Ford Instrument Cluster Stepper Motors
Simply replacing a stepper motor may not fix your gauge problem due to solder, electrical or other sensors in the truck. If you believe you have a cluster issue then we recommend working with a repair shop to test your truck. If you do have any cluster issues then please reach out to us.
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What is a gauge stepper motor?
A gauge stepper motor is a device used to move the needle on an instrument panel cluster with direct pins to the circuit board. It has small coils inside which become energized in sequence to turn the shaft these are called "steps". A soldering iron is used to "burn" the coil in half thus jumping the internal steps in one position. This process can be repeated until all coils are burnt out and the motor is freed.
There is a motor behind the instrument clusters needle gauge like oil pressure, speedometer, rpm, etc. The needle shaft is controlled by the motor stepper unit. If the gauge's sticking then that is likely a sign of a bad gauge stepper motor.
What are the benefits of using a stepper motor?
There are two main advantages to using a stepper motor to turn an instrument cluster needle versus a normal motor. The first being you have infinite adjustability with regards to the rate at which the needle turns, the second is you can make the needle go backward.
A light indicator can be placed behind the needle so that when you are in reverse you can see it illuminate. A dial indicator works well for this.
How do stepper motor gauges work?
Stepper motor gauges work by pulsing the coils on and off in sequence, when you do this at a certain speed (revolutions per minute) it causes the shaft to move. Now by alternating currents, if it is an AC motor, or direct current if DC, in this case, you will get the motor to rotate.
A bi-polar stepper motor can be wired in "bipolar mode" or "unipolar mode"
A precision motion bi-polar stepper motor has four wires. It is important you know which one is the center tap for this type of stepper motor to utilize the full power capacity.
The "center tap wire" needs to be connected to the ground or left disconnected if using a unipolar motor wiring configuration. The other three wires are then wired to your circuit in this configuration. The other three wires are the 3 phases of the stepper motor, they go to your microcontroller or driver board (three wires).
For smooth motion makes good use of the center tap wire.
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What is the main use of a stepper motor?
It is to control the needles on a Ford instrument cluster. An extremely fine step precision is needed to do this, and a stepper motor is the best device for the job. Installation instruction for doing this is available in this thread.
Can you test a stepper motor?
Yes, they are pretty simple to test in fact. First, put 5vdc on each wire and turn it by hand, does the needle move? If so you have a bad connection or the coils inside need cleaned.
Now take 12volts and run it across one coil at a time, if the needle moves in one direction you connected the coil backward.
Do this for all three coils, if they all move in the same direction then you are in business. If not then your stepper motor is bad or needs cleaning.
How do I clean a stepper motor?
A small brass wire brush will work great for cleaning most precision motion motors, but not all.
For more precision motion stepper motors a more gentle method of cleaning is recommended. A Q tip with a little isopropyl alcohol will work fine for this purpose.
How do you measure stepper motor step size?
To measure a Ford cluster stepper motor step size, first, disconnect the battery.
Then connect a wire from pin 3 on the main harness connector to pin 30 on either cluster connector.
Turn your key to ignition, but not start for this test, now touch one of your probes to pin 5 on both clusters at the same time. You should see each LED increase by 1 as you go through all 60 steps.
Then you tap the wire from pin 3 to 30 on both clusters at the same time, this time they should decrease by one for each step you go through.
If all of your LEDs light up at once then, (and only then) is your stepper motor in bipolar mode? If not, then try swapping pins 3 and 30 on the main harness connector.
If that doesn't work then try switching the wires to pins 3 and 31. Any combination of these three should get you 60 steps in both directions.
How do you fix a stepper motor?
To fix a Ford instrument cluster stepper motor, first, remove the plastic cover over the motor. Next, pull the needle off at the base of its mount. Now you should see a small Phillips head screw that holds it in place. Do not lose this screw as it has a very small wire gauge attached to it.
Next, depress the small tab on top of the black base, and pull the black base towards you. The motor will come with it, but you need to be gentle.
You can clean the coils inside with a small brass wire brush made for this purpose only. A Q tip with a little isopropyl alcohol works fine for cleaning most motors too, remember not all motors are alike some will need a different method of cleaning.
Now you have to put the motor back together, it may take a little dexterity for this part as you need to get both halves lined up correctly and this is where that lost screw bug falls into play. Once it's all back together simply pop the needle back on its mount, be gentle with it if it doesn't go back on easily.
Lastly, replace the plastic cover over the motor, and you're all done!
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What does stepper motor do?
It moves the needles that indicate your speed and rpm. And it also moves the indicator for when you are in a park or neutral so it can be seen from outside of the car on automatic transmission vehicles.
Are all GM Stepper motors the same?
No, there are 3 different GM models and each one has a different part number.
What are the three types of stepper motor?
There are three types of stepper motors, unipolar, bipolar, and interlaced. They each have their own way of operating which gives them their unique characteristics when in use.