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I recently went to start my 2005 Pt Cruiser Limited and the instrument cluster was dead. It's never acted up before. Checked ALL of the fuses, all good. Cleaned the battery terminals and connection where the big red power cable mounts to the main fuse panel in engine bay, and applied some silicone grease. The cluster came to life once, then went dead again.

I suspect the alternator has failed, and that this is why the instrument cluster is not working.

Before I order parts, I'd appreciate your tips on what all to do while I have it apart, advice on how to go about it (anything different from what the service manual says) and if I should pay a shop to do the work instead.

It has 137k on it, and looks like the belts have never been replaced, so I'm sure it's long overdue for a new timing belt and water pump. I also have the two main engine mounts (already replaced the two strut type mounts).

The shop manual instructions for replacing the "generator belt" that say to check belt tension using Special Tool 8371 and a "DRBIII", whatever that is. So, it looks like proper belt tension is super critical and requires special tools. What ever happened to automatic belt tension? Is all this really necessary?

I've always done my own repairs, but am semi-disabled nowadays, so am considering having the work done. If I were to pay a shop, how much do you think it should cost me to have them replace the alternator and drive belt, and install the front-center and rear-center motor mounts? Add to that replacing the water pump, timing belt and idler pulley (is there more than one?)--how much should all that cost?

I may only be able to replace the alternator, drive belt and engine mounts for now. Anyway, the transmission seems to be going out (will see which symptoms remained after I replace the alternator), so I don't want to sink a bunch of time and money into this car just yet. I love this car, but am thinking it's time to move on to another beater. Problem is, I can't get a "new" car until I get rid of the Pt Cruiser.

Am wondering if there is ANY WAY to replace the alternator without removing the lower control arm and axle? Seems like it should be possible after I remove the heat shield and jocky the engine and trans around to make room.
 

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If it were the alternator, you’d have other symptoms than the cluster not responding. Did the car start even though the cluster didn’t work?

You need to diagnose before assuming the alternator is bad.
 
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. . . I recently went to start my 2005 Pt Cruiser Limited and the instrument cluster was dead. It's never acted up before. Checked ALL of the fuses, all good. Cleaned the battery terminals and connection where the big red power cable mounts to the main fuse panel in engine bay, and applied some silicone grease. The cluster came to life once, then went dead again.

I suspect the alternator has failed, and that this is why the instrument cluster is not working. . . .
The alternator is not connected directly to the instrument cluster. The alternator keeps the battery charged and supplies electrical current to the entire vehicle. As long as the battery has sufficient charge, all electrical devices to include the instrument cluster will function when ignition key switch turned to ON / RUN position.

Check the power and ground feeds at the C1 connector at the instrument cluster. That is the problem area and why the cluster is not illuminating and functioning. See attached image for connector pinouts.

Instrument Cluster C1 Connector V2.gif
. . . The shop manual instructions for replacing the "generator belt" that say to check belt tension using Special Tool 8371 and a "DRBIII", whatever that is. So, it looks like proper belt tension is super critical and requires special tools. What ever happened to automatic belt tension? Is all this really necessary? . . .
Good rule to follow on accessory drive belts is to adjust tension so that you have approximately 1/2 inch of belt deflection at a midpoint between the pulleys. I have used that for years and not had a belt failure because of that.

DRBIII is the acronym for diagnostic readout box, 3rd version. It is the scan tool Chrysler used in the early 2000 era for monitoring and troubleshooting electronic control systems.

The installation procedure for a replacement generator was certainly interesting. It indicates to install the generator and route the belt properly over the pulleys. Then attach a microphone to the DRBIII device and place the microphone pickup next to the belt; distance 1 inch. Pluck the belt 3 times. A frequency will be created and the scan tool will display the frequency. You adjust the belt tension until you get the proper frequency displayed on the tool. I do believe the "rule of thumb" I presented for adjusting belt tension will be adequate and you do not need to "pluck and record" a frequency.

. . . . I've always done my own repairs, but am semi-disabled nowadays, so am considering having the work done. If I were to pay a shop, how much do you think it should cost me to have them replace the alternator and drive belt, and install the front-center and rear-center motor mounts? Add to that replacing the water pump, timing belt and idler pulley (is there more than one?)--how much should all that cost? . . . .
Attached image shows the belt drive arrangement for the 2.0 / 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine. There is only 1 idler pulley used.

