1996 Lexus ES 300: Gauge Lights Fixed
February 18, 2013
You're looking at the almost-like-new gauge cluster on our long-term 1996 Lexus ES 300. The lights had been in a slow state of deterioration and had even gotten worse than when Brent Romans, first pointed out that they were fading.
It was most evident on the speedometer dial, where nothing was visible up to the 80 mph mark. I generally kept up with traffic and if I saw the speedometer needle, I knew I was going too fast. Clearly, this needed to be fixed.
The last mechanic we went to said he wasn't able to repair it. Too specialized, I suppose. We had also seen someone on eBay who claimed he could repair it for $99, but we would have had to take out the gauge cluster ourselves and ship it to him. Who knows how long we'd be without the car?
My colleague, Phil Reed, thought of calling Sean McMullan, a paintless dent remover, who he interviewed for this article. McMullan has a network of mechanics he trusts and refers people to. He referred us to Alberto Garcia, owner of A&M Motors in West Los Angeles.
We took the Lexus to A&M Motors and a few hours later, we got a call from Alberto. He replaced eight bulbs behind the gauges at a cost of about $2 each plus labor. We'll still have to deal with the flickering and partially lit needle, though. According to Alberto, that component has a different circuit board and he would have to send it out to a specialist. I think we can manage with a needle light show.
We also asked Alberto to take a quick look at the engine and mentioned that the car wouldn't idle properly on cold starts. He noticed a disconnected vacuum line. It either came loose or wasn't re-attached when the O2 sensor was fixed. We hope this finally solves that issue.
The total cost with labor: $111.53
Days out of service: 0
Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 153,549 miles