CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Instrument panel lights

I have a slightly embarassing question about my 99 Nissan Altima. I have this car for 10+ years now and several lights on my instrument panel, as well as the fan/ac panel, went off.

I’m pretty sure I just need to replace the light bulbs. It looks like it’s not so easy, though, since it requires disassembling some or all of the dashboard.

My questions are:

-Does anyone know if I indeed do need to disassemble the dashboard?

-Is it possible to get to the light bulbs (at least in the main instrument panel) by disassembling not all, but only some limited section of the dashboard. I know I’m not gonna do the whole thing because of enormous time/efforts it takes and because it requires messing with the airbags.

I would appreciate your reply, even if you drive other makes, but, of course, that generation Nissan owners are most welcome. Thanks.

Every Do-It-Yourselfer Needs A Service Manual Or Two.

Since you are willing to attempt repairs and maintenance of this sort then you should purchase a Repair/Service Manual specifically written for your vehicle.

Auto parts stores sell them and can order them. See if you can look through one and make sure it covers what it is you’re trying to do.

Also, many libraries carry car repair reference books. Manuals often “pay for themselves” the first time they are used and then you’ve got it when you need it.

With every “new” (previously owned) car I purchase, I buy the “factory” manuals at the same time, often spending $125 (plus S & H) per set. They save me hundreds in repair costs during my ownership of the vehicle. They don’t “cost”, they “pay”.

CSA

Thanks. I did look at the Chilton’s or Hayes manual. They show how to disassemble the whole dashboard, which is something I’d like to avoid. They do NOT show where the light bulbs are located and whether there’s an easier way to get to them.

In most cars you need to pull the dash instument “cluster” and you’ll find the lights twist into place on the back of the plastic case for the cluster. To do the heat and AC, or radio lights you usually have to remove the radio, and the AC control units. These are removed separately from the instruments.

I don’t have experience with your exact car, but if you have the Haynes manual follow the directions on how to remove these units. Once out you’ll find the bulbs should be easy to locate and replace. In the old days you could reach under a dashboard and if you had tiny hands you might be able to replace some bulbs. Newer cars have so much stuff under the dash now and spaces are so tight that you have to pull them out from the front.

I have an indicator light out on my dash and if I ever pull it out I’ll replace all the lights and then put it back.

On a good day with a manual you will find that you can remove the nuts holding the display assembly in the dash. move this slightly forward and disconnect the wires to the cluster or if you have enough space just replace the bulbs. Disconnecting the battery (just the positive/ red) is a good idea but you should not need to do anything with any part of the air bags. These are not usually hard except for the bending and twisting to get a wrench/ screwdriver behind the mess of wire above the steering wheel.

I Don’t Drive A Nissan And Don’t Know Where To Get Factory Manuals For Them.
I can’t even get Nissan parts, except by special order.

I own/operate GM & Chrysler vehicles.
Helm Inc. sells GM, Ford, Honda, and Toyota Factory Manuals. Dyment Inc. sells Chrysler Factory Manuals. Who knows about other makes? Maybe somebody out there can tell you.

Try this . . . open your Owner’s Manual and usually toward the back of the book the manufacturer will tell you how to obtain literature. See if it’s there.

CSA

I Found Your Manual, But It Might “Total” Your Car! It’s 275 Bucks!

Click this link:
http://www.nissan-techinfo.com/find.aspx?dept_id=10

CSA

thanks. i did get the manuals for nissan at the public library. the problem with them is that they show how to disassemble the whole dashboard. this is more than i can reasonably do given my time and space limitations: i live in an apt building and will have to do the work on a parking lot.
i tried removing the instrument panel by unscrewing two screws on the inside of the visor, but it doesn’t help.
i guess i can live with lightbulbs not working for some time (maybe the rest of the car will go before the bulbs?–it’s 10 y. o. vehicle!:). in the meantime, if someone did have experience replacing the bulbs and can share it with me here it would be great. please do it, even if there are no shortcuts and you have to disassemble the whole dashboard. at least i’ll have certainty of knowing what i need to do.

The cluster is held by 4 screws/bolts the trick is getting all four and the plastic bezel out. Here is a link to a diagram and procedure you just need to follow the parts refering to the instrument bezel and possibly the cover over the turnsignal section of the steering wheel.
http://forums.altimas.org/zerofile/44663/Electrical.pdf

Thank you very much for the link. Very useful forum.
Looks like removing the fan/ac panel is definitely more trouble than it’s worth. The instrument cluster is a different story. I’m going to try doing it on weekend.
Do you think, I still need to disconnect the airbags, even if I just limit my project to the instrument cluster?