Common Instrument Cluster Issues and Troubleshooting Tips
Electronic instrument panels are used on many vehicles to give the driver access to a variety of information such as fuel level, speed, tachometer, and many other gauges and warning lights.
In order for an electronic instrument cluster panel to work correctly, it needs adequate voltage and proper grounding. Most instrument clusters have to have a minimum of 10 volts in order to work properly. If you notice that your instrument cluster is not reading accurately, acting strangely, displaying broken or odd characters, or not displaying anything at all, you should check the fuse, and then ensure that there is enough voltage at the wiring harness, and then the continuity of the ground.
Other Electrical Problems
If replacing the fuse does not fix the instrument panel or fixes it for a short time and then blows again, you will need to find out what is causing the fuses to blow. In many cases, it is a short in the instrument cluster or the wiring harness itself. To troubleshoot this problem, disconnect the wiring harness and use an ohmmeter to check for a grounded circuit.
Instrument Panel is Not Lighting Up
This problem is quite common and can be caused by one of two main issues. Either the headlamp switch has gone bad and will need to be replaced or the interior lights dimmer switch is turned down. In either case, this is quite an easy and quick repair.
If Only One Gauge Acts Erratically
Every gauge on an instrument panel needs accurate inputs in order for it to work correctly. These inputs typically come from a variety of vehicle sensors, all of which can go bad. If everything on an instrument cluster seems to be working except for one specific gauge, then there is a good possibility that the problem is not in the instrument cluster but in the sending unit, wiring, or sensor.
Quick Check for Electronic Instrument Cluster
An easy way to quickly check electronic gauges is to ground the sensor or sending unit. If everything is working correctly, this will cause the corresponding gauge to read maximum, letting you know that there is nothing wrong with either the electronics, or the wiring. In this case, the problem is in the sending unit or the sensor.
Instrument Cluster Self Checks
In most vehicles, the instrument cluster panel goes through a self-check test when the ignition is first turned on. During this test, all the displays and warning lights will turn on to ensure that no bulbs have burnt out. Watch the test and check for any dark areas or indicators that do not light up. If anything is dark, a bulb may need to be replaced.
There are many things that can go wrong with an instrument cluster. Some of the most common problems are either burnt out bulbs, dirty electrical components, or a faulty ground or wiring harness. While many of these problems can be repaired without having to replace the entire instrument cluster, you should only attempt these repairs if you have some knowledge of auto electrical systems. If you are not sure, consult a mechanic before attempting any repairs.