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41 Olds dash removal in 12 (not easy) steps

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I apologize for this long post. Is meant as a reference for dash removal of a typical pre-war GM car.


I had to remove the dashboard because I am restoring all the interior wood grain. For the last 12 months I tried to find information on how to do this job but found no specific instructions either from online searches or from several shop and parts manuals. I accessed different forums with no specific recommendations. I was even told that this dash is not removable and is welded to the cowl !!  Fortunately, I could eventually speak with a member of the NAOC (National Antique Oldsmobile Club) who confirmed that the dash is removable and he gave me some tips how to begin the process. I thought it is worth posting for other owners who may have similar needs.


I kept detailed written records of every step because I have never done this job and will have to reinstall the dash after is restored. Every single screw, washer, nut, brackets, etc, was carefully separated, labeled and stored in zip lock bags. Proud to say that no part was lost, except one screw, which happened to be the last one that was removed before the dash came out. This is a painful job, have to be on my back under the dash in awkward positions. At the end, I could not do it anymore and asked my son – an aviation mechanic – to get it for me. As a good mechanic, he did it promptly at the speed mechanics do their stuff and as soon as he removed it, the screw and washer went flying some place never to be seen again! 


Those of you who are experienced doing this job will for sure have many alternative approaches that may be better. I just followed my intuition and divided the job in steps. I am sure there are many similarities with pre war GM cars and this can be helpful for Olds, Buick, and Pontiac owners of this vintage because they share platforms. Mine is a 1941 four door sedan, Series 78.


The dash itself is screwed to the cowl with 6 screws. Removing them is pretty easy. The real difficulties are on separating all the many components that are attached to the dash, including knobs, levers, brackets, electrical components, etc. To accomplish that task, I followed the 12 steps described below.




Step 1

First thing is to remove all the windshield garnish moldings. This car has one on each side, a central division bar molding and two medallions on the ends of the central molding (one top and one bottom). A total of 22 screws hold the moldings to the body and is not difficult to remove them with a Philip screwdriver. Once that is done, the screws holding dash to cowl are visible and I loosened them all but did not remove yet.







Typical garnish molding of the era



Step 2

Remove the instrument cluster. Doing this at the beginning of the job gives a good open window to put your hands and tools to remove other components attached to the dash. There are 3 brackets. On one end it gets hooked to the dash and on the other end goes to a stud on the cluster and is secured with a 7/16 nut.  I used a short socket, an extension and ¼ inch drive ratchet to loosen the nuts and removed the brackets. The photos show the brackets: one on top of cluster, one on each end.



This is the top bracket




Bracket on L side of cluster





Bracket on R side of cluster


Cluster is now loose but has many connections that need to be detached:


Unscrew the speedometer cable by hand (need to crawl under dash, I actually did before removing the cluster brackets)

Then loosen up the oil sensor nut holding the copper tubing that comes from the engine. I used a 9/16 long wrench to reach it and disconnect from cluster. Still suffering under the dash.

Disconnect 3 bulb sockets by hand. From now on, can do these things from driver’s seat

Disconnect ammeter by hand

Disconnect fuel sensor by hand

Disconnect engine temperature sensor by hand


Warning: If you are like me and have a low back pain problem, the above task is awfully difficult. 


Cluster is free and can be removed towards the driver. Oval opening in dash will be helpful to get your hands and tools for next steps


Step 3

Remove hood latch and heater fan knob. On the extreme left of dash is the hood latch and next to it a knob labeled “Fast-off-slow” which is a fan for the heater. Both are attached to the floor of the dash through holes (visible in a later photo) with a single 7/16 nut/washer and a stud that is part of the knob. There are 8 holes on that narrow floor of the dash to the left of the steering column where the studs go through. My car uses the extreme L hole for the hood latch and the extreme R for the heater fan. Removed them by loosening the nut with a small ratchet and a long 7/16 socket. Photos show these 2 parts




Knobs removed, studs and nuts shown




Photo taken from above through the instrument cluster opening. The holes are to the L of the steering column and similar ones also exist to the R of the column for the Heater and the Ignition lock cylinder. See also nuts to the steering column plus 2 hardly visible screws holding the bracket coming from the cowl



Step 4

To the R of the steering column is the Temp control knob for the heater. It also has a stud that goes into the first hole of the bottom of dash just to the R of steering column and is secured with a nut/washer. Remove it with same 7/16 socket and small ratchet just like prior step. 




Temp control knob has a stud inserted through the floor of the dashboard identical to the ones shown in previous step



Step 5

 Next to the Temp control knob is the ignition cylinder lock. This is a real pain to remove. The cylinder is held from behind the dash (unlike knobs that are held below the dash) and has a plate surrounding the cylinder with 2 holes. Dash provides 2 studs to enter these holes and both are secured with 5/16 nuts. Very difficult to reach them from behind. I used a long socket and ¼ drive ratchet. Expect some injuries on sharp metal edges. No washer present on mine, probably uses one. See in photo the chrome cap next to the ignition key. It pops out easily and gives room to get a finger behind dash and touch where one of the nuts is, so you can reach it by feeling rather than by seeing it. Of course, other cars have an accessory (lighter?) here it will an extra step to remove. Nuts are hidden in a recess, hard to find them. Photo shows the removed cylinder. Impossible to get photos of the nuts secured to the dash from behind.








