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Digital Cluster Odometer Problem


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11 replies to this topic

#1 ntrodda

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Posted September 21, 2008 at 02:09 pm

I have a 1987 LeBaron coupe with a digital instrument cluster. A problem I have had for a while and would now like to get fixed has to do with the odometer and trip. The miles read 86406 each time I start up. While driving, the odometer will increase but as soon as I turn off and back on, boom back to 86406. Trip has the same issue, starts always at 90.2, it can be reset and it seems to work, but the new updated mileage won't save past a restart.

Also, the oil gauge is at full maximum which I gather means it is grounded. I've replaced the sending unit with no change. Not sure if the two issues are related. Also not sure how to fix this.

The cluster also has what I call "ghost" images, bars that would normally be blank are lit up fairly dim. Also the odometer reading sometimes has these dimly lit numerals superimposed on the actual mileage. Not sure if this means the cluster is going out or what. When cruising at 60, there is a backwards dim lit "6" in front of the normal 60. Again, not sure how to fix any of this.

I would also like to know if the actual miles are stored somewhere in the car and something needs to be fixed in the cluster to get the correct miles to show? I keep a book with the mileage, so I know a fairly close ballpark of what the actual mileage should be based on the navigator trip.

Any help is much appreciated. I see similar issues with the digital cluster on here, but none as unique as this so far!

#2 Oklahoma Wolf

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Posted September 21, 2008 at 02:48 pm

The mileage is stored in the cluster - yours sounds like it's on its way out. Check for bad grounds in the dash anyway though.

#3 george w

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Posted October 4, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Swap out the cluster. Your symptoms are typical, especially the faded / phantom display characters and the always max'd gauge readings. This is probably indicative to either a bad component in the cluster or solder joints going bad. I've had these clusters apart and they're quite complex. I've found no service information or schematics on these though I'm sure someone or some service agency somewhere must have the ability to repair these clusters. Does anyone know who made them ? They may have come from Chrysler's Huntsville facility but that's just a guess on my part.

There is a "self test" mode. Hold the trip and trip reset buttons in and then turn the key to on. The cluster will begin to go through a diagnostic routine and display a single number in the speedometer. You then press the trip button again ( I think it's the trip button ) and it will sequence through the next test and a test ot wo after that until the entire cluster goes back to normal display. This may or may not be of any help but it does exercize the cluster and can point out malfunctions in the vacuum flourescent display.

These clusters were used in both J body LeBarons and Dodge Daytona from 87 through 89. Check with junk yards and ebay for a replacement. Maybe someone will come up with a repair agency as I have a couple of bad clusters myself that I can't bring myself to throw away.

#4 billccm

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Posted October 4, 2008 at 10:39 pm

If you can solder, you can repair this yourself. Either the 5V regulator IC is going out, electrolytic capacitors are leaky, or bad solder revits on the PCB are the cause. I have repaired several of these with just reflow of solder and replacement of capacitors.

Check on the web and call some local speedo repair shops about repairing this; most shops now charge a flat fee that is either reasonable, or outrageous.

Good Luck, Bill

#5 ntrodda

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Posted November 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Thank you for the help.

I have sent the cluster off to www.mrwhizard.com for repair. $199, and they paid for the shipping. We'll see in about a week how it turns out. While the website did not specifically list this particular cluster as one they repair, the gentleman I spoke with said they would give it a try. I think the problems with these are fairly similar, and the problems lies with the soldered components. The warranty for the repair is 2 years.

#6 ShelbyDodgeImp

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Posted November 14, 2008 at 12:01 am

. I've had these clusters apart and they're quite complex. I've found no service information or schematics on these though I'm sure someone or some service agency somewhere must have the ability to repair these clusters. Does anyone know who made them ? They may have come from Chrysler's Huntsville facility but that's just a guess on my part.


The cluster in my dynasty is from a 1988 Chrysler New Yorker, had 48,000 original miles when I grabbed the cluster & interior- cluster was the brightest I've ever seen for a digital mopar cluster, brighter than an alarm clock at night, in looking at the cluster there was a big sticker on the top or bottom of the housing (forget where exactly), saying that the unit was rebuilt by Motorola... so.... either Motorola was making some of these, or rebuilding them, or both ~1988-1993 (forget the date stamp on the sticker, or if it was readable, but it was in that time frame). My guess is that when they rebuilt it, they replaced the display hence the uber brightness.

