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Pelican Technical Article:
Instrument Cluster
Tachometer Bulb Replacement
 

Ian Baird  

 
Time: 2 hours
Tab: $5
Talent:  
Tools:
Torx T-20 bit, 6mm hex socket, flathead, stubby screwdriver
Applicable Models:
986 Boxster / Boxster S (1997-04)
Parts Required:
Instrument cluster light bulbs
Hot Tip:
Take your time and work in the dry!
Performance Gain:
Helps you see your tach' at night
Complementary Modification:
Replace instrument cluster
 
   

  This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your Porsche Boxster. The book contains 312 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 950+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Boxster owner's collection. The book is currently available and in stock now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
 

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
 
   


     When the light behind my tachometer went out, I found it difficult to find a complete reference of how to do this - so here goes!

     This guide is for my right-hand drive 986 Boxster S - not sure how well it applies to the 987 or a left-hand drive! I did the job with the battery connected - if you have any doubts, disconnect it. As always, this is a guide and I take no responsibility for you damaging your car. It worked for me, should work for you - but don't blame me if it doesn't! On that note, let's crack on!

     In fact, you will notice my tachometer (rev counter) pointing downwards to 6 o'clock in some of the photos. Proof you need to make sure you don't twist the needles or worse, snap them! It would also be beneficial to do this job on a dry day or in the garage. You need to look through the windscreen to disconnect the wiring!

Removing The Instrument Cluster

 

     The cluster is held in with just two Torx T-20 screws. The first is hidden behind the "microphone cover" - simply pry it off with a very small screwdriver.

 

     The second behind the hazard warning lights switch - turn on the lights so you can get the screwdriver behind it and pry it off. With both screws removed, you now need to remove the hazard warning relay itself. This is simply done by squeezing the grey plastic tabs either side of the relay and grabbing the white of the relay with some long nosed pliers and pulling towards you to remove.

 

     Remember this when refitting: the underside of the removed relay, clearly showing the part number - part number should be down towards the floor. The multi-plug the relay is plugged into must now be removed. Simply use a flathead screwdriver to push it from the top down towards the floor. It just slides right out - there are no clips that hold it tightly - so don't worry about using a little force.

 

     The cluster can now be lifted straight up and will unclip. Start from the left side and work towards the right. The clips that hold it in aren't particularly tight and you won't break anything by pulling it straight up (in fact I'd rather call them lugs than clips). The lugs do have some sharp edges on and I marked my dash covering slightly with one of them - so have a cloth handy to rest the loosened cluster on - I used an old box protecting the area I found likely to get damaged.

 

     All that you need to do now to remove the cluster is to remove 3 plugs off of the rear. Start with the black plug (nearest the door), then remove the white plug (center), then the blue (nearest the passenger side). The only hard part about this is you'll be looking through the windscreen with your arms inside the cabin doing the work! This will be your view. With the stubby screwdriver, push in the tab on the plug and slide the white clip over the top of it.

 

     With the three plugs removed, the cluster will lift straight out. Remember those sharp lugs!

 

Removing the Cluster From the Dashboard Cover

 

     First thing is to remove the instrument cluster from the dashboard cover. Just remove the two T-20 screws.

 

Which bulb?

 

     Before continuing, it is worth appreciating where the bulbs are located so you don't end up doing more than you need to!

 

     The 3 slots labeled "LCD" and the 2 slots labeled "CEL and CRUISE" are the same bulbs: 12v/1.5W (3-way bulb in a beige plastic holder). They cost about $1 each from Pelican Parts. The LCD bulbs are backlighting for the digital displays in the cluster (trip, digital speedometer, clock). The "Bottom Row" in the photo are the other warning/information lights. These are 12v/1.2W (3-way bulb in black plastic holder). All of the above bulbs can be removed with a screwdriver or (easier), a 6mm hex socket.

