What do you know about dash lights? If you drive a car, then it is highly likely that you are at least somewhat familiar with dash lights, and how important they are for road safety. Yet, there is so much more to learn about these symbols and what they really mean.
Specifically, this article will showcase dash light replacement, as well as LED dash lights replacement. Unfortunately, not too many drivers consider dash lights an overly important component of their vehicles. That could not be further from the truth. Further, when a dash light goes out, it is imperative to have dash light replacement bulbs on hand. And if you’re looking to save time, money, and energy, you should consider LED replacement lights.
About LED Dash Lights
Before we provide some education on replacing dash lights, what dash lights are important, and how to replace them, we want to ensure you know about LED lights, and why LEDs in particular are so beneficial.
As previously mentioned, LED lights could save you time, money, and energy. Not everyone knows this but LED dashboard lights actually last much longer than regular halogen dashboard lights. Particularly, LED lights tend to last a couple of years (about 18,000 hours), while halogen lights last roughly 5000 hours.
More importantly, LED lights are brighter, making it easier to see your dash and the symbols that are illuminated. From an aesthetic point of view, they also add some personality to your vehicle as there are different colors you can choose when replacing your old dash lights with LEDs.
If you decide to purchase LED dash lights, be mindful of the make and model of your vehicle. The type of car you own could dictate which types of lights you’ll need for your dash and how many.
Dash Lights—What Do They Mean?
Chances are, you haven’t considered this idea, but when you dash lights up, your car is trying to speak to you. When your car speaks to you, it is imperative that you listen to it and act accordingly. After all, you never know if your automobile is trying to tell you something vital.
Depending on how long you’ve been driving, and whether or not you ever bothered to look at the owner’s manual of your vehicle, you may or may not know what your vehicle’s dash lights mean. Sure, you likely understand the routine symbols, such as check your tires or get gas, but what about some of the more complex warning signs?
The following are some of the most popular dash light warning signs:
- Check Engine or Malfunction Indicator Light
- Coolant Temp Warning
- Oil Pressure Warning
- Service Vehicle Soon
- Brake System
- ABS Light
- Cruise Control
- Traction Control or Esp
- Overdrive Light
- Washer Fluid Reminder
- Glow Plug (Diesel)
- DPF Light (Diesel)
- Battery/Charging Alert
- Transmission Temperature
- Oil Change Reminder
- TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
- Reduced Power Warning
- Gas Cap
- ESP Fault
- Lamp Out
- Door Ajar
- Air bag Fault
- Fog Lamp
- DEF Light (Diesel)
From that list alone, you can immediately note a couple of different things. For starters, if you don’t have a diesel vehicle, then some of the symbols won’t pertain to you. Next, some warning signs are exceedingly more important than others.
For example, so your car is out of washer fluid or your gas cap isn’t on tight enough. Not to take away from these issues, as they are necessary to fix, but your vehicle is perfectly capable of carrying on without immediate attention to these issues. However there are more imperative issues that you should not only be immediately concerned with but fix as soon as possible.
Signs indicating that your door is ajar, your engine needs checked, or your airbag as faulted are only a select few issues that you or a mechanic should handle. While you may be against visiting a mechanic for every little problem your car encounters, there are some faults that only a professional can successfully fix.
Remember, being aware of your dash lights and what they are telling you, could keep you and your passengers safe when traveling on the road. If your vehicle is not in good condition (i.e. there is something wrong with the engine, brakes, or tires), then it should not be on the road. Further, if you make the choice to drive your car while it is in poor condition, you are putting yourself and other drivers at risk.
Don’t put your safety or anyone else’s at risk—listen to your dash lights, and fix an issue with your vehicle when it occurs.
Because we feel as if you may be confused by what some of the symbols above may pertain to, we’ve decided to further explain a few. Take a look:
Transmission Temperature: This warning generally means that your transmission fluid is hotter than normal, and as a result, your transmission is operating at a higher than optimum temperature. You will need to check both your transmission fluid level and engine coolant level.
Reduced Power Warning: This warning means that the engine’s computer has a limited amount of engine power output. You will likely have to take your car to a professional mechanic, as a diagnosis with a professional scan tool is often necessary.
ESP Fault: This warning light means something is wrong with the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system.
Security Alert: This symbol will light momentarily, alerting you that your vehicle’s ignition switch is locked and will need the proper transponder-equipped key before it can restart. If the symbol is visible, then the vehicle is on, indicating some sort of malfunction in the security system.
Battery/Charging Alert: This warning sign means your voltage level is below normal level and the car’s charging system is not function correctly. In order to correct this issue, check your battery terminals, alternator belt, and battery condition.
