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BMW E30 3-Series Instrument Light Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E30 3-Series Instrument Light Replacement

Jared Fenton

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$6-$45

Talent:

**

Tools:

Metric wrench set, metric socket set, small flathead screwdriver, Sharpie or White-Out, Phillips screwdriver, soldering iron, solder, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)

Parts Required:

Speedometer light bulb

Performance Gain:

A speedometer that lights up once again

Complementary Modification:

Replace all the instrument cluster light bulbs
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

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.

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Comments and Suggestions:
salvadorwill Comments: I have a 1991 325i w/airbag and want to repair some cluster gagues/bulbs. Do I need to remove the steering wheel to get the cluster out?
September 6, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, it should fit out between the wheel and instrument panel. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
norm. t Comments: I have the factory blue book manual. For a 1980 530I. Do you know a client that needs this. I would like to sell the book.
January 14, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not currently. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may respond. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
norm. t Comments: Nick. Does the neutral safety switch control the back up reverse lights? I own a 1980 bmw 528I automatic. Also does your company have the drivers side master window control switch. Has 4 buttons and the window lock out switch. Thanks Norm
January 14, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The range switch deals with the reverse lights. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
norm. t Comments: I own a1980 bmw 528I that needs the bulbs in the dash instrument replaced. Can you help. Thanks Norm
January 12, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We don't currently have that tech article. If we get a chance to perform the procedure, we will be sure to document it.

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Nicholas Lopes Comments: I recently picked up 318i 2 weeks ago I've been fixing her up, however one of the things I've yet to tackle is what ever the last owner did electrically to the car.

I actually installed a battery kill switch due to the car draining the battery.

1: The instrument cluster lights don't work at all sometimes, but when it's on, it's on and doesn't go out.

2: The temperature gauge I've only ever seen work twiceI'm assuming it's a loose connection

3: The left turn indicator is sporadic AND wired to the brake lights, I need too see some wiring diagrams to fix this.

4: this one I'm unsure, but the fog lights button disables the right turn indicator still flashes outside also could be similar to last issue? Idk

5: The odometer stopped ticking at 418,000mi I'm assuming the gears broke so I'll replace them too and my dash lights

September 11, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You may have a faulty cluster. I would start by checking the vehicle for fault codes, then running a system test on the cluster.

If the test fails or there are fault codes, check power and ground to the cluster before condemning it. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Chris Comments: I have a 1991 318iC with an air bag.
Is there a way to removing the steering wheel without blowing up the airbag? I noticed that there is a plug under the column. Would it be enough to unplug to start taking the front of the steering wheel to get to the 22mm nut?
August 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, disconnect the battery and follow the correct procedure. I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Street_127 Comments: 89 325i
I fixed the splice in the harness by the drivers side corner speaker and I was able to get my tachometer and interior lights to work. Now my cluster lights do not work all the time. The tachometer side doesn't work at all but the speedometer side works occasionally. Any ideas? I didn't think it would be bulbs since they worked prior to fixing the wire splice.
May 30, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would double check your wiring repair. Confirm the cluster is getting good power and ground. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
2tall Comments: Thank you Nick, sorry i'm not to car savy, will I have to take the steering wheel cover off to check the volatage? Secondly where do i check the voltage from?
September 11, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You shouldn't have to remove the cover to check, I would find a repair manual with a wire diagram in it so you know what wires you are looking for.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
2tall Comments: Nick, i have been doing some additional reading and it seems like it could either be the turn signal relay or the switch. The all of the blubs are good and like i mentioned it is just the left turn signal. Is there a way to know which part is bad before taking apart the steering wheel cover?
September 11, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check the voltage going to the flasher from the switch, if the switch is faulty you will see a change when you switch from left to right.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
2tall Comments: Have a 1985 BMW 325e left turn signal works sporadically. Buzzing sound comes from steering column when I try to signal, right signal works as do the flashers. Bulbs are good as well as fuses. Any Ideas?
Thanks
September 10, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would check the flasher and all of the bulbs.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
hippolegs Comments: I have a bmw 95 318is coupe I have changed a couple of bulbs in the dashboard and now my speedo odometer and mpg gauges don't work can anyone help.
July 13, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: - Ken at Pelican Parts
You probably disturbed an electrical connection to the gauges. Go back in where you were and look carefully for any connectors or wires pulled loose.
 
Scorpio Comments: HI, Nick thanks for your feed back on my problem with the temp gauge on the 325iBMW.Cheers Scorpio.
June 7, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: hanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Scorpio Comments: I have a 320i BMW 1991 speedometer works but trip and mile odometer does not, stopped at 56000 kilos.can any one shed some light on this thanks.
December 15, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Your need a new speedometer. Your speedometer has gears in it that can strip over time so the odometer gears do not turn. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Scorpio Comments: I have 325i 1990 and my cluster engine temp gauge does not read, all it does is flicker could this be battery problems, all other on board inst are working fine.note new engine temp sensor installed,wiring checked.thanks
December 14, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You could have a bad gauge. Unplug the sending unit wire the gauge typically moves all the way in one direction, then ground the wire the gauge should move all the way in the other direction. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tim Comments: Driving to work today in my 1990 325i convertible, I witnessed the right hand side of the instrument cluster go dark. Looks like the tach and temp guage are illuminated my a single bulb.

I have come to the conclusion that one of my weekend projects is going to be replacing the light bulb. But... I figure I should replace all of the bulbs.