Accessory Belt Drive.gif

You can go to this web site and enter vehicle information, your location zip code and the repair desired and get a range of fees for a particular repair. If you do all the repair / replacement of parts listed, there is some overlap so the total fee charged would be less than the sum of each individual repair.

www.repairpal.com
 

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For the timing belt job, which IMO, should include: timing belt, water pump, idler pulley, tensioner, (2) cam seals, crank seal, center motor mount with new bolt, in my area (Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX) was about $1500 for my PT, and that included all MOPAR parts (no after-market).

For your PT, you would have to add $ for the alternator and transmission mount replacement.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
OK, I'll check the cluster ground, wherever it is. The alternator has a bad bearing, I can hear it (have replaced lots of em). I was thinking more along the lines of a short circuit caused by the alternator misbehaving (arcing due to excessive play caused by a worn bearing).
Thanks for the info on the kit. That's way to rich for my blood at the moment, so will either just replace alternator and belt, and fix the cluster, or get rid of it. The seats in this car are really comfortable, and it's been a great little hauler. :-(
 

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Remove your air filter and air box and take a good look at the 7 grounds there on the inside of the driver side fender. This is a known problem area for the PT's. Why in the world Chrysler put so many grounds under 2 screws in the same area is a mystery. Don't just look at those grounds, remove the screws and inspect the connector on each wire. Clean them, clean the area and the screws and then put them back on. This MIGHT be the problem area. Since you have a Gen 1 PT and not the Gen 2 which started in 2006, at least you don't have to deal with the TIPM. And like 06 PT mentioned, to replace the front center mount, the process is exactly the same as for replacing the timing belt, water pump, etc. What I mean by that is all of the stuff has to come off the front of the engine like you were replacing all of the timing components. Just not the timing cover or water pump, but the engine has to come up and things are in the way.
 
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The reason so many grounds are connected at one point is to prevent the creation of ground loops, which in turn disrupt voltage levels to circuits and induce offsets in control circuits.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I cleaned and lubed the grounds under the air box. The Instrument console is still dead.
Also replaced the left motor mount.

Forgot to mention that the CD changer cycles through checks for CDs (8 of them) every time I turn ignition on. It did NOT do that before the instrument cluster went dead.

Is there anything else I should do before pulling the instrument cluster?
 

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Since you suspect the alternator, I would test it and the battery (load-test), and replace as necessary. No diagnostics are any good without a good working battery and charging system.
 
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Since you suspect the alternator, I would test it and the battery (load-test), and replace as necessary. No diagnostics are any good without a good working battery and charging system.
The battery on my multi-meter is just about dead. Not enough power to test amperage, but it sort of works for testing voltage.

Load Test Results: In the 20 VDC range, I got intermittent readings, mostly around 18 (number displays briefly, then jumps to 1). In the 200 volt range, I got a steady 213. Even factoring in no voltage regulator, 21+ volts seems abnormally high, so the meter may not be accurate with the dying battery. If the reading is correct, I expect the voltage regulator probably has a fried diode.

The service manual says the alternator has to be replaced as a unit, and I still suspect it has a bad bearing, so will start the process of removing the alternator (this may take awhile), then take it to a local store and have them put it on the test rig.

Still wondering if it's possible to remove the alternator without removing the right axle. Guess I'll give it a try.
 

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OK, found a good 9v battery and load tested the charging system again, and got 14 volts. So, it's working. I still think the alternator (or something belt driven) has a bad bearing, but will remove and test the instrument cluster first.
 

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The alternator is not connected directly to the instrument cluster. The alternator keeps the battery charged and supplies electrical current to the entire vehicle. As long as the battery has sufficient charge, all electrical devices to include the instrument cluster will function when ignition key switch turned to ON / RUN position.

Check the power and ground feeds at the C1 connector at the instrument cluster. That is the problem area and why the cluster is not illuminating and functioning. See attached image for connector pinouts.
Thanks! I removed the instrument cluster and ran the following tests per the service manual:

TEST 1. Check for ignition voltage at Pin 14 of the 26-way cluster wire harness connector. RESULT: NO VOLTAGE.
Service manual just says "repair as necessary". Wondering what to do next. I've already checked all fuses (all good, and no corrosion), cleaned the battery terminals and the grounds on left side of engine bay (left fender), under the air intake box. Note that the instrument cluster did come back to life at one point, so pretty sure it's not a fuse issue.

What should my next course of action be? Thinking of pulling up the power distribution center (main fuse panel) and checking underneath it, but it did not just come off when I release all of the retainer clips, and it's getting pretty cold out there.

