How to Take Off a Car Dashboard

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Removing the dashboard, or instrument panel, from the inside of a car is a complex process. It's sometimes necessary to undertake this task, for instance, to reach objects deep inside the engine compartment like the heater core. Nearly every instrument and panel in the front of the car is connected to the dashboard in some way, so all the piece must be removed. The exact number of parts you must take off varies according to car.

Things You'll Need

  • Trim stick Wrenches
  • Turn the front wheels so they face straight ahead, lock the steering column and apply the parking brake. Disconnect the negative battery cable and disable all airbags in the car.

  • Remove the trim pieces that border the seating compartments along the front doors. This includes the panels along the floorboards and windshield.

  • Detach and remove the wheel from the steering column. If the wheel has an airbag, disconnect it by unscrewing the covered fasteners on the sides, lifting off the airbag module and unplugging its electrical connectors. Remove the bolt securing the steering shaft and mark the wheel's exact position on the shaft. Unplug the electrical in the middle of the clock spring terminal and lift the wheel off the shaft.

  • Remove the car's center console. Pry off the trim bezel around the gear shift, then remove all trim panels and the console itself. Most of these are screwed on, including screws located inside the console's glove box. You also may need to remove the gear shift's lever knob.

  • Take off the instrument cluster above the steering column. Detach the cluster bezel by prying around the panel and removing the clips. Remove the cluster's mounting screws, pull the cluster out of the dashboard and unplug its electrical connector. Remove the fastener that secures the cowl's top bracket from inside the cluster's opening.

  • Disconnect all electrical connectors underneath the dashboard on both sides. This includes the bulkhead connector on the driver's side and the antenna connector on the passenger's side.

  • Pull out all heating/air conditioning vents if they can be removed with the dashboard in place.

  • Pry off the end caps on the sides of the dashboard with the trim stick. Remove the retaining fasteners under these end caps and at the center support. Detach any other electrical connectors that can interfere with the removal.

  • Pull the dashboard out away from the engine compartment. This might require two people.

Tips & Warnings

  • Moving the front seats all the way back gives you more room to work. Removing the driver's seat works even better.

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