(Seeing by) the dashboard light
August 15, 2006 6:44 PM   Subscribe

The dashboard light on my '96 Toyota Corolla went out. Just like that. Poof!

We're talking about the light that illuminates the whole panel here, not the smaller warning lights.

Obviously I need to fix this or get it fixed, but a quick search reveals it might not be easy for me to fix it myself.

I'm wondering if there is a possible easy solution. Maybe there's just a loose wire or a blown fuse?

Otherwise, what's the legality of driving without something illuminating my instrument panel from behind? Can I just stick an LED under the overhang and call it a day until I have more money?

And if I do have to pay for this shit, how much should I expect to shell out?

posted by brina to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Legal? It depends on where you are. It's a potential safety issue, however.

I wouldn't expect to pay too much for it. $50, max. That's not even a half hour job. Not sure where you are but around here, most shops have labour rates of 'round $90/hour. And you have a Corolla, not a Ford Windstar. The two are quite different. I have a 1994 Ford Explorer and getting to the dash lamps isn't much of an issue at all.

Have you checked the fuses at all? The locations should be listed in your owners manual. I'd start there.
posted by drstein at 6:47 PM on August 15, 2006

Best answer: I don't know about your Toyota, but most cars have a knob that varies the brightness of the dash display. You may have twisted that off inadvertently. Try twisting some knobs clockwise.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:49 PM on August 15, 2006

I agree... check the panel illumination knob first. That's a moving part and sometimes the contacts get corroded.. jiggling it or rocking it a little might get it working. No guarantees of course.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:14 PM on August 15, 2006

You could always just replace the cluster altogether.

eBay search

If you can turn a phillips screwdriver, it takes around 30 minutes to replace. Just a matter of removing some of the dash to get it out, and then unplugging some wiring harnesses from the back of the old unit and putting the new one in. But yes, check all the fuses first. Also, if you do replace the cluster, you'd have to submit an odometer change form to the DMV just in case you'd ever want to sell the car or trade it in.
posted by ninjew at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2006

The same thing happened to my '98 Corolla last year. I still haven't gotten it fixed, though in my case it's only half the dashboard that's unlit. It was a little disconcerting driving at first, but now I don't even notice it.

Let me know what you find out about replacing the lights in yours. Gmail.
posted by emelenjr at 7:42 PM on August 15, 2006

My 94 Lexus ES300 had many lights out when I bought it - I read on a Lexus owners forum to pound on the dash. I thought... how dumb. But then I tried it and it worked - still working a year later.
posted by thilmony at 8:25 PM on August 15, 2006

Well, you won't be able to see paradise anymore...
posted by Dagobert at 9:39 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Do you know any young kids doing some form of car related apprentiship? If you give them $30 or so they'll probably be happy to work out what is wrong/fix it in no time at all.
posted by cholly at 12:19 AM on August 16, 2006

I would expect it to be a fuse before I'd expect it to be the light itself. Check that before you go shelling out $50 for them to replace a fuse. :)
posted by antifuse at 2:53 AM on August 16, 2006

When mine went out on my old Nissan, I just drove around without fixing the light for quite some time. Who needs a light. You can tell if you're speeding without it.

BTW, when I DID eventually get it fixed, it was one of those jobs where it costs $5 for the part (a new lightbulb) but $100 for the labor to get the dashboard off! Yikes.
posted by bim at 4:15 AM on August 16, 2006

A friend of mine with a mid-90s Corolla keeps blowing the fuse that controls his dashboard lights. Not that big a deal, except that his taillights are on the same circuit. So you should make sure your taillights still work...
posted by COBRA! at 7:06 AM on August 16, 2006

I'd be surprised if the dash is lit by only one bulb, or if multiple bulbs gave up at once. Probably a fuse. If it's only the dash lights that're off, but other illumination (radio, etc.) still goes on with the headlights, it's not the dimmer switch. If all the secondary lighting is out, it could be either the dimmer or a fuse.

The dimmer switch is probably on the headlight switch, by the way - try rotating the end of the stalk, or a segment next to where the headlight switch is.

Or bang on the dash - might make you feel better, at least.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:26 AM on August 16, 2006

Response by poster: I am such an idiot. Must have turned that dimmer switch without realizing it. Thanks, guys.
posted by brina at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2006

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