Truck goes crazy when key is out of the ignition, Instrument cluster goes on and off, beeps, ...but I don't think it's the actual instrument cluster.

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Evox

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A year or two ago, my instrument cluster went on my '04 XLT. So, I got it rebuilt (I actually bought a rebuilt one off eBay). Now I'm having new but different issues. When my truck is on, everything on the cluster runs fine. No problems.

But when I remove the key, about 30 seconds or so after, things come alive. It'll make a beep; then the odometer comes up all XXXXXXXXXs Then fuel gauge goes up for a second or two before going back to off position. I can hear some slight instrument stater motor shuttering sometimes. Sometimes the radio comes on for a minute or so, and sometimes the bed light will come on for a minute or so. Then the headlights might come on. All of it is fairly random. It'll act possessed haunted for a little while, then go quiet again. I noticed the odometer sort of stays on but with dim dashes and dots ||.....||.....||.....|| instead of the Xs. After a time, it does it all over again. Sometimes the message center will display the "Check Gauges" message. Sometimes it won't.

When my cluster last went out, none of these were the symptoms. The cluster just quit functioning while running.

PCM?
Relay of some sort?
 
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Todd Z

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Could be the ignition switch glitching. Make sure its all the way off and doesent have slop in it. BUT this also could be all dash related too.
 

Evox

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Well, it's a fairly cheap and easy part to replace, so perhaps I'll roll the dice
 

Evox

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Could be the ignition switch glitching. Make sure its all the way off and doesent have slop in it. BUT this also could be all dash related too.

I'm really hoping it's not the gauge cluster again. First, because it's a pain in the ass to remove it, mail it off, and then wait for the return. Second, because if it is the cluster, which I don't think, that means it only lasts a year or two before it shorted out again. It's a shame; the engine and transmission are fine, and I really wanted to see how far I could make this truck go.
 

Todd Z

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They don't short out, the heat loosens the solder joints and the become "Cold" solder joints and have to be re soldered. Your cluster was also "rebuilt" off line, who knows what was wrong with it prior or done to it. Circuit board medics has a program, they mail you a fixed one and then you can just swap it.

Sadly you could have a bad ignition switch, out of adjustment switch, shorting wires, Bad door switch. Need to figure whats causing the power up.
You could remove 1 fuse at a time for the radio, windows, locks, cluster, ignition and see what stops the issue. then go from there.
 

Evox

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They don't short out, the heat loosens the solder joints and the become "Cold" solder joints and have to be re soldered. Your cluster was also "rebuilt" off line, who knows what was wrong with it prior or done to it. Circuit board medics has a program, they mail you a fixed one and then you can just swap it.

Sadly you could have a bad ignition switch, out of adjustment switch, shorting wires, Bad door switch. Need to figure whats causing the power up.
You could remove 1 fuse at a time for the radio, windows, locks, cluster, ignition and see what stops the issue. then go from there.
Man, I'm a pretty good wrench. But when it comes to electrical problems, I feel like I'm doing my taxes. I've found that intermittent shorts are well intermittent. Meaning, unless the circuit is shorting when you're testing that particular circuit by pulling the fuse, it might not show the draw drop. Then you go through all the fuses, and nothing shows up.

I know this is mostly just me, but I HATE electrical problems. There is a garage about an hour away from me that advertises that they are specialists in automobile electrical systems. That's all they do. I guess the way cars have been going over the last 20 or 30 years; it makes sense to focus on electrical systems. Hell, in another 10-20 years, that's probably all there be, electric cars.

As you know, with first gens, the cluster can be a problem. In its infinite wisdom, Ford ran all sorts of electrical components through the instrument cluster circuit board. They're also as rare as hen's teeth and expensive if you can find one. But honestly, because the instrument cluster is 100% when the car runs, I think it has to be something else. I ordered the instrument switch, which arrives today. I'll change it out over the weekend and see if I'm lucky.

As far as it being a shorted wire or bad plug somewhere, all those are real possibilities. This is a 15-year-old truck now, and while we're lucky in the southeast because we have zero rust problems, our environment is hard on plastics and connectors. The plastics get crispy and pulling them often results in clasps snapping off and heat-protecting sheaths and tape just disintegrating. I'll post back what I find.

I might take it to the stealership and pay for their electrical expert to diagnose the problem.
 

DILLARD000

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I'm just glad to have the 2003+Earlier PreHEC instrument cluster;
seems 2004+Later HEC Cluster is just too failure prone & can't be easily swapped.
 

Evox

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I'm just glad to have the 2003+Earlier PreHEC instrument cluster;
seems 2004+Later HEC Cluster is just too failure prone & can't be easily swapped.
My '04 still has its original timing cassettes with guides in one piece at 300k+ miles. So, I guess everything has its tradeoffs. If the switch doesn't fix the problem, she'll be going to the stealership for diagnostics on Monday. Hopefully, they'll earn their hourly rate.
 

Evox

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At 300k+ miles, I know she is worth more to me than anyone else. But since I've owned her since new, I know she's had oil and filter changes every 3k-4k miles. I also just put on new valve cover gaskets and oil pan gaskets. The guides still look good. She runs as smoothly as she did the day I got her. I know all her fluids have been changed sooner than Ford's recommended intervals because I did it. And since she's spent her entire life in the southeast, she is rust-free.