Step 6

Removed headlight switch knob and rod. First, loosened the large nut behind the dash with a 9/16 wrench. Nut is holding the knob tight to the dash. But to remove the knob, have to release the long metal rod that is integral part of the knob and goes straight into the headlight switch. The tip of the rod has grooves and there is a steel spring inside the switch that seats on this groove. Have to push the spring towards the L of the car while playing gently to pull the knob with rod. Photos describe better than words. This is not easy as the switch is about 1 foot away from the knob, the steel spring is not visible as is within the switch and of course the dash is obstructing the view and reach of it. Got several photos of this process.



Nut and washer free but rod has to come out from switch 




Arrow shows the steel spring and the yellow line shows the hole in the spring where the light switch rod enters and is secured by the spring. Spring is not too hard and easily depressed by hand




Rod with grooves at the distal tip


Step 7

Detach the cowl vent handle from dash. There is a long bracket that comes from the cowl and ends on the bottom of the dashboard where is secured with 2 Phillip head machine screws that are removed from below the dash. Each has a washer with external teeth. No nuts present. Photo shows bracket still attached. Easy step



Photo taken from the instrument cluster opening.


Step 8

Remove the glovebox. Finally, an easy one for a break. The glovebox is held by 6 screws attached to the opening. They are all located at the front. Two screws at the bottom are machine screws with a flat washer, 2 at the top and 1 on each side are all sheet metal screws with external tooth washers. Once you remove these 6 screws the glovebox easily falls toward to the front of the car and is removed from underneath the dash. The glove box door has a clock that comes out with the dash. I had removed the clock months ago to repair it so is not on the car right now. There are 3 electrical wires (light, clock, ground) on the glovebox door that need to be disconnected.

With glovebox removed, you can now see very well under the dash for the next step. Sorry, no photos taken.



Step 9

Remove wiper knob. Knob is attached under the dash to the wiper motor with a long rod. The knob is in the top center of dash. Is secured in placed with a very large nut and washer under the dash. The only tool that worked for me to loosen it was a long, curved needle nose plier. Loosen this nut all the way until you can slide the nut around the metal rod. Then pull the entire knob with stud and the tip of the long metal rod to the top of the dash and unhook the rod from the knob. Again, the photos explain the process better. This was not too hard to figure out



A long needle nose plier was needed to loosen up the large nut. I could not fit any other tool. Nut is not very tight so came off easily





With knob pulled, the tip of the long rod is reachable and you can unhook it and remove the knob


Step 10

Steering column attachment. There is a long bracket from cowl that ends where steering column is attached. There are 2 screws that go on each side of the column from below the dash to this bracket above. Both screws have a tooth washer and are removed with a Phillip screwdriver from below. I found a ground cable attached to the screw towards the center of the car (R of steering column). Don’t know what it is for so I labeled it and will figure out later.


Then I removed 2 large nuts with pressure washers that hold the steering column bracket to the dash. The steering bracket has 2 large studs that go upwards into the dash and are secured with these 2 nuts. Needed a ½ inch socket, short extension and a 3/8 drive ratchet to remove these nuts shown in photo. Push the steering wheel upward and studs come off the dash holes. Then make sure to slide the bracket towards the steering wheel away from the dash to provide more clearance to remove the dash later on. Doing so permits to lower the steering way and create more room to remove the dash.



The 2 smaller screws that hold bracket to dash are not visible here but I showed them in a prior photo in step 3



Step 11

Now everything is disconnected from the dash and is time to try getting it out. First, removed the 6 machine screws on top of dash to cowl using a flat screwdriver. There are 3 on each side. The ones on the ends of the dash are screwed to a thread in the cowl and the remaining 4, 2 on each side of the center, have a nut under the cowl. All 6 screws use an external tooth washer.



Correction: yellow line pointing to the hole toward the center is wrong. The hole for dash is more to the R side. Unable to edit photo to correct.


Step 12

Bolts on the extremes of the dash. These are the last fasteners holding the dash.  This was a major headache for me. First, I removed one bolt on each end with a ½ inch socket and 3/8 drive ratchet. Remember, have to work behind the dash and is hard to reach very tight corner.  These are the only ones that are visible and I thought they were the last 2 that were keeping the dash in place. Well, after removing these 2 bolts, the dash moved a bit up and down but no force will get it out. I even used a mallet thinking the corner were rusted and stuck. You are right, I know, what a brute guy!!  I proved that Olds dashes are idiot-proof and so tough that can take blows with no complaints! Again, dash kept moving up and down and gave the impression was pivoting on the corners around something that was holding it. That was when I asked my son for help and he discovered that the kick panel was hiding an additional screw on an extra leg of the bracket. These are screws with a very large head and a tooth washer and are identical to the one holding the vent window regulator attached to the door panel. I had one from an old vent regulator that will use for reassembly to replace the one that vanished when my son removed it. I did not mind because the dash was out a few minutes later. Photos of the removed dash show clearly the corner bracket with the 2 holes for the fasteners. The trick here is to remove the kick panel to access the last screws. Fortunately dash came out intact.




This hex bolt is all you can see and feel behind the corner of the dash until you remove the kick panel.



There it is, the hidden screw now clearly visible




The lower leg of the bracket is only reached after removing the kick panel





I have a radio but has never been installed. Removing or installing it will add extra difficulties but can't comment yet.


I will soon begin the wood grain restoration. I already did all the garnish moldings and they look great. May be will post that process also. Thanks to those who made it reading to the end of the story. Manuel








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