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Installing Cruise Control on an EEK!

After using cruise control in my dad's truck, and with the 20-minute commute every day to school, I knew I had to have it. Anyone who's driven the highway for long stretches will attest to its virtues. When I received my factory service manuals for Christmas and started doing some research I found out that one benefit of the commonality of the EEK (extended everyday K-car) line was that the base model and the luxury model have the same parts, the luxury version just has more.

For most EEKs that I've seen, the wiring for cruise control is already on the car. Likewise, the computer for a cruise control equipped car is the same (in most cases) as for those without. There is only some extra hardware added to a car with the cruise option, all of which can be added to your car.

I installed cruise on my car, a 1993 Dodge Shadow ES with the 3.0-liter V6 and the 4 speed automatic transmission. The car didn't come equipped with cruise, but for about $30 I got two sets (in case one was bad) of equipment from the U-Pull-It to make the change.
Here are the parts you'll need:

  • Vacuum control (with correct throttle cable)
    • Make sure you get the right one for your car as some are mounted by the break booster while others are mounted under the battery tray. Also make sure the throttle cable is for the right engine. The throttle cable for the 2.2/2.5 is different than for the 3.0 or 3.3/3.5/3.8. If you cut off the connector from the parts car it can be used for diagnostics later. Make sure you get any mounting brackets and accessory hardware. If you're not sure if you'll need it then take it just in case. If your vacuum control mounts to the strut tower, you may need to remove the three bolts that hold the spring/shock assembly to the car. You don't have to, but if the car is off the ground it's much easier.
      Caution: Don't remove the large center bolt as it will release the shock and could cause damage!
  • Cruise control switches (stalk or wheel mounted)
    • Depending on the year of your car, these will be either under the airbag or on the turn signal stalk. If they're on the wheel you'll also need the clockspring (see below). For the stalk mounted switches you'll probably need the whole switch assembly. Don't cut the connectors to these.
  • Vacuum canister and lines.
    • Again, this is mounted in different places on different models but it is usually mounted to the side of the battery tray. Some are mounted to brackets and hang below the tray, others may not even have one.
  • Break pedal switch
    • The center mount stoplight is connected to a switch attached to the steering column. This switch also controls the cruise control shutoff and is different, so it will need to be changed. The switch just pulls out of the bracket but it can be hard to get at. The switch connects to the wiring harness at a black connector with 6 pins. Follow the connector to the switch. They may also have one strap that holds the wire, this just usually pulls off.
  • Clockspring
    • The most important and hardest part to get is the clockspring. If your cruise control has the buttons below the airbag, then this clockspring is what allows you to turn the wheel and still have all the electronics (horn, airbag, and cruise) work. You'll need to pull this from your parts car too.
    • Important: This part is no good if the airbag has been blown, try to take it from a car that didn't blow the airbag.

You'll need a steering wheel (or bolt-type) puller to get the wheel off. Make sure the tires are centered before removing. If you don't know if the tires are straight then the clockspring will need to be re-centered before you install it on your car. One of the wires from the clockspring is for the airbag and ends in a yellow connector. Its long and runs down the steering column. Do NOT cut these wires! Make sure to disconnect and take the whole unit. Check for continuity across the spring before you install it.

Watch how everything comes out, as it will help you know how it goes back in. With your parts in hand return to your car and get everything ready.

If your car is equipped with an airbag be VERY CAREFUL. Make sure you disconnect the battery and let the car sit for at LEAST 10 minutes before working with the steering column. Always stay away from the front of the airbag and never set it down on its face. Only use the hardware that came with the airbag. When you first turn the key on (don't start) after reinstalling, do so from the passenger seat and make sure the airbag light goes off. If not then disconnect the airbag and go to the dealer to have it serviced. If you are not comfortable with this part of the installation then have a mechanic change the clockspring for you.

Now it's just a matter of remounting the parts in your car. Disconnect the battery, both to reset the computer (it will have to recognize the cruise control) and to make things safer. The control goes in and connects to the throttle lever, vacuum hose, and electrical connector. If yours mounts to the strut tower the mounting bracket can be installed without removing the spring. Another option is to use three individual bolts. Place washers behind to hold them in place. You'll need to jack the car up to uncoil the spring, then it will require some time, patience, and force (as well as some obscenities). Some anti-seize will make sure that you can remove the bolts if the unit goes bad down the road (no pun intended). Make sure the connectors on your wiring harness are clean. A small piece of metal can be used to scrape the corrosion from the contacts.

Mount the vacuum canisters and run the vacuum lines. Some cars pull vacuum from the break booster while others will pull off the engine. Check to see where yours connects. You may need to make your own lines. If you do, make sure to include the check valve from the source to the canister.

Next mount the new brake switch. Just pull the old one and disconnect it from the harness then press the new one in as far as it will go, then press the brake pedal down as far as it will go to set the switch and reconnect the harness.

If you have an airbag then you'll need to pull it (read warning above) and the steering wheel. Disconnect the old clockspring (make sure the wheels of your car are centered before) and put the new one in place . Re-run the airbag wire and reconnect the harness. Reinstall the wheel and then connect the horn, airbag, and then the cruise switches. Make sure that there is a fuse in the panel for cruise. It is a gray 2-amp fuse, and the location will differ for different cars.

Now double-check all the connections and reconnect the battery. Turn the key on (don't start) and make sure the airbag light goes out (if applicable). If it does then you can put things back together enough to take it for a test drive. If there is a problem the computer should set a code 34. A high idle and hiss under the hood would indicate a vacuum leak. The factory service manual details troubleshooting procedures. If everything is connected right and there are no electrical or vacuum problems then you should have cruise control.

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