This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
With some of the BMW E30's now slowly reaching 20 years old, it's pretty common to see burned out instrument lights. In the case of my car, the bulb for the speedometer was completely dead. Hence, all you guys get a tech article on how to replace it. Keep in mind that this article s not specific to the speedometer light, but once the cluster is out, you will see that nearly all the bulbs can be replaced by unscrewing the connector out of the back of the cluster.
Here's how it's done. Start out by First disconnecting the battery. This will prevent any rouge electrical surges from discharging. This can be very bad for your car, possibly frying the ECU or worse. It can be even worse for you. You can effectively weld metal with only 12 volts; imagine what that can do to human flesh. While I enjoy the occasional human char burger, this is not the time to be thinking about food.
Next, climb inside the car and look at the steering wheel. Use a small flat-head screwdriver to pry out the BMW logo in the center of the wheel. Underneath, you will see a large nut that holds the steering wheel to the steering shaft. Make a small scribe on the shaft to indicate the position of the wheel, and then remove the nut now put the key in the ignition and turn it to on. This will disengage the steering wheel lock and allow you to pull the wheel off. We have to pull the wheel off to gain clearance for the cluster to come out of the dash.
We now have to remove the lower dash panel. This is done by removing the three plastic screws at the top edge and the three screws at the bottom. Pull the door chime buzzer out of its holder on the panel and set the panel aside. Now reach up under the dash and on both the left and right, locate the two knurled nuts. Remove the knurled nuts and pull the front fascia panel off the dash.
Now look at the upper inside panel of the cluster. You will see two triangle shaped brackets on either side that have screws in the ends of them. These are the upper mounting points. Remove these screws. Now remove the lower screws, which hold the cluster frame on. Now remove the frame.
You should be able to now pull the cluster forward. You will want to slowly and carefully rotate the cluster so that the face points downward. This will allow you to disconnect the various connections. Make a note of how everything goes together as this varies from year to year. Now unplug everything and remove the cluster.
Once out, locate the bulb holder with the bulb that has burned out and give it a twist to release it. Use care while doing this, as the circuit boards are somewhat brittle. (I ended up having to solder about 30 jumper wires when I cracked the board in half) It's a good idea to just go ahead and replace all the bulbs at this time. Usually, just as you get the board back into the car is when another bulb burns out. Save yourself the trouble.
With the new bulb in the holder, simply place it back in position and turn it to lock it in place. Now take the cluster and position the gauges facing downward so you can re-connect all the wires for the gauges. Now rotate the cluster upward into the dash and re-install the retaining frame screws to the cluster. Once in place, screw the triangular brackets back into the dash.
Now re-install the front fascia piece onto the dash and tighten the knurled nuts behind the dash, and then re-install the lower dash panel. The last step is to line up the steering wheel with the scribe mark you made and push it onto the steering shaft. Use a new self-locking nut and torque it to 50 ft. /lbs.
And that's it, you're done!
If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.