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dash lights stopped working


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Hi Folks,

I'm a little befuddled by a problem that cropped up last night in my Electra. All things considered, it could be worse, I suppose. Yet, it was disconcerting, and I could use some pointers as to how to direct my troubleshooting efforts.

I drove 70 or so miles north of town on dry roads, to Loveland, and parked my car to meet up with some of my GFs friends at a pub, there. Had a great old time, but it was dark and rainy when I got back to the car.

Got in, started the car without incident, and turned on my headlights. They were on, but something was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it at first. It was too "dark", for some reason. I tapped the bright switch on the floor, and those popped on, so that checked out. Then I realized that I didn't have any dash lights. The "Gen" and "Oil" lights came on briefly when I started it, as they usually do (they're only on for a second or so), but there was no light on the speedometer, and no lights behind the climate controls or windshield washer. The rear dome lights and footwell lights come on when I twist the headlight knob past the detent, and they go off when I turn it back. There were no blinker lights working on the dash, though they did work on the corners of the car.

So, I drove the 30 miles back down to Longmont with no dash lights, periodically turning on the dome lights to get a quick glimpse of the speedometer to make sure I wasn't going too fast, as there wasn't enough traffic to gauge my speed against other cars.

When I got to my GF's place, I let the car sit for 30 minutes while I relaxed a little and gave the problem some time with the little gray cells. Went back out to the car, started it up, and confirmed everything I'd see earlier. So that's where my "guessing of the causes" began.

On one hand, I'm thinking that maybe a fuse had blown, but I've never had a fuse blow on any car or bike in the past, and I'm inclined to think of that as a bad thing, as I assume that an electrical fault (maybe a short or a bad ground) would be to blame.

On the other hand, I thought that maybe the rheostat in the headlight switch has gone bad. I figure there has to be a way to bypass the rheostat and have all of the dash lighting in "bright" mode, so that's not so bad as the chance of a blown fuse, I figure.

Now, to add more confusion to the whole mess, I went out this morning (the rain stopped overnight) and started the car, and now the blinker lights next to the speedo -=are=- working, and they work if the headlights are on or off. It's too bright to see if the other dash lights are working or not, but the critical difference between this morning and last night is that it's not raining this morning. Could the rain, somehow, be pointing to a possible cause?

Anyhoo, it's perplexing, and I don't have enough experience with the old boat to know what route to take through the troubleshooting process. Any pointers or thoughts would be much appreciated.


-- Randy

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Sometimes just rotating the fuse in the fuse holder will work as they do become slightly corroded over time. A shot of electrical parts cleaner while rotating the fuse will usually do the trick. If that does not do the trick then I'm with Pete on replacing the switch. Dandy Dave!

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You need to replace your headlight switch. The rheostat in it is the reason the dash lights don't work.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

Yeah, I spent some time with the owner's manual, and my recently-acquired service manuals, and if it had been a fuse I'd have lost a bunch of other stuff, too.

I'm on the hunt for a headlight switch!


-- Randy

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