To show what I mean, here it is next to a picture (sorry for the glare) of a STOCK mopar-original display, of the same model/year- with roughly the same mileage (45k vs 48k on the rebuilt)

Posted Image

If you look at the gauges to the sides you can see the difference. I would show you the sticker on the cluster but its in my car and would be a PITA to remove at the moment. If I ever pull it again, I'll grab a picture of it.

Now the traveler, out of the same 88 New Yorker- has a sticker on it showing it had been rebuilt by United Radio in Syracuse New York- no date stamp on that sticker tho so I don't know if both needed to be rebuilt at once, or separately or what the deal was. Makes me wonder if United Radio got both, did the traveler in house- saw how complicated the digital cluster was, and sent it out to be rebuilt by Motorola themselves.

Posted Image
Posted Image

Don't mind the ghost in the one picture.

United Radio I know from stuff unrelated to cars, they used to (might still) do radio repair (like with ham radio sets), tv repair, amplifier repair- and other electronics repair along those lines. I've run into some fairly old short wave radios with United Radio stickers on them, so they've been fixing stuff like this for decades- seeing their sticker on a traveler was, to say the least, surprising since I don't normally associate them with car electronics.

The million dollar question is "did they have the schematic for the traveler or did they figure out how to fix it without one?" and/or "is the reason why the cluster was sent to Motorola because only the big companies had access to the schematics from Mopar?"

Chrysler tends to be very secretive when it comes to their eek-era car electronics, its very hard to find in depth information like schematics. I almost want to say none of the rebuilders have access to schematics, and merely use their employees' experience to try to fix the part "with their blinders on" via the usual repair steps (like checking resistors, caps, solder joints). Unlike the radios, which were outsourced out to companies like Infinity & others- Chrysler probably designed their computers, digital clusters etc in-house and then had a company make them under contract.

Now unlike the digital cluster, the travelers are NOT fun to work on, I wouldn't want to tare into this one:
Posted Image

They're not put together with repair in mind, you have pressed together metal tabs, rivets etc- it can't be unbolted or unscrewed to gain access to the pcb(s). With the digital cluster on the other hand, its real easy to get inside it to access the PCB's (although I would not want to have to take apart the display PCB for repair, I wonder how many places just replaced the whole display PCB, which can be taken off the main cluster logic board via connectors... at least with this particular cluster, YMMV with the older ones).

It would be fairly impossible to repair the display part of the LCD-digital clusters, like this decaying one:
Posted Image

Not only are the LCD's sealed units, but all of them are like that center LCD- the one with the zero that's dying; the ribbon is pressed into the LCD panel, and then that ribbon is IIRC, soldered to the display PCB- Chrysler clearly intended the whole display PCB being replaced, with all the LCDs attached to it- as one assembly.

They clearly aren't making it easy for a repair perspective, but I don't think anyone in the 80s was pondering how people would coupe with dying digital clusters 20, 30, or 40 years after production.

Oh, and as to the odometer- it should be stored in the cluster this far back, if the speedo works its some kind of fault in the cluster itself. It could be solder joints, could be the memory chip that stores the mileage is bad, it could be that whatever taps into the speedo signal to update the odometer is open.

The fastest & easiest solution would be to just replace the cluster, but at least a rebuilt one would (in theory) last longer and probably, as my 88 cluster shows- be of better quality than what a junkyard might have.

#7 Marcos

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Posted November 14, 2008 at 08:15 am

This isn't directly related, but I was at the junkyard a couple of weekends ago dismantling the instrument panel of a 90's LHS, and the body control module had a sticker on it from a local electronics shop in Baltimore, so it seems that there are those independent businesses out there who are willing to take a crack at repairing these slightly older, seemingly too complex electronics. Which is helpful in this age of replace-instead-of-repair.

