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OBC light replacement for the BMW E30 3 Series

Pelican Technical Article:

OBC light replacement for the BMW E30 3 Series

Jared Fenton


1-2 hours






13mm wrench, Phillips screwdriver, set of metric Allen keys, plastic trim panel removal tools, flathead screwdriver,

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)

Parts Required:

OBC light board

Performance Gain:

You'll now be able to see what your OBC is telling you

Complementary Modification:

Replace the glove box light

In this tech article, I will go over the steps required to replace the light bulbs in the OBC in the center panel in the BMW E30 3 Series. This is a pretty common problem for the E30 3 Series. The good news is that the fix is relatively easy. Keep in mind that this tech article is specific to the E30 3 Series, however it applies to all older BMWs as well.

Have you noticed that the OBC isn't lighting up when you start the car, yet when sunlight hits the display it seems to illuminate perfectly? In this case, the light bulbs that illuminate the display have burned out. What you will need to do is either replaces the complete light board or unsolder the lights and install new bulbs. In this tech article we will just replace the whole board.

The first step in replacing the bulbs is to disconnect the battery. Any time you are working around electricity, disconnect the bulb. Don't risk frying components or portions of your body; disconnect the battery to be safe.

Next, you will want to remove the radio. If you happen to have the stock radio in the car, you do this by opening the small covers on each side of the radio, and using a small Allen key, loosen the screws. This will allow you to remove the stock radio. After removing the radio, unplug the electrical connections from the back and set the radio aside. Keep in mind that the stock radio will not function any time the battery is disconnected unless you have the factory code for it. The code should be listed in your owner's manual, or if you don't have the code, your local BMW dealer can provide this for you if you have lost the code.

If you have an aftermarket radio, consult the owner's manual or installation guide on how to remove it. In most cases the radio is held in place by two clips on either side that release the stereo when pushed in at the same time. Then, as above, remove the wires from the rear and set it aside.

Next, open the glove box and remove the upper panel. It is held in with Phillips head screws. Once removed, take out the panel covering the OBC on to the left of the glove box. You may need to do a bit of wiggling and positioning to get this panel out. Once out, go back to the panel that holds the OBC. Using a small screwdriver, carefully pry the panel out of the dash. Use extreme caution here as you can very easily break this panel. Reach inside the dash from the radio location and from the glove box panel to help push it out. Once you have the panel free, pull it out about 3 inches towards you. Look on the right hand side of the OBC; you will notice a plastic insert. Pull this insert out of the OBC; this is the board that holds the light assembly.

Take the new board assembly, (available from Pelican, of course) and place the insert piece on the new board. It will clip on. Now, re-install the insert into the OBC. Next, push the whole OBC panel back into the dash. It should simply clip back into place. With the panel in, re-install the side panel for the glove box and the upper glove box panel. Re-connect the wires for the radio, and then place the radio back in place.

Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all. 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.

Comments and Suggestions:
Bob Comments: 89 325I convertible. WIP Forgot to mention I also wire the LED strips in the trunk to the interior trunk light switch.
November 21, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Bob Comments: 89 325 I convertible, work in progress, while we be talking about LED's light...2 easy projects. I replaced the overhead console light with two red led strip lights. Sticky back LED lights which I stuck to the underside of the top of the windshield.Can't been seen from outside Ran the wires thru the trim and then I wired them into the overhead console switch. They come on when the door is open or when I use the manual switch. Put the old bulb in the glove compartment. Plenty of light now in the vehicle. Then since it look so good I put white LED light strips in the trunk. Looks like daylight and the best thing is the power drain is minimal and no heat....Don't put while LEDs inside your car they will destroy your night vision.
November 21, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
mikelat Comments: The led replacement is the way to go as you will never need to touch it again. Just remember to add a resistor to the circuit. I used a 300 ohm one as a smaller one fried the leds in short order.
November 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Two- fly 4 bmw Comments: It' Real simple follow the steps in the service manual for replacing the obc
Keep in mine all you need is patience do one step at a time put all the parts in one place so you won't misplace any thing. I did it and Al's well. Patience
Is the key.
May 22, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional information. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jeric Comments: I've just purchased the light bar for the obc in my 88 M3 thinking that's what was not working since there was no illumination. Long story short, I installed the replacement light bar and still no light. Help!
March 29, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check fuse 10 and Fuse 21. You may be missing power the the on board computer. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mikey Comments: Just get a couple 1k resisters and 2 leds white maybe super bright leds, solder to the pcb board and that may work, im gonna try it when i get the chance to.
September 24, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Actually a 330 ohm will work for a typical LED - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bonujj Comments: Hey guys i am in the same boat with obc.. bulb situation..any idea what led bulb number to get to replace then in the obc.. i see its 12v and 1.2 watts but if any one has the led bulb replacement number and also does it comes with or without the sockets. for the bulbs.. thanks
December 29, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sorry, I'm not aware of a direct drop-in LED replacement for the bulbs. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
demonchild Comments: I have a 85 325e, the OBC works, but it is almost impossible to see the readout. I'm confused with all the different directions, could you possibly tell me how to get the OBC out and replace the bulbs.
July 31, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: there are two tabs at the bottom, remove the trim and depress the tabs and pull it out. Some have replaceable bulbs others have bulbs that are soldered to the board. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Nick Comments: I did not need to remove radio or glove box panel to remove my 6 button obc.