 

     When replacing, put the bulb in so the screw line is vertical and twist through 90 degrees to lock. If you have bulbs out that illuminate the analogue displays, unfortunately you need to disassemble the cluster - so continue below.

 

Removing the "Glass"

 

     I found out how to remove this unnecessarily! However, there are two tiny bulbs to the left and right of the analogue speedometer and fuel gauge. They really are tiny bulbs and doubt these will be your problem - but just in case, or if you need to remove needles etc. Remove the "clock" and "brightness" rotary switches. They just pull straight off. Remove the two metal clips either side of the cluster. A stubby screwdriver is ideal for prying these off. Now let the grey plastic clips on the underside of the cluster go. Not the black one.

 

     There is one more clip to let go and it is on the top edge of the cluster. You need to put a screwdriver through the back of the cluster. A grey clip, hooks over the white clip you can see in the photo. Patience and a firm push on the clip will remove it - it is not tight. Here is the glass removed - that top clip is to the right of my thumb - so you can see what you are dealing with.

 

     With the glass off - be very careful with the needles! You don't want to snap them. If you're trying to remove a needle, I believe they pull straight up and there is a "special tool." I managed to remove one "accidentally" and fortunately did no damage. Make sure you note where each needle rests too.

 

     When replacing the glass, the opposite is that of removal. Be careful you don't trap a needle - or worse break one!

 

Removing the Rear of the Cluster

 

     Remove the two metal clips as per "Removing the Glass" section above. Let the black plastic clip go on the underside of the cluster. Now you need to be brave. Pry each side of the black plastic cover with your stubby screwdriver. Keep working it and don't be surprised to hear a loud clicking noise! It would appear there are two clips above the temperature gauge and analogue speedometer. They will scare you as they click but don't worry, they're strong though - so don't be shy and power forward.

 

     That's it, these are the only 3 points that hold the whole back cover on. Be careful as you separate it though as there are ribbon connectors inside and it won't come apart completely. You have just enough room to change the bulbs. Inside you'll see 4 green bulbs. These are 12v/3w but I replaced them with a 12v/2.5w (makes all difference). These bulbs pull out of the green holder, unlike the bulbs mentioned earlier. So if your rev counter (tachometer) is looking a little dim to the left or right-hand side, it is likely these green bulbs. You will notice looking inside a plethora of the beige 1.5w bulbs for the other dials. If you're feeling ambitious, you're on your own here!

 

     When replacing the back of the cluster, you need to squeeze the analogue speedometer and temperature gauge area hard to engage those clips. Careful with the needles!

 

Replacing the Dashboard Cover

 

     It would be wise to loosely fit the cluster back in the car to check all the bulbs work before fully reinstalling the cluster - No point in refitting if you've missed one! So just refit the 3 plugs into the back of the cluster and push the indicator relay back into the multi-plug (otherwise indicators won't work). I went for an easy drive at this point to make absolutely sure all was well. If one of your LCD display is out - don't panic, you probably didn't screw one of the backlights in properly or fitted a bad bulb.

 

Once all is well, put the two screws back in - opposite of removal.

 

TIP: Put the screw in though the microphone cover hole now! Screw it in about 5mm so it doesn't drop inside the cover whilst refitting!

 

Fitting the Cluster Back in Your Car

 

     Make sure that cloth is still protecting the dash! Lift in the cluster and slide the multi-plug that the hazard indicator relay plugs into, back into place. It slides from the bottom to the top - opposite of removal. I found it easier to lay the cluster with the dials facing towards the roof while refitting this plug. Now reconnect the plugs on the rear of the cluster, in the order of: blue, white, black. Again opposite of removal.

 

     Now push the cluster down into place ensuring each of the lugs engages. Replace the indicator relay (hazard warning switch). Part number downwards; it only goes in one way - test it now! Replace both screws - the one to the left of the hazard switch and the one behind the microphone cover. Push on the hazard warning switch cover and test. Push on the microphone cover - the part number stamped on the rear faces the fuel gauge.

