HomeTips & GuidesSigns of Bad Instrument Cluster: How to Fix a Malfunctioning Instrument Cluster

Signs of Bad Instrument Cluster: How to Fix a Malfunctioning Instrument Cluster

How can you tell the signs of a bad instrument cluster? Typically, the car’s control board displays what’s happening to your vehicle in the background. 

Hence, telling when it’s faulty can improve your overall car use experience. 

Today, we have prepared critical insights about your car’s instrument cluster. 

We’ll explain its significance and illustrate the telltale signs of it not working. 

Read on for more of this. 

Table of Contents

Can a Bad Instrument Cluster Cause a No Start

If your instrument cluster is not working/gives erratic readings, your car may not start. 

But note that there’s no direct link between your vehicle not starting and a faulty instrument cluster. 

Instead, if factors such as fuel levels and engine conditions are okay, the car will still start even if its display is not working. 

However, the catch is that if the instrument cluster is not working, the driver will miss critical signals. 

Hence, you’ll unknowingly try to start a car whose parts have been damaged because you missed the signs. 

So if it’s already destroyed, then it will not start. 

What are Some Symptoms of a Failing Instrument Cluster?

A modern car instrument cluster. 

A modern car instrument cluster. 

Here are some of the warning signs to tell if your instrument cluster is on its way to failing: 

  • If you notice that your formerly bright gauge/indicator is now dimmer, then this means something is wrong with it. Again, an unusual flickering of the gauge lights means a connection fault may soon result in a failed instrument cluster.  
  • When you understand your car, you know when its indicator is relaying the right information. So if you note significant discrepancies between what is being relayed and the actual data, something must be amiss. 

An example is filling your tank, but the gas gauge shows empty. Also, if the speed sensor misreports the speed, there’s a problem. 

  • Analog indicators are primarily moving needles; they’ll always be stuck in one position when not working. The common issue is also prevalent with digital indicators, whereby the readings are not moving. 
  • Are you having blinking lights on the indicator distracting you from concentrating while driving? It could be a sign of an underlying issue in the instrument cluster. 

What Causes an Instrument Cluster to Stop Working?

Computer Faults

An issue in the software/hardware controlling the car system can lead to the instrument cluster not working. 

It could be a coding error or a malfunction in the hardware setup. 

Blown Fuse

A Car Fuse. 

A Car Fuse. 

It’s also among the most prominent causes of digital instrument cluster malfunction. 

Luckily it’s easy to tell when the potential issue is a fuse; in such a case, both gauges will not function.

 A blown fuse means no current is getting to the indicators. 

So check your car’s fuse box and check if it is still in good working condition. 

Loose Connectors

A quality mechanic is checking battery connections. 

A quality mechanic is checking battery connections. 

Sometimes a bad cluster issue could be as simple as a loose connector in the circuit. 

So you should identify which specific one needs tightening, and you’re good to go. 

But primarily while reconnecting, ensure you have first unplugged the car battery from its terminals. 

Next, identify the loose connection, fix it, then plug back power and see if you’ve solved the issue. 

Bad Sensors and Stripped Gear

Begin by checking if the speedometer sensor is working, as it is often prone to malfunctioning. 

Also, you need to check the cables connecting to the speedometers. If there’s a break in one part of this connector or it’s stripped, then it won’t conduct. 

Overloaded Circuit

An automotive relay voltage regulator.

An automotive relay voltage regulator.

The voltage regulator is arguably one of the instrument cluster’s most significant components. 

Primarily, it is responsible for providing current; hence if it malfunctions, the whole circuit is dead. 

In most cases, an improperly-working voltage regulator will mean no control of the current the instrument cluster receives. 

Hence, there will be current surges; you’ll see them as digital dash spikes and unnecessary movements. 

Also, note that jumpstarting the car can lead to such an issue. 

Wiring Problems

Sometimes the voltage regulator could be up and working, but your instrument cluster misbehaves. 

Then in such a scenario. The issue could be with the electrical wiring. 

If there are some wires in contact with a conductor, they could experience an electrical short. 

Grounding Issues

Is there a problem with your car’s electrical grounding? Because if an issue exists, one of the casualties will be the instrument cluster. 

Grounding issues are pretty severe as they impact not only your instrument cluster but the entire electrical system. 

Hence, they’re big enough to prevent the entire system from working. 

Defective Instrument Cluster

If none of the measures we’ve discussed seems to be the problem with your car, then the problem could be the instrument cluster. 

So an overhaul of the entire system could be necessary, and in this case, it is best to consult a professional mechanic before installing one. 

Diagnosing the Failing Instrument Cluster

An automotive gauge cluster.

An automotive gauge cluster.

We’ve talked about the probable instrument cluster malfunction cause. Now let us see the diagnosis procedure to identify the problem. 

  • Conduct a self-check of the instrument cluster per your car’s user manual. There’s no unique procedure as it varies from car model to model. 
  • Next, check if the fuse is functional using a multimeter. Connect the multimeter to the fuse, then turn on the ignition key/push button. It will help you tell if there’s current passing to the other end. 
  • If the fuse is okay, test the separate gauges for malfunction. Also, at this point, confirm that the grounding is okay. 
  • When testing for the voltage reaching the instrument cluster, we advise using a voltmeter. An alternative tester, such as a test light, will not help you know the voltage passing to the instrument cluster. 
  • Also, confirm that the key parts are working well. Pay strict attention to the fuel gauge and coolants. Again, check if the engine lights are functioning correctly.  
  • Moreover, perform a sensor test to see if they’re in good working shape; otherwise, they’ll provide inaccurate readings.
  • Finally, dislodge the entire instrument cluster from its casing and fix anything that appears out of shape. 

How To Fix Instrument Cluster Fuse Fault?

Auto mechanic checking a car fuse box. 

Auto mechanic checking a car fuse box. 

Here are fast, quick fixes to an instrument cluster problem. 

  • First, identify your instrument cluster fuse. Its location will vary from car to car. 
  • Scrutinize it to see if you can identify any faults. If present, unplug it and replace it with a new one. 
  • But make sure you choose a new fuse with an amperage rating similar to the one you’re replacing. 
  • Check if your instrument cluster is now working well. 

Summary

A faulty instrument cluster is a recipe for many car problems. Hence having it up and working always is imperative. 

It’ll significantly improve your car user experience. Also, it ensures you aren’t stuck in the middle of nowhere with no fuel. 

So don’t wait until nothing on the dashboard display is working. Keep track of the cluster behavior and fix it when necessary. Thanks for reading to the end.

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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