Cold electrics on a 2000 Ford Taurus

Hi, all.

I live in southern PA, and for a couple of years it’s been that when the evening is cold, I start the car (usually the next morning) and I have no dash electrics. That extends to the rear defrost, windshield wipers, radio. I discovered it warms up by putting on the windshield defrost and blasting it–somehow, something warms up, a connection is made, and everything comes back on, no problems. Until it gets cold again and the car’s been off for a while. Sometimes it only takes a couple of minutes, but when it’s been truly frigid overnight, it’ll take up to 20 minutes on high heat. And if that wasn’t enough, sometimes they’ll turn on quicker if we hit a pothole while the car’s still warming up.

Really, this has me stymied, and I can’t find anything online to guide me. And I don’t want to give the dealership carte blanche also.

Think about a bad ground connection between the instrument cluster and the battery. It’s the only place where a single wire could cause all the simultaneous failures. If it was something like a wiring harness or a multi-plug connector, then you might get partial failures. The dealer will have a wiring diagram or you can buy a repair manual that has it. You probably don’t need to go to a dealer at all, if you have a good local shop.

The problem might be with the GEM (Generic Electronic Module) or the connection to the module. This controls various electrical systems including the dash operation and the rear defroster operation.

The GEM is located under the left side of the dash and looks like this.

When the vehicle is cold and nothing works, wiggle the harness to the GEM. If everything now works there’s a poor connection to the GEM. If that doesn’t work, tap on the GEM with the handle of a screwdriver. If everything works intermittently or starts working, replace the GEM.