Glovebox Light

Apparently a glovebox light didn't fit with Honda's marketing strategy, the target demographic for which was outdoorsy types in their 20s. I guess being able to see what's in the glovebox at night is just too sissy for those rough-and-tumble surfer dudes.

There are basically two ways to go with this installation: LED or incandescent. The virtue of LEDs is that they draw so little power that you can run them off small batteries, avoiding the need to tap into the car's 12V power. Incandescents are brighter, with a nicer light temperature (even "white" LEDs tend to be bluish) and a wider diffusion pattern.

Removing the Cover Panel

Figure 1
Figure 2
Most of the plastic garnish on the Element is really easy to remove, but on the middle dash cover, Honda didn't quite get it right. In addition to the ubiquitous clips and tabs, there are two screws holding the cover to the underlying structure. They attach to common spring nuts (Figure 1). Unfortunately these screws are accessed from behind and below, making them a pain to remove even when things go right.

In this case, one of the screws had been overtightened and stripped during assembly at the factory, so the screw just turned and turned. I had to force the cover off. Happily, the structure that holds the spring nut broke off cleanly (Figure 2), and since I have no intention of putting either of the two screws back, there's no loss.


Figure 3
Figure 4
Many cars' glovebox lights have a plunger type switch, like the door switch in a refrigerator. I didn't have a small one in stock, but I did find a suitable microswitch in my junk box. At first I tried fabricating metal mounting brackets, but the necessity of custom-fitting made oak blocks a better choice: I could sand them to the desired profile by trial and error.

Once the switch assembly (Figure 3) was shaped to fit, I painted it and installed it above the glovebox. This required cutting out a section of the plastic lip and securing the switch assembly from above (Figure 4) with two screws. The spacing was close enough to perfect that I needed only to add a 1/8" thick adhesive silicone "foot" to the glovebox door to make it activate the switch. You can see the switch in context in Figure 5; from the driver's or passenger's eye level, it's barely visible.

Figure 5


Figure 6
On the first go-around, I used a Nite Ize brand LED conversion kit for Mini Mag flashlights (Figure 6), powered by two AAA cells. I was dissatisfied with this setup because the light was too tightly focused and too blue for my taste. I also didn't like the idea of periodically having to pull the cover and change the batteries.

The result can be seen in Figure 7. The light is a little less blue than it appears in the photo, and of course brighter as well, since I used ambient light in the photo to provide context. Even so, I wasn't completely happy, so it was back to the drawing board.

Figure 7

Figure 8
Figure 9
I found a suitable wedge style socket (Echlin LS6472, Figure 8) and 3 watt bulb at NAPA. Because the plastic above the glovebox is thicker than whatever application the socket was originally intended for, I had to widen the grooves in the locking tangs (Figure 9).

On the car, I drilled and filed a suitable hole for the socket (Figure 10; the two small holes on either side are left over from the prior LED installation). The fore-and-aft placement is actually pretty critical here. There's a metal lip underneath, beginning about 1/2" from the aft crease, that interferes with working the material and fitting the socket. If I were to do it again, I'd place the hole about 1/8" forward of its present location. That would require removing the upper cover, which hindered drilling and filing somewhat.

The socket locks in place with a little clockwise turn (Figure 11) and just fits under the middle dash cover—which happily covers all this ugliness.

Figure 10
Figure 11
Figure 12


Unswitched 12V comes from a relay socket, previously jumpered to make the rear power outlet always on. The new jumper is tapped with a second wire (Figure 12).


... are good! The light is sufficiently bright, a pleasant temperature, and widely diffused (Figure 13).

Figure 13

Another Method

Clex2 has done a nice glovebox light using BMW parts. See his writeup at Element Owner's Club.

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