Windstar SEL 1999 Gauges Gone Crazy


smata67
10-31-2012, 12:42 PM
I had the famous gauges gone wild issue with my windstar and have the cluster out of the car. I will be looking at it closely later. The word on the street is that the culprit is bad solder joints on the pcb at the connectors and I will be checking and reflowing these. I have not been able to find a photo of the problem or more specifics regarding the issue. Does anyone have any additional tips when looking, hopefully it will be easily apparent, but if it is not, then I will most likely hold off re-installation.

12Ounce
10-31-2012, 01:50 PM
When I have had the crazy-gauge-phenom, it was always related to relay studder, somestime caused by the relays ... sometimes caused by low voltage chatter.

smata67
10-31-2012, 05:42 PM
When I have had the crazy-gauge-phenom, it was always related to relay studder, somestime caused by the relays ... sometimes caused by low voltage chatter.

There is a relay inside the cluster, is that the relay you are talking about?

smata67
10-31-2012, 05:42 PM
Well I’ve just finished the job and it went smoothly, though it took me 4 hours. I do work slow, though. First off, if you get this problem, you should fix it as soon as possible, because at some point the tachometer needle is going to go all the way clockwise and stop you from being able to put the car in park. You will likely damage the needle before figuring this out. What you will need to do when this happens is ensure you have a spare key always handy. The car will need to be placed in N and the emergency brake engaged. At that point, the car can be turned off, but unfortunately, the key cannot be removed, you will have to lock the car with it in it, but you will have that spare key to save the day. Don’t try to force the car into park when the needle is all the way over, won’t work.

Several posts report that the crazy gauge problem originates with bad solder joints at the pins of a connector or connectors inside the cluster. These are not the three connectors you will need to unhook to remove the cluster from the car, these are inside the unit. I carefully inspected these joints, they will be on the smaller of the two pcbs in the cluster, but did not see anything suspicious. Regardless, I reflowed the solder by adding a very small amount of additional solder and heating to melting. I suggest if you attempt this to use a good quality station type soldering iron such as the Hakko 888, which is very reasonably priced. Using poor irons can ruin a pcb, spring for the right tool, you are saving a bundle here.

Since I did not see any poor joints on my cluster, I’m wondering if that is even the problem. I have on occasion fixed electronics by simply pulling and re-seating the connectors. It is very possible that the results people have obtained are due to reseating these connectors, hard to say. If you don’t feel comfortable soldering and have lots of time, you could just try this. I figured why not re-solder, though I admit I have occassionally buggered up pcbs, mainly older brown vintage boards, but these boards soldered well, just don’t keep the iron on the joint for more than 2 or 3 seconds. Also inspect the pins, I found one to have lost its tin, it may have been the culprit.

While I had the thing apart, I decided to finally address the intermittent ABS light problem by hiding it so as to pass inspection. The bulb is held in a socket which can be twisted out of its well. It is a simple matter to solder some leads to the contact points and mount the socket elsewhere. Keep in mind the bulb will get hot. I mounted directed to the pcb using the Loctite Plastic Bonding system, which works quite well. I also secured it with some tie wraps, not fully trusting the glue will hold long term. Make sure you locate it so if it does work itself loose, it can’t cause harm. I suspect that simply removing the bulb will cause a trouble code, just mount it somewhere else and the ABS “problem” becomes a thing of the past.

So far, car has been started and run a few times, but time will tell if the repair is successful. I am certainly enjoying not having the ABS light staring at me.

scubacat
10-31-2012, 06:45 PM
Did you at least test the alternator? Sometimes a failing alternator can cause gauges to go on the fritz. (May not be the case but always worth a quick test regardless.)

I would never pretend to be uber-savvy at this stuff but I was able to repair the ECM, myself, thereby actually fixing the ABS module. It took a few hours and some patience but it's an easy solder job once you reach that circuitboard.

smata67
10-31-2012, 09:42 PM
The alternator is a Remy remanufacture that is 3 years old or so. New battery this summer. I don't think it is an electrical problem. More electronics than electrical. Hopefully, I've got the problem resolved. Someone with the RPM needle problem reported placing an obstruction at the THEFT light so the needle could not go any further and therefore not interfere with the shifter. This doesn't stop the gauges from going waywire and the dancing gauges would fail inspection, annually here in Virginia. It's no longer about keeping the thing running, you've got to beat the Feds too.

1stboom
03-14-2013, 06:12 AM
Problem solved! I have a 2001 Windstar that first started with the tach needle pegging took dash apart and flipped it back. That lasted a while but reoccurred after a couple hundred miles. Did it twice more the last time it happened again within 50 miles. I then thought it must be in the cluster so went to the boneyard and got another cluster. Installed new cluster and after a short time tach acted up again then the speedo started to quit working. Did find if I pounded on the top of the dash it would return back to normal with the tach pegged. So thinking I may have gotten a bad cluster got another cluster and replaced it again. Same problems came back. One day when speedo quit I also noticed that the fuel and water temp gauges were not correct. It now lead me to believe maybe the ground was bad as all the gauges was affected. Take the dash apart once more looking for a ground wire. Needless to say couldn't find anything that looked like a ground. Started van up with the cluster loose and tried wiggling the wire harness with no luck to recreate problem. After reinstalled dash panel I saw at the side of the dash in the door jamb a bolt that secures that dash to the body. I tightened the bolts in both the driver and passenger doorjambs and for over 7,000 miles haven't had a problem since.

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