 

You're done!


Figure 1
The tools required: Torx T-20 bit, 6mm hex socket. Also, not pictured you need a very small flathead screwdriver to remove trim and a set of long-nosed pliers. It would also be beneficial to do this job on a dry day or in the garage. You need to look through the windscreen to disconnect the wiring!
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 2
Ready to remove the cluster? The cluster is held in with just two Torx T-20 screws.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 3
The first is hidden behind the "microphone cover" - simply pry it off with a very small screwdriver.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 4
The water pump is located next to the crankshaft on the right side of the car. Access to the pump is obtained through the access panel behind the seats, and from below.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 5
With both screws removed, you now need to remove the hazard warning relay itself. This is simply done by squeezing the grey plastic tabs either side of the relay (shown in the above photo) and grabbing the white of the relay with some long nosed pliers and pulling towards you to remove.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 6
Remember this when refitting: the underside of the removed relay, clearly showing the part number - part number should be down towards the floor.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 7
This picture shows an old box protecting the area I found likely to get damaged.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 8
The only hard part about this is you'll be looking through the windscreen with your arms inside the cabin doing the work! This will be your view.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 9
With the stubby screwdriver, push in the tab on the plug and slide the white clip over the top of it - here it is in the locked position...
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 10
...and in the locked position.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 11
With the three plugs removed, the cluster will lift straight out.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 12
Remember those sharp lugs!
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 13
First thing is to remove the instrument cluster from the dashboard cover. Just remove the first T-20 screw...
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 14
...and the second screw.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 15
Before continuing, it is worth appreciating where the bulbs are located so you don't end up doing more than you need to!
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 16
When replacing, put the bulb in so the screw line is vertical...
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 17
...and twist through 90 degrees to lock.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 18
Remove the "clock" and "brightness" rotary switches. They just pull straight off.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 19
Remove the two metal clips either side of the cluster. A stubby screwdriver is ideal for prying these off.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 20
There is one more clip to let go and it is on the top edge of the cluster. You need to put a screwdriver through the back of the cluster.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 21
A grey clip, hooks over the white clip you can see in the photo. Patience and a firm push on the clip will remove it - it is not tight.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 22
Here is the glass removed - that top clip is to the right of my thumb - so you can see what you are dealing with.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 23
Remove the two metal clips as per "Removing the Glass" section above. Let the black plastic clip go on the underside of the cluster.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 24
Now you need to be brave. Pry each side of the black plastic cover with your stubby screwdriver. Keep working it and don't be surprised to hear a loud clicking noise! It would appear there are two clips above the temperature gauge and analogue speedometer. They will scare you as they click but don't worry, they're strong though - so don't be shy and power forward.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 25
Be careful as you separate the back cover. There are ribbon connectors inside and it won't come apart completely. Just enough room to change the bulbs. Inside you'll see green bulbs. These bulbs are 12v/3w. These bulbs pull out of the green holder, unlike the bulbs mentioned earlier.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 26
This picture below shows the 3w (2.5w in my case) with the 1.5w bulbs mentioned earlier, side by side.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image

Figure 27
Here's the entire unit fully assembled and ready to be installed.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
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Bonus Photos
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  Applies to: 1997 Boxster, 1998 Boxster, 1999 Boxster, 2000 Boxster, 2001 Boxster, 2002 Boxster, 2003 Boxster, 2004 Boxster, 2005 Boxster, 2006 Boxster, 2007 Boxster, 2008 Boxster, 1999 Carrera, 1999 996, 2000 Carrera, 2000 996, 2001 Carrera, 2001 996, 2002 Carrera, 2002 996, 2003 Carrera, 2003 996, 2004 Carrera, 2004 996, 2005 Carrera, 2005 997, 2006 Carrera, 2006 997, 2007 Carrera, 2007 996, 2008 Carrera, 2008 997
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