None of the instruments on the dashboard are working right - Help!

The vehicle is a Plymouth Grand Voyager Expression, year 1999.

So we’ve tried to get this fixed in the past, we know a mechanic who has tried multiple times to fix this himself. In total we’ve spent around $500 on this issue.

So here’s the issue: All of the meters, lights, everything on the dashboard very rarely work(if they do they go back off while driving). If you hit the top of the dash hard enough(not my idea!) they will all sometimes come on and then go back off after an unpredictable amount of time.

How can we troubleshoot and go about fixing this for good? We’re all stumped!

Check the connection to the dashboard from the system, it may be critter eaten wires, soiled contacts, or a bad cluster.

If pounding on the dashboard restores all the instrument functions instantly, then it’s a bad connection where the instrument module plugs into its wiring connector. Since everything is effected, it’s probably a bad ground connection to the instrument cluster…Very few mechanics are qualified to do this kind of work…But they exist, you just need to find one of them…

“Very few mechanics are qualified to do this kind of work…But they exist, you just need to find one of them…”

Sounds… expensive. How likely am I to mess something up if I attempt to check the connections? I don’t really have any repair experience, but I bet I can find a youtube video or something to figure out how to get back there.

These vehicles are fairly notorious for bad solder joints on the circuit board.

I concur w @NYBo … it sounds like a circuit board problem. No harm to do a visible check of the connectors first though. You’d pull each one that goes to the dash instruments apart, and check both sides for signs of burning or carbonization or corrosion of the contacts. I doubt this will be the case though (unless the car has been flooded), and likely the entire dash will have to come out. At that point you might can see where a circuit board or trace on a circuit board is cracked. If so, that is easy for an experienced tech to fix. This happens b/c the inside of a car is like a greenhouse and can get very hot in the summer, and the circuit board material expands at a different rate than the metal traces. If it gets hot enough, the traces will crack and pull apart, or sometimes instead they pinch together and form what looks like small mountains. Either way, they break, and stop conducting current.

Two quick questions before I attempt this:

  1. Should I disconnect the “neg” on the battery first?
  2. Is there a risk of the airbags deploying for some reason?
  1. Yes!
  2. Yes, which is part of the reason for #1

This is a common problem for your car, you need to have the circuit board on the back of the instrument cluster either repaired or replaced. Around here, the charge to remove and replace the cluster would be about $100, the cost to have the circuit board repaired or replaced about $280.

Thanks for the help guys I appreicate it! Does the replacement cluster have to be “synced” with my vans computer or is it a plug and play type thing? If it has to be synced, how do I go about that?

After you have pulled a few instrument clusters and dashboards, you learn the tricks of locating and manipulating the hidden fasteners…There is no need for destructive force. Sometimes special tools are needed…A service manual can be a big help as it gives step by step instructions…When you gain access to the cluster, you can usually jiggle the connections until you duplicate the problem. Then zero in on the one bad connection and repair it…

Hey do you guys know whether or not a replacement instrument cluster I can get from a junkyard will simply plug and play? Thanks.

Yes, you can install a used instrument cluster without any programming. Your odometer will even display the correct mileage as it is stored in the body computer.

A replacement cluster from a junkyard will plug and play, but how will you know if it’s good? This is a very common problem for Chrysler clusters of this era.

Don’t forget to try online for a replacement used cluster…But first check the connections! Especially the ground lead!

I’m gonna get help from the mechanic I mentioned in my OP. I don’t know how I’ll know if the replacement is any good but if it fixes the problem for now then it’s going to have to be good enough. I found a fix on Youtube but that required soldering something on the actual circuit board. The mechanic already tried this and he said that he couldn’t find the bad connection.

I would take it to a shop but I can’t spend any more money on this right now(the local shop said they would charge me $300 just to diagnose the problem…) and the guy who’s helping me is doing it for free.

The trouble could very well be inside the cluster. It could also be external to it. I would suspect the main power connection to the cluster has a problem. I would first try to determine if the problem is external to the cluster before going inside it looking for a problem. You could wire in a small light to the connection so you could monitor the power while driving around and the trouble happened again.

We had a similar problem with a used '99 Caravan. The cluster was already replaced, and the problem persisted. Turns out, it was a bad BCM. Intermittent connection failure along the CAN circuit. A replacement BCM fixed the problem, but the odometer gained 50,000 or so miles :(.