Backing into Success

Last week, the clock/radio display in my car stopped working. I drive a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, and the clock/radio display is separate from the radio, sitting at the top of the dash, above the center vents (which are in turn above the radio). I decided to try and fix it yesterday, and managed to succeed in spite of myself.

Although the display didn’t work, the stereo continued to work. I had hoped the issue was just a blown fuse. After opening the fuse panel, I realized I didn’t know which of the 15 or so fuses to check. Instead of pulling each one, I ran in the house to find my owner’s manual. Ten minutes of searching later, I returned to the car, manual in hand, only to remember that the fusebox diagram is on the back of the fusebox panel cover. If I’d flipped the panel cover over when I removed it, I would have saved 10 minutes. Oops.

Upon reviewing the diagram and attempting to decode the hieroglyphics that are used in place of English, I didn’t see a fuse for the clock. I did see an extra fuse not labeled in the diagram. Of course, that fuse wasn’t blown. I also checked the radio fuse (even though the radio worked), what looked like the dashboard fuse (although the dash lights worked), and some fuse with a transistor icon (engine computer, I’d guess). No blown fuses.

At this point my only other hope was for a loose wire between the stero unit and the display unit. Checking for this meant getting inside the dash. Never a fun proposition in any car, I was fairly hopeful since the center dash portion of the Eclipse is a separate piece. After removing two screws down near the gearshift, the console cover lifted up and out.

I was on a roll, until I realized that I still couldn’t get to the display unit, which had a special cover that extends up and into the main dash. After spending 5 minutes looking for a way to remove this cover, I found the back moved a bit if I pulled a certain way. Five minutes after that, I had moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat, and managed to get the back of the cover to just pop out. After some more experimentation, I finally figured out the whole thing just “clipped” into place. With enough force applied to pull on it, it eventually popped out.

I removed the display, only to find the single cable connector block was securely attached. I removed the stereo, and found all cables securely attached there as well. I eventually disassembled the entire display unit, and could find no issues. Sensing defeat, I started putting everything back together.

Fortunately, this proved easy. After returning the stereo and display to their places and checking all cabling, I popped the display cover back in just as it came off, and put the center console cover back in place. Still seated in the passenger seat, I put the two screws at the bottom of the panel back. That’s when I saw it.

The Eclipse’s central dash extends down into the center console, which runs between the two front seats. Just in front of the shifter and below the screw I was replacing, on the passenger side, sits the cigarette lighter, pointed upward. In my car, the socket is always empty, ready to accept a cell phone charger. Inside the socket, I could see a dime, which I couldn’t see from the driver’s seat. At that point, everything fell into place.

After removing the dime and completing re-assembly, I turned the ignition and confirmed the display was still not working. I then checked the fuse for the cigarette lighter, which was of course blown. One replacement fuse later, I turned the ignition and watched the clock display spring to life. Had I checked that fuse when I started, I would have saved the better part of an hour. Oops.

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4 Responses to “Backing into Success”

  1. David Says:

    Thank you thank you, my center display went out and I checked the same fuses that you did, but not the cigarette lighter. I was about to going searching for the problem but decided to first check the internet to see if there was a solution and sure enough there is. Yes!! it is now working thanks


  2. Bill Waller Says:

    Thank you so much. This is my sons car and it was driving me crazy. I knew this was acting like a blown fuse but they were all good. I was at a dead end until I found your article and had the exact problems as you did. Thanks, you saved me a lot more time troubleshooting and probably money cause I would not have thought of the cigeratte lighter fuse. I’ll remember this, as I’m sure my son will. Bill

  3. Lori Says:

    Mine was a penny. It rolled into the open lighter and it took me a few tries to get it out. Then when I re-started the car, the display and mirrors were not working.

    After a small argument with my husband – he was not convinced the penny had anything to do with it. We checked almost all of the fuses.

    I said I was going to look online, maybe there was something out there. He continued to check other things.

    When I found your post, he admitted to not checking the lighter fuse. Lo and behold – when it was changed, everything started working again.

  4. Sivaguru Kumaresan Says:

    My display is off too! I have not yet checked if there’s something stuck in my lighter socket. Hope there is something stuck there!! :)THank you so much for posting this article!