Figure 1: The result
Instrument Cluster Bulbs

The digital dimmer circuit on the Element's dash lights just doesn't go low enough for my taste, so I thought I'd try red bulbs.

It started with a discussion of alternatives in this thread at Element Owners Club. Some owners simply paint the stock bulbs with stained-glass paint. Others have experimented with retrofitting LEDs to fit in the #74 bulb socket. One owner ordered LEDs that are claimed to fit the OEM socket, but reports that they don't fit. I decided to go with colored #74 incandescent bulbs, and found them at an attractive price here.

Figure 2

Remove the side dashboard cover panel on the driver's side. Taking care not to damage the soft plastic, pry the panel out from the right edge, where it is secured by clips in five places (red ovals, Figure 2). Tilt the panel slightly away from the dash, then pull straight out. Tabs hold the panel in place on the left side.

Figure 3: Replacement (center) and stock bulbs
Remove the Phillips screw near the top (arrow, Figure 2).

Pry the instrument panel garnish just enough to release five clips on top, then four on the bottom (red ovals, Figure 4). Then pull straight out to release two tabs on the right side (red rectangles, Figure 4).

Once the garnish is out of the way, remove four Phillips screws holding the gauge cluster (arrows, Figure 4), then two electrical connectors in the back. You can now take the gauge cluster to a secure working area to change the bulbs.

Figure 4

There are seven identical plastic sockets in the back of the cluster (red circles, Figure 5). Turn each a quarter turn counterclockwise to unlock, then lift out. Pull the bulbs straight out of the sockets—some may be very tight—and carefully press the new bulbs in.

I found pliers made specifically for handling tiny bulbs at Harbor Freight Tools awhile back. HF no longer carries it, but as of November 2015 there's a version by Klann Tools, p/n KL-0190-27, on sale for $5 at Brinson Co. (also available for $23 at Autotoolworld). The tool protects the bulb—and your fingers!

Figure 5

According to the 2003–04 Service Manual, the seven instrument panel bulbs (Honda p/n 35505-SCV-A01, red circles in Figure 5) are 1.2 watts, while the two odometer bulbs (Honda p/n 35505-SCV-A11, red squares in Figure 5) are 2 watts. However the #74 bulbs I obtained seem to work just fine in both applications.

Later, I changed the color of the radio buttons and display to match. [More]

[Other Modifications]     [E Home]