#8 Bob Lincoln

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Posted November 14, 2008 at 09:10 am

I had a radio repair done under warranty for my 92 Daytona. Display was intermittent at 11K miles. Years later I found a repair sticker for an independent shop north of Boston. So the dealer was allowed to sub them out to local sources.

#9 billccm

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Posted November 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I think different dealers had various avenues for radio and cluster repair back in the 1980s. In California, radios and clusters were swapped with refurb units from a 'authorized' shop up in Oregon. In Cincinnati, they used Queen City radio and a independant shop in Dayton for clusters. Up in Mich and Pennsylavnia units were swapped out through Chrysler Parts that were refurb from Hunstville.

Today, it all goes through Chrysler Parts under warranty. Out of warranty who knows? Most dealers tell you to 'have a nice day' when you are out of warranty with a repair such as this.

I'd like to know what mrwhizard.com has schematic wise; I'd happily buy copies from him.

In the early 1980s I was a tech at a local TV Repair shop (remember those?), and we briefly held a contract for several GM dealers to do repairs on displays and radios. The schematics were difficult to read, and vague, but once you figured out the failure cause on one particular item, it was repeatable on ALL that came through the bench. As expected, 99% of the cause of failures was poor soldering.

Our local Mom and Pop speedo shop here in Tucson told me that a floursecent display replacement for a late model SAAB is $600, and they fail evrey couple of years, or so. I saw the PCB and it looked like something out of the space shuttle; so complex with various surface mount ICs, etc.

I wish the car makers would stay with ol'reliable analog guages, even if they are electronic driven.

Bill

Edited by billccm, November 15, 2008 at 11:04 pm.


#10 ntrodda

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Posted November 17, 2008 at 09:50 pm

Mrwhizard.com contacted me today to say that the unit is fixed, and will be shipped back to me. The copper strip at the memory chip for the odometer was cracked by a previous repair which caused the odometer to be unable to save the new mileage. He also replaced the displays, so the cluster should look better than new. The warranty is for two years, so we shall see.

#11 bigbarneycars

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Posted March 29, 2009 at 09:03 am

How 'bout an update on this. Can't believe it's not installed and runnin' after more then 4 months. Thanks, Jer

How 'bout an update on this. Can't believe it's not installed and runnin' after more then 4 months. Thanks, Jer

#12 Mangelhaft

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Posted April 18, 2009 at 05:56 pm

I have a 1987 LeBaron coupe with a digital instrument cluster. A problem I have had for a while and would now like to get fixed has to do with the odometer and trip. The miles read 86406 each time I start up. While driving, the odometer will increase but as soon as I turn off and back on, boom back to 86406. Trip has the same issue, starts always at 90.2, it can be reset and it seems to work, but the new updated mileage won't save past a restart.

Also, the oil gauge is at full maximum which I gather means it is grounded. I've replaced the sending unit with no change. Not sure if the two issues are related. Also not sure how to fix this.

The cluster also has what I call "ghost" images, bars that would normally be blank are lit up fairly dim. Also the odometer reading sometimes has these dimly lit numerals superimposed on the actual mileage. Not sure if this means the cluster is going out or what. When cruising at 60, there is a backwards dim lit "6" in front of the normal 60. Again, not sure how to fix any of this.

I would also like to know if the actual miles are stored somewhere in the car and something needs to be fixed in the cluster to get the correct miles to show? I keep a book with the mileage, so I know a fairly close ballpark of what the actual mileage should be based on the navigator trip.

Any help is much appreciated. I see similar issues with the digital cluster on here, but none as unique as this so far!


I have "reversed-engineered" a couple of digital MOPAR clusters.

There are two power leads that go to the clusters. One is on in run or start. The second is constant powered. The constant power lead supplies power to the MPU, which does all of the math, A/D conversion, and display signals. It also writes the EEPROM to save mileage readings when the on-in-run lead is disconnected. If the constant power lead loses power before the PROM write is completed, the mileage updates will not be saved.

If the cluster is not saving the late mileage readings, check the power leads. If the test good, the issue is with the power circuitry in the cluster.

Hopefully this will help someone out there in "EEK Land".


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