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Having your dashboard lights not working can ruin your driving experience, especially when you have to drive at night. There are many possible reasons for this problem.
In this article, we’ll reveal all the major causes of car electrical and lighting problems and the various things you can do to fix the issue, so stay tuned.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- 1 What Are the Reasons Your Dashboard Lights Are Not Working?
- 2 What Are Common Ways To Fix Your Dashboard Light Problems?
- 3 Are Dashboard Lights Not Working a Sign of Power Steering Fluid Issues?
- 4 Conclusion
What Are the Reasons Your Dashboard Lights Are Not Working?
The reasons your dashboard lights are not working can be traced to one or two key electrical/lighting components that have gone bad. The fault could be from loose connections, damaged fuses and circuits, or bad batteries/alternators. Sometimes, it may just be that the bulb has gone bad.
Aside from faulty dashboard lights, the other signs of car electrical issues include engine problems (the engine doesn’t crank up as it should), battery problems, faulty/dead lights, blown fuses, and burning smells coming from your car. Generally, if your engine refuses to start, it’s possible you have an electrical problem.
– Loose Electrical Connections
Loose electrical connections can also cause electrical and lighting issues in your car. As you use your car, you subject it to tension, shocks, and vibrations (especially when driving on rough terrains). These shocks and vibrations can cause some electrical connections to loosen or even break off.
Exposure to the elements (wind, dirt, debris, etc.) can also cause the loosening of electrical connections. Also, rust can corrode the terminals of your car battery and loosen or break off the connection.
– Bulb and Switch Problems
Bulb and switch problems also cause car electrical components and lights to have issues. Sometimes, the bulbs are the problem lies. Most car dashboard lights use special LED lights, mainly because these types of bulbs can withstand the high temperatures coming from the car’s engine compartment.
These bulbs have a lifespan, and once they reach it, they won’t come on no matter what you do. Wrong wiring connections can also damage or burn your dash bulbs. However, the switch may be responsible if the bulbs are good yet refuse to come on.
The ignition switch (or dimmer switch) can be the reason for the lighting problems in your dash. These switches are usually located close to the dashboard. Factors like worn contacts and overheating are usually responsible for switch problems. Bad ignition/dimmer switches can’t provide enough power to the bulbs, so they won’t come on.
– Electrical Short Circuits
Electrical short circuits can result in lighting and electrical issues in your vehicle. Every electrical connection has a circuit or pathway that the current must follow to the right destination. If the current follows another pathway, a short circuit occurs.
Car short circuits usually occur after DIY fixes when inexperienced car owners misplace connecting wires or make wrong connections. It can also occur when wires get old and the insulation material wears off, causing the wires to touch each other and alter the pre-planned current flow path.
Short circuits can occur in two forms. The first is short to ground. Short to ground means that the current is no longer flowing to the right circuit but instead flowing wrongfully to ground. On the other hand, short to power means the current is now flowing back to the power source.
Both can be caused by loose connections. However, short to ground mean there is a loose connection between the wire and the car body. Alternatively, short to power means there is a loose connection between the wires and the battery terminal.
– Faulty Wiring
Faulty wiring can also cause electrical and lighting problems. Electricity must flow through wires to the connected electrical components. If these wires get damaged, burnt, or broken, current will not flow and your car component (such as light bulbs) won’t come on. Excessive currents can burn your wires, while excessive corrosion can cause them to break off.
Wrong wiring (connecting wires/terminals wrongly) can also stop the flow of current or even cause an electrical short-circuit.
– Problems With the Computer
Computer issues can also make your car lights refuse to turn on. Modern cars feature a variety of sensors and electronic components that work together to control different electrical parts in a car.
For instance, dimmer switches use sensors to control headlights between low and high beams, while other sensors in your car control the operation of the dash lights and instrument panel. If one of these components or sensors fails, your dashboard lights will malfunction or cease to come on.
– Dead Battery
A dead battery can also cause electrical/lighting problems in your car. Batteries are composed of voltaic cells. Over time (with continuous charge and discharge cycles), these cells break down until they can no longer hold a charge.
If your car battery is dead, it can’t power the electrical components in your car. And so, these components won’t be able to function. A bad battery will always cause dim or flickering dashboard lights.
– Bad Alternator
A bad alternator is likely responsible if you notice dashboard lights not working while driving. The alternator converts chemical energy to electrical energy to power up your vehicle. So, while your car uses the battery for ignition, it uses the alternator to power the entire electrical components and recharge your battery when the car is in motion.