She's probably on borrowed time, but now it's become a challenge for me to see how many miles I can actually get on her. I'm shooting for Toyota aspirations, 500k plus :)

The other factor that probably has contributed to her longevity is that she's been a rural truck, meaning not a lot of city driving; most of her miles were clocked on the highway and interstate.

It's funny, but right after I bought this truck, I hated it. I thought she wasn't great for hauling things because of her short bed, and she wasn't great for moving people because of her relatively small cab. But over the years, I've grown to love this little truck. Hell, when her engine does finally give up the ghost, I might just rebuild her.
 

Tombstones81

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Is the battery & its wiring ok?

Only time I ever had anything like that happen to any vehicle I've owned is when the battery was on its way out.
Like when you first connect a good battery or jump a vehicle with a dead one & suddenly everything starts to go through an initial power test.

Mostly happened to my previous Grand Am when I would jump its dead battery from sitting in my yard for a few weeks.
Suddenly things would start coming alive without even putting the key in!

Merely what came to mind when reading your post.
 

Evox

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SOLUTION: It was the ignition switch. As I suspected, the instrument cluster is fine. Thank you, Todd Z!

I never suspected the ignition switch because I thought that would have caused a no-start situation, and it didn't throw a code. But then, when you mentioned it, I vaguely remember seeing a code for it a long time ago (maybe a year or two ago) when I was doing something else. I cleared it, It never came back, and I moved on.

So if your car acts possessed after the key is out of the ignition. Consider the possibility of the ignition switch.

It's easy to get to; it's located behind the driver's kick panel; you'll need a 7mm, 8mm socket and a #30 torx socket to get to and remove the switch. Of course, you have to remove the plastic trim piece held in place by two 7mm bolts. You'll also have to drop the hood release latch, which is held in place by 2 7mm or 8mm bolts, and then it comes right off.

Next, you'll have to remove the metal plate behind that. I think it was held in place by six bolts. After you remove the metal plate, you'll see the switch. To disconnect the switch from the plug, you need to loosen one 7mm bolt. After you remove the plug to remove the switch, you'll need a #30 torx socket; two torx bolts are holding it in place.

When putting the switch back together, be careful not to over tighten it. Believe it, or not you can do that, and if you do, the starter won't engage if that happens; just back it off a bit.

I'm sure you can find a better explanation in the shop manual or on the internet, all I'm trying to do is give you some idea what's involved.

ignition switch.jpg
 
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Evox

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UPDATE: I didn't fix the problem.

I have no idea why it seemed to work for half a day and then started right back up. So I'm taking it to the dealership tomorrow and hoping they can diagnose this annoying problem. I still don't think it's the instrument cluster itself. I think there is an intermittent short in some systems, that I can't find. That or it is the PCM that's dead. The fact that it worked until this evening is beyond me. I'm very frustrated and disappointed at this point.
 

S Silen

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A year or two ago, my instrument cluster went on my '04 XLT. So, I got it rebuilt (I actually bought a rebuilt one off eBay). Now I'm having new but different issues. When my truck is on, everything on the cluster runs fine. No problems.

But when I remove the key, about 30 seconds or so after, things come alive. It'll make a beep; then the odometer comes up all XXXXXXXXXs Then fuel gauge goes up for a second or two before going back to off position. I can hear some slight instrument stater motor shuttering sometimes. Sometimes the radio comes on for a minute or so, and sometimes the bed light will come on for a minute or so. Then the headlights might come on. All of it is fairly random. It'll act possessed haunted for a little while, then go quiet again. I noticed the odometer sort of stays on but with dim dashes and dots ||.....||.....||.....|| instead of the Xs. After a time, it does it all over again. Sometimes the message center will display the "Check Gauges" message. Sometimes it won't.

When my cluster last went out, none of these were the symptoms. The cluster just quit functioning while running.

PCM?
Relay of some sort?
Hey Evox- I have a 2010 Adrenalin that had a squirrelly electrical issue similar to yours. When I would turn off ignition, dash and climate control panels would click and flash while key was in my hand. Was also getting battery drains and shorts. Took to an electrical guy that checked all kinds of stuff. Turned out to be some corrosion on the main wiring harness in a way that was not visible. When he cleaned the harness connections as well as the connections at the battery the problem went away. No issues since...
 

blert

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Mine was doing some haunted things a few years back. Took it to my tech and he found that the computer module (pcm?) was all kinds of wacked out. It had so many shorts and grounding issues that he seemed genuinely shocked that the truck was even running as well as it was at all. Replaced it and all the demons were exercised. Not sure if that helps you as mine is an '01j2 and has a different instrument cluster than an '04, I think.
 

Evox

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It's at the Ford dealership now. So hopefully, they'll be able to nail it down.

