Overview: The following tutorial will explain how to replace the bulbs which illuminate the instrument cluster (speedometer, tachometer, odometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge). The following images are based on a 2003 Pathfinder; the process is similar for all R50 models with the exception of the number of cluster lamps and wiring harnesses. It is recommended that you unplug the negative terminal of your vehicles battery before beginning the following procedures, it is not required, however.
IMPORTANT: If you do not disconnect the vehicles negative battery terminal for the duration of the procedure, then DO NOT turn the vehicle to ACC or ON mode while any of the clusters wiring harnesses are disconnected. Doing so will result in an open circuit for many of the vehicle systems and the SERVICE ENGINE SOON lamp will illuminate and you will need to reset the ECU.
Disclaimer: I am posting this tutorial for educational purposes and cannot be held liable for any damage to your vehicle resulting from this tutorial. The following information is given to you at the best of my ability and if used correctly, will result in a successful instrument cluster lamp replacement. The following tutorial is based on the circuitry for a 2003 Nissan Pathfinder and may differ slightly for other vehicles.
If you need help with any parts suggestions or calculations, please feel free to post on this thread and hopefully someone will promptly help you.
Difficulty: 1 out of 4
Time: Approximately one hour, depending on your skill level
Cost: The replacement bulbs
Tools: Phillips head screwdriver (a short screwdriver is best), Needle-nosed pliers
_________________________________________________________________________STEP 1 (Removing instrument cluster surround)_________________________________________________________________________Begin by removing the two Phillips-head screws which hold the instrument cluster surround in place. Once they are removed, you firmly pull on the cluster surround (pulling on the bottom of the trim closest to the steering column) towards you. There are two small metal clips which hold the surround trim in place (see picture below). It is easiest to remove the cluster surround with the steering wheel lowered as much as possible.
(Picture 1) Remove the two screws shown
(Picture 2) Note the two metal clips which hold the trim in place
_________________________________________________________________________STEP 2 (Removing Instrument Cluster)_________________________________________________________________________Now you need to remove the instrument cluster assembly from the dash. Remove the four screws in the following image and pull the cluster towards you as far as possible. Now tilt the cluster so it is facing up (towards the roof). You need to unplug all of the wiring harnesses going into the instrument cluster. Once all of the harnesses are disconnected, you can remove the instrument cluster from the vehicle.
(Picture 3) Remove the four screws shown
(Picture 4) Unplug all wiring harnesses from rear of instrument cluster
_________________________________________________________________________STEP 3 (Lamp Replacement)_________________________________________________________________________Now you will need to lay the cluster face-down on a solid surface (on a soft cloth as not to scratch/damage clear lens). In the following image you can see the designation for each bulb in the cluster. The amount of lamps or the placement of each lamp will likely differ from production years. To remove each bulb, you want to twist each base counter-clockwise (about 90 degrees) and pull the socket and bulb from the cluster.
You will see that the bulbs which come from the factory are incandescent, and sometimes covered with blue latex (for softer light). Is is common to replace these bulbs with LED's for longer bulb life or to customize the cluster illumination cluster. It is important that you save the factory bulb sockets, as some aftermarket sockets will not fit the cluster. If using the factory sockets, you will need to remove the bulbs from the sockets. To do so, just pull each bulb out using the needle-nosed pliers. The bulbs will probably get crushed and this is common, they are usually seated in the sockets pretty tight. Just make sure you pull all of the old bulbs remnants.
Now you can just place the new bulb in the socket and put the bulb/socket back into the cluster (installation is reverse of removal).
NOTE: When using LED replacement bulbs, it is necessary to use correct polarity or the bulb will fail to illuminate. There is no way to tell the clusters polarity, so you just have to guess. If the bulb does not illuminate when you test the cluster, then you will need to remove the bulb/socket and rotate the socket (WITH the bulb in it) 180 degrees and then re-install. The bulb should now illuminate when you test the cluster. If using incandescent replacement bulbs, then polarity is unimportant and the bulb will always illuminate.
(Picture 5) The lamp layout for the 2003 Pathfinder. The cluster lamps illuminate the speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge. The odometer lamp only illuminate the digital odometer.
_________________________________________________________________________STEP 4 (Testing)_________________________________________________________________________Once you have replaced all of the lamps, it is necessary to test the cluster. Plug all of the wiring harnesses into the cluster (and replace negative battery cable). Turn headlamps on (without putting key in) and ensure proper lighting of all lamps. If you replaced the turn signals then turn on hazards to test both simultaneously. If you replaced the headlamp brights lamp, then you will need to put key in and turn to ON (without starting vehicle) to use brights.
(Picture 6) This is a picture of my instrument cluster after replacing the cluster lamps with blue LED's and the odometer lamp with a white LED.
_________________________________________________________________________STEP 5 (Cluster Installation)_________________________________________________________________________Installation is the reverse of removal.