Guages fluctuating 1992 3.8l se - GM Forum - Buick, Cadillac, Chev, Olds, GMC & Pontiac chat


1992-1999 Series I L27 (1992-1994 SE,SLE, SSE) & Series II L36 (1995-1999 SE, SSE, SLE) and common problems for the Series I and II L67 (all supercharged models 92-99) Including Olds 88's, Olds LSS's and Buick Lesabres Please use General Chat for non-mechanical issues, and Performance and Brainstorming for improvements.

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Old 04-16-2003, 10:43 PM   #1
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Default Guages fluctuating 1992 3.8l se

Started having oil pressure guage and water temp guage fluctuations. Water temp will be ok then fall to zero and back. Oil pressure pegs all the way high when I accelerate but will fall to normal range when take foot out of gas-but it eventually stays pegged all the way to high. Have replaced sensor switch and tested pressure with manual guage and is ok. the only thing different is that I removed the ground wires under the coils and cleaned the ground contacts and bolts. I guess I got the grounds back in the right and on the right bolt?? Can anyone confirm the bolt position for the battery ground and the bolt for the other two wires that come from sensors or injectors. One time even my tach was bouncing around?? Appreciate any ideas!!!!
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Old 04-17-2003, 10:40 AM   #2
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The 92-99 Bonneville were (& are) famous for having the cluster connector on the back loosening off & causing all sorts of havoc with your guages. I have to do mine about once per year now. All you have to do is remove all the trim around the cluster, pull out the cluster, re-tighten the main connector on the back of the cluster, put all back together.
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Old 04-17-2003, 10:43 AM   #3
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Alan, would getting a new one do any good? I am going into the shop tommorow to get a new one for $356.00! IS the design better or am i going to get the same thing?
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Old 04-17-2003, 01:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
Alan, would getting a new one do any good? I am going into the shop tommorow to get a new one for $356.00! IS the design better or am i going to get the same thing?
You're going to get the same thing, but in fact I think all you've got are dirty connector pins on the existing cluster. Do _not_ blow $356 on a new cluster until you've tried simply removing and reinstalling your existing one. That'* all it took to get mine back into normal functioning: disconnecting and reconnecting the ribbon cables on the different circuit boards.
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Old 04-17-2003, 01:43 PM   #5
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I hear ya there!
How hard was it to get the dash off to get to the ribbon cables? that was the only thing i was worried about doing. any special tools needed or gotchas? I need a chilton manual.
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Old 04-17-2003, 02:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
I hear ya there!
How hard was it to get the dash off to get to the ribbon cables? that was the only thing i was worried about doing. any special tools needed or gotchas? I need a chilton manual.
I doubt a Chilton manual will be specific enough to help you, but maybe it will. Here'* what I wrote in my "Dashboard Diary" postings when I did it (and yes, WillWren, I really do intend to make this thing more organized for the TechInfo collection):

Now that the weather has improved, I'm working in the evenings to fix up some stuff in the Bonneville, so I'm going to post an occasional diary as I go. I plan to fix the flaky compass and DIC displays so they stop flickering and blanking-out occasionally, add a red alarm-like LED to the dash to add a bit of visual deterrent to back up the factory alarm (nothing more annoying than having some moron discover your alarm _after_ he'* broken in), and add a BulldogSecurity RS-102 remote starter, including dome-light supervision, parking-light confirmation, trunk release and keyless entry.

Maybe when it'* done, WillWren or I can massage it into one or more technical articles on how to do specific stuff, but for right now I don't have a plan of action beyond trying to do several things at once, so things may get a little intermixed here, but let'* get started.

First thing to do is open up the dash for a look-see. Decide to start by pulling the gauge cluster, since I'll need to be up that way anyway in order to install the LED (not sure exactly where but the area below the tach looks available), and I'll need to add a wire tapping into the parking-light circuit coming out of the headlight switch which the remote starter will be using to flash the lights.

Lower IP trim panel needs to come off first. This is the plastic panel surrounding the dash vents, HVAC and stereo, plus subwoofer if so equipped. Removing it will reveal the lower screws for the upper surround panel (the part containing the headlight switch and cigar lighter), and the upper screws for the lower steering column panel cover. Jam fingers into various edges of trim panel and pull firmly outwards until clips let go. Need to move cautiously here: just use fingers, not a screwdriver, and pull until a clip lets go, then move a few inches along and pull the next clip, etc. Work around the whole perimeter of the panel, and once all the clips are popped, it'll be loose. Clip next to subwoofer control is especially nasty. Once panel is loose, reach behind to unplug subwoofer control wiring, and remove. Stow panel in trunk since we won't be reattaching it anytime soon.

For lower steering column panel cover, remove four bolts, one at each corner, plus screw in support bracket holding up plastic lower soundproofing panel. Found cellphone installers in 1996 had strapped cable ties around support bracket while running cable. Sigh... (Will soon find that cable will cause more headaches further on.) Also remove lower soundproofing panel to open up area above pedals. Plastic pushpins must be backed out in order to free up ALDL connector from soundproofing panel, and yellow airbag wire must be carefully unplugged.

Using T-15 Torx screwdriver, remove screws around perimeter of upper trim panel, holding headlight switch, cigar lighter and grille for HVAC aspirator tube. Panel comes off without a major fight; reach around back and unplug ciger lighter wiring. HVAC aspirator tube has temperature sensor in front, covered with major dust bunnies, so a quick snort with the shop vac cleans it all out, and maybe temperature sensor will respond a little quicker now.

The gauge cluster can now come out in one piece after some major fiddling. We can leave the clear lens in place to protect the gauges in the process. The steering column is dropped down an inch or so for clearance by backing off the two large nuts on the column support. (Don't take them completely off: the column will not fall down by itself right away, but in a moment of absentmindedness you will lean on it and get a big surprise. Yup, I did.)

