Dashboard issues in 1993 BMW 318i


Since the beginning of August, I’ve had an intermittent problem with my dashboard turning on and off. What happens is all the guages and the mileage meter just go down like I’ve turned the car off, and then after any interval of time (it can be anywhere from one second to 20 minutes) turn back on again like I’ve turned the car back on. They lights in the dash remain on, and the engine continues to run. There doesn’t seem to be one consistent thing that triggers the problem. It happens in all temperatures, at all speeds, in all gears (it’s a manual transmission), with the radio on and off, when the engine is running and when just the battery is turned on, with the headlights on and off, with the radio on and off, when something is or isn’t plugged into the cigarette lighter, going over bumps, going over smooth road, speeding up, slowing down, and maintaining speed. When it happens it can be several times in a row (on off on off) or just off for awhile and then on. It seems to happen for several weeks at a time and then not happen for several weeks.

It’s been in and out of the garage several times for this problem. They’ve determined that it’s not the instrument cluster or a faulty connection. Most recently, my mechanic took it to a specialist to look at all the wiring, and they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I have had everything done to try to resolve this problem barring replacing the dashboard and all the wiring, which there’s a lot of.

Any thoughts or solutions that anyone has for this issue would be greatly appreciated.

If the wiring and connections are good, and power and other signals are getting to it, and the dashboard electronics panel is known to be good, then it has to work, right? So one or more of the above things are actually not good. The question is, which?

I guess the first question is this: Has it ever failed at the shop while the mechanic was actually working on it? If not, you are probably going to have to leave the car at the shop, where they can drive it, turn it on, off, until it fails. Then they’ll have a chance to fix it.

My guess is that there is an intermittant failure in the panel electronics package, and a replacement or rebuilt panel will have to be installed.

On idea: I think there is a company somewhere that rebuilds stuff like this, they take in old ones that have failed, fix them, and sell them as rebuilt units. I forget their name, sorry. It’s something like “auto electronics rebuilders”, something like that. Or you might can find one at a junkyard. Best of luck.

Have you posted this on 3 series forums? I imagine there are a number of E36 (as your car is known in BMW-speak) fans that’ll be able to help you.

My first suspicion is there is an intermittent power connection to those things you mention. Have the shop check to see if those things are tied to a common fused power source. If they are then that is most likely causing the trouble.