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Old 10-25-2012, 10:53 AM   #119
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What I Drive: 2002 French Blue SE Sedan

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Okay, I took the plunge yesterday and bought a cluster with tach from a local seller.

To clarify and re-iterate some of the things stated earlier in the thread:

I have a 2002 Focus SE with 125,000 miles, ATX, without ABS and without Traction Control.

For this car, installation is pretty much plug-n-play as long as the replacement cluster has the same white 26-pin connector.

I bought a cluster with 143K from a local seller, so I just have to wait until my mileage catches up. He had five other clusters with unknown mileage - so I tested those in my car also. (It was mutually beneficial b/c he learned more about his items, and I was able to verify that he didn't have a cluster with 126,000 miles - which was ideally what I was looking for).

(There is a cluster on E-bay with 131K miles which in hindsight would have been better for me, but I didn't know that for sure before I saw the local seller, and I couldn't in good conscience test that many clusters and then buy from someone else - unless his didn’t work.)

Things I found out:
  • None of the clusters that I tested had TCS - or if they did, the bulb was burnt out. I don't think this is a big deal, though. Remove the bulb and you won't know it. I don't believe it sets a DTC code, but I couldn’t verify that.
  • About three quarters of the clusters that I tested had ABS. Clusters with ABS when installed on a non-ABS car will indeed light BOTH the brake warning light, and the ABS light. The one I got did have ABS, so I lose the low brake fluid warning (I check it - no biggie) and the parking brake warning (I never use it - no biggie.) Wish Ford hadn't combined the light function - but I think they figured people wouldn't be swapping clusters too often (and people might not know what ABS meant, so a RED light stood out more). ABS clusters DO NOT set a DTC code when installed in non-ABS vehicles.
  • As far as I could tell - there is no way to know if a cluster supports ABS or TCS, other than plugging it into a non-equipped car and seeing if the light comes on. I've never seen any for sale that indicated whether the cluster was configured for these features (hard enough to find ads that list the actual mileage on the cluster.) (The seller did update his ads after I told him whether the ones I tested and didn't want had TCS or ABS - so if you see any recent ads with it, that's probably why.)
  • I couldn't test it, but it seems more risky swapping a cluster on a car that DID have ABS or traction control. I'm not sure how you would know whether the cluster supports that or not. (For example, the bulb test on the clusters I tried shows the upshift light, but with an ATX, it will never come on). A light that is constantly on for a system that is not installed is a minor inconvenience and easily fixed by pulling the bulb. A light that does NOT come on for an installed system that is faulty is a safety hazard (And more importantly, I'm not sure how you would simulate a TCS/ABS fault on a car that had it to see if the lights came on - but perhaps a fuse pull would do it).
  • Several of the bulbs on the cluster I bought were not working, but I was able to swap ABS lights that I didn't want for high-beam and turn signal lights that I did. (If you are buying used, you are likely to run into burned out and/or loose bulbs, though).
  • Speaking of bulbs - while the self-test (hold Trip Reset button and turn key to RUN) is useful for gage sweeps and odometer display test, it is NOT good for bulb test. You would think it would be a simple circuit for lighting ALL the bulbs on the cluster, but it is not. What I found to be the best test is to print out the owner's manual page showing the bulb functions, then use the self-test for the indicator lights (they come on for several seconds when key is moved to run), then manually check the remaining lights (O/D off, turn signals, high beam indicator. You will have to drive the car to test the cruise control indicator).
  • Somewhat obvious, but I missed the details - You probably want to pay attention to the lens and any scratches or staining - although this can be hard to tell online - (Mine looked better in person than it did online, I'm sure there are clusters that look perfect online and flawed up-close). Also, many sites say "THE LENS COVER IS REMOVABLE, SO IF YOUR CURRENT COVER IS UNSCRATCHED AND/OR UNBLEMISHED; HOLD ON TO IT AND WE WILL SEND THE CLUSTER ITSELF. HOWEVER, IF YOU WISH FOR THE LENS COVER TO COME WITH THE CLUSTER PLEASE NOTIFY US AND WE WILL DO SO." That isn't entirely true. The BEZEL is removable and could be swapped if you were getting the same style cluster, but the bezel also has the lenses for the indicator lights. With a tach cluster, replacing a non-tach, you can't just swap the bezels. I couldn't see an easy way to separate the lens from the bezel. When I tried the obvious points on the side, the lens started to crack. You could probably do it with a baking procedure like if you wanted to remove the headlight lenses - but it's not an easy procedure that I can see.

I ran into mixed info on re-programming the mileage. Quotes were typically in the $150 range. Programmers (tools) seemed to run anywhere from $240 to $2400/$7200, and in the case of the early Focus, require soldering leads to the PCB. I think the dealers generally send this out. It seemed to vary a bit on the expertise of the shop and also possibly the programming tool used. Some shops said they needed the old speedometer (presumably to read the hex codes and program the new speedometer the same way). Others said they just needed a statement of mileage (presumably their tool converts given mileage to hex). The latter shops seemed more likely to be able to enable/disable TCS or ABS in the cluster.

Personally, I'm not sure why Ford included all this info internal to the cluster. It seems to me like it would be a better idea to have this stored in the BCM or PCM or something that was unlikely to need replacement and have two part number clusters (with and without tachometer) and just have it DISPLAY the mileage and turn on indicator lights when told by the BCM/PCM.

Also - I don't want to debate it, but the law on odometer tampering seems pretty well-meaning, but highly flawed in my opinion. As I read the law:
  • It is a violation of Federal law to buy a cluster with 25K miles, modify it to show 125K miles, and install it in a car with 125K miles. (Weird).
  • It is fraud (but not a violation of federal law) to install a cluster with 25K miles in a car with 125K miles and sell the car as-is.
  • It is perfectly legal (in most states, see below) to install a cluster with 25K miles in a car with 125K miles and sign an affidavit at time of sale that the actual mileage is 100K greater than indicated.
  • In some states (I think it is State Law, not Federal Law) - it is a requirement to install a sticker on the door when the cluster is replaced stating the old mileage and the new mileage and it is a violation of state law to ever remove this sticker. (I believe this would include what I intend to do, meaning in some states, I would have to tack a sticker on the door saying the old cluster had 143K miles and the new cluster had 143K miles on such-and-such date.
  • Doesn't make sense to me, but that's the way I interpret the laws. (Then again, these are the same classification of laws as the ones that say it is illegal to install a quad-cat exhaust on a car that had a single-cat exhaust b/c you are tampering with the emissions system).
  • Weird, but the laws don't have to make sense, they just have to be enforceable ...

Last edited by Tiger-Heli; 10-29-2012 at 09:59 AM.
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