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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Climate Control Backlight

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75 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_gaffneyjl_*

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Posted 30 October 2001 - 08:01 PM

Can anyone tell me how to replace/repair the backlight for the climate control switches on my '98 Outback Wagon?

#2 Guest_CincyBuckeye_*

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Posted 30 October 2001 - 08:47 PM

Both SmashPDX and I have written pages talking about replacing the bulbs. His has excellent photos documenting the process, mine is more text-oriented plus I talk about using bulbs from RadioShack instead of going to the dealer for new bulbs. Apparently new bulbs at the dealer aren't that expensive, but the dealer was closed on the day I decided to fix my dash. The RadioShack bulbs also work in things like the hazard switch and cruise/foglamp/defrost switches.

Russ's instructions:

My page:

#3 Guest_gaffneyjl_*

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Posted 31 October 2001 - 11:35 AM

Thanks for the help. I'm surprised that bulb replacement is such a complicated task, but I appreciate having the experience of others to guide me.

#4 Guest_rcoaster_*

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Posted 31 October 2001 - 12:08 PM

Actually, while the procedure sounds complicated, once you're all done, you would realize that the entire procedure is quite easy. :)

#5 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 31 October 2001 - 03:25 PM

Ya, it's pretty much a snap. The hardest part is getting the doggoned thing out of the dash.

#6 Guest_andywatson_*

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Posted 01 November 2001 - 02:17 PM

Here's another tip about the light bulbs:

When you've got the entire dash pulled apart to replace one of the bulbs, go ahead and replace ALL of the others. I learned this lesson the hard way. I replaced the one (and only) burned out bulb last month. The other 2 were working fine at the time. About a week ago, both of the other bulbs blew out, a couple days apart. So now I've got to dismantle the dash again.

So do yourself a favor by replacing all of them if you get the chance. It'll save you alot of time, and alot of swear words, later on down the road.


#7 Guest_gaffneyjl_*

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Posted 26 November 2001 - 12:29 PM

Thank you very much for the helpful advice. It took me a while to get up the nerve to take the dash apart, but when I finally got to it I discovered it was not as difficult as I feared it would be. Fortunately, I had your instructions to guide me - I'm not sure I would have ever figured it out from the Haynes manual alone. I was especillay grateful for the tip about disconnecting the heater control cable under the dash rather than at the heater control module.

#8 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 27 November 2001 - 03:35 AM

Glad it helped. That heater cable thing gave me the flux, even with the Haynes, so I figured I better put it up on the site. :rollin:

#9 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 27 November 2001 - 05:01 AM

Can one switch the lights from green to blue when doing this? Do they use green bulbs or green covers?

#10 Guest_meep424_*

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Posted 27 November 2001 - 10:06 AM

They use these little green rubber covers that are prone to tearing if you're overly aggressive. If you're familiar with soldering and LED technology, high-intensity LED's work too. You'd need to scrape the faces for less focused light beam, tho. And they come in blue.


#11 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 27 November 2001 - 10:04 PM

Sweet! Gonna have to try that. Radio shack for the lights?
And what do you mean by scrape the faces? The ends of the bulbs?

#12 Guest_meep424_*

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Posted 28 November 2001 - 08:19 AM


Ok so here's what you need to do.

1) LEDs are polarity sensitive. You'll need to trace the circuit on the control panel to identify + and -

2) LEDs are a diode, nearly seen as a short circuit. Each one will need a resistor wired inline. You'll need something near 560ohm for the LED (I'll explain below).

3) LEDs focus their light forwards with little to the sides, unlike a lamp filament. I used sandpaper to rough up the front and sides of each unit to spread the light out more.

4) The leads are bare. You'll want to take care to not cross them once they're soldered on and you're reassembling the control unit.

I would suggest buying a couple extra and "playing" with them first before you do the install. Also, I powered the unit up before replacing it in the dash to make sure everything worked ok.

The math. You'll want to double check mine. The LED carton will give a minimum and maximum current. Max will be something like 32mA, (milliamps) or .032 amps. I assumed a target of 25mA in my calculations.

Volts=Amps * Resistance.
Therefore Volts/Amps=Resistance
So 14/.025=560ohm.
If the max current is 32mA, you may even be able to go as low as 440 ohm.

Other tips-

Solder the resistor to the LED first. Then test with a 9v battery. Blue ones, so I hear, are more sensitive to soldering than the others, so try to keep them cool.

