Instrument cluster

Tiny
DENNIS WAYNE MEEKS
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 PONTIAC GRAND AM
  • 2.4L
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 42,000 MILES
The warning lights all seem to be working. They come on when key is turned on then go out after the bulb test. The security light works properly also. Problem is the four needle type gauges stay at zero. Those are coolant temperature, tachometer, speedometer and fuel level. The pass lock system checks out and there are no codes when scanned. How do I repair the gauges?
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Saturday, April 1st, 2017 AT 2:18 PM

8 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The gauges are no longer the common sense mechanical assemblies we used to see. They are "stepper" motors run by computer circuitry. I have read a lot about GM having problems with these motors. You will find a lot of sources for new ones if you do an internet search.

It is unusual to have so many fail at the same time. If one failed first, then another one months later, failed motors are the best suspect. If they all failed at the same time, it is more likely there is some other cause. There is a five or ten-amp fuse for the gauges, but that circuit also runs some of the warning lights which you observed are working. Check the gauges fuse anyway. If it is okay, I would suspect a problem on the instrument cluster itself.
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Saturday, April 1st, 2017 AT 3:19 PM
Tiny
DENNIS WAYNE MEEKS
  • MEMBER
I have checked the fuses and the pass lock system. All four gauges suddenly quit at same time. I know of the stepper motor problem with GM but all are 2003 through 2014 years. I replaced the motor on a 05 Trailblazer fuel gauge. The instrument cluster repair places online do not go back further than 2003 and when looking for stepper motors they don't go back to 1996 either. I got a response from one repair place that there is a computer chip that goes bad in the 1996 - 1998 models and the whole panel has to be replaced and as of 2000 they are no longer manufactured. I bought one that was guaranteed to work from a junk yard online but it is worse than the one I have. Naturally they claim it was the way I plugged it into my vehicle that broke it. I am having a hard time with a car having 42,000 miles and in great condition is not able to be repaired because GM quit making a part that thousands of vehicles have problems with.
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Saturday, April 1st, 2017 AT 4:52 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Welcome to my world. I am not going to bore you with all of GM's tricks they pulled to prevent me from repairing their radios, and that prevent owners from installing aftermarket replacements. I have to collect their old radios for a source for replacement parts.

Ford is even worse when it comes to making replacement parts available for their vehicles. At most, you are guaranteed you can get a new part from the dealer for only three years. They want to sell new cars. That is the business they are in. There is no advantage to keeping older cars on the road.

Popular parts are supplied by aftermarket manufacturers. Those include things like fenders, shock absorbers, and sensors. I even found a source for output IC's for older GM radios, but only after GM stopped producing them. Chrysler IC's are generic, and used to cost around $4.00. GM was very proud of theirs. They charged $45.00. The aftermarket replacements cost half as much and work perfectly. This goes back about ten years ago when we were still repairing a lot of the high-failure 1990's radios. The problem with an aftermarket supplier producing parts for an instrument cluster, first is licensing from GM, then is the limited chance at selling them. The shops that do these repairs typically buy thousands of replacement IC's, but once their supply is used up, they have to stop repairing the clusters that need that part. No supplier is going to spend the money on the equipment and time needed to produce a part when there might only be a need of a few hundred per year.

You might try contacting United Radio in Syracuse, NY. That was one of GM's two authorized repair centers. I was never able to find GM radio parts or service manuals through them, but they did repair products that were shipped in. They might require you to send the cluster in through a dealer, but it does not hurt to ask.
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Saturday, April 1st, 2017 AT 10:46 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Also consider looking at Advanced Auto Electronics in Virginia. I had a digital cluster from an 1988 Chrysler LeBaron a few years ago that I could not figure out. United Radio said they had just stopped working on them for lack of parts, but these guys fixed it, and shipped it back in less than a week, with a charge considerably lower than their estimate.
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Saturday, April 1st, 2017 AT 10:57 PM
Tiny
DENNIS WAYNE MEEKS
  • MEMBER
Thank you for your response. I will look into these places.
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Sunday, April 2nd, 2017 AT 2:57 AM
Tiny
KEN
  • ADMIN
Please use 2CarPros anytime, we are here to help and tell a friend.

Best, Ken
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Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 AT 10:40 AM
Tiny
DENNIS WAYNE MEEKS
  • MEMBER
Found Clusterfix. Com and contacted them. They say they can repair the 96-98 Pontiac Grand am instrument cluster as the circuit board goes bad. May want to share with others that have guage / security problems for these cars.

I will post when I get my cluster back as to their services and that it worked.
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Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 AT 11:48 AM
Tiny
KEN
  • ADMIN
Sounds good!
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Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 AT 12:47 PM

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