Six screws come out around the edge of the cluster housing, and it can be wiggled out an inch or two, and tipped upwards slightly. Be _very_ careful to avoid breaking off the large white plastic ears of the mountings you just unscrewed. Reach around the right end to get at the right-hand wiring harness plug: press in its retaining clip, then work it off its multi-pin connector. It pulls straight out the back of the cluster, but requires some wiggling before it will let go.

Now work the gauge cluster further out of the dash, tip it further up, and reach the main harness connector behind the tachometer. Again, press in its retaining clip, then work the plug straight off the back. This has even more pins than the last connector, and also does not want to come loose right away.

After both connectors are unplugged, it'* free to come out. Carry it carefully; various mounting pins and ears sticking out are both vital and breakable.

Spread a soft towel on the workbench and lay it down either way up, depending on what you need to work on. There are two basic lengths of T-15 Torx screws holding everything together: shorter gold or cad-plated screws, and longer gray steel ones. Do _not_ mix them up: bottoming out a longer screw in a short mounting sleeve can snap the plastic real quick. PAY ATTENTION TO WHICH SCREWS GO WHERE. (You could use a felt-tip pen to label each screw hole as Long or Short as you remove the screws. You will have a _lot_ of screws sitting around after your disassembly that need to get back into their correct places.)

To clean the front lens, remove the perimeter screws and lift off. Wash it in a sink with a flood of warm water, some hand dishwashing detergent and maybe a soft wet cloth, although I just used my fingers to wipe on a layer of detergent, then rinse it off. Do not use paper towels; they'll scratch the plastic. Dry thoroughly with a soft towel; it should be crystal clear when you're done.

The gauge cluster is one of the more complicated ones I've seen, driven by a set of circuit boards twice as high as the cluster itself, folded over into two layers in order to get everything to fit. To service the bulbs or otherwise dismantle the back, remove the backing plate by removing the perimeter screws and those next to the harness sockets (but only those holding the backing plate). This should reveal a large circuit board across 2/3 of the cluster, and a separate one on the end. Several plug-in ribbon cables connect the boards to each other _and_ to the second layer of circuit boards underneath.

Carefully lift up the main board and the end board. Each board is plugged on to one or two gauges by contact pins sticking out the back of each gauge (4 per gauge) that fit into clips on the circuit boards. Removing the boards involving unsnapping some small spacer pins near the edges which are snapped into small holes in the boards, pulling the boards gently straight up off the gauge pins, then unfolding the boards by their ribbon-cable connections to reveal the other circuit boards underneath.

Unplug the ribbon cables to release the circuit boards. Two ribbons connect the main board to the end board; a couple more connect major components like the compass and DIC displays. Ribbons unplug at only one end, and some disconnect sideways while others pull straight up. Figure out which is which before yanking on any of them.

Wipe indicator bulbs clean and check all for continuity with a test meter before replacing. Replace any doubtful-looking ones. Look for cracks in soldered connections, especially where ribbon cables plug in. I was lucky and found none; my flickering displays were just due to oxidized connections, and the process of unplugging and reassembling was all that was needed to restore a solid display to the dash.

Carefully reassemble the gauge cluster, and finally reach the point of putting the backplates on, am down to two screws remaining, and they're the wrong ones. Aaargh. Have two long screws to put in, but the mounting holes bottom out too shallow. After some backtracking I figure out where the long screws were supposed to go in, get the short ones out, rearrange, and get it all buttoned up.

Lay a shop rag on top of steering column, lay dash cluster face up on it, and maneuver it back into place. Turn cluster partly down to face me, and with some fiddling, get the main wiring harness plugged back into it. Turn it downwards a bit more, angle right end out slightly, get fingers in back, and finally get right-side wiring harness plugged back in as well. Cluster then snuggles back down into place, and perimeter T-15 screws go back in. Back under the dash to snug up the support bolts for the steering column, and that'* about it, aside from some plastic front panels to snap on again.
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Old 04-17-2003, 03:52 PM   #7
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Is that all? LOL thank you much for the info.

im stuck now, I'll never be able to get that done tonight. I would tempt it if i had the whole weekend. decisions decsions...
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Old 04-17-2003, 04:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
Is that all? LOL
No, that was the summary. Here'* the rest of it:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
I'm stuck now, I'll never be able to get that done tonight.
Realistically? No, you won't. I mean, I could, because I've done it before, I know which fasteners are where, and which ones on _my_ car are easy or hard to remove, etc., but you don't want to rush this and break something, especially if you're doing it for the first time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
I would tempt it if i had the whole weekend. decisions decsions...
I dunno, you don't really need the whole weekend for this, either. Just don't have a deadline for finishing that'* less than three hours from when you're starting...
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Old 04-17-2003, 04:52 PM   #9
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Im going to reluctantly fork out the cash, have it done right this time, then if it ever happens again you have iinstilled in me the knowledge to do it on my own.
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Old 04-17-2003, 06:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nytro67
Im going to reluctantly fork out the cash, have it done right this time, then if it ever happens again you have iinstilled in me the knowledge to do it on my own.
Just be sure that they return your old cluster to you afterwards.

P.*. If you have the electronic Driver Information Center in your dash, with the digital fluorescent odometer readout in place of the usual plastic number reels, I'm not sure if this means your odometer will be reading 0 with a new cluster in there; I don't know where the chip is located that tracks your mileage, or whether (if it is in the cluster) they will know enough to swap it over from the old cluster to the new one.

If you're having a Pontiac dealer do this, you stand a fair chance of having it done right; if you're having an independent service place do it... well, don't.
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