Shedding Light on Dash Light Rheostats
If your dash lights give up on you during a long drive on a dark road, it could mean trouble. Imagine not being able to read your speedometer and tell how fast you are going. You'll become too paranoid about exceeding the speed limit and being pulled over, and at the same time, feel like you're going to be home a few minutes later than normal. It's not a very scary thought, but a disconcerting one nonetheless. You inspect the dash lights and tap on your meters, but nothing's happening. The thing you have to know about your dash lights is that a rheostat makes them work. It is a device that controls the resistance in a circuit, and acts as a switch that allows you to control the brightness of the dash lights. It is usually a very reliable piece of equipment, but over time, the internal contacts corrode and the resulting damage can halt the current flow through the rheostat. When this happens, the dash lights to stop working and need to be replaced. We present Dash Light Rheostats 101-a guide to choosing the perfect dash light for your car.
Which features should I look for?
The kind of dash light rheostat to buy depends on your car make and model. Most websites are helpful enough to let you look up rheostats that match your vehicle. A rheostat is basically made up of a coil, contacts, and a casing. A common problem with damaged rheostats is the resistance coil being completely disintegrated. In this case, a fix is impossible, and a replacement is necessary. Look for coils made of sturdy stainless steel-you'll need this kind to ensure a long coil life.
The casing can be made from metal or plastic, and as long as the interior components are protected from moisture and dirt, then either material is recommended. Metal and plastic cases are known for their durability, which is an important quality given that the case protects the coil from pressure and corrosion.
Should I buy an expensive rheostat?
Dash light rheostat prices range from $30 to $55. Buying more expensive ones might not ensure that you are getting the best rheostat made from quality material. Consider the suggestions given above with regards to the coil material and casing. An inexpensive rheostats might do the job, but the material it's made from might not last long. A dash light rheostat is a very small component, but it plays a large part not only in controlling your dash lights, but also for keeping your driving safe.
Replacing your Dash Light Rheostat in Four Easy Steps
The ability to dim and brighten your dash lights might be a very simple car feature. You might even think that it does not seem very important to you as a driver and owner. However, it serves as a safety device, as it allows you to monitor how fast you are going in the dark. One very small yet important component is in the middle of it all: the dash light rheostat. Not only does it allow you to adjust the brightness of your dash lights, but it also makes your dash lights work. When damaged, it usually can be cleaned to get it working again. However, once the coil inside is burnt, you'll need to replace the whole assembly. We'll show you how to install a new dash light rheostat in four easy steps.
Difficulty level: Moderate
Tools you'll need:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Dielectric grease
Step 1: Look behind the instrument panel below the steering column and locate the speedometer cable and oil pressure line. Remove them by either unscrewing or unbolting them. Find the screws below the steering column and unscrew the instrument panel. Gently remove it by pushing it out from behind. Be sure to keep track of where everything goes.
Step 2: Look for the rheostat. It is a small box with two metal strips on it. Begin detaching the rheostat from the panel by removing the screw that holds it in place. There is usually just one screw that attaches it to the instrument panel. You will notice that two pin electrical contacts still keep the rheostat in place. To completely remove it, carefully pry it off with a flathead screwdriver. Do not twist or pull it off quickly, as you might damage a pin.
Step 3: If you're confident enough to take the rheostat apart to apply a little dielectric grease on its metal components, do so. This will help prevent corrosion. Just make sure that the contact surfaces don't get the grease.
Step 4: Use the two pins as guides in attaching the new rheostat. Slowly push it in and screw it on. Put the instrument panel back and test if the rheostat works.