on.

Moving the instrument cluster needle to correct a fast speedometer

Referencing the first pictures, you can also see that the speedometer needle is 1 needle width slower than in the after picture.  This was done to make the speedometer more accurate at highway speeds without affecting the odometer.

Again, there are other ways of correcting speedometer error but changing it with VCDS also changes the odometer and taller tires aren't as precise.  See 1000q: wheel, tire, and gearing calculator if you would like to play around with tire, speedometer, and gearing changes.

Reconnect the battery.  Don't overtighten the 10mm nut!

You'll notice that the power memory seats (if equipped) have to be reset.  You also have to reset the one touch windows and the steering angle sensor.  See 1000q: steering angle sensor and power window reset and 1000q: memory seats.

Search the site using the google box below or ask in the general and VW Jetta TDI forums.