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Old 08-02-2012
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Default Switches Gone Dark? Here's The Fix/Upgrade (for 97+)

Here's how to re-light those rocker switches in your center console that have gone dark.
If your Rear Defrost/ Rear Wiper / Fog Light switch(s) have lost their illumination, I've got an upgrade that doesn't involve a trip to the dealer or the junkyard.
>
If your unfamiliar on how to get access to these switches, I'll give a brief description, but left the pics out of the first few steps of this as it's pretty self explanatory.
-First, pull the center bezel of the dash off, this is the large trim piece that goes around the stereo, heater controls, and the switch panel we'll be working on. It's only held on with spring clips and it shouldn't take too much force to get it free.
-Once that's out, you'll have access to the three screws that hold the switch panel to the dash. Remove those three screws, and the panel will be loose.
-Next remove all the plugs from the various switches, and the power socket/cigarette lighter. You should at this point be able to take the switch panel to your bench to work on:


-The switches are held in place by two little tabs, one top, one on the bottom. A small flat blade screw driver will get one tab undone, BE CAREFUL, the plastic is a little thin in this spot, so watch out for how much you pry here:


-Just getting the head of the tool under the flap will give you enough room to rock the switch out of its location. Now that the switch is free you'll have an easier time handling/working with it. Although this whole procedure can "probably" be done with the switch in the panel, it;s much easier to have it "in-hand."


-The switch I have here is the rear defrost, there are two light-ports (not sure of the correct technical name for these) on this particular switch, one if for the illumination, one is for the indicator (little orange light letting you know the rear defrost is ON) For this thread we'll be dealing with only the one for the illumination. If I remember correctly it's the one on the bottom.


-They are of the twist lock type, and can simply be removed by twisting them out of the socket. There's a thin recess thru the middle of the top of the twist lock similar to a flat head screw, use a small screw driver to turn it about a quarter turn , and it should be free. A pair of pliers can also be used.


The bulb is rather small, and yes it is a bulb. The little blue condom type wrapper on it is to change the color of the switch illumination to something that more closely resembles the instrument cluster lights.



The leads are wrapped around the base from the top into small indentations to keep them in place and to create contacts on the same side of the "locking" part if the base. These can easily be undone with a sharp pick-tool or good pointy knife (be careful.) In this picture below I have unraveled/unseated the leads and have removed the blue bulb cover.


Once done the bulb simply pulls out from the housing and can be replaced. This in lies the problem, as no parts store (I tried 5 different ones in my area -Knechts, Shucks/Oriely, Auto Zone, Napa, Car Quest) all didn't have anything that came anywhere close to a replacement for this, and several told me that I'd have a hard time finding just the bulb from a dealer, and that they'd more than likely try so get me to buy a replacement switch. -this of course made sense - but I had a better idea.
__________________________________________________ _______________

Thanks to several minutes of digging around in the parts bins at my local Radio Shack I had a solution. L.E.D.'s!!!
Now there's really no need to go all crazy here with colors but if that's your thing then feel free to go sick. I kept it simple and tasteful with plain ol' fashioned white:


A 5mm, high brightness, 3.3v-4v white LED - sold in packages of two for around 2 bucks and some change. And their lead spacing makes them a good fit for the base/housing.


-They don't sit "inside" it like the bulbs did but they do sit right up against the edge nice and flush.


-Wrap ONE of the leads around the base in the same way that the bulb's were. (just follow the grooves.)


-Now trim it to length (so that there's no excess.)


-Be sure to go around and press the leads as close the housing and into the grooves as much as possible. When your done the ONE finished lead should look like this:


-Now I know what you're thinking - "WAIT Jeeps run on 12 volts not 3, you're gonna blow up those LED's!!" -your right, but here's how we get around that. Little things called resistors. Resistors are like electron flow choke points, and depending on their value will add a certain amount of resistance to the flow of electrons (voltage) passing thru a circuit. In our case its the 12v illumination supply to the switch. For this project we'll need approximately 300-400ohms to do the trick. I just so happen to have some 390ohm resistors laying around which is right about perfect and a standard resistance rating. (you'll be able to get these at radio shack too) - And this is why we left one lead out and un-touched. Dont worry too much about polarity here as the housing can be installed either way.
>
-Take the resistor and lay one lead down thru the groove on the edge of the housing as if it was one of the leads of the LED, you'll only want about an 1/8 of an inch of lead sticking up above the hosing and the body of the resistor:


-Then wrap the remaining lead (sticking down to the bulb side) back around to the top, just like the old leads (or just like the other side - same difference.)


-Trim the lead to length, just like you did on the other side, being sure to press the lead down into the grooves and as close to the hosing as possible. Now we turn our attention to the the rest of the lead, the part on the other side of the resistor body. Give the two leads sticking up (the remaining one of the LED, and the remaining lead of the resistor) a little twist, just to create a mechanical connection.


-This of course will not work as is, so a little solder is added just to ensure these don't ever come apart:


-Keep everything as tight as possible, we don't need a half inch of twisted soldered lead hanging off this thing here. Trim off the excess leads right up to the point of the solder.


-Now give it a little protection, just a small piece of trimmed electrical tape will do. You could also try heat shrink tubing (preferred - i just didn't have any) or you could even try some hot glue, just use sparingly.


-Fold the resistor and soldered lead down to the housing, keeping clear of the other lead end as much as possible, and leaving yourself a little room to get to that slot (remember the one you used a small crew driver in to twist this thing out in the beginning?) re-install the new LED/Housing back into the switch, using a little downward pressure and a firm turn:

__________________________________________________ _______________

It'll be easy to test your work at this point, just take the switch over to the harness in the jeep and plug it in, turn your lights on and check to see your now fully illuminated switch. - Mine didn't match the other one (the rear wiper) as it still had a filament style bulb in it (with that blue condom on it.) The LED's light was , of course white, and the stock one was more of that blueish-green.

Well this wouldn't do, So I did the same mod to the other switch, and they now match and look amazing!

I really like the look of this clean, white illumination, and with the resistor, its not a hyper-LED look, it looks OEM, and more modern.




I'm planning on doing this to the entire dash including the heater controls, as well as the instrument cluster in the very near future.
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Default Re: Switches Gone Dark? Here's The Fix/Upgrade (for 97+)

Looks great! Awesome write up! Thanks for sharing!
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