How to Replace an E36 Instrument Cluster Light

Written by william zane
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How to Replace an E36 Instrument Cluster Light
(Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The E36 generation of the BMW 3 Series is the third iteration of this entry-level BMW. The E36 replaced the E30 and then was later replaced by the E46. The E36 features strong performance and high-quality German engineering. But, like all used cars, the E36 models are ageing. Components like instrument bulbs will likely need to be replaced at some point. This is easy to do on the E36.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Torx screwdriver or bits (some models)
  • Thin object (credit card, pick)
  • New bulbs
  • Towel or rags
  • Needle-nose pliers

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  1. 1

    Disconnect the battery. Remove the screws located on the inner, upper surface of the gauge cluster. Use a short screwdriver to access the screws. On some models, these may be Torx screws, so use the appropriate Torx screwdriver to remove them.

  2. 2

    Pull the gauge cluster out towards you. You may need to use something flat like a credit card to slide between the cluster and the dash to encourage the cluster to slide out, as it is a firm fit. You can also use your fingernails or even a small pick.

  3. 3

    Disconnect the wiring harnesses from the back of the gauge cluster once it is pulled out far enough. Very carefully press down on the tab on the rear of the clip, which will allow you to lift the white, hinged retaining lever and pull the harness out. Do not break any parts on the clip.

  4. 4

    Rotate the steering wheel out of the way and finish withdrawing the gauge cluster from the dashboard, being very careful not to scratch the face of the gauge cluster on the steering column.

  5. 5

    Lay the gauge cluster face down on a rag. Remove any bulbs that are burnt out by placing a screwdriver in the slot on the back of the bulb and turning it counterclockwise. If you cannot remove the bulb from the recess, use a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull the bulb out.

  6. 6

    Install the new bulb by carefully inserting it with the pliers and then turning it with the screwdriver until it seats. Ensure that the wiring harness levers are in the up position. Plug the wiring harnesses back into the back of the gauge cluster. Put the levers in the locked position.

  7. 7

    Slide the instrument cluster back into the dashboard. Reinstall the screws that hold the gauge cluster in place. Reconnect the battery.

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