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How to replace the dashboard bulbs in a Subaru

by A Person | Published on December 8th, 2008, 11:00 am | Advice
2000 Subaru Legacy

For some reason the dashboard lights, over a period of about 2 years, have burnt out. Starting from left to right, so that come the winter when most of my driving is in the dark, all I can see is that the temperature is exactly where it has been for the last 8 years. Speed, fuel etc, not a clue. It was getting to be a bit inconvenient to shine a flashlight on the speedo so it was time to rip the dashboard assembly apart.

When they build a car the speedo cluster is installed first, then various bits of trim get installed on top. You have to work your way back in in the reverse order of installation. The other thing is that these days most of the panels snap in, but every now and again they put a screw in just to fool you. You will need a suitable lever, I used a small carving chisel that I carefully polished so that there were no sharp edges. Screwdrivers tend to leave marks

The first bit to remove is the gear shifter surround.

This pops off at the back first and then slides back.

Next comes the radio surround. There are two secret screws that secure the ash tray support, remove the ash tray and with a stubby ratchet right-angled screwdriver remove the two screws.

The radio surround now pops off with careful leverage

The switch panel on the left just pops out.

Now you can access the four screws that secure the Speedo cluster surround and pop out the snaps that secure it.
When this is off you can easily access the five screw that secure the speedo cluster.

Remove the wiring plugs from the top of the cluster and the whole unit lifts out. Everything is electronic so the challenge of removing the speedo cable is a thing of the past.
Replace the bulbs

I recommend buying LED bulbs

All that is left is to reverse the process and put it all back together. It took about 3/4 hour, start to finish, which was a lot better than I was anticipating - half as long as it took me on my Mazda.
Great write up.... I've done that once before... No White Face Guage cluster while you're in there?
This is our chance to change things, this is our destiny.
December 8th, 2008, 6:46 pm
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I show you something fantastic and you find fault.
Location: Greensboro, NC
This applies to the odometer as well? It took over seven years for my first bulb to go out. Lucky?

The timing of your article could not have been better! Thanks so much.
December 9th, 2008, 8:55 pm
There were four general illumination bulbs that cover the general area of fuel gauge, speedo, tach and temp gauge. On my car (2000 Legacy) the odometer is an LCD with it's own backlight. Once you have the instrument cluster out all of the bulbs are accessible. The general illumination bulbs have a T10 base, type 194. The warning lights have a T4 base type 74 (I think), I didn't look at the odometer - sorry.

Seven years is about my experience too. The first one went about 18 months ago and the others followed at about 6 month intervals. Once you have it dismantled you can replace all the bulbs for under $10, $20 if you use LEDs. I like the LEDs, you never have to replace them. My new Legacy is all LED :P

Rudy2828 wrote:The timing of your article could not have been better! Thanks so much.

You're welcome. If I'd known how easy it was I would have done it a year ago. Getting to the back of the instrument cluster in some cars is a days work!
December 10th, 2008, 11:05 am
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A Person
Location: Slightly west of the Great White North
Appreciate o the highest for sharing. I was ready to go to the Subaru Dealer to get the bulbs replaced.
You can imaging the labor cost, not cheap.

I've been driving with the gas and temperture gauge lights out for about 4 months this was getting old, It was time for me to replaced them fast.

Your instructions and snap shots were perfect.
Thanks so much
March 21st, 2009, 4:09 pm
You're welcome. I should have qualified the post by saying it's a 2000 legacy. I'll edit it.

I just did the same job on an '04 Forester and it's much easier.
You only need to remove the instrument cluster bezel - two screws on top

and then it snaps out.

You can then remove the three screws that hold the actual cluster.

and there's just enough room to turn it round and remove the bulb holders without unplugging the cluster.

10 minutes max.

My '09 Legacy looks the same as the Forester, but since it has LED lighting I doubt I will ever need to find out.
March 22nd, 2009, 9:21 am
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A Person
Location: Slightly west of the Great White North
I recommend using LED bulbs

First, thanks for the write up. I was wrestling with this today on a 2004 Outback wagon and could not figure out why I could not get the radio surround off. I bet it was the two hidden screws you mentioned. I will have to try it again, but will order bulbs first.

Can you tell me more about using LEDs? My 2004 has incandescent bulbs. Did you originally have incandescent and swap in LEDs?

Thanks again,
September 6th, 2010, 10:01 pm
DanR wrote:Can you tell me more about using LEDs? My 2004 has incandescent bulbs. Did you originally have incandescent and swap in LEDs?

Yes, the 2000 Legacy had incandescent bulbs (my 2009 Legacy is all LED). You can buy aftermarket LED bulbs that fit in the same sockets, but it can be a bit hit and miss since the LED bulbs may not illuminate as well. Incandescent bulbs shine in all directions - and a dashboard usually collects the light from the sides in plastic light tubes to illuminate in other areas. LEDs are directional - those I linked to at Virtual village turned out not to be useful as all the light went forward. I bought some from a local auto parts store that had several LEDs round the sides that did a much better job.
September 14th, 2010, 12:35 pm
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A Person
Location: Slightly west of the Great White North

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