Carbon Fiber VDO Gauges/Center Console Rebuild -
March 9, 2002
My center console is for the Behr A/C unit. I felt that the A/C was a nice OEM converstation piece but not very integral to the overall performance of my car. Besides, it was weighing my 02 down. I decided to remove the A/C unit and compressor from my 02, which was not a very difficult job. By removing the A/C, I was able to modify the placement of just about everything on the console, including stereo, hazard & fog switches, ashtray and gauges.

The first thing is to completely remove the center console from the car - it is necessary for measuring and modifying purposes to have the center console out. Now you will need to make some accurate measurements. I used the existing/stock faceplate as a template for designing my new one. Here's my template for the Behr A/C center console. I recommend completing all of your wiring before installing the new console. This includes the stereo, gauges, and fog light switch.

Once I had my template ready, I purchased a 24" X 14" piece of sheet metal (1/16" thick) and drew my template onto it using a sharpie. My High School geometry & tech drawing classes finally paid off! Of course, most shops that cut sheet metal should be able to transfer the template onto sheet metal, so you might be able to get away with having the shop do this - probably costs more.

Original Behr Faceplate

Behr Center Console

Behr Faceplate Template

Sheet Metal Faceplate

I went to several metal shops and they were weary of making the cuts on the sheet metal, saying the cuts would not be "clean". I was referred to H20 Precision, a shop in Belmont, CA that utilizes abrasive waterjet cutting. They use high pressure water to cut metal; the cuts are extremely accurate and very "clean". I dropped my template off with them and had it back within a couple days. Unfortunately, the H20 cutters don't do sheet metal bending/shaping so I had to go to another shop to have the 4 sides of the faceplate bent in at 90 degree angles. This is necessary to mount the faceplate in the console. Once the sides are bent, measure the exact locations of the mounting holes on the console relevant to the faceplate and drill some small holes. Remember to be accurate and very careful!

I wanted to go with a different look, so I decided to carbon fiber the faceplate. I've seen many faceplates made with a nice clean, shiny piece of sheet metal and that looks great, too. It's all personal preference. I bought a square foot of real carbon fiber adhesive at GraphTech Graphics in Daly City, CA for $40. I found out later that TapPlastics sells a 4' X 2' sheet for $85, which is a better deal - wish I knew beforehand!

Now it's tracing time. Get out your crayons and start tracing the back side of the carbon fiber. Real easy and straight forward. Just make sure the carbon is securely in place on the faceplate while you are tracing it - use clips if you feel it's necessary.

Cutting the carbon fiber takes some time and patience - you really don't want to mess the cuts up or you've pretty much wasted the carbon fiber. I used a paper cutter to do the edges and an exacto knife to cut the gauges, stereo, ashtray, fog & hazard switch openings. A ruler will serve as a great guide for the straight cuts but you will have to go freehand when doing the circular cuts. I recommend using a pie pattern to cut the circles. Cut the circles into fourths and slowly work your way around each 1/4 piece's edge. There may be some excess fiber hanging off the edges that you will need to clean up with scissors.

Carbon Trace


Cutting Circles

Carbon Cut Final

Now you can stick the carbon to the faceplate. Again, take your time; nice and slow! Start peeling and sticking from the top since this will be the most visible part of the faceplate. Work the bubbles and wrinkles out and let it site for a while so the adhesive can hold on tightly. Now it's time to mount it into the center console.

I decided to mount the faceplate before installing the stereo sleeve, gauges, switches, etc. I used the standard screw clips that are used throughout the 02 interior and clipped them onto the holes I drilled earlier. I also purchased some new, black interior screws to secure the faceplate to the center console.

Now is a great time to test out installing the center console into the car - before the stereo, gauges, etc are installed. This is where each experience may differ. I leave this to each owner's discretion. Mods can be a pain in the arse, so it's up to you to decide what will work best. I had to make a major modification to get the console snug and tight beneath the dash. The Behr A/C console screws into the bottom of the dash, but I could not pull that off with the new faceplate. I just did not have enough room to get a screw tightened in there. I drilled two holes on the top bend of the faceplate - as far to the left and right sides as possible. I then added a bracket and flexible (plastic) extension to reach the back portion of the console sides.

Screw Clips

Console with Faceplate

Faceplate with Carbon

Console Completed

Now it's time to install the gauges, stereo, ashtray, hazard and fog light switches. You removed them, so installing them should not be a problem. You might need to do some light shaving on some of the openings, but it's nothing a fine file can't handle and should be minimal. Here's the finished product.

Re-connect all your wiring and install the console in your 02. Here's what mine looks like in the car.

Gauges Acting Weird? - by SB
At times the temperature, gas and other gauges may act erratic - drops and rises fast for no apparent reason. Before ripping the dash apart, check the battery's ground. If the ground cable appears to be properly attached to anything other than the car body, try adding another small ground wire from the battery cable's negative connector to a clean (sand it down a bit if necessary) part of the car's body. This should resolve the problem - you might even notice other electrical components functioning better in your 2002 now.

Speedo Fix Ń 1976 2002 (49-State)
On page 26 of the September Roundel, it was mentioned that 1976 2002 have speedometers that are about 7% optimistic. Jim Ryan, Technical Services Manager of BMW of North America, informs us that they have a fix Ń a corrected speedometer face. This item is available free through BMW dealers. The corrected facing fits right over the old one. Mr Ryan emphasized that this fix applies only to 1976 cars, and only to 49-state (non-California) models…weak!

Brake Warning Light Fix
If your brake warning light stays on when the handle is all the way down, raise the rubber boot at the rear of the handle and look for the small nylon pad, attached to a small coil spring, with the rear of the spring secured on the right side by a Phillips head screw. The sliding screw might be loose, causing the light to come on. Adjust the screw so the light comes on after the brake handle is raised one or two notches. Note that the ignition switch must be on to activate the light. By the way, is the release button on the handbrake lever slowly disappearing into the handle so that you can barely release it? Well, the button is staying there, but the grip is slowly creeping off the handle. To fix, simply raise the handle and twist or slide the grip back into place.


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