Remove the front plastic cover underneath is two tabs holding obc in place. Depressed tabs and the obc slid right out. Took 5 minutes,
May 8, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
quest Comments: does the square LED for the MMPH OBC button stay on when the engine is turned off? My always stay ON and I think it is draining my battery. I don't use the MMPH and how do I turn off this LED?
May 4, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should turn off when the car is off, look for a short keeping it on.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
maark24 Comments: replaced the light bar and bulb in my 89 325iC OBC and there seems to be no power to the unit. Both the light bar and bulb test good. There is a loose white connector/yl wire coming out from the OBC green connector that plugs into the OBC. What provides power to the OBC?
March 23, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Power supply for lighting on the OBC is on pin 8 and the ground is pin 9.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Peter Comments: Do you have the complete light board for a 1989 BMW 325ix OBC and if so, how much does it cost? I can't seem to find it in your bulb catalog. Thanks.
March 4, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Matt Comments: I highly recommend replacing your OBC lamp with a LED. It takes 10 minutes once the OBC is out, costs about $2, the display is brighter and the bulb lasts forever..
December 26, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Kyle Comments: I'm not sure what chassis these instructions apply to, but it certainly isn't the E30 chassis.

Neither the heater control fascia panel or the OBC itself are 'clipped' into place. The fascia is held on by four small philips head screws, likewise for the OBC. Whatever you do, do NOT attempt to simply pry either one of these components out unless you intend on replacing them with replacement parts.
November 1, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I believe Jared's car was a 1989 - they probably had some variations over the years. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
pnav Comments: To TomT: I have a 1990 325is and the lights aren't permanently mounted to the OBC, they're just soldered to the removable circuit board panel behind the display. It's a pain to pull the radio, OBC, etc however. After replacing it twice, I've learned to just live with it :
September 28, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
TomT Comments: I couldn't get the OBC out of the dash easily. Took it to the dealer. They said it would be either $166 to change the TWO bulbs or $900 for a new OBC because mine might have the bulbs permanently mounted in it 1990 325is. I guess I'll just get along with no OBC light.
August 3, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Shouldn't be too difficult to get it out, what was the exact problem? - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Neil Comments: Oh, by the way, it was a 12V, 1.2W bulb with black socket for future reference.
July 31, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Neil Comments: Wow, that was easy. Thanks! I reached under the OBC and there was an access hole to help push it out of the console. Four replaceable bulbs attached to black sockets across the top. Quarter turn to the left and they came right out! Thanks again!
July 31, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Neil Comments: Hi Wayne, I couldn't find a pic of the OBC in the book...there was one of a head unit replacement. Can I simply twist and replace the clock bulb, or do I have to buy the board assembly like the E30, or do I have to solder? What type of bulb is it? I am going to try to tackle this and instrument cluster bulb replacement this weekend...Thanks again, Neil
July 31, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: All the bulbs on the E36 should be easily replaceable, with the exception of the ones inside the radio. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Neil Comments: is there a tech article for E36 OBC bulb replacement? My clock bulb is out...thanks.
July 30, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The OBC simply pops out when you stick a credit card in between the gaps - I think there's a photo of this in my BMW 101 book, but I can't quite remember. See for all the photos from the book. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 2/21/2018 02:04:23 AM