Usually, when you insert your car key into the keyhole and turn on the ignition, the dashboard lights will appear. The dashboard features several lights that indicate your car’s health and conditions. It gives you a glimpse of what’s going on with your vehicle.
But what if there are no lights when I turn the key but car starts? This can happen for several reasons. In this article, I’ll explain these reasons and how to address the issue.
However, you need to understand that there’s a distinction between when the dashboard lights go out, and the car doesn’t start and when there are no lights on the dashboard but the car starts. I’ll explain these scenarios and why each of them occurs.
What Causes Dashboard Lights to go Out?
The two most common reasons there are no dashboard lights and the car doesn’t start are a bad ignition switch and a dead battery. The car battery supplies all the power needed to run all electrical components in a vehicle, including the dash lights. If the battery is dead, there will be no lights on the dashboard.
Bad ignition switch
The ignition switch is a crucial component that connects the circuit that tells the starter motor to crank when you turn the key. However, it does much more than that. It lets you turn the key to ACC mode and start the car.
But can a bad ignition switch cause no dash lights? If the dashboard lights are not coming on, try and confirm if the ACC mode is turned on. A lousy ignition switch may prevent the key from turning to the ACC mode. If nothing happens when you turn the key but the battery is fine, check the ignition switch.
Check your car battery if the dashboard light stays off and the car doesn’t start. You mostly likely have a dead car battery. A dead car battery is typically the root cause if the dash lights are not working, but fuses are good.
The car battery supplies all electricity needed to start the car and power all electrical car system components. If the car battery is weak, the dashboard light will be dim, and you will hear a clicking sound as you try to start the car. But if the battery is completely dead, the dash lights will be completely off, and you won’t hear any sound as you turn the ignition.
If your car won’t start, no lights, no power, check the battery. A dead battery is the only thing that will cause this problem. All you need to fix this problem is to jump-start the car or replace the battery.
No Dash Lights when I turn the Key But Car Starts: Possible Causes
The most common reason there are no dash lights when you turn the key but the car starts is a blown fuse. The dashboard light fuse is designed to protect the bulbs and gauges on the dashboard from damage due to a power surge. However, other common issues include burnt bulbs, dimmer light switches, and wiring issues.
Your dash bulbs are worn out.
Most dashboard bulbs can wear out after a certain time and stop working. While it is rare for all dash bulbs to wear out at the same time, it can be the cause. But if some part of the dashboard is not showing light, you surely have a blown dashboard bulb.
However, these problems are more prominent in older vehicles with incandescent bulbs that will likely wear out over time. Modern cars now use LED bulbs on the dash, which are less likely to damage over time.
You have a blown fuse.
Fuses are shields that protect crucial system components from blowing up due to power surges. They take the shot whenever anything goes south in the system, preventing the primary component they protect from damage.
For instance, if there’s a power surge that could blow up something on the dashboard, the fuse will take the shot. This prevents the electric flow from getting to the dashboard. Fuses blow more often than the component they are protecting.
With this in mind, a blown fuse is the most common reason the dashboard lights are out, but the car starts and hurdles down the road and nothing happens.
Your dimmer switch is active.
If you mistakenly turn down the dimmer switch, the dashboard light may become so dim that you may think the lights are not coming on, especially during the day. The dimmer switch is responsible for lowering or raising the brightness of the light bulbs on the dashboard. So, if the lights are off during the day or they are dim, you may have activated the dimmer switch.
You have wiring issues.
All electrical system components in your car, including the dashboard light bulbs, receive or send power via wires. If the wires connecting to the dashboard bulbs are broken, the lights will go off. While this is not a common problem, you should inspect the wires, especially if you did work on the dashboard areas. It could also be that you have a loose connection.
What to do if your car has no dash lights
The only best way to fix this problem is to determine the root cause of the problem. You’ll need one or more of the following to fix the underlying problem.
Replace or charge the battery.
Test the battery voltage if there’s no light and power to the dashboard. If the test confirms the battery is faulty, charge or replace it. That’s all you need to resolve the issues. Remember, a weak battery will dim the dashboard light and give a clicking sound as you turn the key to start the vehicle.
Replace blown fuses
Check the fuse if everything else on the car works fine, but there’s no light on the dashboard. Okay, I get it. I know you will be wondering which fuse is for dashboard lights. The dashboard light fuse is located in the box fuse, which is either close to the glove box, underneath the dashboard, or in the engine bay.
Each fuse box cover has a diagram that shows what each fuse and relay is protecting. The diagram will point you to the dashboard light fuse. Once you locate the fuse, swap it with another fuse of the same amperage and see if the dashboard will bring light. If the dashboard lights up, then you have to replace the blown fuse.
Replace dashboard light bulbs.
If the lights on some parts of the dashboard are not lit while other parts are, you have blown bulbs or IC issues. To fix this, you have to remove the instrument cluster and replace the dead bulb. I recommend having a certified auto electrician handle this task.
Turn off the dimmer switch.
If the dashboard light doesn’t show only in the afternoon or it is dim, it could be the dimmer switch. Look at the switch and see if you mistakenly turned it down. If you did, return the switch to the old configuration, and the dashboard lights will appear.
Replace the ignition switch.
If the ignition light is not coming on, there’s no power, and the key won’t turn, you have a bad ignition switch. The most feasible solution here is to replace the faulty switch. You can either have your mechanic change it or do it yourself.
This article has outlined several possible causes to the discussion ‘no dash lights when I turn the key but car starts”. However, it is essential to run a thorough diagnosis before pointing accusing fingers. From the possible causes above, start the diagnosis from the most common and easy-to-fix problem. In this case, I recommend you start by checking the battery, dimmer, and fuses before heading to other possible causes.