BMW E36 Blog

Fixing BMW E36 Trip Odometer LCD . . . DIY!

29th March 2008

Fixing BMW E36 Trip Odometer LCD . . . DIY!

posted in Do It Yourself, Electrical, Technical Info, Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized |

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I have mentioned in my previous post Turning Your BMW Lights On Automatically At Night . . . System Testing that while I was trying to get the auto light inside my E36 to work, I’ve burned something. Actually, what I have burned was the Trip Odometer LCD light. At first, I thought this is something really serious and that I have to pay some serious bucks to solve the problem, but after some research, it turned out that it’s actually a bulb in the cluster that needs to be replaced. Piece of cake, right? So, I followed the steps in Installing Silver Gauge Cluster Rings for your BMW . . . DIY! post to remove the gauge cluster. It’s a really good DIY (Do It Yourself). Anyway, please follow these steps for a quick guide on how to do this nice fix.

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

Take a look at my Trip Odometer LCD light. It’s not working and my cluster looks really bad and ugly. Isn’t it?

To start the fix, you will need to remove the gauge cluster. You can start by removing the screws that hold the gauge cluster. There are two of them at 11 & 1 clock. Take a look at these:

When you remove the screws, simply push the bottom of the cluster to the back a little bit and it will move. After that you will need to pull it slowly and carefully. The ultimate target is to slide the gauge cluster from behind the steering wheel like this:

You will notice that there are some wires that are connected to the cluster and they will prevent you from sliding the cluster out. There are three of them, one on the right and two on the left. Take a look at the following (it’s the one on the right)

Before removing it, please disconnect your battery. I didn’t disconnect it and a warning sound started out. I don’t know what this sound was, but it was really annoying. So, I say unplug your battery to make sure the process goes as smooth as possible.

IMPORTANT: If you have the OEM radio from BMW, do NOT disconnect your battery unless you’re 100% sure that you have the PIN code that can unlock your radio.

Removing the three wires is a real pain and they need a lot of attention, but eventually you can do it. When you unplug these wires, you will be able to slide the gauge cluster out. Now turn it and look at the back, here’s the light that needs to be replaced.

Using a flat screwdriver, you can remove that light. Now, here’s a thing that really shocked me. I had the light that I’m going to use as a replacement right here and these lights are usually just pull-out and put the new one instead PERIOD. Surprisingly, this was not the case here. The light was stuck and not going to be pulled out easily as I previously thought, so I had to remove it from it’s plastic cavity to find out that the light bulb is connected to the light connectors. Take a look:-

God damn it! So, I thought, ok lets cut the old bulb wires and solder the new wires instead, but to my surprise AGAIN 🙁 , it didn’t hold. So I finally was able to squeeze the new bulb inside the plastic cavity in a way its wires will be connected to the steel connectors. After that, I tested the bulb and it worked.

Alright, now the nightmare has ended! So, I put everything back in the reverse order and here’s the result. A clear trip odometer LCD . Awesome!

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 17 responses to “Fixing BMW E36 Trip Odometer LCD . . . DIY!”

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  1. 1 On August 28th, 2008, Fixing BMW E36 Odometer LCD . . . DIY! | BMW E36 Blog said:

    […] The procedure shows how the odometer LCD can be fixed. I’ve written previously about how to fix the BMW E36 odometer backlight, but this is how to fix the LCD, not the light, so pay attention to the […]

  2. 2 On December 8th, 2008, marc323 said:

    O.K. it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and I decided to try this fix.

    My mileage/trip light is blown, I can see it all, it’s just not lit.

    I get the cluster out easy enough (they are torx screws btw) by sliding a credit card behind the tabs where the screws go
    and then I try to get the wires off…….

    I’m flailing here so I look up the Bently manual and it starts with “remove the airbag”….wtf…?

    anyway I get under the steering column and look up, I can see the lamp fixtures right there!

    I get a long 6mm socket and I can get it on and twist the fixture off, easy peasy!

    The lamp is blown, the oil check one is fine, so I just swap them around and put it all back together.

    All this without disconnecting the cluster from the wiring looms!

    I did go to autozone to try and find a replacement lamp, I guess they are oem only as the plastic fixture is an integral part of the lamp.

    The fix here of jamming the wires in after prising the old lamp out would work I guess, but at a last resort for me.

