Instrument Cluster Problem

The instrument cluster in my 2005 Mountaineer has been randomly “failing” for about 2 months. By “failing”, I mean the gauges will go to zero and bounce, the dash lights will go on and off, and the radio will go out. The car will continue driving normally. Headlights stay on, windows work, cruise works, interior lights work. This random event lasts about 4 seconds.

It may do it again within minutes, or not again for the day. Sometimes, when I open the car door to get in (keys not in ignition), I will notice the gauges are bouncing at the zero mark.

I took it to the shop, but of course it didn’t do it there. They checked the alternator and battery. Battery is old, but checked out.

A few weeks later, complete Alternator failure. Replaced the battery and alternator and I hoped that would solve the dash issue, but it did not.

I’ve had it to the dealership, and to an independent, and their not sure what’s up with it. The code readers give no insight.

Has anyone every had this issue?

I’ve seen the issue online, but never with an answer. I’ve seen people post videos of it online, bet never a solution.

My next step is to do an old fashioned ghost hunt in the car.

How old is your battery? Has it been tested? Have the connections been checked? Loose connections and dying batteries can cause the electricals to go crazy.

From your description of the trouble it sounds like there is a loose connector to the back side of the cluster. The radio going out though doesn’t really fit that explination but perhaps there may be some sort of tie to it from the cluster. The trouble may be with the common power lead to those things. This trouble isn’t due to the battery or alternator and will not cause a code error most likely. I think your best bet to find the trouble is to tap on suspected wire harness connections, the cluster, and fuse panels in an effort to see if vibration close to the problem will ‘shake it up’ a little and help you pin down the trouble area. I like to use a screwdriver handle to tap on things with.

When I took the car in the first time, they said the battery was a little low, and it was original. But since then, we’ve had the Alternator and battery replaced. I was really hoping that would have solved the issue, but it still occurs. Very randomly, and there doesn’t seem to be a correlation with the issue, and when I hit bumps.

Thanks for you input. I will try these procedures. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with hitting bumps and the dash failing, but there may be a vibration I can’t feel. Like I mentioned at the top, it will occasionally do it when I open the door; car is not on, and the keys aren’t in the ignition.

Here is a video of what my car does, but this is not my car.
I found this on YouTube.

Basically the same as my issue, except mine will only do it for about 4 seconds, and it does not effect the interior lights. Only the dash and radio.

If it is any consolation conditions like you demonstrate are not at all so rare and I have had customers that were initaly sent away with “could not duplicate” written on their repair order return with video of the symptom (they all feel like they won the lottery when they get the cluster acting up on video). What they really get is me tearing their car down a microscopic level looking for the cause of this “once every 500 mile and just for 30 second interval” time period that the cluster wants to act up. No matter how good the guy is you really don’t want someone tearing up your car so deeply chasing this problem. Just like people say a car is never the same after an accident repair, well there is a bit of the same going on when I have your dash, you instrument cluster harness and your engine management harness tore out of your car. I try very hard to put things back together just like they came out (but with the problem fixed) but this is a goal not often realized.

Sounds like a transmissin range sensor problem. Have never actually seen a problem with the gauges over this but have seen this cause lots of radio problems.

My mechanic fixed it. TERRIBLY corroded grounds.