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Old 02-16-2018, 12:22 AM   #1
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Need help with bouncing speedometer; with video

I have a 2001 Focus ZX3 (5-speed and manual window cranks!) with a bouncing speedometer. The issue started a couple years ago, but I never really worried about it because my commute was .6 miles one way, and I didn't use the car for anything else.

Things have changed recently and I'm driving the car a lot more now, so I'm more keen to fix it.

Currently has about 139k miles on it.

Symptoms:
1. About half the time I leave a stoplight / stop sign, I step on the gas and the speedo needle bounces erratically up to like 50mph and back down, and if I don't pump the gas quick, the engine dies.
2. About half (maybe 3/4) of the time as I'm crusing along at any speed, if I try to increase speed without changing gears the speedo needle starts bouncing around and the engine acts like it's coughing

I've tried:
1. new fuel filter
2. new air filter
3. new plugs and wires
4. new vaccuum hose near the back of the engine
5. new vehicle speed sensor

Here's a short video:

What else can I try?


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Old 02-16-2018, 08:28 PM   #2
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VSS fault would be the first guess but you've replaced that. Is the wiring harness intact around that area? You need to check the integrity of those wires along a good section of the harness and make sure the connector is tight and corrosion free.

Have you checked your alternator output voltage is within spec? A charging system fault can cause erratic electrical problems (but there are usual other symptoms such as clicking relays and flickering lights).

PS Welcome to the 5 speed, manual window crank club.
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Old 02-17-2018, 09:28 AM   #3
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Need to self-test the instrument cluster. See if the gauge sweeps properly.

Instrument Cluster Self-Test Mode

To enter the Instrument cluster self-test mode:

-Press and hold the trip odometer reset button and turn the ignition switch to the RUN position.

-Release the trip odometer reset button when tESt is displayed on the LCD. This will take between 5 and 8 seconds (the instrument cluster will enter the gauge sweep test).

-Press the trip odometer reset button to move through the following tests.

-To exit the instrument cluster self-test mode, turn the ignition switch to the OFF position.


Press the trip odometer reset button until the odometer LCD reads "GAGE" and watch the gauges sweep. Then move to "dtc XXX" and see if any codes are stored.
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Old 02-17-2018, 05:51 PM   #4
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Ok; I did the "tests"...here's the video. Any concerns? dtc says "none".


Last edited by wilddoktor; 02-17-2018 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 02-17-2018, 07:55 PM   #5
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It looks like the speedometer has a slight stutter on both the up-sweep and the down-sweep. I could be wrong though. I've watched that part of the video a dozen times or so. The gauges should all sweep smoothly. More opinions on the video would be better.
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Old 02-17-2018, 10:48 PM   #6
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Yeah; they definitely stutter. Between 60mph and 85mph, up and down. Not sure what that's telling us?
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Old 02-25-2018, 08:02 PM   #7
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Um, the links to my videos seem to have disappeared, maybe due to me not posting here much. So add an http://y in place of the *** in the following links:

Bouncing Speedometer: ***outu.be/hrdenAsiVKc
Instrument Cluster Test: ***outu.be/xxnp0OEqe00

Although, the more I think about it, the more it seems like an electrical short issue somewhere. Whenever I accelerate and the car stumbles (and the speedo wigs out), it really acts like somebody is flicking a light switch off and back on really quick.

I couldn't get a smog check 2 days ago because they ran a scan first and found that the EGR system monitor wasn't activated...but no DTC (just like in my gauge test...no warning lights on the dash, either). The generic EGR system monitor "fix" is to drive from zero to 45mph at 1/2 to 3/4 throttle, 3 times. I did that yesterday, went back to get the smog check, and and the EGR system monitor still hadn't activated.

The EGR system monitor gets reset (and then needs to be activated) when the battery is disconnected. So maybe if I'm getting a momentary electrical short, the EGR keeps getting reset and needs to be activated again. The fact that the car is stumbling (electrical short?) and the speedo (no other guages, nor does my radio wig out) is going crazy while I'm doing the "fix" would seem to go hand in hand with the system continually being reset...especially if the stumbling is caused by momentary loss of electricity.

Anyway, going to start checking fuses. I wiggled all the wires in the engine compartment that I could find while the motor was running, but none caused the engine to stumble.

Last edited by wilddoktor; 03-09-2018 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 07-13-2018, 10:31 AM   #8
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I'm baaaack. This problem is still happening, and it's now exasperated by the fact that I replaced my battery and my idle speed went down from 1000/1,100rpm to 750+- (which i guess is where it's *supposed* to be).

Now the thing won't even run at stop signs. When the rpms get down that low, it just eventually dies. If I try to catch it, most of the time the speedo needle jumps to like 80mph, and the engine dies.

All the characteristics from the above videos are still in play.

So, now the thing is even more frustrating to drive.

I looked at the fuses, pulled / reseated most of them; nothing has changed.

Ugh...
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Old 07-13-2018, 01:47 PM   #9
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A bad coil or connector to it can do that too as well as the idle issue. More than one person has remarked on the coils making the speedo jump around.

FYI, dtcs taken from the instrument cluster are only for the cluster, not the engine, which has to be read with a scanner.

The needle sweep test DOES show a speedo gauge needle hanging up there slightly, probably a cluster issue.
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Last edited by amc49; 07-13-2018 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 07-13-2018, 08:46 PM   #10
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put it into guage test with the engine running and put it into the digital speedo part then go for a drive and see what the digital does and see if that jumps,, it looks like the motor is faulty as it should move smoothly
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