111: New Clothes for Saitek Switch Panel

Saitek’s Switch Panel adds a lot of fun to FSX.   However, it doesn’t like its younger brothers in the Pro Flight family — all switches on the panel have no illumination and most of them are in black color.  They are very difficult to identify in a dark environment with no extra lights but the monitor only.

Here’s my newly modified switch panel with some colored switches replacements.

Switches are now a lot more easier to identify in a dark environment

Soldering is an easy job compared to the finding of the right components

In fact, my original plan was to replace all of its switches with LED illuminated ones — red, green and amber.   However, I simply couldn’t find the required components to replace them, not to mention the panel’s current USB circuitry couldn’t supply the power required.

When I was younger, there was a whole street selling electronics components.   We called it the “Component Street”.   You could find almost any components as long as you could name them.

Now, there are only a few shops remain selling components.   All others are turned into mobile and accessories shops or lighting shops.

And even in those few component stores, most of their products are actually computer parts, rather than ICs, resistors, capacitors, relays and switches.    Stocks and choices are very limited too.

The switches I used were bought many months ago.   They are out of stock and still no new supply.

If I can find the right components in the future, I will make the panel lit.

Anyway, my Saitek switch panel has got its new clothes after my FIPs’ got theirs.   And by replacing those rocker switches as shown, I am now a lot more easier to identify which is which in a dark environment.

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I also replaced the three tiny black knobs on my Multi Panel and Radio Panel with larger red-color knobs.

The handling now is smoother and a lot more responsive.

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40 thoughts on “111: New Clothes for Saitek Switch Panel

  1. Hi Tom!

    Great Job! Can you tell me how can you make the connections for having the light in the switchs? Did you have a battery or another USB cable connected? Thanks

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    1. The lights requires additional power supply, similar to those used on regular USB light devices. I didn’t do it since I couldn’t be sure if the additional power would damage the switch panel circuitry or not.

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  2. Hi Tom,

    What about a separate 9 v battery circuit to power rocker switches? DPDT would eliminate the need for USB power. I am still looking for a good source for the (any illuminated) switches

    Radio Shack (www.radioshack.com) has a good selection of components online and some at the stores. I bought 4 knobs – 25 mm for $3.99 USD. Black with silver top to match the Saitek knobs.

    Again, Thank You!

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    1. Thanks for the note, Mike.
      No, I haven’t made further changes to the switches. Good luck onto your finding and look forward to hearing your new switches with LED backlight.
      Tom

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      1. Tom,
        A little tougher than I thought. What’s the secret to opening the switch panel? I have removed all 8 screws from the back and corners, but the case won’t split open.

        Thanks!

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      2. Hi Mike, you need to use a screw driver to carefully “twist and press” to separate the front and back cases along the binding edge. Use a cloth in between could minimize the damage to the case.

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  3. Hi Tom,
    What an interesting thread! Have you or your readers, found the solution and ready availability to the knobs and illuminated toggle switches? I am starting an independent pursuit in Boise, Idaho USA today. I’ll report any finds.
    Thank you for your blog!

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  4. Hi Tom, Just noticed this post and will certainly try to seek illuminated rocker switches for my Saitek panel … I actually took mine to bits and added a USB strip light behind that I thought might shine through for night flight immersion, but that never worked, am currently working on a way of using generic USB strip lights with their lens painted soft red to let me see the important Saitek dials that would be illuminated in a real aircraft for night flight.

    I noticed too on here you had replaced the Saitek panel turning knobs with larger diameter ones that would be much easier to turn, after much searching I found the following on Maplins whom are a sort of UK electrical hardware store … I know you have many UK readers with access to this store (I imagine they would ship oversea too?) so thought I’d share my source of better quality easier to turn knobs for the Saitek panels … I ordered five for my two radio units and multi panel too, its a very easy and cheap mod … I paid £8.44 delivered for five of them, the original ones pull off and the Maplin replacements you need to tighten with a small grub screw, but the replacement knob still points perfectly to each stencil function on the panels. as you see from my pictures.



    Part number is FK40T Knob K14 C 24mm diameter / 20mm height

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/matt-finish-knobs-1822

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  5. Thanks Mario! Seems these knobs are used on musical instruments. Ordered a few today… Fingers crossed. I also seem to have a solution for the rockers, including the LEDs. I’ll keep you guys posted. Please keep up the amazing work…

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    1. Your welcome Vince, ya Tom as done some great work work here and best of all he shares it with everyone.
      Keep us posted and if you have some kind of setup post it in the COCKPITS area of the blog.

