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I have some illumination bulbs on my instrument panel that are not working. I have removed the dash board, etc., and have exposed the light bulbs but I can't figure out how to actually remove them? Twist? Pull? any idea?

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Twist quarter turn left and pull should release the bulb housing with the bulb

Posted on Jul 29, 2010

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Instrument lights that have old-fashioned bulbs to provide the illumination can and do become tired, the filaments break or the bulbs become blackened and the light goes out or grows increasingly dim.

The instrument illumination used to be something that could be replaced quite easily by simply reaching behind the dash and removing the light. Those days are far-off and mostly the instrument panel must be removed to provide access which isn't often a very easy task so once the panel is removed it is a good idea to replace all the bulbs. The last one I did needed 14 bulbs.

Manufacturers often used bulb and bulbholder assemblies but I have found ordinary bulbs can be fitted with some fiddling around...

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What lights are not working ? The instrument cluster illumination is inoperative or all the lights ,radio , heater control head, all the switches that would be back lighted.
  • The climate control panel illumination is inoperative , The passenger door lock control switch illumination is inoperative. Could need new dimmer switch , new instrument cluster. When installing a new instrument cluster, it is necessary to upload the module configuration to the scan tool. Following installation of the new instrument cluster, download the module configuration from the scan tool into the new instrument cluster. Refer to Section 418-01 .
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    Since it's highly unlikely all your instrument panel bulbs are blown (that usually only occurs if a faulty alternator puts out excessive voltage), it can be several things.
    Have you checked your taillights and brake lights? Reason I say, many vehicles are designed to not illuminate the instrument panel lights if both taillights are out (a safety feature and tell-tale warning to the driver). If the taillights are ok, it may have a bad dimmer resistor for the inst panel lights, presuming the fuse that controls the dash lights is good. The other possibility is a faulty ground connection to the instrument panel circuit board or wire loom.

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    You probably need to pull the instrument cluster out and replace the illumination bulbs from the backside of the instrument cluster. All the bulbs back there are likely all the same ( your illumination and warning bulbs), so change them all. Happy motoring!
    How to get the cluster out? Look for screws to remove. Get any bezel or trim plates out of the way. Check for screws again, cluster should pull out a few inches, then reach behind and unclip the speedo cable from back of cluster, then pull off the electrical plug from back of cluster. Now should be able to remove the cluster. Hopefully your steering wheel will allow cluster to be removed, but if not, take off the steering wheel's center nut, the pull off the steering wheel-sometimes a steering wheel puller is required-an inexpensive tool available at parts store.

    Of course, before doing all this, check for a blown instrument panel fuse-something like instr. lmps, or instr pnl designation.
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    When I turn my lights on, the two turn signals stay on and none of the dash lights come on. The turn signals flash when you flip the lever left to right so i know the problem is not in the blinkers or...


    sounds like an open to the lights in the instrument panel, if the lights work in the radio, ac panel, etc.

    Or, all the bulbs burnt out at once (unlikely).

    Maybe the harness to the instrument panel is loose, but only is accessible after removing the dash board.

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    It may not be a bulb, as the instrument cluster usually has a number of bulbs and they probably didn't all blow at once. Pulling instrument clusters can be touchy and may not be for the average "shadetree mechanic" however, typically there are a few screws above the cluster going into the dash pad and a few hidden behind the trim panels below the cluster.

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    Check that your tailights/parking lights are working (not the headlights) as this fuse and relay feeds all the instument lights too.... Fuse 15amp TAIL & Tailight Relay

    If not then check:
    The rheostat (also known as the dimmer switch) may be faulty
    as it controls all the illumination of all the backlight bulbs and other dimable switches/indicators.

    In general bulbs all together draw a fair amount of current so it is possible that the wiring or ground at the major supply junction feeders has failed but that is a less common problem.

    So check the rheostat dimmer wiring area first as all illumination power goes through it.

    There is further simple testing we can do with the three wires at the rheostat you can check the entire illumination system.
    If you jumper the white/blk to the white/blk all the illumination lights should come on (that means the rheostat is bad).

    Or use a voltmeter and measure the green rehostat wire to ground it should be 12volts (if not time to check the fuse, relay and wiring)

    If not then finally declare the instrument panel faulty (like burned up circuit board trace).

    Note of interest: the rheostat also controls (dims) other switches not associated with the instrument cluster such as the cigarette lighter bulb and hazard switch and radio player and A/C control switch. So if those are dimming but not the instrument panel backlights then yes the instrument cluster needs fixing or a very close wiring inspection.

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    There is a plastic garnish surrounding the instrument cluster held in by 2 philips head screws. remove the screws and gently pry the garnish from top first then sides then it should pull out.

    Then remove the 3 screws holding the cluster in place (2 bottom 1 top). Once that is done gently flip the cluster bottom up and pull out some to expose the wiring harness. Remove the 3 connectors from the back and then the cluster will pull out.

    There are 3 bulbs that control the overall lighting of the cluster. They are spaced about every third across the rear of the cluster. They are the larger Green knobs. Remove the 3 large green knobs and replace the bulbs with the appropriate size. You can call your local parts store to find out the size.

    Its a 5 minute job and does not require the entire removal of the dash board.

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    Changing the bulbs can be a difficult task, involving the removal of some of the dash panel and such. Check the fuses as it is doubtful that all the bulbs have gone bad at once.

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