DIY Instrument Cluster | Circuit Board Repair

Over the years of automotive electrical repairs I have learned some very helpful tricks that I like to share. This one is a common circuit board problem that you can expand beyond just repairing instrument clusters. I have used this method to repair Volvo ABS computers and other circuit board failures. The pictures below will show examples of what to look for in circuit board repairs. The most common type of failure I see in the circuit boards (will not be able to show you in pictures) are cracks at the solder point where the wire, resistor, transistor or whatever is soldered at that point. Usually the main connection where the external wire harness connection is soldered to the circuit board (electrical connector to circuit board soldered connections). These cracks are hard to see but the fix is simple, just re-heating solder to weld itself back together for a good solid connection. These cracks will cause intermittent problems or a complete open circuit. You can usually get it to act up by flexing or tapping on the computer or in this case the instrument cluster. The pictures in the gallery below show open circuits that developed and what to look for. Remember though if it’s cracked the connection will look good unless you look at it really close with magnify glass, that is how I would recommend to inspect the solder points of the circuit board your repairing. When I get going on soldering a circuit board for repair I usually end up just re-soldering all the main solder point connections. It goes pretty quick once you get the hang of it.


Digital temperature control solder station. Important not to get it too hot when soldering circuit boards

1996 Dodge Neon Instrument Cluster Failure

This specific repair was due to an intermittent failing instrument cluster in a 1996 Dodge Neon. The speedometer, fuel and engine temperature gauges will drop to zero and illumination lights go off. Basically the instrument cluster goes dead. You can reenact the problem by hitting the dash or get it to come back on the same way. The main solder points on the circuit board where the electrical connector plugs into it, that’s the ones that had cracks.

This post was written by: Martin Hand


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About Martin Hand

ASE Certified L1 Advanced Mastertech. Martin Hand has over 15 years experience in Asian and European Import Auto Repair. Specializing in electrical diagnosis, engine performance, AT/MT transmission repair/rebuild. Martin is also pursuing a degree in Computers Science & Information Systems starting at Portland Community College while he plans to transfer to OIT. Certified in Java application level programming, experienced with other languages such as PHP, Ruby, JavaScript and Swift. Martin has future plans of automotive diagnostic software development.

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