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Not a typical instrument cluster problem. -2004 Sport Trac XLT RWD.

eevox

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City, State
Powdersville Georgia
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2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
My problem with the instrument cluster doesn't occur while the ignition is on. It happens only with the ignition off. While the truck's ignition is on, the cluster performs normally.

But after the ignition is off, that changes. First, there is a noticeable shudder from the instrument cluster stepper motors. Then there is a beep, and every pixel in the odometer lights up. Different behaviors follow this. Sometimes the fuel gauge registers the fuel level, and the battery gauge registers the voltage level. Sometimes they go up and then come down to their resting position, and sometimes they continue to report their levels.

If I've not turned the dimmer switch completely off, as you would if you did not want your interior lights to come on when the door was opened, they come on briefly as well.

If I've not manually turned the radio off before turning the ignition off, it also comes on for a brief time and goes off.

The odometer then goes to what I can only describe as faint dots, and the message center gives me one of two messages. It either reports "Low Fuel" or "Check gauges."

Sometimes the truck will go quiet again, only to repeat this over and over again.

Before this glitching out of the instrument cluster, I observed a .65 amp parasitic draw at the battery. Once the fun begins, that jumps up as some relays are energized, and depending on whether or not I've not turned off the dimmer switch or radio. But with those off, the draw will briefly go as high as 1.5ish amps, although it just spikes and goes back to hovering around the .65 amp draw. As I said, I can hear various relays being activated.

I've gone through the fuses and relays in both F1 and F2. The only thing which stops this activity is pulling F2-25, which powers the instrument cluster and neutral tow switch. Which my ST being an RWD, I don't think it is a factor.

Pulling the PCM fuses or any of the other of the various fuses related to the instrument cluster does not stop the symptom. So, I can only assume this is instrument cluster-related. But not the typical instrument cluster failure, which typically is observed with the vehicle on.

Initially, I thought it might have something to do with the ignition switch. So I replaced it. Then I thought perhaps it might be the ignition key cylinder, so I replaced that.

I've experienced the typical cold-break solder joint failure with the instrument cluster before. A year or two ago, I had to replace my cluster. This current problem doesn't appear to be the same failure. Something is energizing the cluster with the ignition off.

The battery, while not new, is still showing a nominal charge and load; the alternator is performing normally.

I'm open to ideas. --thanks

PS: Just to be clear, when in operation all systems function normally. This only occurs when the truck is off.
 


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eevox

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Powdersville Georgia
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2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
The problem appears to be mechanical in nature. Just by chance, today, I jiggled the ignition with the key out of the ignition, and the malfunction seems to react to the jiggling.

Since I've already replaced the lock cylinder itself with a Motorcraft lock cylinder, and I've already replaced the ignition switch itself. I can only assume it might have something to do with the ignition actuator arms. Something is making contact that shouldn't, or something is misaligned or worn in the steering column.

Ideas?
 




eevox

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2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
I guess I'll pull the ignition switch, reconnect it, and see if I can eliminate the malfunction by manually moving the switch closed. If that eliminates the malfunction, then I'll know it is mechanical and has to do with the plastic ignition actuator arms. ...seems unlikely.

At the same time, I'll check all the plugs and wires again and make sure nothing is grounding out. I'll also remove the ignition key cylinder and check the contact points to see if that's it. ...seems logical that it is at least playing a role in this malfunction.

But again, I'm wide open for suggestions or past experiences. Thanks.
 




eevox

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Powdersville Georgia
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2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
What is annoying about this malfunction is that it doesn't happen right away.

Sometimes it takes a long time after the ignition is off for the "glitch" to begin. I completely took apart the lower dash and the clamshell around the steering column to have easy access to all the plugs, switches, and wires; all the plugs look clean, I can find no broken wires.

I removed the instrument cluster, and I traced the wire from F2-25 as best I could to the instrument cluster, and it looked fine. The ignition cylinder sends a ground signal to the cluster.

I've gone in complete circles on this one. I can find absolutely no example of anyone experiencing this problem. Not on this forum, not on similar forums, and not on the internet. ...I've searched.

This is a real head-scratcher.
 




eevox

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City, State
Powdersville Georgia
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2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
I removed the instrument cluster, Removing the light/dimmer switch in the process, checked every wire and plug. Disconnected the ignition switch. Removed the ignition lock mechanism. Removed the fuse for the PCM.

The instrument cluster still "glitches" when the truck is off, even without an ignition lock mechanism.

>It's not the dimmer/light switch
>It's not the PCM
>It's not the ignition switch
>It's not the ignition key cylinder
>It's not a relay in F1 (engine compartment) or the auxiliary relay in the auxiliary box above and to the right of the gas peddle.

When I connect the battery, the instrument cluster doesn't start to "glitch" instantly. But after it starts to glitch, it seems to continuously do so until fuse F1-25 is removed or the battery is disconnected, or the truck is started.

It's almost like something has to "heat" once the battery is reconnected—kind of like a bad relay. When I connect the battery, a click sound comes from the firewall area, below the fuse relay box in the engine compartment. It sounds like a relay click. But it's not coming from the F1 relays.

Maybe it is the instrument cluster. But if it is, this is the first time I've heard of this kind of instrument cluster failure: one that works fine when the truck is running but "glitches" when the truck is off.
 




eevox

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City, State
Powdersville Georgia
Year, Model & Trim Level
2004 Ford Sport Trac XLT
I actually reached out to a guy who fixes circuit boards and instrument clusters yesterday. He responded this morning.

His name is Jeff, and he has a YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/jeffescortlx/videos. He seems to be very competent at what he does. He has some ideas about what might be going on but is booked for 2 weeks. I'm going to the beach in a couple of weeks, so maybe it'll work out.

Whatever I find out, I'll finish off this thread for "posterity," maybe it will help someone down the road in some way. I hate it when I come across dead-end threads with no resolution.

If I were a young man who wanted to go into automotive repair, I'd go into electronics and programming. I think that's the future of cars. It's amazing how hard it is to find someone who is really competent in that area. Compared to the cars and trucks today, the '04 ST is simple.
 




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