by Pat Goss
If you have an older car, your instrument cluster doesn't look like the one you see in cars today. Electronic instruments have replaced mechanical speedometers, gauges and clocks. So what do you do if you have a problem on your older car. Well, Pat says the only answer used to be a costly replacement, but now car owners have another option, one that is easier on the wallet.
Back in the day when this Mustang was new instruments were a lot different than they are today. See back then things like the speedometer was run by a speedometer cable and other things were hard wired, while everything was mechanical in the way that it worked. Today none of this stuff, even though it may look the same, none of it works the same. It's all electronic. Now as the owner of a vehicle, what does that mean for you? Well there's some basic things that you have to know. First, the way these work.
There are going to be censors at various spots around the vehicle. Those sensors generate a signal that is sent to the car's computer. The computer analyses those signals, converts them into something that can be read by the instruments in the instruments cluster. Now here we can control this one. We can turn it on and we can see the gauges move and so on. Now, here's the problem. If one of these doesn't work. How do you know if it's one of these instrument cluster, which has to be replaced as an entire unit or is it something else.
Well there's a test procedure to tell you whether it's one of the censors, whether it's the wire between the censor and the computer, it's the computer, the wire between the computer and the instrument cluster, or the instrument cluster itself. See all of these signals feed in on one common connector on the back of the cluster, that's all there is. What makes these go bad? Well there are a lot of things. Number 1 is failure to properly maintain your battery cable connections. See if the connection cables get dirty you can get voltage spikes through the electrical system and that can damage the electronics in the instrument cluster. That's number 1, number 2 is improper or even proper use of booster cables. You can do everything right and still damage the electronics in this instrument cluster. And here's one that might surprise you, if you're a smoker, you should get out of the habit of smoking in the car because smoking leaves a film inside these instruments that can actually shorten their life.
Alright now here's another issue with it and that is that the whole assembly has to be replaced and in the past, the only way you could do that was with a brand new unit. Well these came from Dorman. Dorman products is remanufacturing instrument clusters for some vehicles. Now, what do they do? Well things like stepper motors are upgraded, they have better circuit boards. They've actually gone through and most cases made better than new. But then theres another issue and they have addressed that as well. You don't have to worry about odometer problems or having issues with your title as to true mileage unknown because they document all of the mileage information that is needed to keep you legal. So great idea and a great way to save money.