Do it Yourself Guide for Instrument Cluster Repair
An instrument cluster is an essential part of any vehicle as it lets the driver know about the engines internal operations, fuel levels, vehicle speed, and much more. If the instrument panel becomes damaged, you often have to drive with none of the usual information. While the exact steps necessary to repair or replace the instrument cluster will vary from vehicle to vehicle, the steps are generally similar.
Gather Your Tools
The first thing you will need to do is ensure that you have the necessary tools on hand and near your work area. Some of the tools you will need include, a flat blade screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver, a 7mm nut driver, a good pair of pliers, a soldering iron and some electrical grade solder. You will also need an Ohm meter, an AC to DC converter, and a pink pencil eraser. It is helpful to have a fairly small but flexible light to help you view the instrument panel while performing the repairs.
Remove the Instrument Cluster
In order to remove the instrument cluster, you will need to remove the trim from the dashboard. In most vehicles, it is secured by metal spring clamps that can be removed quite easily. You may need to put the vehicle in drive, and tilt the steering wheel down as far as it will go in order to completely remove the trim. Once the trim is removed, and you can see the instrument cluster, you can remove the corner screws and then slide the cluster forward. Once you are able to, reach behind the cluster to disconnect the wiring harness. Once this has been disconnected, you should be able to completely remove the instrument cluster from the vehicle.
Take the Cluster Apart
Basically, the instrument cluster is in three pieces. The electronics are nestled between two plastic pieces. The front one has the lens or gauge cover glued to it, and the back one is usually plain brown. In order to get to the electronics, the lens, motor needles, and back piece have to be removed.
Clean and Solder the Contacts
On most instrument clusters, there are four contacts for each motor. If you are replacing a motor, you will need to de-solder these contacts, replace the motor, and then re-solder them. However, depending on the issue you are having, you may simply need to inspect the contacts for damage, clean them, and re-solder any that are damaged.
Clean Circuit Boards and Inspect for Damage
Before re-installing the instrument cluster in the vehicle, you should also check every circuit board for dirt and damage. If you find any that are dirty, clean them with a little contact cleaner on a Q-tip or rub gently with a pencil eraser. If any are damaged, re-solder if you can, or if not, completely replace the circuit board.
Change any Blown Bulbs
The last step before re-installing the instrument cluster is to check for any damaged or blown bulbs, and replace any that need it. This will ensure that your instrument cluster and all gauges light up correctly when the vehicle is turned on and you will be able to see any information that you need to.
Once you have repaired, replaced, and cleaned anything necessary, you are ready to put the instrument panel back in the vehicle. To do this, simply follow the removal instructions from bottom to top.