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Old 01-13-2013, 07:35 PM   #1
Snazer13
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2003 4WD EX MT
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Question Dash Lights out & all exterior except headlights

I looked at quite a few archived threads on this topic, but none specifically describe the situation I have now. I have a 2003 Honda Element EX with 216,700 miles. This past Fri night when I started my car and turned on my headlights, I had no dash lights or lights behind the heater/ac dials or the pre-set buttons on my radio or the cruise control light. The only lights I had lit were the indicator lights for the brake & fasten seatbelts and the time and station light on the front of the radio. Also the AUTO light on the drivers door remained lit. I also had no turn signals and no exterior lights working (no brake lights, running lights or license plate light) except the headlights (both low beam and high beam ok). I checked some fuses and found that the 7.5 amp fuse under the dash for the turn signals was blown so I replaced that with a spare and got turn signals back long enough to make it the 8 miles home from my work. Oddly when I put on my right turn signal, just the needles for the speedometer & tachometer lit up and flashed in sync with the turn signal and then went dark again when the turn signal turned off.

I took it to the Honda dealership in the light of day on Saturday and they said I need to replace the instrument cluster ($610 for parts & labor including resetting my odometer in the new instrument cluster to match the old odometer's mileage). On the way back home from the dealer, I decided to test the cruise control and I'm pretty sure it wasnt working either and then halfway home when I put on my right turn signal, they stopped working again. Assuming the fuse I had replaced had blown again, I checked when I got home to confirm and it had. I also checked in the fuse box under the hood and found that the 15amp fuses in the #2 (dash lights, parking lights, taillights, license plate) #5 (turn signal/hazard relay) and #7 slots (brake lights, cruise actuator, etc) were all blown too so I replaced them with new ones. I turned on the car and the headlights and low and behold, all of my dashlights were back as well as the exterior lights and turn signals, but after a 60 second test drive down the street, I lost all of the same lights again and the turn signals. Again, I found the 7.5amp fuse under the dash blown and #2 and #7 under the hood (#5 looked to be ok?).

I also took out the glovebox and checked the ground wire another post on this topic advised to check and everything looked to be properly connected and in good shape.

At this point, I think I'm going to take the leap and go ahead and order a new instrument cluster on Monday from HondaPartsCheap.com ($245.30 vs. the dealer's quoted price of $351) and either have my mechanic install it or maybe even try doing it myself and putting one of those odometer replacement stickers on the door frame with the original mileage (http://www.paadps.com/odometerrepairlabel.aspx). As I have no intention of ever selling my Element to anyone and driving it for as long she'll keep running, I'm not worried about the new odometer being recalibrated with the old mileage.

Any advice on this would be most appreciated. My main question is whether a faulty instrument cluster could result in all of my current lighting malfunctions and the repeated blowing of the corresponding fuses or if it's maybe something else.
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:57 PM   #2
ramblerdan
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Welcome, Snazer13.

Before ordering a new instrument cluster, I would try disconnecting it, replacing all the relevant fuses, and driving with the lights on for a while. Obviously you would have to take care not to accidentally speed, etc.

If the fuses still blow, you can rule out the instrument cluster and save the cost of a replacement (and continue the diagnostic process). If the fuses don't blow after a reasonable time with the gauges disconnected, then you can be more confident about the dealer's diagnosis.

http://www.skidmore.edu/~pdwyer/e/instrument_bulbs.htm
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:30 PM   #3
Snazer13
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Thanks! I'll try that. How long would you say is a "reasonable time" to do my test drive w/ the lights on & both connectors to the instrument cluster disconnected.

From everything I've read on the various Element forums over the last two days, I'm feeling more confident with the dealer's diagnosis and I know that there are no burned out bulbs in my instrument cluster.

Last edited by Snazer13; 01-13-2013 at 08:46 PM. Reason: added text
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:20 AM   #4
ramblerdan
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A "reasonable time" would be however long it took to blow the fuses before, with a little extra margin. And come to think of it, you might not actually need to drive during that test.
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Old 01-14-2013, 06:44 PM   #5
Snazer13
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I've got to get some more fuses and I'll give a try tomorrow. I'll let you know. Thanks for your help!
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:58 AM   #6
Snazer13
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So I just did your test - put in replacement fuses, unhooked the instrument cluster and then started the car and put the headlights on and within 30 secs lost the dash lights & exterior lights again. Turn signals (and hazards) still seem to be working. Reading some other threads that showed up on the bottom of this thread RE: aftermarket trailer hitches, I did have a UHaul hitch installed in July 2009 and haven't used it since 2009. Should I have UHaul check that wiring for a short. Could that cause my dash lights not working too???
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Old 01-16-2013, 12:18 PM   #7
ramblerdan
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Glad to know you don't need a new instrument cluster!

Tracking down the short will take some work, but yes I would start with the hitch wiring.
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:07 PM   #8
Snazer13
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I don't forsee needing the use that trailer hitch anytime soon or quite possibly ever again. Do you know how I can just disconnect the wires for the trailer wiring harness. Since I've got that whole dash apart right now, I'd prefer not have to put it back to drive over to a nearest UHaul place
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:14 PM   #9
Snazer13
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Where does it hook to under the dashboard
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:30 PM   #10
akslamin
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When I first purchased my 2005 Element I had U-haul install a hitch and wiring harness. Everything worked fine for several months. Then all of the sudden my lights all started going haywire. I discovered that U-haul has just used tap lights spliced into my tail light wiring. I found on this site that I needed a Honda wiring harness. I disconnected the U-haul wiring myself and all the lights started working again. I then purchased a Honda wiring harness and had my local Honda dealership install it. Never had a problem since.

Last edited by akslamin; 01-16-2013 at 01:39 PM.
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