1999 Chevrolet Suburban, Replacing Instrument Cluster & HVAC Illumination Bulbs

This 1999 Chevrolet Suburban came in with the complaint that most of the instrument cluster.

Also the  HVAC control head panel illumination bulbs do not work. Since a couple of them did work, I did not have to worry about fuses and switches being the problem. Just blown bulbs.

Disassembly starts with grasping the edges of the instrument cluster trim panel and pulling it loose from the dash carrier.

With the panel loose there are switches that need to be disconnected. The headlight switch connector has a locking tab that needs to be depressed before the connector can be removed from the switch.

A closer look at the locking tab. If this Suburban was a pickup truck there could be more switches at the right side of the instrument cluster. Also if it were 4wd there would be a switch in that location as well.

With all of the switches disconnected the trim panel is ready for removal. The key has to be switched on. The shifter handle has to be placed in the D1 position. The steering column has to be tilted fully down. The wide plate just above the instrument panel opening will need to be flexed down to clear the dash carrier.

There are four 7 mm headed screws that have to be removed in order to remove the cluster form the dash carrier.

The harness connectors that are at the right side of the next picture would be for 4wd, cargo lights and rear hatch release switches. If this vehicle had those options.  With all four mounting screws removed the instrument cluster assembly will pull away from the dash carrier and then slide out towards the driver’s door.

The illumination  bulbs for the instrument cluster are the bulbs with the larger bases. The bulbs are different from one side to the other. The driver’s side of the cluster assembly has gray bases with 194 bulbs.

The passenger side of the cluster assembly has black bases and use 161 bulbs.


All of the illumination bulbs have the letters ILL next to them.

In this vehicle the bulbs are removable from the bases. In some models they may not because the leads are welded in place. They will be listed as PC161 and PC194 in the application guides.

Rather than removing the HVAC controls and risk the locking tabs breaking off (happens quite often with old brittle plastic), I prefer to remove the radio instead. there are push down levers that will release the radio assembly.

I then reach in and  change the bulbs that are located along the top edge. There are four bulbs and they are spaced evenly along the top inside edge.

These bulbs also pull out of their bases.

They can be quite difficult to remove and I sometimes use pliers to grip the bulb. It is a fine line between enough pressure to pull the bulb out of the base and crushing the glass.

I also try to gently lift the contact tabs on either side of the bulb bases. This ensures a better connection between the bulb base and the printed circuit board.

Now we have dash lights.

And lights for the HVAC controls.

Be sure to check the bulb operation before completely reassembly the dash. You may need to use a towel or blanket to cover the dash and block any external light sources.

2 discussions on “1999 Chevrolet Suburban, Replacing Instrument Cluster & HVAC Illumination Bulbs”

  1. Concur witH previous comment. Very professionally described and at a level the layman (me) can understand. Thank you for taking the time to do this for us.
    Niceville, FL

  2. Outstanding post – truly professional and well done. Perhaps including the total number of 194 and 161 bulbs required to do a complete replacement might also be of value. Again, we’ll done. Highest Regards, AJL, The Woodlands, Tx.

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