Don't try to see it glow without the resistor, even with the 9v. Will kill it quickly.

Make sure you get Hi brightness or Hi intensity so there's enough light.

Treated right, and as long as the resistor isn't too small (below 440 ohms or whatever), they'll last forever; won't burn out. That's the whole reason I did this myself.

Ok-- I know this is a long post. Let me know if you have any questions. These things are fun to play with once you understand them.


#13 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 28 November 2001 - 02:25 PM

Someone remind me to archive this thread when it's done, I want to be sure we get meep's post in there for the LED swapout. :)

#14 Guest_mrtoyou7747_*

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 05:05 PM

Followed your instructions worked like a charm.

I did get hosed by the dealer for the bulbs ~$5 each after pleading for a discount. You can get them over the internet but the S&H makes the dealer about the same with no waiting.

Looks like you could replace the bilbs in the little plastic sockets (bend over the wires and your done.) Does anyone have the Radio Crap PN?

Thanks a bunch

#15 Guest_CincyBuckeye_*

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 02:22 PM

Yes, you can just twist the wires from Radio Shack bulbs into the bases. Pictures & info can be found on my page listed above.

As far as part #'s this information comes directly from that page:

They are Radio Shack #7219 and come in a package of two. The bulbs are 12 volts ยท 60 mA. The other number on the package is 272-1092C, although I don't know if that matters or not. The 2-pack should be less than $2.

We recently traded our 97OB up to a 98. My question is has anyone ever bought a used Subaru in which the climate control backlights actually work? In my extended family, this makes the 6th used Legacy we've bought, and the bulbs have needed replaced on every single one! At least it's not a complicated process, and I am getting pretty darned efficient at it.

#16 Guest_nuburu2_*

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 02:54 PM

Cincy, I was told there was a design problem with the 97-99 lamps(?) and the later replacements were much more durable. Never had a problem in 9 yrs of ownership of Gen1 Legacy, but the lights were non working when I bought my 98GT.

Glenn O

#17 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 06:23 PM

I'm not sure about replacement bulbs being more durable. I changed mine on my 97 OB 2 summers ago. One is burned out again. I bought the bulbs from the dealer.

I also changed the bulbs in the switches for the foglights, rear defrost and cruise control at the same time. So far, they have all remained good.


#18 Guest_CincyBuckeye_*

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 12:19 PM

I'll try to keep the board posted on how long RadioShack bulbs last in this application, provided I keep a car long enough to really evaluate it. The bulbs have lasted 1.5 years and are still going strong in the 97 we're selling. I'm planning on doing the repair (with RS bulbs) in the 98 we just bought, and perhaps we'll keep this car awhile (I say this knowing that eventually the right GT will show up at the right price and we'll go through the upgrading process again).

#19 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 02:02 PM

Hmmm...looks like this thread might be done?

#20 Guest_shortlid_*

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Posted 25 December 2001 - 01:06 PM

This must be a big problem seems like you guys have been dealing with it for awhile. Does anyone on the group know anymore about the life span of the Radio Shack bulbs as compared to the OEM??? The OEM only lasted five years in our '98 Ru!!! the Re-circ. light went out on our car and as you can see from my previous post and I AM going to replace ALL the bulbs when I do it.

#21 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 25 December 2001 - 01:08 PM

I know on the Legacy they don't seem to last long (OEM that is), at least not the original bulbs they were using in 95. Dealer said this was a pretty common issue.

#22 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 26 December 2001 - 10:14 AM

I heard from my dealer that this is pretty common as well.

shortlid - I recall you asking about the recirc light. I'm not sure how "changeable" this one is. I recall the dealer telling me that if the indicator lights below the ventilation buttons ever go, one needs a new unit since these are LED's hardwired right in. I'm not sure if the recirc button light falls into this category as well or not.

For those of us with heated seats, apparently the bulb that lights the icon is not replaceable either. Again, the dealer told me that they had torn one apart and there was nothing to be done with it (except to replace the whole thing). When I installed my stereo, I noticed that the two switches were not the same. I suspect the former owner had one changed. One of mine does not light up. A bit annoying, but I just live with it. At least it is not staring me in the face constantly as a dash light does.


Edit - As you can see below, my dealer was not fully up to snuff on the heater switch. Are they correct about the indicator lights below the ventilation buttons? I don't know. You'll have to ask someone else, or just tear into it and find out.

