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No indicator lights light up in Tachometer when key is turned

I’ve got a really weird one…

I have a 2000 Camry CE. I went in to get smoged today and it failed before the test was even ran! It failed with a P0401 error yet my check engine light has never come on (mind you I just bought the car used with 49k miles on it).


When I go to turn the car on, all the indicator lights turn on (seat belts, airbags ect…) except for the indicator light on the tachometer (check engine, ABS, TRACK, and windshield whipper fluid). I used a powerful LED flash light to look at the tach. and sure enough the symbols are there but the bulbs do not turn on. The Tach however does work perfectly, as well as the dash lights…

At first I thought fuses, and looked in the manual and checked every corresponding fuse for the indicator lights… no dice all the fuses where perfect.

Next I called the a Toyota dealer and they were very helpful. The guy said that it cannot be 1 bulb if the other indicator lights are not coming on when the car is turned. Maybe a relay?

The smog test cannot be run if it doesn’t receive a signal from that check engine light. Which leads me to the possibility that maybe the wire that gives those bulbs power has be cut, or is having a connection issue.

My question: How can I begin to figure out which wire supplies power to the Tachometer’s indicator light? Or am I completely off base?

Any ideas are welcomed…

Does the CEL come ‘on’ when you turn the ignition key to the ‘run’ position but do not start the engine? From my reading of the combination meter wiring, B+ is supplied to all the instruments including the tachometer from a common bus. Thus the problem is likely with the connection to the PCM and washer level sensor which provide grounds.

I am wondering if the person who sold you the car cut the wire(s) leading to the PCM to hide the fact that there was an emissions system fault. If so you might have a case in small claims court for an act of fraud by the seller. In California the seller is responsible for getting the vehicle smogged as a condition of the sale.

The DTC code P0401 is related to perceived low EGR flow when commanded by the PCM. The Camary is a little young to have EGR passage blockage so it may be a vacuum hose break or solenoid problem.

Good luck on this.

Without knowing all the details, this sounds very suspicious.I would definitely open a criminal investigation on this one. The main tell will be to find the wire and find out if it is cut cleanly, mechanically separated, or just worn through. Even if the wire is broken from “wear”, this seller should have found the problem BEFORE allowing this car to be driven away. It really sounds like they didn’t want to fix it so they disconnected the lights. Good luck!

“I just bought the car used with 49k miles on it”

From whom did you buy it?
If you bought it from an actual car dealer, normally the dealership has to pay for whatever repairs are necessary for the car to pass a state inspection/emissions test.

If you bought it from a private party, then there is no warranty of any sort.

Also–are you sure about the odometer mileage?
If the mileage is accurate, that means that the car was driven, on average, less than 5k miles per year–and that does not bode well unless it was serviced according to the Severe Service Maintenance Schedule.

Are you sure that the odometer was not “turned back”?
Did you get maintenance records for this car?
Did you have it checked out by a mechanic of your choosing prior to purchase?