1998 Dodge Dakota gauge cluster back light

Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 DODGE DAKOTA
  • 5.2L
  • V8
  • 4WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 250,000 MILES
The back light on my cluster gauge stopped working I'm not sure how to fix it and would like too soon cause driving at night will not light sucks, I tried the fuses and bulbs already and all the new ones still don't work! If u could help me to fix it without having to buy a whole new cluster that would be very much appreciated.
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 10:26 PM

19 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
What happens to the radio display when you turn on the running lights and when you adjust the dimmer rheostat? Do the tail lights work?
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 10:33 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
The radio is aftermarket so does nothing, everything works just only the back light in the cluster, tried the fuses and bulbs already, kinda out of ideas
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 10:39 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Rats. The original radio would have cut the diagnostic time in half. Instead of a simple dash light rheostat, they use pulse-width dimming, which means a computer module is involved. I'm going to have to dig for a service manual to see exactly how the system is wired. In the meantime, if you can find a rheostat in a salvage yard, substituting it would be the quickest way to determine if the old one is defective.

These have an extremely low failure rate on Chrysler products. One thing though that can take them out is the wire to the radio. If that is not sealed well and it touches the metal case of the radio, that could damage it. The most common thing I've run into when aftermarket radios are involved is when the installer hacked off the original plugs, then covered the bare ends with electrical tape. Tape will unravel into a gooey mess on a hot day.
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 11:25 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
Ok thank u I'll give that a try the rheostat is the button u pull and can spin for the lights right?
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 11:29 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Yup. If that's built into the headlight switch and it looks like a metal spring wrapped up in a circle, you have the older style. Then we have to look somewhere else. With either type, check the terminals in the connector to see if any are black or discolored, or if the plastic connector body is melted.
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 11:38 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
Okay I'll will take a look and hopfully that will be the solution if you have any other ideas please let me know.
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Thursday, August 28th, 2014 AT 11:48 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
Changed the switch with a new one still nothing.
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Friday, August 29th, 2014 AT 6:49 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Just so I'm clear, is the dash light rheostat built into the head light switch, or is it a separate wheel on the dash, next to the head light switch?
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Friday, August 29th, 2014 AT 7:31 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
It's all connected no separate dial.
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Friday, August 29th, 2014 AT 7:38 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Do you see that curved spring inside a ceramic white disc? If you have that, check if there's voltage on it around the middle, when the head light switch is pulled out to the running light position.
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Friday, August 29th, 2014 AT 8:38 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
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Where is this spring I'm looking for?
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 12:14 AM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
Would it be maybe a faulty cluster or something
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 1:03 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
If you have the common older-style rheostat, it will be an off-white ceramic disc, about 1 1/2" in diameter and about 1/2" thick, near the knob end of the switch. On one side will be a groove all the way around that the wire-wound resistor sits in. THAT is what looks like a spring. You'll also see a little contact touching that spring.

The cluster could have a problem, but for all of the lights to not work, the likely cause would be a loose pin in one of the connectors. Those can usually be soldered to the copper circuit, but you have to be careful if that is a flexible plastic sheet. Overheating it will melt the circuit.
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 1:16 AM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
Well putting in a new rheostat in didn't work so it must be the cluster, I didn't get its from a wreaker etheir it's brannew, I'm not sure really what more options I have already changed the fuses, bulbs and rheostat, would that maybe fix the problem?
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 1:21 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I haven't been able to find a service manual. Everything is packed away in my shop after having a major house fire in February. What I would try next is to locate a wire on the head light switch for the dash lights. Use a test light on each wire, one at a time. You'll find at least one, and maybe two that have 12 volts all the time. Ignore those. At least one will have 12 volts only when you pull the switch all the way out to the headlight position. Ignore that one too. Another one will have 12 volts as soon as you pull the switch out half way to the running lights position. It will stay at 12 volts regardless of the dimmer setting. Ignore that one.

You're looking for the wire that has some voltage on it when the switch is in the tail light position, and it varies as you turn the dimmer. If you find that, and the voltage does adjust, everything is working up to that point. That would suggest the cluster has a problem.
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 2:12 AM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
So I got a new cluster and the lights still don't work! Dunno what I can do
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 8:48 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Read my previous reply. From last night.
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Saturday, August 30th, 2014 AT 10:27 PM
Tiny
JONSSON31
  • MEMBER
So its number 5 fuse in the box so the wiring from fuse 5 needs to be replaced how do I replace the wire? And I'm not sure what wire it is yet
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Sunday, August 31st, 2014 AT 3:57 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You're bouncing all over the place, and nothing has been diagnosed yet except we can assume the cluster and rheostat aren't at fault. Have you found any voltage on the wire-wound resistor, (spring) on the head light switch?
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Sunday, August 31st, 2014 AT 6:21 PM

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