Freestar message center dim problem

  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • 75,000 MILES
2005 Ford Freestar Message Center is dim. Dimmer is on max. Can't see it in bright sun. Readable at night. Dimmer switch adjusts the other instrument cluster / radio light levels but not message center.

Why won't ford do something about these issues?
Do you
have the same problem?
Sunday, February 13th, 2011 AT 6:48 PM

2 Replies

My 2004 Mercury Monterey (same car as Freestar) had this issue - I just fixed it. A you tube video showed four resistors were the problem, sure enough, that was it. More help- the resistors are very small, labeled "270", which means 27 Ohms. And they are surface mounted type. When I first touched one, it broke off! The old solder was deteriorated. Fortunately I found it, Used two 'helping hand' setups, with magnifier and light, and a bent tip on the solder iron to get under the display. Also, to get the instrument cluster out, you need to pry the top catches as well as the two bottom bolts.
Video is here: Good luck!

Now I know that we have 124,000 miles. There were warnings about de-powering the SRS airbag, but the fuse listed in the Haynes manual (14) did not do it, so I just went ahead.
Was this
Sunday, November 25th, 2012 AT 3:24 AM
The problem is very likely the surface mount resistors on the instrument cluster circuit board. If you are handy with a soldering iron, it takes about 1 hour to fix counting taking the instrument cluster out, testing it, and putting it back in. The official removal instructions are at

And a video showing the resistors is at

As for the official removal instructions, I would modify/add to them as (note: I have a 2004 Mercury Monterey):

1. Tilt steering column to the lowest position
2. Remove steering column cover by pulling up and towards you
3. Open plastic panel under the steering column by pulling on the finger hold just under the steering column.
4. Remove the 5 screws behind this panel holding the cover/panel on and remove.
5. Put on the emergency brake.
5. Turn the key to the on position and move the shift lever as far to the right as it will go.
6. Use a flashlight to find the tiny transmission range indicator cable down the right side of the steering column.
7. Remove the cable from the knob connecting it to the gear shift.
8. Shift back into park and remove key.
9. Remove bolt holding gear shift cable on to steering column
10. Remove the 2 instrument cluster screws.
11. Use a small thin pry bar at the top of the instrument cluster to pull it out. It is just a tight fit.
12. Remove the instrument cluster electrical connector it has a small clip you have to depress to pull it out.
13. Guide the instrument cluster out from behind the steering wheel (may have to tilt the steering wheel even more to squeeze it out.

Now, to fix the cluster.

1. Gently unclip the five snap clips holding the front plastic case onto the circuit board and remove.
2. Remove the gauge needles by gently but firmly pulling then straight out.
3. Remove all the screws from the back and remove front assembly from circuit board.
4. You will now see the four resistors shown in the youtube video above.
5. Be careful about soldering them because when you heat one side, the resistor might just pop off and then you have to go looking for it. I found it useful to use long tweezers to hold the resistor while soldering and also to use some no clean flux with some small diameter solder. Solder both ends of all four resistors and try to do it cleanly so you don t have extra solder floating around.
6. If you want to test this fix, just take the circuit board to the car and plug in the electrical connector (it will make some noise as the gauges try to reset). Turn on the vehicle and see if it lights up.

And as they all say To install, reverse the removal procedure.

The hardest part is maneuvering the soldering iron to get to all the sides of the resistors.
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Friday, September 19th, 2014 AT 8:56 PM

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