Your alternator is supposed to provide power for your car lights. So, if you find your car lights going dim, flickering, or not coming on at all while driving, then it’s possible your alternator is bad. Note that this sign may appear on any car lights, including the dash, headlights, and brake lights.
– Circuit Оverload
A circuit overload can also stop your lights from coming on and cause other issues in your car’s electrical system. Every circuit has a maximum electricity output. If too many devices connect to your car, they’ll drag so much current, reducing the net electricity flow to each electrical component in your car.
Most times, when your car circuit is overloaded, you’ll notice dim lights. Sometimes, overloading can also cause a surge of electricity or overheating of the circuit wiring, which can damage the entire system.
– Bad Fuse
A bad fuse can also cause electrical and lighting problems in your car. The fuse protects the electrical component to which it is connected.
If a fuse goes bad, it will cause the lights to go out. Your car dash lights have a light fuse connected to them. The fuse has likely gone bad if the lights aren’t coming on.
– Defective Ground Wiring
Bad ground wiring can equally make your car’s electrical system and lights malfunction. The ground wire connects the battery terminals to the frame of the vehicle. It forms the foundational wiring for any vehicle, linking its electrical system to the electric power source.
A faulty/bad ground wire can cause several different electrical issues, one of which is vehicle lights not coming on. Ground wires usually corrode and break since they’re at the base of the vehicle and are exposed to weather elements.
What Are Common Ways To Fix Your Dashboard Light Problems?
The common ways to fix your dashboard light problems include replacing a blown fuse, replacing the car battery, replacing the alternator, and changing the light bulbs in your vehicle. Another common way to fix the issue is by tightening connections and disconnecting electrical components that were causing circuit overload.
– Check Dashboard Fuse and Replace It if Necessary
If your dashboard fuse is bad, replacing it will solve your lighting problem. To check your fuse, consult your car owner’s manual to know where the fuse box is located. Once you find it, open and inspect the box. If the fuse seems burnt, replace it and test the lights again. However, remember to check the fuse rating so you don’t install an incompatible fuse.
– Replace Car Battery
Replacing your car battery will solve your lighting problem and any other related electrical issues in your car. However, you should first check and confirm if your battery is dead or if it’s just weak and needs a recharge. If the battery is weak, use a battery charger to recharge it. If it’s dead, then replace it.
To replace your car battery, you must detach the terminals before removing the clamp and the battery. Next, clean up any corrosion, mount the new battery, then reconnect the terminals.
– Change the Dash Lights
Sometimes, simply changing the dash lights can solve your lighting problem. If you notice the lights are damaged or nearing the end of their lifespan, then it’s guaranteed that changing them will fix the issue.
However, it’s best to involve a mechanic to fix new lights to avoid complications like installing the wrong bulbs or making faulty connections.
– Change Ground
Changing the ground will solve all related electrical problems, including light issues. You can locate and inspect your car’s ground strap at the bottom end of the chassis, as that might be causing the issue. To change ground straps, you should visit a mechanic to avoid costly mistakes that could cause a surge or short-circuit your entire car.
– Replace Alternator
Replacing the alternators will surely fix dimming lights and other related electrical issues that occur while driving. Alternators cost anywhere from $100 to $350. You can install a new alternator yourself or hire a mechanic, albeit at additional costs.
– Change Your Car’s Computer System
If your car’s computer system is not working properly or if it’s contributing to the electrical issues you’re experiencing, you need to replace it with a new one. However, to do this, you must contact your car manufacturers so you can know the correct ECM (Engine Control Module) before going to a suitable parts center to get it.
You can also check the manufacturer’s service center for direct customer service care. They can check the engine and repair or replace your vehicle’s ECM there. However, make sure to note their service hours before you go.
Are Dashboard Lights Not Working a Sign of Power Steering Fluid Issues?
Now you know what causes car electrical and dashboard lighting problems and how to fix them.
Let’s go over the major points once more:
- Faulty batteries, alternators, and ground straps are the leading causes of car electrical issues such as faulty dashboard lights.
- Other times, a bad bulb, fuse, or faulty wiring can be equally responsible.
- Electrical issues in your car will affect your dash, instrument cluster, and headlights. It can also stop it from starting.
- To fix electrical/lighting issues, you can change bad batteries, alternators, fuses, and bulbs.
- For replacement of ground strap or car computer, as well as overall car checkup, see a mechanic.
Fixing your car’s electrical issues is easy if you carefully follow instructions. You can also see a mechanic for a more accurate diagnosis and solution.
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