Brake System: This dash light warning could mean three different things, including an alert that the parking brake is on; an issue with the braking system (i.e. brake fluid is low); or an ABS problem. You can manually check the brake fluid, as well as whether or not the parking brake is set. If the warning light remains on, it is likely an ABS problem and will need to be handled professionally.
Service Vehicle Soon: This warning light could mean a number of things, though generally indicates either a lighting or other electrical problem that is controlled by the body control module. You will need to check the headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights. Don’t take this warning lightly—something could seriously be wrong with your vehicle, making it unsafe to drive.
If you are unsure about the other symbols not specifically detailed, then don’t miss our previous article: Dash Warning Lights: What Do They Mean—available now!
Dash Light Replacements—A Helpful Guide
Whether a light on your dash has gone out, or you have decided to switch from halogen lights to LED lights, the following guide can assist you with the replacement process.
If you are knowledgeable about cars, you may be up for the replacement task yourself. However, if you would feel more comfortable taking your vehicle to a professional, that is fine too. You should be able to easily find a local mechanic or body shop who offers the service.
If you do feel as if you can handle the job yourself, then this article will assist you. Further, you can easily find tools online to ensure you are completing the task correctly. There are YouTube videos capturing the entire process, from start to finish. You may even be able to find a video of your exact car as the model. Remember, make and model of the vehicle will matter. It should also be easy for you to find pictures detailing each step of the procedure.
Before you get started on the replacement task, you will need a list of tools to help you get into the dashboard, and then replace the lights. Below is a list of recommended tools you’ll need to successfully put LED dash lights into your vehicle:
- Standard Phillips Screwdriver
- Precision Screwdriver Set
- Vise Grip Pliers
- Soldering Iron
- Alligator Clips
- Four Ultra High Brightness White LEDs
The first step of the process will be to disassemble. If you enjoy taking things about, then you will most likely enjoy this step. You will need to get to the back of the instrument panel, so disassembling or disconnecting some wires may be necessary. Ultimately, the type of vehicle you’re working on will determine how you will need to prepare for the task. Some vehicles may prove to be easier to work on than others. This is where your owner’s manual can greatly help you.
Next, locate either the bulbs that have burned out or the bulbs that you want to replace with LED lights. Depending on what you want or need to replace, you may need more LEDs than what is mentioned above (four ultra-high brightness white LEDs). You will need to configure how these bulbs work, or more importantly, where the power is coming from exactly. You will find two metal pieces that touch the copper of the circuit board on either side of the holes that send power to the bulbs. Be very cautious as to not harm yourself during this step.
The next step will require the use of a multimeter, as mentioned above. It is recommended that you use 14 volts as a base. Testing for voltage is a vital step, so take this one seriously. Again, be careful, and don’t rush this process.
Now it’s time to get your LED light ready for use. It doesn’t matter where you get your lights from—thrift shop, local automotive store, online, etc. The significant thing to remember here is to purchase lights that are right for your particular vehicle. The make and model of your car will affect the types of LED dash lights you need, so be aware. The last thing you want to do is put the wrong lights into your dash, and then have to start the entire process all over again. Preparation is key.
Once you have the right LED lights, you can hook them up with the resistors, and do a little more testing to ensure everything looks good. You want to make sure your new dash lights work before actually getting out on the road. When hooking your lights up with resistors, make sure not to blow a fuse. This could be damaging to your car, and create more work for you in the long run.
Once all cleared, solder the resistors to the LEDs and put heat shrink over it. Again, do some quick testing. Make sure the lights work, that they look good, and that you’re completely satisfied with the job.
The part you’ve been waiting for: the end! Replace the dash, clean up your tools, and give yourself a nice pat on the back. You’ve just completed the replacement job yourself.
Awareness Equals Safety—Are You Staying Aware?
You should have no doubts about dash lights and their ability to help keep you and others on the road both safe and informed. When you ignore your dash lights and the warning(s) they are trying to indicate, you put yourself and other drivers and passengers at risk. While some symbols are more important than others, as previously stated, it’s better for you and your car to deal with warning lights as soon as they come on.
Though it’s likely you already know this, especially if you’ve been driving for quite some time, nothing good can come from ignoring your dash light. If your car is trying to tell you that there is a serious problem, like with the tires or airbags, that problem will only get worse until it is properly fixed. If you fix the issue as soon as you’re alerted of it, then you don’t run the risk of further breaks or damages to your automobile.
One last time, just because it’s very important: Look at dash lights and warning symbols as if your car is trying to tell you something-something important. You may even be surprised to discover that the fix in question is relatively easy, cheap, and painless. Though, you won’t know until you properly address the issue, will you? So, address the warning signs on your dash, and help ensure road safety.