Replace '98 instrument cluster bezel/panel/trim? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Replace '98 instrument cluster bezel/panel/trim?


New Member
May 30, 2018
Reaction score
City, State
Burbank, CA
Year, Model & Trim Level
1998 Explorer XLT 4 door
Hi everyone,
I just joined the forum. I've had a 98 Explorer XLT for about 12 years now (hey, it's paid off). Recently the headlight switch on my instrument panel had begun getting so loose that I could barely operate it. So I found a video on youtube from and followed the directions for replacing the switch. Upon pulling off the instrument cluster bezel in which the switch and cabin dimmer are housed, I noticed that the business end of the switch, behind the panel, had come off it's screw-in moorings completely. In other words, the switch was still screwed in, but the plastic screw holders had broken off of the panel, rendering them useless (see photo). So now it appears I have to replace the entire bezel/panel just to get around two tiny, bad, plastic screw moorings that snapped off over time. I've looked on ebay motors, and found one in my color/trim, but it's going to be over $70 for a used one.
My question is, has anyone run into this issue, and might there be a work-around for it, like somehow rigging up new moorings using epoxy or something?


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Anything you 'rig up' WILL break again.

Replace it and fix it correctly.

Post a picture of the front, I may have one on the shelf I'd be willing to part with inexpensively.

Go to a salvage yard to find one. Much cheaper than eBay. Probably around $10. There should be lots of Gen II ('95-'01) Explorers/Mountaineers there to chose from. Grey and Tan are the most common color interiors and it doesn't matter if it comes out of a 2-door, 4-door or earlier Sport Trac, The instrument cluster trim is all the same.

Anything you 'rig up' WILL break again.

Replace it and fix it correctly.

Post a picture of the front, I may have one on the shelf I'd be willing to part with inexpensively.
Eh. I’m certain I could come up with a fix to outlast the life of the car.

Eh. I’m certain I could come up with a fix to outlast the life of the car.

I've had good luck making strong, lasting plastic repairs using JB Weld (eg: timing cover repairs, driving light brackets, dash board repairs). You might be able to make a good repair "welding" your broken screw posts back into place and using enough JB Weld to reinforce the posts, but in this case I'd just get a replacement trim piece from the JY. It would suck having your repair break and not being able to turn on your headlights.

I replaced my headlight switch recently. I pulled three bezels out. Screws were broken, or broke when I unscrewed the switch on all three. Screwing the used switch into mine, one of the tabs broke. The plastic is brittle with age, and finding good replacements might be tough.

It would not be hard to build new mounts with fiberglass body filler, key to making it last is prepping the plastic with 80 grit to get good adhesion.

If it was my repair, I would rough up the surfaces on the backside around the switch, the switch itself, and use some Plastic Welder epoxy to hold it in place. I would pile it on too, just to make sure I overkill application.


How picky are you about cosmetics? That would be very easy to fix. Just drill a hole through the panel and use a bolt, maybe something with a large diameter yet low profile truss head. Paint the head to match. I wouldn't do that if it had a lot of resale value but now I don't think it would make much difference. Replacement bezel is going to be the same age so maybe same brittleness.

I've used epoxy to repair various things like this, but in this case it might be difficult since this is something human hands touch so more stress on it. The key to getting epoxy to work would be spreading it over a relatively large surface area (roughed up first) and I'd think about laying some fiberglass cloth in it.

Yes you can use fiberglass cloth with epoxy (if you use the thin clear type, not so much with JB Weld), just don't use 5 minute quick set so it has time to saturate the cloth. With a thicker epoxy like JB I'd try mixing loose fibers into one part before mixing with the other if it came to that.

I have that panel, $10 + shipping.

If you're deadset on fixing it, jbweld is gonna be your best bet.

There is another option I would consider. You could get a new ~$20 headlight switch (so you can expect long life instead of gambling on the original, or gamble using the original if you just want a cheap fix) and directly epoxy the headlight switch to the panel.

The switch has a large flat area which sits against the large flat area of the panel. Roughing both up with sandpaper first, you should get a strong bond using epoxy with that much surface area.

The main issue there is you don't want epoxy getting into the switch shaft, seizing it. As a safeguard you could wipe a little grease down in the shaft where it passes into the housing, that would keep epoxy from getting in. It also looks like there are little indentations on the face of the switch that form the switch detents for each switch position.

You could cut a tiny piece of scotch tape to cover those so epoxy doesn't get into the switch there, -OR- mix a few grams of epoxy, wait for it to set to a thicker consistency, then trowel it into those indentations, wait for it to set completely, then sand it flush with the rest of the switch housing. I'd go with the tape to decrease changes of sanded epoxy dust getting into the switch but done carefully either would work.

Heh, reading again I see that this is basically what Toypaseo was suggesting. In my prior post when I mentioned epoxy I was suggesting it to rebuild the damaged mounting studs that the screws, screw into.

Thanks, everyone, for your informative responses! Very kind of you all to weigh in.

In the interest of saving time as well as money, I went ahead and got some of the plastic weld by DevCon (thanks toypaseo), probably similar to the JB Weld that koda2000 recommended. I phoned my mechanic this morning and he also recommended the DevCon; said he fixed a transmission with it once, and you can even grind it. Thanks also to MAStequila and conlintrax for offering to get me a replacement panel. But I'm thinking that this plastic weld is stronger than the original plastic mounts, especially given age and brittleness, and, as you say, J_C, with the switch being handled all the time, those mounts are just going to come loose anyway over time.

So far the hold is rock solid, it's still technically in the cure time of 24 hours, but I do need this thing up and running today, and the lights need to be functional. So I'll put it all back together in a couple of hours and see how this goes.

Here's what it looks like now. Not a pretty job, but it's in there nice and solid and the switch turns just fine. I went ahead and fixed the air vent moorings at the same time.

IIt would suck having your repair break and not being able to turn on your headlights.

Come to think of it, I don't think I've used that switch in years. Rarely I'll toggle the lights off and on with the autolamp slider on the windshield mirror but otherwise if that switch panel broke it might be a long time till I even noticed.

Nice fix.

Can you still detach the light switch unit from the panel by removing the screws?

Nice fix.

Can you still detach the light switch unit from the panel by removing the screws?
Thank you. I didn't dare try, but I would guess not. I basically put the screws in place in the holes on the switch and covered them in the plastic welder. Then I covered what was left of the posts where the screws would go in and tried to make some semblance of a new one. Then I installed the switch back in position and waited until the stuff was hardened. It's nice and solid, and the light switch works again, that's all I really care about. :)

Well, I was not even thinking of the fix that you did using the Plastic Welder and screws, but if it works, its great :thumbsup:

Just to make a point in the strength of Plastic Welder, I used it to repair some headlight covers that were broken from some quickie lube employees that slammed my hood shut on my Paseo. Yes, I did apply excessive amounts on both sides of the cracks of the headlight covers. No, they never cracked again in the repair areas.

toypaseo, yes, it's kind of scary how strong it becomes. But highly useful in these sort of instances.