#23 Guest_shortlid_*

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Posted 28 December 2001 - 01:39 PM

I certainly hope not, that would make me really MAD if Subaru had these unreliable lights in the Climate control system and they were not replaceable without buying the whole unit!!! please someone tell me it isn't so before I rip the dash apart!!

#24 Guest_CincyBuckeye_*

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Posted 29 December 2001 - 02:06 AM

Actually I must disagree with your dealer on the switches for the heated seats, Commuter. The 98 Outback we recently bought had (as usual) all climate control bulbs out, as well as all buttons for the seat heaters unlit. We also have the windshield wiper heated strip that has a switch there too, and its bulb was also burned out.

It is not an easy task to replace the bulbs in the seat heater switches, but it is 100% possible. From memory, I did it as follows (sorry, I didn't take any pictures while I did the repairs a few weeks ago):

1) Remove the assembly around the emergency brake & disconnect the wires from the switches.

2) Pop out a switch from its hole by compressing the two tabs holding it in from the back.

3) Be brave (you are now dismantling the switch assembly) but careful and open the switch by prying loose the tabs near the end of the switch that hold the housing together. Be careful not to lose the sliding portion within the switch.

4) Inside the switch, you will see two mini bulbs. Mine were in white rubber assemblies. The base of the white rubber slides down over two metal contacts. While I had the switch apart, I plugged it in to test which bulb worked and which didn't. You activate or deactivate the switch by touching the slider piece to the contacts. One of the bulbs is towards the end of the switch (the "on" indicator bulb), and one is more centered. This is the one that lights the icon, and was burned out on all 3 of our switches. Once you have determined which bulb(s) to replace, take the burned out bulb & slide its rubber assembly off its contacts. I didn't keep track of polarity, so I can't say for certain that it matters in this application.

5) The same type of Radio Shack mini-bulb (#7219 - 12v, 60mA) can be fit into the rubber assembly to replace the burned out bulb. In this situation, I doubt the dealer will have the parts, since it involves physically opening the switch assembly to get at the bulb. If you don't want to try the Radio Shack bulbs, feel free to seek other sources (but please post them here if you succeed!). I really love the little bulbs from Radio Shack because they're cheap & apparently work in many dashboard applications in a Subaru. To use the RS bulbs, just unwrap the OEM bulb wires from the rubber base (keep track of the path the wires follow), and replace the OEM bulb with a new mini-bulb. The RS bulb has 2 wires that will pass through the 2 small holes in the bottom of the rubber base, and from there you can wrap the wires through the base along the path the original wires followed. Make sure to include the wrap of the wire through the holes where the rubber base slides over the metal posts to establish electrical contact for the bulb. Trim the wires to fit, and slide the rubber base back over its metal posts. At this point, I tested the bulbs again before reassembling the switch housing. All was well, so I put things back together (next step).

6) To put the switch back together, the only key step is getting the sliding piece back in correctly and lined up with the part of the rocker switch that makes it move back and forth. The slider can only be oriented correctly as long as you make sure that the little stick on top of it interfaces with the "C" shaped part inside the bottom of the rocker switch to allow it to move back & forth. Study the motion of the rocker & the direction the "C" will slide the arm of the slider to make sure that rocking the switch will slide the slider forward to bridge both sets of contacts it glides over. I know this may sound complicated, but when you see the switch components, hopefully their workings will be clear. I'm no Mensa member, so chance are that others can figure the switch out pretty easily too. I've tried to sketch a crude assembly schematic in "Paint" that may help. With the pieces carefully aligned (best done with the little stick of the slider in approximately the center of switch), snap the switch housing back together so that pressing the rocker will cause the slider to move & the contacts to glide over the contact parts on the switch.

<img src="http://www.med.uc.edu/pstp/students/fortner/images/rocker.gif" border="0" width="249" height="140" />

7) Verify that the switch still rocks back & forth properly. If it does not, take it apart again and make sure the stick of the slider fits in the "C" socket of the rocker. I plugged the switch in again and checked that both bulbs still worked before I pushed the switch back in place in its hole in the center molding.

8) Enjoy being able to see your switches for your heated seats and/or wipers when it's dark.

#25 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 29 December 2001 - 03:13 AM

Ok remind me to archive this thread!!!

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