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Old 02-18-2009, 04:20 PM   #1
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Instrument cluster problem

I just bought my '04 ZTS a couple of days ago. Today my trip meter reset to 0.0 miles but my odometer is still correct. It's rainy here today and the only other time I've known this to happen is when the dealer washed the car before I picked it up (I initially convinced myself that I must have hit the trip reset when test driving the car). I've done some snooping here and elsewhere on the web and the consensus seems to be to remove the cluster and check the connections and the circuit board.

I'm going to try to do this tonight. If not, I'll definitely get it done by the weekend. I'll report back and let you know how it worked out just in case someone has the same issue in the future. I'm not too worried about the tripmeter, but from what I've read the problem worsens over time and affects the entire cluster.

If anyone has had this problem and has anything to add, please post it here for all to see.

On a happier note, I have a new head unit and install kit on the way from Crutchfield to replace my DOA stock Blaupunkt radio.

I'll report back when I check and clean the cluster PCB.


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Old 02-20-2009, 10:56 AM   #2
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Well, last night I pulled out the instrument cluster and disassembled from instructions I found on the site regarding Ford Focus instrument panel problems (it seems much more prevalent in the UK for some reason and in the US seems to be mainly the 2003-2004 models). Anyway I took the back off of the cluster and saw 15-20 corroded/dirty solder joints that were obviously causing some shorts. I used electronics cleaner from Radio Shack and sprayed it on the whole board. I then took a tooth brush and spot cleaned each area of the board. After that I removed the gauge needles (mark them first with masking tape) and sprayed down the actual circuit side of the board. The little button soldered to the circuit board for the tripmeter was the only really dirty spot, so I gave it a little brush off with the solution and the tooth brush.

I reassembled the cluster and went back out to the car and hooked it up. Easy enough, right. WRONG, my gauges were all dead. After a short panicky few minutes I pulled the cluster back out only to find that I hadn't inserted the plug fully into the back of the cluster. Plugged it in and voila! my gauges came to life. As a side benefit, my previously almost dead radio kind of came back to life. I have no idea how or if it was just a coincidence, but my radio came back on and a few of the buttons actually work. My new head unit comes in today so that's really a moot point except for the fact that I can listen to music on my drive home today.

Life is good!

Here are the directions cut and pasted from the Rac site. I have to give credit to Mark1958 for the directions:
Back of PCB: Remove cluster from dashboard as per Tommy's fix on p9 of this thread. (I tied a long piece of string to the tailgate release wire just in case it popped back into its hole in the dashboard.) Remove 2 rear mini-hex screws and expose rear of PCB. This is where the majority of contamination will be. On mine, there were four equally dirty areas of identical shape that coincided with the four 25mm by 10mm oblong main vent holes in the rear cluster casing. (The dirt was clearly "connecting" close-and-parallel lines on the PCB, thereby providing a potential path for random shorting.) Spray the board liberally with Maplin's PCB cleaner (code N64AN) and not WD40, the former of which is extremely volatile and designed to evaporate once wiped, the latter of which leaves its own oily residue. I used an old linen hankie and a stiff but soft paint brush (which is ideal for working in between close solder pins) to clean off any post-sprayed residues. I worked on 10mm-by-10mm areas at a time, taking care to brush lightly in the direction of (and never across) the printed circuit lines. I also used a magnifying glass to inspect slightly browned/rusted contacts, on which I gently "twiddled" a fibre-glass pencil (Maplin's code KR61R) to abrade away contaminants.

Front of PCB: Remove cluster front-cover and record all four dial-needle positions (using either masking tape or a digital camera). After recording these positions, I noted that all four of my needles were mechanically at their maximum anticlockwise limits, which proved very useful when resetting them. Prise off the needles from the four gauges (don't worry about subsequently moving the spindles ... see later). Remove 5 front mini-hex screws and printed dial card to expose the front of the PCB. Clean liberally with PCB cleaner, paying attention to the area around, and gap underneath, the push-switch that resets the trip meter if that's been causing problems. This side is more enclosed than the rear and considerably less dirty. After cleaning the front, replace the printed dial card with the 5 screws. One by one, replace the needles by putting them loosely on their spindles and gently "dialling" anticlockwise (just like the old phones, if you're as old as me!) until you meet the resistance of their natural "zero" positions. Then dial very gently anticlockwise once more until you reach the positions you recorded above, and press home. This will give a near-perfect dial reset. Reassemble in an obvious way.

Total Cost of Repair:

Time: 15 minutes for cluster removal (in adverse conditions of dark and freezing cold) plus 5 minutes for refitting (in daylight and sun) plus 60 minutes (including chatting to wife) for meticulous strip-down, clean and reassembly (in adverse conditions of being in the same room as the irritating Strictly Come Dancing).

Money: 3.49 for PCB spray (recommended) plus 5.99 for fibre-glass pencil (optional, but then usable on other jobs). Given that you only use a tiny amount of spray, the repair is effectively free if done this way.

Other Notes/Comments:

(1) My "fix" is still very new and so too early to assess properly. However, it has, for the first time in months, caused the trip meter to function normally and it has apparently stopped flashing of all warning lights. The ABS light now comes on only when the key is position II (as per the manual) and not when driving.

(2) By far the dirtiest of the four oblong areas described above was directly behind the ABS and brake warning lights. I wonder if it's OK to tape-off the back vents of the cluster to prevent future contamination ingress? Or do PCBs get hot enough to warrant these vents?

(3) If this quick-fix doesn't work, a cheaper-than-Ford answer could be to go to Cluster Repairs UK (based in Hackney, London) who do a cluster rebuild (NB not just a repair) for 120 quid + VAT with a 3-year guarantee. That is, they replace components (I don't know which) that have failed in the Visteon original PCB build. But whether they can fix rusted/cracked PCBs I also don't know. This solution retains your original odometer reading, which seems to be a major concern in this thread.

(4) Look in the adverts in the back of your local Autotrader for the many "Dashboard Doctors" out there. I spoke to one who said he'd do the above (with methylated spirits and a fibre-glass pencil for cleaning the PCB) for a wonderfully reasonable 25 quid. If you pick up a new cluster from a scrappy these guys can reset the "scrappy" clock to the mileage of your old one for about 40 quid. The good news, according to Dash Doc I spoke to, is that this model's engine management is not hard-coded to the original cluster (this seems to be corroborated by my test of having my engine ticking over with the 24-pin connector not pushed fully home, and no cluster activity). Basically, you can afford to do this 2 or 3 times ... i.e. longer than you'll have the car! ... in order to stay below the (pre- or post-Watchdog) main-dealer costs. To bring the cost down even more, you might simply take a verifiable digital pic of the faulty cluster before removal (e.g. flanked by your V5 and last MOT cert) showing the correct mileage and include that with the car docs, so that you've only the cost of the scrappy cluster to meet.

(5) As an extra safeguard (I didn't do this), I noticed that Maplin's do a PCB lacquer (code RE80B) which you might use to touch up those areas which have flaked away due to the temperature extremes inside your car. I didn't use it in case I unwittingly accidentally insulated some connections.

Hope some or all of the above helps, and thanks to Tommy for giving many of us the guts to do this repair. If anyone has any thoughts on the above questions, we'd all be interested to know. How I long for the old days when, as 1970s teenagers, we could fix things really easily and cheaply, and the AA Book of the Car was our bible!


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Old 02-20-2009, 11:05 AM   #3
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nice job bro! maybe you could this put into the how to archive.
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Old 10-22-2012, 03:08 PM   #4
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Just did this on my svt worked great and a lot easier to do. The board is easy to remove.(you don't have to remove the needles)
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