2004 Ford Focus Dashboard acts like a pinball machine

30

Asked by Nov 29, 2017 at 09:27 PM

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I drove about 45 miles today with a number of stops for errands, close to an hour and 15 minutes driving time. During all but about 2 minutes of that, my dashboard looked like a Pinball machine. The needles on all the gauges (gas, speed, temp, tach) swung wildly from 0-the top, all the lights flashed on and off randomly.

There seemed to be some correlation between a change in the light and needle show and minor "bumps" in the road, e.g. the speedometer would go from being pegged at max to 0 and bounce once or twice.

The last two times I started the car up it was normal for about 5 seconds.

This has happened twice in the past year, but for no longer than a minute each time. Today, there was no longer than a minute of normal function.

My first guess, because it's intermittent and seems to relate to changes in the road surface, is that it's a loose ground wire somewhere, but I'm old (from before the days of onboard computers) and not a mechanic.

Any ideas kids? It's a mystery and I would love some help solving it.

6 Answers

86,535

I think you are on the right track when you mention a loose wire. A bad connection could cause this problem but maybe you should sell the car to a kid that like pinball machines ;)

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
86,535

The bad news is you will have to find someone that is willing to get up under your dash and trace the wires out and look for problems. I would start with the instrument cluster connection.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
30

Thanks! I was thinking instrument cluster but also the ground to the alternator which, upon researching all over the web, seems problematical. I live in the Pacific NW and the rains started in earnest a month ago. I'm thinking this has something to do with it, either corrosion impeding constant contact or moisture bridging intermittent contact.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
30

And I absolutely love this car that has served me well and continues to be of good service except for this little quirk. I affectionately call her my Cargo Focus as I can haul even 10' lengths of conduit home from the hardware store in her. I'm not ready to part with her. My last car was a 1986 Toyota MR2 that I drove into 2009 or so. