Getting the wrong reading from your speedometer or from any other gauge on the instrument cluster can be such a hassle, especially since you won't be able to regularly monitor your vehicle's vital stats. So before a wrong gas level, vehicle speed or mileage reading leads to all sorts of trouble, better take a look and see what the problem is. In some cases, a faulty instrument panel can be repaired by tinkering with or replacing the stepper motors. However, if the instrument panel is badly damaged (cracked plastic, worn-out parts underneath, etc.), you need to install a new cluster. Here's how to do it:
Tools you'll need:
- Socket wrench
- Plug puller (optional)
Step 1: Remove the instrument cluster.
Once you've disconnected the battery cables, take a closer look at your instrument panel. Depending on your car make, you might have to simply pry off the cluster with a screwdriver, unbolt it from the dashboard, or dismantle the dashboard first before you could remove the cluster. Use the appropriate tools when unbolting or dismantling the dashboard, making sure that you don't damage the panel or the bezels with the screwdriver or socket. A plug puller is a handy tool when removing other smaller dashboard parts.
Step 2: Disconnect the wires at the back of the panel.
The instrument cluster is connected to your car through a series of wires and cables that route into the back of each gauge or instrument. Take note of the proper wire routes. Make a diagram of the wiring routes so you'll know which wires to attach to each instrument later on.
Step 3: Attach the new instrument cluster.
Connect the wires hanging from the dashboard into the new instrument panel. Follow the diagram of the wire routes you made a while ago. Keep in mind that connecting the wrong wires to the wrong gauge can result in premature wire or instrument damage. Once the correct wires are properly connected, place the new panel in position and press it back inside the dashboard hole. Bolt or screw it in place. If you had to dismantle the entire dashboard before you could get into the cluster, reattach all the other dashboard parts.
Step 4: Test the new gauge panel.
After reinstalling everything, test the new instrument cluster by reattaching the battery cables. Then turn on the engine and see if the turn signal and high beam indicators, warning lights, speedometer, and other instruments are working properly.
- When dealing with a hard-to-remove screw or bolt, you can use a power drill to snap the screw off the panel.
- If you also have to remove and replace the speedometer cable, it's best to have someone assist you as you take note of or mark the cable routing. You can also tie a string on the other end of the cable so you'll have a trail to follow when reinstalling the cable. Keep in mind that attaching the new speedometer cable can be tricky; reattaching it the wrong way can lead to more car troubles.