    Anyway, thanks for the ‘how to’ I wouldn’t have attempted it if I hadn’t read this first, hopefully I have made it a little easier!

  3. 3 On December 8th, 2008, Tony Sticks said:

    @marc323: Thank you Marc for the additional information. Honestly, I didn’t try to access the lamp from under the dashboard. It seems your method is much easier as removing the wires from behind the cluster was the hardest part of all. Great tip! thanks again.

  4. 4 On December 8th, 2008, marc323 said:

    Hi Tony,

    not from under the dashboard, I never really explain things correctly without hand gesturing 🙂

    What I had was the cluster ‘face up’ sitting behind the steering wheel.

    I was able to access the lights from underneath, between the top of the steering column and the back of the cluster.

    This won’t work for all the lights, especially the ones at the top, unless maybe you have an adjustable steering column,
    which I don’t.

    Anyway, thanks again for the write-up, I got onto bavauto and replacement lamps are $2.95 with the plastic housing.

    $5.95 for shipping 🙁

    I’ll check my local dealer, can’t be much more than that, I’m not in a hurry anyway as my oil service lights won’t reset,
    I’d rather not look at them anyway.

  5. 5 On March 8th, 2009, wolfpack said:

    I have a 93 325i. My gauge cluster is not lit properly and the estimated KM/L needle doesn’t seem to work correctly (when idle it shows im getting 25L/100kms. I’m planning on getting my hands on a gauge from a 96 318i. Would I have any problems with the mileage counter (since its digital)…as to my understanding its held in the cpu of the car…so would like to know if there would be any problems. Or is there a way I can fix my current gauge?

  6. 6 On March 28th, 2009, sfl318is said:

    Just got done fixing my odometer problem (could not see it) and i did it the way marc323, and it worked like a charm!!!! got the bulb from ebay for $1.50 plus $5.50 shipping:( The bulb arrived to me within 3 days and the installation took me 10 min. Just thinking that the dealership was charching me about $200 for a 10 min job drives me crazy!!!!! Thank you guys for posting this great Do it yourself!!!!!!

  7. 7 On May 7th, 2012, memelagos said:

    I have a similar problem, my bmw e36 service interval light won’t turn on, which bulb should i replace? the one under the trip bulb? What bulb type should i use?

    I hope you can reply this.

    Thank you for the tutorial.

  8. 8 On March 28th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    i have a 93 325 and my question is my cluster went out, like the lights work(turn signals,high beam,check engine, park brake, srs) but none of the gauges work or the odometer… please help do i need a new cluster or wat???

  9. 9 On April 10th, 2013, Memelagos said:

    @joeyak907 HI! I had a similar problem with the turn signals on the dash. Have you checked the fuse box? There may be some fuses not working. Remember, always try the easiest solutions first. If you need a fuse diagram, let me know and send me your mail.

  10. 10 On April 11th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    @Memelagos: That was the first thing i checked, and all the grounds.. i just ordered a used cluster off of eBay since i dont have to get the register the cluster at the bmw dealership cause my car is older lol.

  11. 11 On April 11th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    @Memelagos: I will report back if that fixes the problem!

  12. 12 On April 11th, 2013, Memelagos said:

    Awesome @joeyak907 let me know if that works. If it doesn’t check the electronic speed sensor. In older cars, the gas pedal pulled a cable that opened the throttle, in the specific caso of BMW, they’ve always been pioneers, since the first E36 they started using electronic sensors to send a signal to the computer letting it know how far your foot was on the pedal. Hope this info is helpful for you!

  13. 13 On April 15th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    @Memelagos: where is the electronic speed sensor ?

  14. 14 On April 15th, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    @Memelagos: where is the electronic speed sensor?

  15. 15 On April 16th, 2013, Memelagos said:

    @Joeyak907 I don’t know the exact location but it’s under the hood. Check the wire that comes out from the driver side under the hood, it should give you a lead to the speed sensor. 🙂

  16. 16 On April 23rd, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    @Memelagos , got the new (used) cluster today and installed it and everything works now im happy!

  17. 17 On April 23rd, 2013, joeyak907 said:

    except the rpm guage is reading higher than normal, like my rev limit is 6500, but it goes way past 7 lol.. but oh well im happy that all everything else works !