Do it yourself?
First of all: what we’re talking about today will sound familiar to each and everyone of you. But certainly not everyone is able to fix the faults described here on their own. Either because the car you drive and its design means that you can’t fix faulty displays just like that, or because you lack technical skills. That’s not something to be ashamed of; some people would rather leave electronic components alone, are all thumbs – or simply don’t want to invest the time. So if you’re not sure and can’t find decent instructions for your model on the web or in any relevant forums, it’s best to take your instrument panel and faulty display to a garage for repair. You can get a warranty there, and if they break something it will be replaced
Loss of information
But those who have been following the slow death of individual pixels in their displays and are bold enough to have a go themselves may well be very successful, spending very little time and money in the process. Let me spark your curiosity with two small info displays on an old Mercedes from 2001. That series features a large, central display for various information that can be controlled from the steering wheel. It’s usually OK and I don’t have to do anything with it. But to its left and right there are two small pixel lights which reveal in classic amber the outside temperature on the left and the gear used and the time on the right. This is not vital information so you put up with this partial failure for many weeks, if not months. But at some point the perfectionist in me came through after all, because if it’s there I want it to work – even though I can check the temperature in an app and the time on my wrist. Those two pixel graveyards just annoy me; I’m constantly looking at them. And I’m starting to get an idea about how to deal with the problem. Because depending on the outside temperature the problem is sometimes more and sometimes less bad. So maybe I can fix it?
Conductor foil can be reattached
Of course only people who have learned how to deal with electronic components, printed circuit boards and soldering stations can actually do it. Sometimes the solution is a lot simpler though, and if you have pretty much nothing to lose anymore (because the displays are already completely unreadable), some vehicle types also allow you an unconventional way of repairing pixel faults in displays. In the case of the Mercedes, the instrument panel can be pulled out with two long hooks, and once the front protective glass has been carefully removed, you can reach the back of the pc board. You can immediately see the problem there – the multi-core conductor foil, which controls the individual pixels, telling them to go on or off, is glued onto the contacts. This adhesive will detach over the years, and the foil lifts and has no or only sporadic contact with the pc board. With a good hair dryer or a hot air gun this adhesive can be carefully heated and “reactivated” and the foil reattached using a little pressure. Once you put the pc board back in and press it down with a piece of rubber, both displays will work a treat once again like on the first day – if you’re lucky.
There’s always better and more expensive
Depending on the car model, new conductor foils are offered on the web which replace the old ones and can be skillfully soldered on the narrow contacts. However, this requires a little more experience but is still significantly cheaper than having them looked at in a garage. And at the end of the day they don’t do anything different there. So if you have pixel faults in your instrument panel or on other parts of the dashboard, why not look into whether they’d be easy to fix. In my car it wasn’t a problem; it took me about an hour. And when you have the instrument panel out anyway, make sure to also replace the lamps. We at Osram will certainly have the right ones for you. Fall is coming faster than you would like and then we want everything to be nicely illuminated again, don’t we?