When your vehicle's dash lights fail or stop working, the resulting effects can range from a simple annoyance to a safety hazard. So locating the problem and finding a solution is essential. Start by checking the dimmer switch on the dash to see if it is low or off. Next, look for a blown fuse or bad light bulb. Fortunately, all 3 problems are relatively easy to fix. If the switch, fuses, and bulbs are not the problem, you likely have a wiring or electrical problem and will need to take your vehicle to a certified mechanic to have it checked and repaired.
Method 1 of 3: Check the dimmer switch
Step 1. Turn on the vehicle and headlights
You don't need to start the car, but you do need electricity to turn on the lights. Place the key in the ignition and turn it to the "on" or "choke" position. Then turn on the lights.
Step 2. Locate the dimmer switch for the lights
Most vehicles have a dash light control switch, which is used to dim the lights and turn them off. Find the control switch, dial, or button, which is usually located on the console near the steering column or it may be part of the headlight switch.
If you are having trouble locating the dash light control switch, consult your owner's manual for more information
Step 3. Adjust the dial or button to see if this fixes the problem
If the switch was accidentally hit, the dash lights may have gone off. Flip the switch or turn the dial or knob up to see if the dash lights come on or get brighter.
- If adjusting the switch doesn't work, you may have a burned out rifle or a bad light bulb. Also, the entire switch may be faulty, in which case it should be replaced by a certified mechanic.
- Turn off the headlights and the vehicle when you're done.
Method 2 of 3: Repair a Blown Fuse
Step 1. Find the fuse that powers the dash lights
The location of the fuse box can vary between vehicles and some have more than just one. Check under the hood, under the dash, or near or in the glove compartment. Once you find the fuse box or boxes, remove the cover and check the schematic at the bottom of the cover for a fuse that says "dash lights" or just "lights."
- Consult your owner's manual if you have trouble locating the fuse box or dash light fuse.
- If you have more than one fuse labeled "lights", you will need to check all of them.
Step 2. Check the fuse to see if it is defective
Use a fuse puller that powers the dash lights. Look at the metal strip or filament to see if it is broken and check the fuse for blackening, either of which indicates a blown fuse. If the fuse looks good, test it with a multimeter to make sure it's working properly.
If you don't have a fuse puller, you can use pointed pliers to remove it
Make sure the vehicle is off and the key is out of the ignition before pulling any fuses!
Step 3. Replace the fuse if necessary and test the dash lights
Take the blown fuse to an auto parts store and choose a replacement of the same type and degree of electrical current. This information is printed on the fuse itself and they are also numbered and color-coded for easy searching. When you return home, push the replacement fuse into the correct space until you hear a click.
- Replace the fuse box cover, then turn on your vehicle and headlights to see if the dash lights work.
- Be aware that using a fuse with a different electrical current strength may cause an electrical hazard.
Method 3 of 3: Replace the dash bulbs
Step 1. Disconnect the battery from the vehicle first
Whenever you work with the electronic components of your vehicle, it is important to disconnect the battery to avoid electric shock or short circuits. Turn off the vehicle and remove the key from the ignition if you haven't already. Then, use a wrench to disconnect the negative terminal before disconnecting the positive terminal.
Step 2. Remove the trim from the dash
The process of removing the trim varies between vehicles. Check your manufacturer's manual or find a schematic for your specific make and model online. You can usually start by removing the lower trim panel and working your way up to the top. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws that hold each piece of trim in place, then remove it from the dash.
- On some vehicles, you may have to remove the radio to access the trim.
- Make sure to check all the screws and set them aside in a safe place so you can put them back in when you're done.
Step 3. Remove the faceplate from the dashboard
The faceplate covers the dashboard bracket of the vehicle. Remove the screws holding the plate, then carefully pry the faceplate out using a nylon pry tool or a butter knife wrapped in electrical tape. Disconnect the switches, controls, and cables from the back of the board by pressing down on the release tabs, then lift the board out of the dash.
- The faceplate is secured with spring clip fasteners, which should disengage easily.
- Avoid using a screwdriver to lift the board as it can easily mark or damage the board.
Step 4. Remove the bulbs from the rear of the instrument panel
Carefully turn each bulb counterclockwise and remove it from the socket. To avoid breaking the glass, be careful not to twist or pull the bulb too hard.
- Use a small screwdriver to remove the bulbs if you can't remove them by hand.
- Unfortunately, if your vehicle has LED bulbs, you won't be able to replace them yourself. Take your vehicle to a repair shop to have the entire instrument panel replaced.
Step 5. Replace the bulbs with ones that are the same
Buy some replacement bulbs from the auto parts store, making sure they match the electrical rating and size of the old bulbs. Avoid touching the new bulbs with your hands, as the oil can damage them. Wear gloves or cover your fingers with a cloth and twist the new bulbs into place.
It is better to replace all the bulbs at the same time, even if some work fine. This is to avoid removing the board again if another bulb burns out in the future.
Step 6. Replace the faceplate and trim and reconnect the battery
Simply reverse the order of the steps you took to remove these components. Replace the faceplate and reconnect the trim. Then reconnect the positive battery post before reconnecting the negative post.
When you're done, start the vehicle, turn on the headlights, and see if the dash lights appear. If they don't appear, go to a repair shop to have the problem checked and repaired by a certified mechanic
- Avoid driving at night if possible until the lights are repaired. Dashboard lights failure is not that important during the day, but it is still a valuable indicator and should be repaired as soon as possible.
- Don't try to check and repair a wiring problem unless you have electrical knowledge and experience.