Cars


Evo 8 - Fiberglass Gauge Pod

 

Iinstalled a boost gauge recently in the Evo. I couldn't find a great place to mount just a single 52mm gauge. I finally settled on the steering column. I used an Autometer pod mount and I was less than impressed. The pod holds the gauge up too high, just barely blocking the intercooler spray indicator and the door ajar light. I also didn't like the exposed (cheap) hardware and the split loom coming out the back. I decided to fabricate my own. After some research, I settled on making a pod out of fiberglass. I'd never worked much with the material, but how hard could it be? Here's what happened...


Tools required:

* Dremel with several cutting bits
* Fiberglass matt, resin and hardener
* Painters tape
* Electric drill
* Miscellaneous hardware
* Autometer single pod gauge holder
* Sanding block and sandpaper
* Superglue - Gel type
* Primer and spray paint
* Latex gloves
* Respirator or mask and eye protection
* Permanent marker
* Paintbrush
* Disposable aluminum pans
* Scissors for cutting the fiberglass matt


Would you inhale broken shards of glass? Me neither. Realize that fiberglass is glass. When you work with fiberglass it is very easy to inhale or ingest fiberglass particles. You can also get it in your eyes. You will most likely get it on your arms and hands and it will itch and that is unpleasant enough. So there's a good reason to wear a respirator or mask and eye protection.

This is the Autometer gauge pod. Close, but no cigar. I wanted the gauge lower, as close to the steering column as possible.

 

I marked exactly where I wanted the gauge to end up with a white grease pencil. The line w/ the arrow represents where the pod will come closest to the steering column cover.

 

The line closest to the steering wheel represents where I wanted the gauge face to be. Based upon that, I marked the line behind it to show where the face of the pod should be.

 

I then removed the steering column cover and taped it up. I should have taped it up completely as some of the fiberglass resin got on the plastic. It won't damage the plastic, but I did have to scrape and peel it all off later. Also, as I laid the tape down, I made sure to transpose my marks onto the top side of the tape. I would rely on these marks as I started applying the fiberglass.


The tape makes removing the fiberglass pod very easy once everything is dry. The best part though is that it allows the pod to conform exactly to the shape of the steering column cover.

 

I took the Autometer pod apart and made good use of the gauge holder itself. After applying some tape around the outside, it formed the core of the pod. This ensured the interior was the right diameter for the gauge.

 

I'm no expert, but I would recommend cutting fiberglass pieces slightly larger than the area you want to cover. Mix up a small batch of resin and hardener. Work quickly with the resin as it will begin congealing and drying within a few minutes after you mix the hardener in. Take a paintbrush and paint a thin layer of resin onto the surface - in this case the tape covering the steering column cover and then the Autometer pod. Apply the fiberglass sheets and blot it down into the resin. As the fiberglass soaks in the resin, you'll see it change color from white to yellowish tan. That's a good sign. You don't want any of the fiberglass to still appear white. Keep blotting at the fiberglass until all bubbles are gone as well. Professionals use rollers to work the bubbles and excess resin out of the mix. I'm no professional.


Next brush resin onto the top of the fiberglass. Keep doing the same things as before - blot at the sheets to help it absorb the resin and remove any bubbles.


Here's the pod in place as we apply the matt and resin. After giving it a couple hours to dry, we applied another layer of fiberglass and resin, building it up where needed. Wear latex gloves, by the way. I didn't and got slivers of itchy fiberglass glued to my hands. Not fun. Also, as it dries, it will get really warm. That's due to the hardener agent working as a catalyst. Hooray science.

 

It isn't too pretty at this point. Also, you notice the Autometer pod embedded inside. We laid down a small base of fiberglass and resin. We wrapped sheets of fiberglass around the pod. We then took the pod and squished it into the base. We then used the now barely-visible marks to align the pod. We built up the base a little more with some fiberglass scraps and resin to get it angled correctly. Although it took a little wrangling I was able to pull it out when the basic fiberglass lay up was done and everything was dry.