Would be nice if someone could tell me the bulbs I need BEFORE I take my car apart. I would rather not make three trips to Advance Auto Parts like last weekend. Long story, won't go there.
August 14, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Call one of our parts specialist can help make sure you order the correct bulbs for your car - Nick at Pelican Parts  
racea911 Comments: A list of all the bulbs inside the instrument cluster would have been an excellent addition to this article. I have been stumbling around the parts sales part of the website trying to find this info and then dealing with a sales guy on the phone who suggested I pull the cluster out to figure out how many bulbs are in it. I want to replace every bulb in there while it's out and I don't want to pull the cluster out until I am ready to put new bulbs in it, otherwise I have too much downtime.
February 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right bulbs. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
GERVA Comments: I have an E30 1992 325i. On the instrument panel, the lights behined the tachometer, engine temperature gauge, and gear shift come on intermittently. The speedometer, radio, and all other panel lights are fine and remain on at all times. Before I attempt to remove cluster to check the bulbs can you advise what might be causing the problem? Perhaps a short or some other electrical issue?
December 7, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There could be an internal bad connection in the cluster, or a bad bulb or two. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bmelloh Comments: I'm looking to replace ALL bulbs since I recently took the entire dashboard out. Does anyone have a 'shopping list' with bulb model # considering replacing w/ LED and quantities?

I know there's model Sylvania 2721 - is this the one that goes in the cluster 2 total?.

There are 2 for the HVAC unit?

Anything else?

Thank you!!
July 21, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right bulbs.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
tsw318i Comments: to ario, my 84 318i does the same thing. ever since i got it when i turned it off and take the key out, the tach would sit at 0, and then after a few seconds jump up to the general idle speed, i recently did my head gasket/head and when i was playing with my timing i noticed that when i ran it with a higher idle/ advance, the tach would jump to a higher rpm 1200 with the car off and when i set it with a lower idle/ advance, the tach would fall around 750 rpm
May 8, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Ario Comments: hi there,
facing problem with tachometer system,once the ignition switched off the tachometer needle should rest on zero right and stay still until the engine run than work.
mine, after ignition key removed from the socket means the engine off the tachometer needle will go to zero and within 4 second will move to 1000rpm after I switched on to the 2nd key position the needle move to zero than again if i switch off to 0 position within 4 second the needle go to 1000rpm,can you please advice what happen in my M40 E30 318i..thanks b4
April 4, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have no clue here, it sounds like your gauge is faulty, or perhaps there is a loose connection, or a bad ground? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
DRV Comments: I can do this, but would like to have the correct bulbs ready so I can put it back together without waiting.
My 98 318ti lost the light in the odometer. Has anybody done this one and what bulb is it?
January 16, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you take a look at the bulbs section in our catalog, you can pre-order them prior to taking your cluster apart. Or, you can also phone our sales reps at 1-888-280-7799 if you would like them to look that up for you. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
cfamoso Comments: Man, I wish there were some pictures to with this...well I'm having problems with my browser, so maybe it's me.
January 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are no photos. If we get the chance to take them, we willupdate the article. Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
bmwtune7 Comments: Hello I have a VDO 437.203 007 001 which I like to replace for a digital one if you have the replacement I like to know the price with shipping and everything, it belongs to a BMW E30 M10 1983 I would like this email to be suscribed to any of your feedback or letter list that you might have to receive any kind of info from your company.
.
September 24, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If anyone can help you find this it will be our parts specialist. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right parts.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
PaulR Comments: '85 325e instrument panel had incorrect bulbs ordered for the soft orange illumination 5W instead of 3W. Now, the orange domes over the two 3W bulbs are somwhat distorted, bubbled, and hazy.
Silly question: Does *anyone* know what part number those orange domes are in the instrument panel? - I can't find 'em referenced anywhere dealer, realoem, etc..
Next question: If there *is* a part number, are they available anywhere?
April 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I do not think they are available separately. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799, if they are available, they will find them.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Bimmer1988 Comments: The steering wheel DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REMOVED! I just did it earlier tonight. Save yourself the hassle. And the right side of the heat/air control light can be accessed if you remove the panel to the left of the glovebox. the glovebox needs to be dropped during this process, 2 quickpins and a couple of toggle pins.
January 21, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
PaulR Comments: Nevermind! Figured out the locations of the AC/Heat lamps.
Right-side AC/Heat bulb is on the low side, under the fan-speed switch - just about possible to reach with small fingers without dis-assembling anything.
Left-side AC/Heat bulb is just above the temp control. Need to remove radio and bracket to access properly in my '85 325e. This is fairly simple, but watch that you don't break the bracket's springy-thing clips your radio may vary.

Note to moderators: feel free to remove/use/modify my simple post. :

-Paul
January 6, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
PaulR Comments: Great timing by the post from Bolen a few days ago. I've had the Heat/AC temp control left-side bulb go out.
I've replaced the right-side bulb, which isn't too bad to access.
But the left-side seems almost impossible without disassembling the console. RealOEM doesn't really show where the bulb/socket resides.
Any photos/hints? :
Tks,
-Paul
January 5, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Here's your follow up:

Nevermind! Figured out the locations of the AC/Heat lamps.
Right-side AC/Heat bulb is on the low side, under the fan-speed switch - just about possible to reach with small fingers without dis-assembling anything.
Left-side AC/Heat bulb is just above the temp control. Need to remove radio and bracket to access properly in my '85 325e. This is fairly simple, but watch that you don't break the bracket's springy-thing clips your radio may vary.

Note to moderators: feel free to remove/use/modify my simple post. :

-Paul,
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
trinpin Comments: you guys are awesome!
October 13, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dan Comments: Is it definitely necessary to remove the steering wheel? I have an airbag car which I assume greatly complicates the procedure. My speedo light is also burned out as well as fuel gauge.
September 9, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What vehicle do you have? On later models it is not necessary. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mick Comments: I replaced the si board and the gears in the odometer in my 86 e30 and the odometer still doesn't work but the speedometer does. what's up with that?
August 1, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not sure, there must still be something amiss within the internals of the odometer? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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