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      1. Yes sir! Tom’s blog actually inspired me to start building something. I got some of the goods today: 2x 12″ touch screen to emulate the G1000. I also got some boards to do a proper set up to suit a C172, a Mooney Bravo and a Cessna Mustang (yeah I can’t choose). I’ll get some pics before and after. One complex task is dissecting my Saitek TPM…

        I’ll post updates in the cockpits section!

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  6. WOW! I was about to put a strip of LEDs above the panel but this looks way better. Did you manage to find power for the buttons? Any idea if there are online shop that sell these rockers switches?

    Also, do you have details dFor the red knobs you used on the rotaries? That would save a lot of thumb pain. I would replace mine in a flash (if I’d know where to get them…).

    Cheers, Vince

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    1. Hi Vince, I couldn’t get the lights for the buttons; so just different in color.
      I live in HK and I got the switches and knobs from one of the electronics shops in the region. As mentioned in my replies to other in the comment section, it is getting more and more difficult to get these electronics components nowadays.
      I think you have to search them in the area where you live. Also, be noted that there are rocker switches which look similar but actually slightly different in dimension. So be careful.
      Tom

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    2. I got my knobs on Ebay, like the ones Tom has, they comes in Red, Green, Yellow, Blue.
      http://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_nkw=%2C+Instrument++Pointer+Knobs+Brass+Insert%2C+118&_sacat=0&_odkw=%2C+Instrument++Pointer+Knobs+Brass+Insert%2C&_osacat=0&_from=R40

      As Tom said just measure your switch and there is thousand out to get. Here is another source of reasonable priced items for flightsim.
      http://www.desktopaviator.com/index.htm

      Hope this can help.
      And remember KEEP FLYING TILL LAST PART STOP MOVING!!!

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  7. Lighting the Saitek Switch Panel

    Anyone wanting to do this may want to look at getting switches with separate (also switched) contacts for the LEDs and then using this board (which I used to light buttons on my arcade controller): http://www.ultimarc.com/pacdrive.html

    Surface mount to back of switch panel (being careful of length of screws so they don’t touch anything electrical inside), attach a cable strain relief for the second usb cable likewise, run a common ground from all of the [-] side of the LED contacts and the thirteen [+] sides out to the switch block on the controller.

    It’s programmable – see further down on page above – so lights could be switched on and off with a key-combination even if the switches were left down after exiting FSX.

    As for the switches – T85 covers a couple of form factors but ones that look right (longer and thinner) should be the right ones. The alternative is shorter and fatter.

    Thinking of giving it a go myself – like I say, I know the board works fine because my arcade panel does essentially the same thing as Saitek’s panel.

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    1. Hi Simon,
      Sorry for replying late to the information regarding lighting option for Saitek Switch Panel that you sent in Feb. I need time to go thru it.
      To me, it seems to be a bit complicated for general DIY even the concept is workable.
      I am look forward to seeing more from your experiment if you decide to go for it.
      Tom

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  8. Incredible setup… good job… I’m very interested… So, did you try to change them all? Didn’t work? How much rocker switchers is the maximum?

    Best,

    Jox

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      1. tom thanks so much, i didn’t want to try it out until i got my knobs but i finally did and it was extremely easier than i thought it was going to be!
        thanks again

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  9. Hi Tom im planning to buy one switch pannel and replace it switches but i want to put a lot of wire and place the switches away in an overhead panel i jus want to use electronics as an interface, do you think that works?

    tks a lot

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  10. Hi Tom, I subsribed to your very usefull and interesting blog yesterday. As I would try to modify my switchpanel as you did, would you be kind to send me by email the different specifications.
    Regards and Happy new year
    Christian

    Like

    1. Hi Christian,
      Thanks for subscribing and happy to hear that you would like to try to modify the switch panel as I did. Regarding the specifications of parts, I have listed all the information I got in an earlier comment reply to John. Please check.
      Let me know if still have any other questions about the modification. Will try my best to help.
      Best
      Tom

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  11. hi i have just joined and like the way you have change your switches could you tell me the switches you have do they have any identification on or numbers or volt
    iam building a motion flightsim and using saitek controls i
    if i am not on your blog how do i get on as i can not see any othe way to contact you
    thanks for you time john

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    1. Hi John,
      I have sent you an email. You can contact me via the email address.
      For the switches I got, they don’t have a brandname. The ones I took off from the Saitek panel, they are from Baokezhen.
      Although the new and old switches are from different manufacturers, they both have a code of T85, which represents the size of the switches.
      Regarding the spec, switches I bought come with an LED. 10A 250VAC. They are not lit in my setup because the switch panel doesn’t have enough power to drive them.
      The original Baokezhen switches are 15A 250VAC.
      Tom

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      1. Surely no problem. It’s on its way to your mailbox.
        If you find my blog useful, subscribe it so that I can send you update in the future, if available.
        Tom

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