I'm betting it's the PCM, PCM connector (although I inspected the plug, and it looks clean to me), every plug I checked, every ground I checked all look fine. For some reason, the PCM is coming on when the vehicle is off. I can hear the relay clicking when the ignition is off. I changed the PCM relay, and it's still energizing randomly when the truck is off. The other clue is the OBD port is energized when the truck is off, which, if memory serves this is not a normal situation. Running it throws ZERO codes. Turn it off and let it sit for a while with the battery connected, and it throws a slew of codes that point to the PCM itself, the cluster, or the ignition switch (which I just replaced) or ignition switch wiring harness, which I inspected and looks good.

I think the codes are being thrown simply because the PCM is energizing and running through its start diagnostics. With the ignition off, of course, it's going to come back with all sorts of sensors not reporting. So my money is on the PCM. But we'll see.
 

S Silen

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It's at the Ford dealership now. So hopefully, they'll be able to nail it down.

I'm betting it's the PCM, PCM connector (although I inspected the plug, and it looks clean to me), every plug I checked, every ground I checked all look fine. For some reason, the PCM is coming on when the vehicle is off. I can hear the relay clicking when the ignition is off. I changed the PCM relay, and it's still energizing randomly when the truck is off. The other clue is the OBD port is energized when the truck is off, which, if memory serves this is not a normal situation. Running it throws ZERO codes. Turn it off and let it sit for a while with the battery connected, and it throws a slew of codes that point to the PCM itself, the cluster, or the ignition switch (which I just replaced) or ignition switch wiring harness, which I inspected and looks good.

I think the codes are being thrown simply because the PCM is energizing and running through its start diagnostics. With the ignition off, of course, it's going to come back with all sorts of sensors not reporting. So my money is on the PCM. But we'll see.
Evox- hope you’re right and they don’t charge a million bucks to diagnose it. When mine was doing its thing, I heard lots of relays tripping too!
 

Evox

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Evox- hope you’re right and they don’t charge a million bucks to diagnose it. When mine was doing its thing, I heard lots of relays tripping too!

You and me both. I signed off on the $139 diagnostic fee. It was clear I only wanted them to diagnose the electrical problem and gave them all the details. I don't want to send my cluster off to be repaired, only to find that it was the PCM, and I don't want to order a PCM to find it was the cluster after all or some other component glitching. I hate throwing parts at a problem without a clear understanding of what the problem actually is.

I had a cluster go out this isn't a cold solder joint problem where gauges or components are failing to energize due to cold breaks in the solder; it's the opposite. Something is causing the PCM and instrument cluster to energize when the truck is off.

It could have been a cascade of problems originating with the faulty ignition switch. The constant erratic on and off from the faulty switch may have lead to some other component overheating and short. I don't know. I'm just documenting all my thoughts and observations along the way, hoping this thread helps someone in the future that experiences similar problems.
 
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Evox

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The Dealership found nothing wrong. They couldn't replicate the problem. So, $135 out the door. It's been in the driveway all day and isn't going nuts. The weather has become considerably hotter and drier over the last few weeks. No more cool nights and temperatures during the day have been in the 90s. So I guess it's an intermittent short somewhere and is only replicable under certain conditions, wetter and cooler. I gotta say this is frustrating. I don't consider this one closed. A short that energizes the PCM cluster, radio, and interior lights. But only when the truck is off after a few moments, and only under certain conditions. Like I said when the truck was running there were no symptoms of malfunction in any of the gauges or warning lights.

As much as I like this truck, it's not self-healing.
 
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blert

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This may not be of much help but...
T'was me, if I truly believed that cold/wet weather made a difference, I would start by grabbing a few cans of electrical contact cleaner and few tubes of dielectric grease. Then start cleaning up every electrical connector I could find and applying the dielectric grease to the connector before plugging back in. Moisture can be a bitch to an electrical system. I used to have to do this yearly to my old '78 280Z as the rubber bits in the connectors of the old girl were pretty gone.
Unfortunately, this may not help you at all and you are probably looking at a new instrument cluster as others have stated.
 

Evox

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Thank you for your advice. I'm wide open at this point.

I do not think this is the cold joint solder problem in the cluster itself. I've had that before, and this ain't it. When my old cluster failed, the symptoms were completely different.

I believe it's a short somewhere else. Somewhere between the ignition switch and the PCM that shorts and energizes the PCM, which in turn energizes the cluster, runs its diagnostic, throws codes for every sensor in the truck because the truck is off and the PCM thinks it's on.

When the codes are cleared and the truck started ...no codes. The truck runs fine and no electrical problems. When my old cluster went out, the weird electrical problems occurred when the truck was on.

In this case, when it sat off for a few seconds, something energizes the PCM and the various relays in the fuse and relay box in the engine compartment.

I agree with you. I guess it could be moisture somewhere that caused the short, or it could be a partially broken wire that shorts under certain circumstances. The hot, dry weather might have dried up the moisture. Or moving the truck to the garage moved the wire and broke the short. That or the tech moved the right wire and eliminated the ground. ...I've no idea. I'm out of ideas. I hate electrical problems. Especially intermittent shorts because they're intermittent. Unless you pull the right fuse while the circuit is shorted, you won't find it.

I'm going to open the ignition switch again and inspect the wires and plug again. I've already ordered a new key cylinder.
 
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