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No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Old 03-17-2016, 05:19 PM
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No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

I haven't had gauge lights in my '88 Camaro in over a year now. Every time I turn on my lights, the "Inst Lps" 5A fuse blows. Sometimes after ~30 seconds, sometimes instantly. Usually instantly.

In an attempt to finally fix the problem, I'm removing everything in the circuit, one item at a time, then testing with a new fuse to see if the problem has been fixed.

Thus far I have removed:
  • Radio
  • HVAC Unit
  • Gauge Cluster (Which has a new flexible printed circuit board behind it)
  • Rear Defogger Switch
  • Power Port/Cigarette Lighter
  • Headlight/Dimmer Switch (Which has been replaced)
  • All Taillight Bulbs (Which have all been replaced)

Alas, I still have the problem. I've referenced the schematic out of the Haynes manual and followed every wire as far as I can see and haven't found any cuts, skinned insulation or anything of the sort.

I'm out of ideas and reaching out for help. Is there anything I'm missing?
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Old 03-17-2016, 06:03 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Originally Posted by element114401 View Post
I haven't had gauge lights in my '88 Camaro in over a year now. Every time I turn on my lights, the "Inst Lps" 5A fuse blows. Sometimes after ~30 seconds, sometimes instantly. Usually instantly.

In an attempt to finally fix the problem, I'm removing everything in the circuit, one item at a time, then testing with a new fuse to see if the problem has been fixed.

Thus far I have removed:
  • Radio
  • HVAC Unit
  • Gauge Cluster (Which has a new flexible printed circuit board behind it)
  • Rear Defogger Switch
  • Power Port/Cigarette Lighter
  • Headlight/Dimmer Switch (Which has been replaced)
  • All Taillight Bulbs (Which have all been replaced)

Alas, I still have the problem. I've referenced the schematic out of the Haynes manual and followed every wire as far as I can see and haven't found any cuts, skinned insulation or anything of the sort.

I'm out of ideas and reaching out for help. Is there anything I'm missing?
You mention the dimmer switch , but not the dimmer transistor that's mounted near the "convenience center" . The transistor being shorted is a very likely possibility .

I think it's sometimes called the "remote dimmer module" if you do a search for it ......
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Old 03-17-2016, 06:07 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Originally Posted by OrangeBird View Post
You mention the dimmer switch , but not the dimmer transistor that's mounted near the "convenience center" . The transistor being shorted is a very likely possibility .

I think it's sometimes called the "remote dimmer module" if you do a search for it ......
I was under the impression that the remote dimmer module is only on the Trans Ams. Is that incorrect?
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Old 03-17-2016, 06:11 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

There was another member (JoseSweatshirt) on here having the sort of the same issue with his bird.

So Once again I have referred to my trusty 1987 Camaro Electrical Diagnosis book and here is what I have found...

1. If no interior lights work check the "TAIL" fuse and check the "Inst" Fuse.
2. If a group of interior lights do not come on check the wires at the suspect lights.
3. If a single light does not come on check the bulb, socket, and corresponding wires.
4. If the Dimmer Switch will not vary the brilliance of interior lights, replace the light switch.
5. If interior light will not shut off, replace light switch.

Circuit Operation:
Voltage is applied at all times through the TAIL fuse to the light switch. With the light switch in the park or head position, voltage is applied through the INST fuse to the individual lights.
A rheostat inside the instrument cluster dimmer switch controls the brightness of the lights. When the dimmer switch is turned, the resistance of the rheostat either increases or decreases, thus increasing or decreasing the brightness of the interior lights.

How to check:
connect test lamp at light switch connector.
Ignition switch: Park and Dimmer switch: HI
Connect between Dark green wire and ground. Correct result should be test light turns on.

If the above results are correct, check DK green wire, INST fuse, and Gray wire for opens. Replace Light switch.

I had an issue with my '88 GTA and it ended up being the switch assembly.

Good luck and I hope this helps.
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Old 03-17-2016, 07:39 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Originally Posted by element114401 View Post
I was under the impression that the remote dimmer module is only on the Trans Ams. Is that incorrect?
Oh that's a good question , and now that you mention it I'm not sure if Camaros had it . It very well could have been a Firebird only thing . I can tell you that even the base model Firebird has it , cause I've replaced mine when it was short circuited and blowing the fuse . But the Camaro guys will have to help you on whether or not you've actually got one .
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Old 03-17-2016, 08:00 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Camaro didn't have that.

More likely you have a farkled light bulb.

Try popping the instr cluster out, removing all the light bulbs, plugging it back in, and see if it holds. If so, .... ,, ... ,,,,,,,,, ... you just found the problem.

A box of 194s is like $6 at a REAL parts store. Don't pay $3 for a card of 2, just buy acoupla boxes and change em ALL out.
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Old 03-17-2016, 08:38 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Originally Posted by sofakingdom View Post
Camaro didn't have that.

More likely you have a farkled light bulb.

Try popping the instr cluster out, removing all the light bulbs, plugging it back in, and see if it holds. If so, .... ,, ... ,,,,,,,,, ... you just found the problem.

A box of 194s is like $6 at a REAL parts store. Don't pay $3 for a card of 2, just buy acoupla boxes and change em ALL out.
Good idea, however the fuse blows even when the entire cluster is removed from the car. Although I do plan on replacing all the bulbs before I throw the cluster back in if I ever get this short figured out.
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Old 03-17-2016, 09:02 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

I would use a meter(at the fuse location) on beeper mode (battery disconnected) when removing components (while the light switch is in position of occurrence). Remember if you are constantly blowing fuses, you have an active hard short. Just because you can run an active short for a longer period of time either means; that you are more slowly and throughly cooking the circuit, or the short does not make contact until a certain event (like movement).

