BMW E36 Blog

Fixing BMW E36 Light Switch Illumination . . . DIY!

29th February 2008

Fixing BMW E36 Light Switch Illumination . . . DIY!

posted in Do It Yourself, Electrical, Interior, Uncategorized |

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As I promised in my previous post, Top Gear BMW M5 Review, I prepared a DIY (Do It Yourself) to show you how to fix your BMW E36 light switch illumination. This is a very very common problem in BMW E36 cars and it always goes unnoticed. Having illumination in the BMW E36 light switch looks great and if you can’t see that illumination in your dashboard, this means that this DIY is for YOU. I hope you enjoy it and find the information provided below useful.

Disclaimer: Use this info at your own risk!! I’m not responsible if this didn’t work for you :-).

The illumination of your light switch can be fixed easily and it costs nothing. Well, only a dollar to buy the correct light bulb to use for replacement. To start, take a look at this:

Now, at the bottom of this is a screw that you will need to remove. After that, you can remove the light switch and the air vent easily. Take a look at the screw here:

After you remove that screw, you will need to use a flat screw driver to push the whole light switch + air vent out. Be careful with this to avoid breaking anything. The whole part should be removed by pulling a little bit. You can pull it by hand by grabbing the light switch and the air vent opening. Just apply a little effort and it should come lose. After you remove the switch and the air vent, you will not be able to remove it totally out of its place. That’s because it’s connected by two wires that will need to be disconnected first. Take a look at the connectors that need to be removed:

To remove the light connecter you should turn it anti-clockwise (from your point of view). Be careful with this, the wires are very short and you will need to use your fingers to turn the connector. It’s a little bit tight place to work with. After you finish it, you will have the whole part (light switch + air vent) out like this:

This is where you will find the pin that is holding the light bulb that needs to be replaced. Take a look:

You will need to use a flat screw driver to remove the pin out of its place. Pay attention not to break anything ok? After you remove the pin, it should look something like this:

This is the light bulb that needs to be replaced. I brought another type of bulb by mistake thinking that these small bulbs are all of standard size. It turned out that I was wrong, so I had to go and get a different one. Take a look:

After you replace the bulb, put everything back the way your removed them. It’s going to be a little bit hard to reconnect the wires to the light switch, but don’t worry, you will be able to do it with a little patience and concentration.

After you connect the wires, you should try to place the air vent + the light switch back and you will notice that it’s not fitting exactly. That’s because you will need to make sure the opening of the air vent will slide in its place correctly. Just keep moving it a little bit up and down while pushing it gently. It will slide in and everything should look good now. Now turn your lights on and see if it’s working. If you’ve successfully accomplished the task, your light switch should look like this at night 😆

So, what do you think? Isn’t that a cool fix or what?


Are you looking for more do it yourself procedures (DIY) ? I recommend the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual for you. I got it and I think it’s a gold mine for us -BMW E36 Owners-. If you didn’t grab your copy yet, get it right now! I’m sure you’ll find this book worth every penny you’ve paid for. Get the Bentley BMW 3 series service manual

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There are currently 20 responses to “Fixing BMW E36 Light Switch Illumination . . . DIY!”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On March 1st, 2008, Dennis said:


    I did’nt even know that there was supposed to be a light there 😀

  2. 2 On March 1st, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    Hi Dennis,

    That’s what I thought. After you fix it, you will really enjoy that light very much.

  3. 3 On March 3rd, 2008, Jennifer said:

    Ha ha I didn’t even know that was supposed to light up either! Maybe I’ll give it a try then!

  4. 4 On March 6th, 2008, S A said:

    Thanks for a good write up. Can you provide any more information on the part number or at least the specs on the bulb? After looking over my dash, I see that light is out, the light around my cig lighter is out and the light indicating the automatic tranny gear selection doesn’t move(stuck in P). Any ideas on part numbers… Only had the car for two weeks. ’98 328ic
    Realoem wasn’t much help. Not enough detail.

    Thanks again for the write up.

  5. 5 On March 6th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:


    P/N 61 13 8 360 844
    “BULB 0.36W”.

  6. 6 On April 17th, 2008, Valery said:

    Just did on my 1996 318i, looks great 😀 Thanks for this small but GREAT DIY !

  7. 7 On April 17th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    No problem Valery. I’m glad to help 😉

  8. 8 On July 12th, 2008, Dima said:

    Cool, thanks!

    It burned out after 12 years of driving but now I’m enjoying the light again! 🙂

  9. 9 On July 13th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @Dima: You’re most welcome!

  10. 10 On September 1st, 2008, COPYRIGHT said:

    @ Tony thanks, you’re the man, I recently bought a black E36 saloon and this was one of the first things that I noticed wasn’t working, So I asked a friend if his E36 coupe had this problem, he didn’t know that it was supposed to illuminate.

    I just thank the Good Lord we did’nt have to remove the steering wheel & half the dashboard like some cars I’ve had in the past, to do this fix.

    SWEET 🙂

  11. 11 On September 2nd, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @COPYRIGHT: No problem Alan. I’m glad that you fixed it.

  12. 12 On September 7th, 2008, Angelo said:

    hi, i just see a car with all this light cahnged to a blue, i think his using led, but not sure how he did it, just puting led on the back or you need to clear the ambar color that all the button have, not really sure but the finish look great


  13. 13 On September 26th, 2008, SauberE36Mexico said:

    Hey Tony,

    Excellent write up thanks, including the time it took me to run to the parts house this simple and effective d.i.y took me thirty minutes…i’m diving into the face gauge rings next…

  14. 14 On September 26th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @SauberE36Mexico: I’m glad you successfully finished this DIY 🙂 . Good luck with the gauge ring DIY too!

  15. 15 On November 2nd, 2008, Daniel said:

    Hi mate,

    Great, great job!

    Am I correct in thinking that you can ALSO replace the bulb by clipping the light switch dial out and eplacing the bulb from the front? Therefore, you don’t need to take the unit out?

    Your way worked great though!



  16. 16 On November 3rd, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @Daniel: Hi Daniel, I’m afraid it won’t work. You see, after you remove the switch buttons (the plastic buttons) and be able to see the light bulb, the place is very tight and I don’t think you would be able to do it from top. Also, the bulb is soldered from below, so, to do a clean job, the best way IMHO is to reach the bulb from below.

  17. 17 On December 4th, 2008, tiny316i said:

    The light was working OK but the light switch itself was beginning to wear. I thought this was a complicated procedure but you showed just how easy it was.

    I wasn’t sure about how to remove the light switch dial but Daniel’s reply confirmed it was just a matter of clipping it out.

    Now I have a brand new light switch! No more turning on the lows when all I wanted was to turn on the DRLs.

    Thank you guys! Thanks Tony.

  18. 18 On December 29th, 2008, red_e36 said:

    Thanks for the great DIY! I was able to change bulbs, but does it always light up?
    I mean, when I turn on the ignition key, the headlight switch lights up already, w/o even rotating the dial.

  19. 19 On December 29th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @red_e36: Yes. The idea is to keep it illuminating all the time so you can find it easily in the dark. That’s the reason why the light burns frequently too :p

  20. 20 On April 8th, 2009, Cookie said:

    Hey all,
    Just reading through these posts, I could see that Angelo asked how the light could be changed to blue. I know for a fact that the orange needs to be removed from the symbols before the light will come through blue, but what I am wondering, is where can I find the blue bulbs? I’ve looked all over the internet, and in local auto shops, but can’t find them. Does anyone know of a reliable website the sells them?