Notes:
  • The ignition switch works "fine" (engine starts right up, various accessories work). I replaced the security device part of ignition switch with a new one last year, and have had no ignition problems (before or after).
  • With ignition on, the hazard flasher relay clicks at about twice the normal rate when hazard switch is turned OFF. When it's turned on, it clicks at the normal (slow) rate. The CD changer also cycles through the 8 CD bays.

TEST 2. Check for battery voltage at Pin 4 of the 26-way connector. RESULT: 11.9 volts
 

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. . . . TEST 1. Check for ignition voltage at Pin 14 of the 26-way cluster wire harness connector. RESULT: NO VOLTAGE . . . . .
Do you have the service manual with wiring diagrams? Chapter 8W - section 40 will have schematics showing power and grounds to the instrument cluster. Make sure the ignition key switch is in position ON / RUN for checking voltage at pin #14 at the cluster. Check fuse #10. See attached image for year 2003 PT Cruiser. I would expect it to be the same or very similar for a 2005 model year.

Instrument Cluster C1 connector Power.png
 

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Do you have the service manual with wiring diagrams? Chapter 8W - section 40 will have schematics showing power and grounds to the instrument cluster. Make sure the ignition key switch is in position ON / RUN for checking voltage at pin #14 at the cluster. Check fuse #10. See attached image for year 2003 PT Cruiser. I would expect it to be the same or very similar for a 2005 model year.

View attachment 27023
Yes, I have the service manual. I found the 2005 Instrument Cluster schematic that corresponds to the 2003 version you posted. It's virtually identical (only difference is there is no "other" circuit parallel to the "S224" splice.

Yes, I tried with ignition switch in both ON and RUN positions, and got no voltage at pin 14 (ignition).

Fuse #10, huh? Per the owner's manual, maxi fuse "10" is a "40 Amp/Green" fuse. There are SIX of these in the main fuse panel. I didn't test any of the maxi fuses. I will test resistance on fuse #10 and the other 5 green fuses tomorrow.

If it's not that, what else could it be???
 

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. . . .Fuse #10, huh? Per the owner's manual, maxi fuse "10" is a "40 Amp/Green" fuse. There are SIX of these in the main fuse panel. . . . .
Look at pages 304 and 305 in the owner's manual. There are 2 fuse locations on the vehicle. The power distribution center (next to the battery) fuse #10 is a 40 amp fuse that feeds the instrument panel fuse block. This fuse is probably good. The IP fuse block is located in the lower driver side area of the dash. Check fuse #10 in that fuse block. See attached image.

Interior Fuse Block Legend.gif
 

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While I have the instrument cluster out, thought it would be a good idea to check the solder joints on the instrument cluster circuit board. I got the back of the cluster (white plastic) almost all the way off, but it's stuck tight around the smaller 10-pin male connector on the back.
I only found 3 screws holding it on. It's just stuck around this one connector. The service manual does not cover disassembly of the cluster itself that I can find. Anyone know how to get the back off the instrument cluster on the '05?
 

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You might want to check the length of all the pins on the connector. I don't know why, but several of the harnesses on the PT's have pins that will recede over time. Maybe you'll get lucky and find it's a short pin and you can pull it out some with needle nose pliers or some hemostats if you have any. I got a pair from a friend years ago that is a nurse and they come in handy from time to time where needle nose pliers may be just a bit too wide or thick.
 

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You might want to check the length of all the pins on the connector. I don't know why, but several of the harnesses on the PT's have pins that will recede over time. Maybe you'll get lucky and find it's a short pin and you can pull it out some with needle nose pliers or some hemostats if you have any. I got a pair from a friend years ago that is a nurse and they come in handy from time to time where needle nose pliers may be just a bit too wide or thick.
Thanks for the suggestion. All the pins are the same height and firmly in place, so I think the solder joints are all good, but thought I'd make sure while I have it out. Any idea why the back won't come off at the 10-pin connector?
 

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Removed all of the maxi fuses and regular fuses from the main panel and secondary panel and checked resistance on each. All of them tested good. Also reseated everything else in the main panel. Plugged the instrument cluster back in and it came to life. Ran the self check. Then went to lunch, came back and turned the ignition on. Instrument cluster came to life. Started the engine, instrument cluster stayed on. Will recheck again tomorrow, then reassemble if all is well. Two of the fuses in the secondary panel are a rather loose fit. If it acts up again, I will check those first. Hoping it is "fixed" for good. Thanks to all for the assistance!
 

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Congratulations! Maybe it was just some dirty contact points and your unplugging and plugging them back in "swept" them clean?
 
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