I just had another round with my van, the instrument illumination had gone out. All I had was the shift-selector and the odometer, the rest of the gauges were not lit. So– I had another round of trying to remove the panel.
First, removing the trim. This isn’t hard, you just pull on it until it comes loose. Have to shift to low gear to remove the trim for clearance. Then, 4 screws hold the instrument cluster in. Remove these 4 with a #7 mm socket. No problem there.
Now the problem. Something invisible refused to let go easily. It took much prodding, shifting, jiggling and some little bit of holding your tongue just right to convince it to come out. It has to come straight out as it happens, and it doesn’t want to. The power-plug was holding it in, and that plug in turn is clipped firmly to the dash framing. But, with much persuasion it does finally come out.
OK, now I have the instrument cluster out, and on the tailgate of the van where I can see and work on it. 6 large, black twist-sockets tell where the illumination is– the other twist-sockets are smaller and are warning lights and turn signals. So– a quarter turn and the socket is removed. GM decided, in their eternal brilliance, to solder the bulbs into the sockets. Fortunately, I was told about this in advance so I bought new sockets to go with the new bulbs. 6 new bulbs and sockets installed, and now for putting the whole thing back together. This is not easy, because I don’t have tilt-wheel in this van you have to work things around and use a slight amount of force to get it in. Line up the power plug with the power-socket– not easy, you’re doing this blind– and suddenly you’re in and it’s working. Replace the 4 screws, fight with the trim– that tilt-wheel would really help here– and then run the final test. It works, I have light again.
This was a bear, but I’ve had it worse. I had a ’91 Ford Econoline which gave me fits, and finally I had to replace the entire instrument panel– with one that I built from gauges I bought at the auto-parts store. Sun-Tune and Autometer gauges replaced the original Ford panel. The oil pressure and water temperature were actual mechanical gauges, I added a vacuum gauge and a real ammeter to the package. The speedometer required a replacement cable to bring that online, then I was in business. Took a whole weekend to build up that instrument panel, and it was real sweet to see everything work the first time.