1998 Toyota Camry

1998 Toyota Camry 4 cyl Two Wheel Drive Automatic 106500 miles

Hello Bob & Ken,

The Instrument Panel on my Toyota Camry suddenly went dead. The Speedometer, Tachometer, Odometer does not operate. The car itself runs just fine. A couple of questions with regard to this issue

1. What could be the issue and what could have caused it all of a sudden?
2. Is it something easy to repair and which kind of mechanic should I refer this problem to?
3. If I need to replace the entire unit, can you please advise me the approximate costs?

Many thanks in advance. Again.

February 11, 2009.


Thank you for visiting and your donation. Before we go any further, let me ask you a couple of questions.
1. You said the instrument panel went dead. The Speedometer, Tachometer, Odometer does not operate.

Now, what about all other instrument panel operations? When you first turn the key on right before starting the engine, do you see any other gauges (fuel, temperature, oil) and/or other lights (brake, airbag, abs, etc) light up? Also, when you turn on the headlamps, is the panel illuminated?

2. Are there any other system affected (example: dome light, cigarette lighter, etc)

Now, to start answering your questions:

While it is not common it is not unheard of, power surge sometimes do occur. You may have inadvertently left a few circuits stayed on the last time you turn off the vehicle (example: you may have left the AC/heater, wipers, something was probably attached to the cigarette lighter), so when you turn the key today, the least powerful fuse "sacrificed" itself in order to protect all the electronics and electrical connections. So I want you to check is a few fuses under the dash and under the hood.

No need to pay a technician to do this. Just open the instrument panel junction box (fuse panel) under the driver side dash to look for gauge, panel, and ignition fuses. The diagram should be on the inside of the cover, and go under the hood junction box 2 (fuse panel), left side of engine compartment and look for dome fuse. One or may two of the fuses explained has/have burned out.

You don't need the entire panel, just one may be two fuses. Depending on the amperage of the fuses, you may have to replace two different sizes. You local parts store should carry a few different options for you. You will probably need one these combinations: 5A and 7.5A , 5A and 10A, 2 7.5A, or 7.5A and 10A. If you need 2 7.5A fuses, just purchase a pack of 5 7.5A for around $3. All other combination, they should have a multi-pack for about $4.

Let me know what you find out.

Feb 12, 2009.
Hello Zackman,

Your response is spot on and easy to understand for a layman like me. It turned out that the Guage Fuse (10A) had blown while all others were intact.
Fortunately there was a spare 10A fuse under the hood and after I replaced it everything started working like before.
However, the " Check Engine" light comes on and stays on.
What did I do wrong? Can you suggest a fix for this problem too?

Thanks and appreciate your expertise on the subject that helped me out.


Feb 13, 2009.
Hello Zack,

I hope you received my previous response. However as many suggested in the forums, I got the diagnostic code for the 'Check Engine Light" and it turned out to be P0500, which means a faulty speed sensor. When I explained the background to the mechanic, he told me that there should be no problem with the sensor since each time a fuse blows, it sends a signal to the computer. He told me to disconnect the battery and it should go away.

However, when I was returning back, the panel went dead again and I replaced the 10A guage fuse (all others were intact) as it had blown again.

What I am seeing is that when I started the car after replacing the fuse, there was no 'Check Engine' light anymore, but the moment I shifted the gear to 'Drive', the fuse blew off once again.

There seems to be a electrical issue and I once more need your expert advise & guidance to resolve this.

Many thanks in advance and a good weekend.


Feb 13, 2009.
Toyota ECM uses 2-Trip Logic Diagnostic for certain check engine light codes. P0500 is one of them. In a nutshell, it means that if the ECM "sees" a code, it will store it in the DTC, but will not turn the check engine light. If it sees the code again the next cycle the car is running, then it will turn the check engine light on, providing that the ignition is turned off and then turned back on. In your case, that is why the check engine light is on the next time right after the fuse was replaced.

Your mechanic was partly correct when he said that the speed sensor sends signal to the computer. But he is incorrect when he said there was nothing wrong with the sensor each time the fuse blows.

That fuse also sends power to the speed sensor. I believe that your sensor is faulty and grounds itself once the shifter is moved to "D" thus powering the sensor.

Feb 16, 2009.
Hi Dinkar,

I am still not 100% well, but I am getting better. Don't worry about how many questions you have. I am here to help as much as I can, so you can take care of your vehicle. So, to answer your questions,

1. Since I aam not a handy person, what should I tell the mechanic at the repair shop to look for and fix? Also, what are the approximate costs if I have to go for a VSS replacement?

***Tell the mechanic that you are having an electrical problem having to do with the VSS circuit. Every time you shift the gear out of park, the fuse blows. Show him which fuse. I can provide you with the wiring diagram if he doesn't have one. But I do need to know if you have engine immobilizer or traction control (diagrams are different). Make sure that the mechanic checks the wiring and performs the diagnostic procedure that I have outlined before replacing the sensor. It is quite pricy. Here is an example of the VSS available online at

That is of course in US dollars. Based on your email address, you are from India. You may need convert to your Rupee or get one locally, if there is one.***

2. If I decide to defer the repair for now, is it safe enough to drive the car for short distances (within the town)? Will this issue cause any further damage OR will the battery drain out and then the car fails to start?

***Other than the annoyance of non-operating instrument panel, I don't believe it may cause any damage to your vehicle. That fuse is only active when the key is at ON position, therefore it will not drain your battery even if the VSS is not replaced.***

Feb 19, 2009.
Hello Zack,

Hope all is well with you.

I wanted to give you an update and also seek your further opinion on this issue. Sorry for the long e-mail, but some background might help you better.

1. After you had told me what the issue could be, I had the VSS replaced at the local garage in April. This worked for about 3 weeks without any issue, after which one day the panel went dead after the fuse blew over. I checked the fuse and was shocked and find out that the mechanic had replaced the 10A fuse with a 20A fuse. I replaced the fuse with a 10A fuse and had the ‘Check Engine’ light reset at the local Auto Zone shop. I took the car back to the mechanic and told him to schedule an appointment to diagnose the issue, since the VSS was still under warranty.
2. About 3 weeks ago, before the scheduled appointment, my wife drove the car to the grocery and when she was returning, the car would not start. We had it towed it to the mechanic and we discovered that the battery had drained. The battery (Interstate) was barely 15 months old. My mechanic after diagnosing the issue told me that the alternator was producing only about 6V and hence the battery was not charging adequately. I had the alternator & battery replaced. The mechanic also tested the VSS and told me that it was producing the desired voltage and did not need replacement. I was told that the issue was with the alternator and the fuse wouldn’t blow over again.
3. Everything was working well till today. The fuse apparently blew over and the panel went dead…. Again! So I am back to square one.

I know it is very difficult for you provide resolutions without even looking at the vehicle, but I sure do appreciate your expert and valuable opinion on what I should look for. Should I refer the case to another repair shop…. Or Toyota itself?

Thanks in advance, once again.


May 20, 2009.