Check engine light and gauges flatlined

cjm70142February 9, 2009

Yes, I have a 97 Dodge Caravan Sport and the lights for the rear washer and ac and rear wipers flash constantly and now when I was slowing down in a rural village,I looked down and check engine light was on and all my gauges, rpm,speed, gas, and temp were all flat. Radio and engine were running fine, I put foot on brake and turn corner and when I did they all came back on. On way to Dr. appointment I continued and had no more trouble. I was wondering if this is a sign of bad trouble or just a wiring problem. I had had car serviced day before. the flashing lights have been on for quite some time.

we have cleaned them and they still flash. any info will be appreciated.

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john_g

The wiper and washer LED's flashing typically means that the AC system either has a fault, or simply needs to be retrained. The Check engine light coming on could have been simply because the instrument cluster had stopped communicating with the PCM, or it could be because the PCM detected a fault and commanded it on. The only way to know is to start by polling ALL of the vehicle modules for trouble codes, recording them and evaluating the results of the codes that were set. If the PCM did not store any codes, then the afore mentioned, loss of communication was the reason the lamp was on.

Now the gages flat-lining. An instrument cluster "re-set" could do that if it was fairly quick in nature, say less than two seconds. In other words, the gages went to zero, paused, and then resumed operation. If the cluster was down longer than that it suggests again, a loss of communication between the cluster and the other modules (computers) in the car. A common reason for this is the loss of the instrument cluster ground connection because of a bad solder joint where the vehicle wiring harness connects to the cluster. This is something that MUST be proven before any repair attempt is made. A trained technician knows how to to do this. Anyone that simply starts throwing parts, such as the instrument cluster, the BCM, or the PCM is not considered a trained technician at this level. JMHO

I would suggest seek out an electronics specialist in your area VIA a member search through the iATN.

Here is a link that might be useful: The international Automotive Technicians Network

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 9:09AM
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cjm70142

Thank you for responding, I will try to find one although I live in rural area. I will also tell my Mechanic your respones. Great service you provide.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:50PM
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bill_h

not knocking john, but we used to get alot of these from the auction with the same problem, and found a weak solder joint on the instrument cluster where the main harness connects, the joint looks good but a hit with the soldering iron tightens it up. the fix worked for most of the ones we had.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 2:46AM
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john_g

I do believe thats exactly what I wrote Bill, that a poor solder joint at the rear of the cluster is known to cause "similar" reported problems with the cluster. The main focus is, find a technician that even if he/she did not know of this pattern failure in advance he/she would be able to diagnose and find it if they only saw it one time in their lives. The biggest problem with "silver bullet" fixes is sometimes a car presents symptoms identical to what one would expect, such as with this bad connection, so the tech pulls the cluster, resolders the connections and pronounce the car fixed only to have it come back "doing the exact same thing".

I have had to repair no less than ten other conditions that caused the cluster to drop out on these caravans.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:23AM
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bill_h

my mistake john. my question would be, why would you spend all that money on labor doing tests on a 97 chry. minivan? you can buy these things all day at the auction for 500.00 a pop. just yank the cluster, resolder, if it works great. if not pop a 4 sale sign on it, and find another one.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 4:42AM
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john_g

With the right technician, the diagnostics are straight forward, the repair is then checked and confirmed by re-testing and to the customer the car is repaired correctly the first time. That's what everyone expects in the end, but due to A$$inine marketing by non-technicians through the years people somehow have learned to expect it to be free, or in effect, closer to the routine you described. The people who insist that the van is only worth $500 at auction, are the same ones that would turn around and try and sell that same van for $3000 to the next potential owner. Since the cluster in all likelihood if this case is indeed the pattern failure could be diagnosed and repaired for around $200 here the rip-off is for them to be told to get rid of it and buy something else. Likewise, for them to dump it, have some used car lot attempt to fix it and then attempt to get $2500 out of a $200 repair again is what would really happen with the scenario you outlined. Now lets look at the two sides again and see just who takes better care of the customer day in and day out. JMHO.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 9:52AM
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