Car Doctor Q&A: My Acura’s Odometer Is On the Fritz

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Used to be that odometers were mechanical and pretty reliable. Now that they’re electronic, they can be problematic, especially at sale time. Luckily, AAA’s Car Doctor has a solution and it’s pretty easy.

Q. I have a 2003 Acura 3.5RL and the odometer and outside temperature illumination on the dashboard is not working, most of the time. Every once in a while it works for a minute or so. I have had repair shops tell me it is the bulbs others tell me the entire instrument panel needs replacement.

Here is my problem: If I sell my car I need to put down the correct mileage. Having unknown mileage seriously affects the value of the car. Can you give me some ideas of what could be wrong?

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A. I agree that having a car for sale with unknown mileage limits its appeal to many buyers. If you don’t fix it, you may have to check the “True Mileage Unknown” box on the title, which could impact its value for the next owner, too.

It sounds like your issue is with the odometer backlight on the LCD panel. The numerals on the Acura are white, and in order to get them to light up, there’s a bulb that backlights the LCD and it fails over time, rendering the numbers unreadable.

Your issue is with a small circuit board called the Print Panel. We looked up the part and we’re pretty confident that it’s Part Number 78146-SZ3-003, but there are a couple of print panels behind the gauge cluster. Verify with an Acura parts provider that you’re getting the right one. While you’re at it, you can replace the bulbs at the same time ( 78180-SZ3-003). You’ll need four of those.

You’ll need to remove the instrument panel surround by locating the two screws that hold it in place, and gently prying the entire panel surround to release the plastic clips.

Remove all the connectors for every wiring harness behind the panel surround and you can remove the entire panel surround completely.

Four screws hold the gauge panel in place. Remove those and the entire cluster comes out. Unplug the gauge cluster from the wiring harness and the whole cluster comes out.

Once you have the cluster removed, release all the white clips holding the cover on behind the cluster.

From there, you simply swap out the old Print Panel for the new one, and reassemble the dash.

There’s a great video describing the process below. There may be some subtle differences because the video describes the process for a similar year Acura TL, but just verify the part numbers with an Acura dealer and you should be able to replace the whole print panel by the time your coffee gets cold on a Saturday morning.

Good luck and let us know how you made out.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.