1996 Dodge Neon speedometer failure - and fix?

My daughter owns a 1996 Dodge Neon. The speedometer has failed after working intermittently. This is not a new problem – it actually started in 2004. She used to be abled to hit the dash and the speedometer would work for awhile. She contacted a repair shop regarding this problem and was told the entire speedometer would need to be replaced at a cost of $250. Being a graduate student, funds are limited for her, this was not an option. Therefore, for the past few years, she has been using the rpms as a guide to how fast/slow she is traveling. She feels uncomfortable taking the car on the road, thus borrows mine from time to time. I have read on the web that the problem might be as simple as “popping the dash” and resoldering the wires. My questions is – how does one “pop the dash”? How does one find the correct wires to resolder? If I chose not to try this myself but rather had someone skilled complete this task (rather than replace the speedometer) what might the cost be? This is my first attempt to find a simple answer to the dilemma of the non-working speedometer. Does anyone have an answer to any of my questions? I know I could just take it to a garage and get it “fixed”, but it would mean so much more to ME if I could do this myself and it would really WOW her! On second thought, I could pass the information on to her and she could complete the repair. I am sure this is something she will not learn in graduate school!

I’ve never done the dash on a Neon. But a Hayne’s repair manual from the local parts store for about $20 will describe the process. The few that I’ve done involve a few clip in plastic parts, lotsof hidden screws, and a few choice phrases that yor mom would wash out your mouth for if she heard.

This is actually a simple procedure on the Neon. Here are the detailed instruction, taken from a website on Neon troubleshooting and repair:

"This is pretty simple and can be done by anyone who has some kind of gauge problem and a soldering iron.

Remove your gauges/cluster: Pop the upper part of your dash off. There are no screws, it just pops straight up and out. Put it in your back seat. The cluster had 4 screws holding it in. The hardest screw to reach is the bottom left screw. I used an offset screwdriver to reach it. Once those are out, the cluster just pops out. You don’t have to worry about unhooking anything.

Flip your cluster over. Remove the paper protector from the cluster. The screws are #15 Torx head screws. Once the paper is removed, remove ALL of the remaining screws. I believe there are 9 of them, also #15 Torx head. You don’t have to remove the bulbs. Disconnect the 4-pin ribbon cable. Slowly and carefully work the circuit board off of the pins. Try not to crack the circuit board. Once you break the board, this little job is done and you’ll have to find a new cluster.

Once you have the circuit board loose, flip it over and heat up your soldering iron. The points you need to reflow are the 20 joints arranged in four rows of five.

Set your hot soldering iron onto the very top of the soldering joints. There is probably a wire nib sticking out of the solder. Use that. Watch the solder, it will appear to change color. That’s all. It won’t move or anything, just change color. Don’t add any solder to it. Make sure it changes color all the way down. Set the circuit board off to the side for a few minutes to allow it to cool, the reassemble it the opposite of disassembly.

You’ve just successfully reflowed the cold solder joints in your cluster, and you shouldn’t have anymore jumping gauges. If your gauges continue to jump or flicker, then you’ve A) found a way to screw this up or B) have a cracked circuit board and you need to replace the entire cluster."


I know it’s been a few months, but I was wondering if you have fixed the speedometer yet?

I had the exact same problem with my 96 Neon, and it eventually spread to all of the other instruments in the cluster. I finally had my mechanic fix it while he was working on something else, and it wasn’t that expensive to fix. However, this is a known problem in ALL first generation Neons, so don’t waste your money on a replacement cluster. If you still feel up to doing it yourself, I would recommend getting a battery-powered soldering iron from Radio Shack. They don’t get too hot, so the risk of damaging the circuit board is reduced.

Good luck.