How To Tell If An Instrument Cluster Is Failing

A failing instrument cluster can be bad news for you and your car. If you’re driving with a broken instrument cluster, you’re not getting the correct readings on the car.

Broken gauge

For example:

  • The fuel level may be off
  • The vehicle’s speed reading may be wrong
  • The oil pressure may be off
  • The rpms of the engine may be displayed wrong

It's important to have all the information displayed correctly in the instrument cluster. It maintains the health of your vehicle and your own safety on the road. So if you have a hunch that your instrument cluster isn't working as well as it should, confirm the issue ASAP. This will let you have it repaired or replaced before any serious issues occur.

How Can An Instrument Cluster Go Bad?

Wear and tear is the main reason an instrument cluster goes bad. The following things can happen over time:

  • The indicator lights burn out
  • The back lighting burns out or gets dark spots
  • The wires get corroded or disconnected
  • The needles get stuck
  • The LCD or LED lights stop reading the right numbers or letters

Another common reason an instrument panel goes bad is a blown fuse. In that case, replacing only the fuse will do the trick. Most likely the instrument cluster is still fine.

Can Only One Gauge Go Bad?

It's possible for only one gauge to go bad. When that happens, it means that the rest of the instrument cluster may be fine. In that case, you can have only that gauge replaced. In fact, you can mail your instrument cluster to us. We'll replace the faulty gauge and fix any other problems we find. Read more about our mail-in specialty repairs here.

Indicators Of A Failing Instrument Cluster

Broken cluster

Image Credit: MBWorld

If you notice any of the following symptoms, your instrument cluster may be failing.

  • Dim instrument cluster lights
  • The check engine light coming on sporadically or permanently
    • This could mean that the instrument cluster is failing instead of there being something wrong with the engine
  • Intermittent failure of the gauges
  • Inaccurate gauge readings
    • For example, your car runs out of gas while the fuel gauge is still reading 1/2 full
  • Blinking lights
  • The lights glowing up or lighting up every now and then
  • Total failure of the instrument cluster, sporadically or permanently
  • The indicators failing to be audible
    • For example, if you leave the key in the ignition, the warning signal doesn't go off when you open the door
  • Defective turn signal indicators
  • Stuck needles

How To Diagnose A Failing Instrument Cluster

Most of the symptoms make it obvious that the instrument cluster is defective. Sometimes it's not so obvious, though. Sometimes the issue may be related to something else (like the fuse).

The first thing you want to do is rule out the fuse(s). To do this:

  1. Open the hood (or look under the kick panel in front of the driver's left knee)
  2. Find the fuse box
  3. Check all the fuses related to the instrument cluster
    1. Most of the time, there is only one fuse dedicated to the instrument cluster
    2. Look for any damage like soot or broken metal wires inside the fuse

If you find that the fuse is bad, replacing it may take care of the problem. If the fuse blows again, there is most likely a problem with the wiring leading to the cluster, or with the cluster itself.

If the fuse looks fine, then check the wires. Grab a flashlight and then look at all the wires connected to the instrument cluster. Look for any damage, like fraying or breakage. Don't forget to check all the connections too.

If the wiring and connections look good, the next thing to do is check the instrument cluster itself.

  • Check the power at the instrument cluster.
  • If the instrument cluster is receiving power, check the ground wire.
  • Check the bulbs and monitors in the instrument cluster.

When in doubt, replace the instrument cluster. Sometimes it's easier to replace the part than try to pinpoint the problem with the part itself.

Is Your Instrument Cluster Bad?

Cluster replaecment

If you've determined that your instrument cluster is bad, you have two ways to remedy the situation:

  1. Replace the instrument cluster
  2. Repair the instrument cluster

In either case, we're the guys to talk to. We offer high quality replacement instrument clusters for a variety of makes and models. If you'd prefer to have your instrument cluster fixed, we have a team of skilled technicians. Mail in your broken instrument cluster, and our techs will start repairing it within 24 hours of receiving it.

Do you have any questions about diagnosing a broken instrument cluster? We'll be more than happy to help if you contact us.