Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fixing Dash Lights on a Late Model GM Vehicle (Out of Warranty).

Remember, I do not have control over your work or workmanship. The process is pretty straightforward, but mistakes happen and you could cause personal injury or property damage doing this. When in doubt, call a qualified mechanic. Auto electronic systems are very expensive.

Bulb changes on a car or truck are a fact of life. From the amount of cars and trucks I see on the road with burned out headlights, daytime running lights, brake lights and turn signals, this is something not enough people acknowledge. For most, if the car starts and runs, they get in an go and don't pay attention to anything unless a friendly police offer points this out. The result is a $100 fix up ticket and a trip to the shop, or in my case trying to fix it yourself. Of course, once the item's fixed, then find another officer, have him or her check out the problem and sign off on the ticket, mail it in an waive the fee. Either way, you still have to fix the issue. It's a lot of time wasted for something you could have been proactive on. My opinion anyway.

Dash lights are equally important, unless of course you don't mind driving with a flashlight strapped to your shoulder or the interior lights on. Neither one's a good choice and could cause a crash. Driving without dash lights can cause you to have an accident, run out of fuel, or a speeding ticket that may result in a fix up citation too. I had to replace the bulbs on my parents' minivan and heater unit at about 130,000 miles. This usually involves removing the steering column covers or dropping the steering column, unsnapping the trim around the instrument cluster and removing 4 7mm screws, and sometimes a cable for the shift indicator (carelessness usually breaks these things). Then all you have to do is unhook the wires, (maybe a cable for the speedometer, but these are non existent on cars built after 1996) and remove the cluster. All there is to replacing the bulbs is twisting the holders on the back of the cluster and swapping the bulbs out.

However, GM has made this a bit more involved. The cluster is easy enough to get out. All you have to do is undo to two 12mm nuts to the steering column, a few 7mm screws holding the trim on and a butter knife to get the trim off the rest of the way. This is a five minute job. 4 7mm screws (with Phillip's heads) hold the cluster in and once you get it out, the only thing to remove is the wire harness.

I removed the cluster and found none of the usual bulb holder on the back. There are no screws holding this together, only tabs. Needless to say, one of the few bulbs I could get to with a pair of hemostats was soldered in. There was no ready access to them either. To be on the safe side, I went to the GM dealer and they quoted me $500 to replace the bulbs in the cluster. This was so not happening...

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