If the meter stops beeping when a component is removed then check that component and the wiring that follows it. If it still beeps after all components are removed, start moving wiring around to see if it stops. If it stops then you most likely found a pinched wire. A schematic is a good idea so that you don't overlook a circuit that branches out from the one you're trying to test.
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Old 03-18-2016, 07:58 AM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

My first "blind' suggestion is that an aftermarket accessory ( Radio ? ) was wired incorrectly - simply because it happens so often.

Here's look at the shop manual schematic:



The Camaro headlight switch has the DIM rheostat built into it but the Firebird doesn't and uses a "remote" dimmer instead. If you pull the INST fuse and probe the terminals when the lights are turned to PARK or HEADLIGHTS, then 1 side of the INST fuse terminals should be hot. ( voltage varies based on rheostat adjustment. ) Obviously; it is because the fuse keeps blowing. If there are no other electrical problems when the INST fuse is pulled and the headlights are on - and the INST fuse "in' terminal (green wire) has voltage - then the headlight switch is not the problem.

This leaves the Gray "out" wire to be suspect. If you un-plug EVERY one of the accessories that use the grey wire and the fuse is still blowing out when the headlight switch is turned to PARK or HEAD,... then none of those items are causing the short & the wiring itself is the problem. Somewhere inside the harness they grey wire got chaffed and is shorting to ground. IIRC the Rear Defroster switch's' grey wire gets plugged into the back of the fuse block, all other accessories on that circuit are running off the same grey wire that leads "out" of the INST fuse terminal.

There's a couple of the things connected to that grey "back-lighting" wire were not part of your checklist. I suggest going back and unplugging ALL of the things shown on the diagram,... installing a good INST fuse, and turning on the headlights again to see if the fuse blows out. If it does I'd think the parts are OK and the grey wire was bad. You'd either need to investigate the grey wire thru the harness to find & repair the short,... or run a new wire from the 'out" terminal of the fuse-box and re-connect all the accessories that new wire.


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Old 03-22-2016, 03:42 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Solved! Over the weekend I finally found the problem that has been plaguing me for over a year now. Turns out the previous owner had buggered up (what I assume to be) the "ashtray light". I had never had a light under the center vents, over the HVAC unit and radio so I never thought to look there.

After the HVAC unit was pulled out I saw a grey wire way in the back leading upwards so I pulled it down and sure enough it wasn't hooked to anything. Looks like the previous owner had a butt connector on it and a bare spade/bullet connector of some sort. Must have fallen and grounded itself back there. Taped it and tucked it back up and everything works perfectly now.

I took a picture for ***** and giggles. Thanks everyone for your help, it was greatly appreciated.
Attached Thumbnails No Gauge Lights in the Camaro-20160318_172919.jpg   No Gauge Lights in the Camaro-20160318_191451.jpg  
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Old 03-22-2016, 06:03 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Awesome !!

Can't believe I forgot about that damn thing. It's gotta' feel pretty good to see everything light up again !


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Old 03-22-2016, 08:14 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Aghast! ...the infamous butt connector.

Congrats on finding it!
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Old 03-24-2016, 02:18 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Question...
Did your car originally come with the little light under the dash to light up the HVAC controls? Or was it just part of the harness GM included whether it had the light or not?

Reason Im asking is because my 83 does not have the light. I experienced the EXACT same problem you had and went about tracing the wires the same way by disconnecting the accessories etc. I finaly just said "two tears in a bucket ______" and installed LED's in the cluster.
LED's are nice and bright and work great wired into the headlight switch as there was an unused port on the switch that a spade connector fit right on. But now Im wondering if I didnt over look that grey wire you found going up to where a console light might have been if the car came with it originally.
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Old 03-24-2016, 03:30 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Originally Posted by DonW View Post
Question...
Did your car originally come with the little light under the dash to light up the HVAC controls? Or was it just part of the harness GM included whether it had the light or not?

Reason Im asking is because my 83 does not have the light. I experienced the EXACT same problem you had and went about tracing the wires the same way by disconnecting the accessories etc. I finaly just said "two tears in a bucket ______" and installed LED's in the cluster.
LED's are nice and bright and work great wired into the headlight switch as there was an unused port on the switch that a spade connector fit right on. But now Im wondering if I didnt over look that grey wire you found going up to where a console light might have been if the car came with it originally.
I'm not sure. There's a plastic piece under the vents that has a lens on it, and what looks like a holder for a socket for a 194 bulb would go, similar to what is behind the gauges. However there was no actual socket. I'm unsure if it was never there, or if it was removed/lost in the past. Judging the conditions of those two wires it looks like they were re-purposed for something else.

It's simple enough to check. Just remove the trim around the radio and HVAC, the trim around the shifter (might not be necessary, my two pieces somewhat interlock and its just easier to remove both pieces) and three (IIRC) bolts hold the HVAC unit in place. When I pulled mine out I could see the grey wire running from the left then up.
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Old 04-15-2019, 10:38 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

Are we 100% sure that the Camaro didn't come with the remote Dimmer? I thought the Camaro did come with the remote dimmer the Electrical schematic that I'm looking at has it listed and my wiring lines up with the color coding.
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Old 04-15-2019, 11:06 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

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Old 04-16-2019, 06:56 PM
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Re: No Gauge Lights in the Camaro

What you have appears to be a "generic" diagram covering any possible wiring one may encounter in a third gen . I see your diagram has the remote dimmer , but it also has the headlight door module and headlight door motors , a feature exclusive to the Firebird . If your curious , next time you have reason to go into your dashboard look in the area just above your right knee and see if you see a big transistor mounted to a hunk of metal . I've never owned a third gen Camaro so I can't say for sure , but the guys in the thread who do own Camaros rather than Firebirds say their cars don't have it , so till it's proven different I'm gonna have to take them at their word .
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