Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Gauges got to zero

I have a 1998 plymouth grand voyager. Occasionally when we start it, the gauges all go to zero. They may come back on anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes later.

The mechanics say that some of the modules are losing communication with each other, but they don’t know how to fix it. What is the problem?

Bad connections, bad ground. But definitely something electrical. Electrical problems are hard to track down and take a lot of time. Time means money. This can get expensive quickly. As computerized as cars are today, there are also modules, not just wires, that may be at fault. This van has several modules that act as interconnected computers, and the underside of the dashboard is a maze of many bundles of wires. An automotive electrician is the best hope for finding this problem and fixing it.

I’m going to chime in here with the same problem. There’s a sort of temporary fix, and a solution, all repair details brought to you by Chilton’s, catalog number 20302.

Short version: it’s all in the instrument cluster - that is, the unit that contains said gauges just going out. I’m not clear as to whether it’s in the wiring harness hooking up or the cluster itself, but the aforementioned book (available at any good auto parts shop, or maybe even your local library). The idea, though, is to disconnect and reconnect the wiring harness that connects the cluster to the rest of the car - and it’ll work fine for a good while, until it starts up again. Alternatively, give a good, solid whack to the dashboard just to the right of the cluster. Might take a couple of tries.

In any event, I would take a good look at replacing the cluster or the harness. The harness is a lot cheaper than the cluster, but sometimes you can find both in good condition at your local junk yards.

“disconnect and reconnect the wiring harness”

Maybe spray it with contact cleaner too.

Yes, it is the instrument cluster. It will take more than whacking it to fix it. We just had a discussion on this. See:

It is a 98, live with it. It would be foolish to pour money into it unless you are capable of getting a cluster from a junkyard and swapping it yourself.