 

When we were satisfied with the overall shape, we were done applying fiberglass. We let everything dry (took about and hour and half). Josh took a pen and marked the edges of the steering column cover from underneath. I then used a cutting wheel on the Dremel to quickly remove any overhang.

 

So this is it after cutting all the overhang off. I realized at this point a small mistake. I guess you want to use only as much resin is required to completely soak the fiberglass matt. I think my pod turned out more like 70% resin and 30% fiberglass. The resin is significantly heavier than the fiberglass so the pod is not nearly as light as it could be. Oh well. It also isn't as strong as it could be. For a part like this, it isn't critical.

 

The black lines were to be the edges of the pod, and to guide me when doing some rough shaping with the Dremel cutting wheel. I made a few revisions so some of the lines were not used. BTW, the pieces are sitting on the raw fiberglass sheet that we cut up for this project.


We test fit the gauge into the pod. After sanding the interior opening a little it fit in. Make sure you don't remove too much of the interior opening - you want the gauge to be a snug fit.

 

You can see how the fiberglass isn't buit up enough around the mouth of the opening. This required adding more material down the road.


The basic shape is there. I just need to add more here and there, then remove the top rough layer.

 

If you look closely at the back of the pod, you'll see a rough, cratered area. These were voids in the layers of fiberglass and resin from when we laid it up. I had to go back and apply small pieces of fiberglass and resin into these craters, building it up just slightly higher than the surrounding area. After drying, I went back and sanded it flush.

 

I used the metal high speed cutter (bit #115) on the Dremel to quickly remove material. I used an aluminum oxide grinding stone to remove material more slowly and to do final shaping. I used a block sander and rough grit sandpaper to achieve the final shape and to level everything.


I found more places that did not enough material. Time to add more resin and fiberglass. I just mixed up a small batch each time and applied it with an old toothbrush. Realizing how easy it was to add more material or correct a mistake was very reassuring. The Dremel was a huge time saver, but one slip could do a lot of damage. Go slow and be careful.


Here it is after adding more fiberglass and resin.


There's finally enough material in all the right places, it isn't too porous, and I have the overall shape pretty close to how I want it.

 

Look closely and you'll see a number of small white areas. Those are air bubbles or voids from when the fiberglass was laid up. Doh! As I sanded the pod, the fiberglass dust fills into those holes and makes then appear white. I'll need to get rid of all those holes before I'm done.

 

I used some flexible polyester filler to try and fill in the holes. I was not impressed. I might have mixed it up wrong, but it seemed too soft to me and it didn't sand well. I abandoned it altogether and used Crazy glue instead. I guess any type will work, but I had some gel type laying around, so I used it. It is perfect - it fills small areas well, it dries quickly, and it is hard as a rock. It also sands well, similar to the fiberglass.

 

After the outer shape was right, I drilled 3 holes into the underside of the pod - 2 small ones for mounting bolts and 1 large one at the back for routing the wiring. I then painted a thin layer of primer on. This revealed several imperfections that remained. I went back and cleaned up a few areas and re-primered.

 

I drilled 3 holes to match the ones in the pod.

 

I used some allen-head bolts with small heads. Initially, they stuck up inside the interior of the pod. This would be a problem, as the gauge is a snug fit and it would not slide in very far before hitting the first bolt head. I removed the bolts and used the Dremel to cut out the floor of the pod opening. This allowed the bolts to sit flush inside and the gauge to slide in right over the tops of the 2 bolts.


You'll also notice the face of the pod opening isn't perfect. The gauge face flares out and covers this up when installed.


After applying a few coats of semi-gloss black, it is looking pretty good.



I bolted the pod to the cover. It matches the contours pretty well.

 



Test fit in the car. It ended up right where I wanted it and blocks only one thing - the door ajar indicator. I can live with that.





Thanks to Josh Mabee for all the help!


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