Intermittent flashing lights on instrument panel (2000-2005 Focus) - Focus Fanatics
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Old 07-27-2013, 09:44 PM   #1
mad_hatter
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Intermittent flashing lights on instrument panel (2000-2005 Focus)

A few years ago I noticed my ABS and Parking Break lights would randomly flash while I was driving, sometimes pausing for random intervals but then repeat later. There was no pattern or set interval, so I knew it wasn't a maintenance code. It was also more annoying at night when more visible. Some days the lights would not flash at all. It did not matter whether the engine was warm, my speed or how I drove, or what the driving conditions were. I checked my brake fluid, parking brake, and no diagnostic codes were present when checked with a handheld meter.
I did some research and found a related article about a defect in the instrument cluster on a different make/model of car, noting dust can build up around and under components on the back of the main panel circuit board, causing intermittent lights to flash. I took out my instrument cluster and opened up the back to expose the circuit board, and with compressed air blew it off which seemed to help, but after a few weeks or so my problem reappeared. I didn't want to spend a few hundred on a new instrument cluster so I lived with it.
When I left my car in the shop for regular maintenance one day my mechanic noticed the oddity and out of curiosity checked the codes, ABS system and parking break, but found nothing wrong. With some research he found an old TSB(I think) about a similar issue, which noted the issue is often caused by dust/oxidation/corrosion occurring in open vias (tiny holes through the board that connect traces and components). The fix was to clean the circuit board then apply a very thin coating of dielectric or bulb grease to the board to seal and coat the vias/trace contacts. I had never heard of this so I took my instrument cluster out and after applying the grease to the circuit board, it really did solve the annoying problem. I did this fix last year and the problem hasn't repeated. My instructions and photos for this repair are below.

Items needed:
- 7mm socket
- Torx T8 driver or bit
- isopropyl alcohol (90% is best)
- several Q-tips
- compressed air, can or compressor with small nozzle
- small tube of bulb grease (or dielectric grease)
- small tongue depressor or similar (optional)
- pair of latex gloves
- clean, soft cloth or towel

1) Lower the steering column all the way down. Remove the instrument cluster cover by removing the 3 bolts with the 7mm socket...



2) Pull the cover toward you to remove it from the clips holding it in place. On the left side, unplug the trunk release button.



3) At the bottom of the cover, there is a rubber flashing that connects the top of the steering column to the bottom of the cover (see arrow). Start on one side and working your way across, pull down to separate the tabs holding it in place...Then unscrew the 4 mounting bolts...



4) Pull the cluster toward you to expose the connector at the back - I find it easier to access from the left side instead of the right. The connector has a type of locking clip, remove it by pulling the lever up and pivot it over the connector, moving it from the right to the left (see next image)...



4a) Connector removed, showing how to move the lever to the left to remove it from the back of the instrument cluster...



5) Remove the instrument cluster by moving toward you and sliding out to the right, between the steering wheel and dash. This image shows the cluster removed. Note the location of the 2 #6 Torx screws...



6) To remove the back cover, place the cluster as shown on a clean, soft cloth or towel so as to not scratch the clear plastic cover underneath. Remove the 2 Torx screws near the bottom of the cover.
7) Carefully lift the 4 clips (2 on top, 2 on bottom) that hold the back cover in place, then lift or pivot the cover toward you to remove it and expose the circuit board underneath...



8) Using q-tips and alcohol, clean the back of the board thoroughly with light amounts of alcohol, paying attention to the blue vias (holes).
9) Allow up to 10 minutes for the board to air dry.
10) Using compressed air, slowly and evenly blow off the entire surface of the board, to ensure no alcohol exists on the surface and in the blue vias.
11) Once dry, put on a latex glove and squeeze a series of very small drops of bulb grease about 1/2 apart across the surface of the circuit board. Using a finger tip, tongue depressor, or other smooth implement, spread the drops of grease evenly from top to bottom, side to side, working across the board, creating a very thin, even layer of grease. I suggest to use a bright light and turn the cluster at different angles to verify that the grease is even. Make sure all vias are covered by the layer of grease.
12) Replace the white cover, noting the clips will click when in place.
13) Replace the 2 Torx screws, being careful not to overtighten.
14) Reinstall the cluster by going in reverse steps as listed above.
15) Tip: to connect the rubber flange above the steering column to the bottom of the instrument cluster cover, start at one corner and line up one tab, push upward and toward you to secure it then move to the next.


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Old 07-30-2013, 02:44 PM   #2
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I nom for a sticky
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:41 AM   #3
Just-Bill
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this is an epic win

It took me months to fix the issue and aparently when I by chance clean the board it fixed it. I never knew what the fix was however as I disassembled and cleaned all the brake sensors and connections.
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Old 10-08-2013, 08:43 PM   #4
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Very pleased to see this post! Have an '03 that, after instrument lights on for a while, will have the backlighting of instrument faces flicker and eventually go dark.
Gauge needles never do and remain lit all the time. Working the dimmer control does nothing. Just replaced the headlight/dimmer switch- thought it would be an easy fix. After 30 min of nighttime driving back to same issue. So, looks like this will be my next task to attempt to fix. Great description and pics- Thx! Looks much easier than pulling the instrument cluster on my Ranger to change lamps...
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Old 11-22-2013, 06:45 PM   #5
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I had this problem and no one here could help at the time.
When read with scan tool It would read break fluid low.
but was full with new sensor. I finally broke down and did Diagnostics I found a huge voltage drop on the brake fluid circuit as it passed through the Cluster. I wire brushed the back of the cluster (you could see the corrosion build up) then sprayed it with battery terminal protectant. That was almost 2 years ago and all is good.
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