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1991 dodge caravan gauge cluster problems

twobears1973twobears1973 Posts: 6
edited December 2017 in Dodge
Hello everyone :)

I recently purchased this vehicle from a family member (due to that fact I cannot get a refund so I need to fix the problem) The gauge cluster no longer works, you start the vehicle the gas gauge and others come on for a second and then turn back off. We have an automotive place across the street (midland automotive) after doing $200 dollars worth of "diagnostic" work they told us the problem was the "ignition switch module" they wanted $540 for parts and labor so we opted to replace it ourselves. We replaced said part yesterday and guess what no joy, that was not the problem after all, we did find something interesting though, if you start the vehicle and while the vehicle is "running" slowly turn the ignition key almost to the "start" position and hold it there the gauge cluster will come back on and everything will work properly, however the minute you let go of the key they go back off. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated, we have already thought about replacing the "bcm
" but would like to make sure that is the culprit before spending anymore money as I am currently between jobs atm.


  • twobears, did you replace the ignition switch with a brand new one or used?
    Did you replace the key cylinder part as well? Sorry if that sounds stupid, but from what you describe with turning the key, it would appear that your problem is in the cylinder/electrical contacts themselves, which is a major wear part on certain vehicles. Hondas & Acuras for instance. The cylinder/contacts wear out and make very loose connections which cause then to stall/die for no apparent reason, or cut in & out due to loose connections, in fact there were recalls for it on them. As to the D/C minis, I have owned many and fixed most problems on them. rom the condition you described originally, I would have said the gauge cluster wire plug connectors on the back of it was your problem, until you described the key turning/holding. It has been awhile since I have changed the ignition switch in any of my minis, so right now I cannot clearly recall exactly what is in the column. As I seem to recall, there is a modular type black switch assembly with 1 or 2 wire connectors on it, & it attaches to another part which contains the actual key & lock cylinder. If I am recalling correctly, did you change both parts or just one, and if only one, which one?
  • Thanks so much for the response, we replaced the old ignition switch with a new one. We did not think it necessary to replace the key cylinder and used the old one but now that we think about it, we should have. As luck would have it we decided not to put the steering column back together completely before trying the new part, so we do not have to tear the bottom and top cover off the area is still exposed, so this should be a thirty minute job. Again thanks so much we truly appreciate all the help i'll post an update once we have the key cylinder installed.

    God bless.

  • Joe,

    We replaced the key cylinder this morning.... no joy. As was the case before if you start the engine and then hold the key almost to start the gauges work, i'm about ready to take the van out and shoot it :P . If you have any other ideas they would be greatly appreciated. We have an appointment this Friday with Midland automotive they said that if they misdiagnosed the problem they will troubleshoot it for free.

    Many thanks.

    God bless,

  • Ok, have to say that I am completely stumped now.

    What you first described is usually caused by the two wire plug connectors on the back of the instrument cluster, & easily fixed by removing the cluster from the dash, cleaning the solder joints on the circuit board after opening the cluster, then reheating the solder joints allowing them to reflow & filling any cracks that have been created over the years due to the extreme temps that can be reached during use inside the dash board.

    After your description of the turning & holding of the key & everything working normal until you let go of the key leads one to believe it was the cylinder housing. It had not occurred to me at the time, but by just changing the worn out cylinder, that would not necessarily solve the problem.

    If it were caused by the worn lock cylinder, fine it would BUT what you have described tells me that it is a spring and /or contact problem in the housing itself, the housing being the part in the column that the end of the lock cylinder rotates or moves to make the electrical contacts in the switch module you previously changed.

    I would never steer anyone wrong, so having said that, I would suggest that you DO take the car back & have them meet their end of the bargain. If that should fail, my only other suggestions are:

    1) Not positive if this could casue your problem or not, but there was a problem with and a recall done on these mini's for a bad clock spring under the wheel in the column, & they were replaced with a newer design. Run this by the car place & have them check with chrysler to see if your model year was affected or not, & if your problem could be the result of a bad clock spring. I had a 97 and a 2000 which both were affected by this although I never had any problems before or after the recall.

    2) If it appears that the problem is inside the structure that holds the key cylinder and makes it activate the switch module that you replaced, try a junk yard search for the parts, or even the entire column from the flange under the dashboard up to the steering wheel INTACT, and change that out.

    3) Last resort, try the cluster solder joint re solder I told you about.

    I really do believe the problem comes into play between the end of the key cylinder & the switch module though.

    Good luck & hope this helps solve your problem.
  • Joe,

    We dropped the van off at Midland Automotive last Friday, around 1 pm we received a call from Dave telling us that they believe the fault is with the bcm unit but that they would have to wait until Monday to be sure as that was when his wiring expert would be in. They called us yesterday and confirmed that it is indeed the bcm and offered to install the new one for free. We are hoping that this "finally" fixes the problem, i'll post another update once they make the repair.

    Thanks for everything.

    God bless.

  • Great, hope this takes care of your problem. I am still pulling hair out trying to slove Evap system codes on an 03 that can't pass inspections. Nothing worse than having to start throwing parts at a vehicle & I am still trying to avoid that.
  • Good morning Joe :)

    I received a call from Midland automotive yesterday, they tracked down the problem. As I mentioned before I purchased the vehicle from a relative, apparently a mouse had gotten into the minivan and went on a wire chewing spree, Midland started at the passenger side door and traced the wires under the carpet and finally up to the over head console (called a compass, never heard anyone call it that before) apparently that's where the wire damage was the worst, given the cost to fix it I gave them the go ahead to bypass it as I do not really need those lights etc up there. Once done, everything minus the compass of course works.

    I wanted to thank you for all your help, it's greatly appreciated.

    God bless you, and take care.

  • From Joe "Great, hope this takes care of your problem. I am still pulling hair out trying to solve Evap system codes on an 03 that can't pass inspections. Nothing worse than having to start throwing parts at a vehicle & I am still trying to avoid that."

    Joe, I hope all is well on your end and you managed to track down the culprit on your 03, there are few things as frustrating as not being able to solve a problem with a vehicle, that is why I prefer the 50-70 year vehicles, they did not have all this electronic junk in them that can cause one to pull their hair out, or at the very least what is left of said hair :P.

    Take care Joe, and God bless.

    Vance Twobears.
  • I read this thread,  not exactly the problem I'm dealing with.  My Check Guages light comes on and the guages dont work but light up. 
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,459
    Clean up your battery posts and cable and the fuse for the instrument cluster. That fixed that problem on my Dodge truck at any rate. While you're at it, check the battery and alternator for proper charge rate.

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