Originally Posted by Wmrick56
Hello everyone. My wife's 99 Windstar is doing something I have never seen before on any vehicle. When she starts it up, and sometimes driving down the road, the speedo, tach, fuel guage and temp needles start bouncing back and forth like crazy. The abs light comes on and sometimes the OD light flashes. The vehicle runs and idles just fine. I was wondering if a computer reflashing would help this matter or is it something else, being it runs just fine? I appreciate any replies and thank you in advance...
It looks like I had the same problem. It started with intermittent bouncing needles on the instrument cluster. One of the recommendations I got was to check the battery. I had to cleaned some corrosion on battery terminals but otherwise the battery seem to be fine. Maybe it improved little bit for a while but we still got gauges bouncing and going off once a while.
Then one day tachometer needle turned all the way around the maximum and stayed down there. Once we got home we could not shift into Park because that needle was blocking the gear lever indicator. Without shifting into Park position you can’t remove the key from the ignition. My wife with a strong hand forced the lever half way to the park bending and breaking the needle. You can imagine..
1) Take the car to the dealer and they would replace the cluster. I got a quote $900 for new cluster +300 work +2 weeks wait time to order the part.
That would work except that car is 12 years old and Windstar sat this age are currently sold at that price or scrapped. Starting to put such expensive repairs into this car may just be not worth. But the van was otherwise working fine so we did not want to toss it either just because of stupid needle.
2) Get a used instrument cluster from scrap yard. I was able to find one for $100 but based on some information (can someone confirm this?) I would still have to re-program it otherwise mileage would be wrong and security would not let car started. I have got and the ODBII cable and some software but I did not investigate if it is able to pull data from old cluster and load it to the new one. I assume I would still have to take it to the dealer to have it done. It may be cheaper but not guaranteed it would work.
3) Try to fix it. If nothing I was thinking at least glue something on the dashboard so the RPM needle does not go over into gear shift indicator if the bouncing happen again. I know it’s ugly but the van is not going into any beauty contest. We are just hoping to get a bit more of its last years. I did some more research and found a post from Sholm:
“I have a 99 Windstar that had the exact same problem. After pulling the instrument cluster many times, I finally figured it out. I pulled the instrument cluster and started looking closely at the PCB boards in it. If you remove the back white cover on the cluster (5 or 6 T15 screws), you will see 2 printed circuit boards. One is full size, the other is a smaller "piggyback" board. If you pull the smaller ribbon cable off the piggyback board, you can lay it over to the side, leaving the larger ribbon cable connected. I looked at the back side of the surface mount connector that the small ribbon cable had been connected to, and saw 5 or 6 bad throughhole solder connections. I used to work in a PCB manufacturing facility, and knew what to look for. If you look very closely, the solder connection should be shiny and smooth. Any cracks will cause intermittent connection. I used my soldering iron to reflow the solder connections (I did the back of both connectors), and no more problems. I went from gauges bouncing ever minute or so, to no problem whatsoever. It looks as though this connector, which is at the edge of the PCB, hadn't been reflowed properly during manufacture. If you're not handy with soldering on a PC board, find someone who is. In my case, this was a fix.”
I took out my instrument cluster (there are instructions and even videos on youtube hw to do it). Removed back cover disconnected two smaller ribbon connectors, left the big one connected and flipped the piggyback board over to the side. First the boards looked fine. I took magnifying glass and indeed one of the pins from the small ribbon connector seem to be cold connected. There are bunch of chips soldered on the boards. Pins in the middle seem to be soldered well while those at the ends not so well. But these should be fine. It was the pin from the ribbon cable connector that seem to cause the problem. I re-soldered it and put everything back together. I still glued something on the dashboard to stop the needle below the THEFT light so I do not have to take everything apart again in case the needle decides to bounce over again.
So far the fix form Sholm worked beautifully. In my case the RPM needle is already somewhat damaged. It was bent, the tip is broken and the needle does not return to 0 when engine is off. It may be showing a bit higher RPM too not sure. If I have fixed the circuit earlier I could probably avoid this. But it no longer bounces like creasy nor other needles. All other gauges stopped bouncing and just work normally. Haven’t driven the car that much to say it is 100% gone but before the fix all gauges were off almost all the time and now they seem to be all good. Thanks!
PS: I guess I can get a needle and maybe a step motor replaced from another used cluster. Does anyone know how to do it or why RPM needle does not return to 0?
PS2: My wife is upset like always when I fix something. Whenever something breaks she see it as an opportunity to buy new. Now is disapointed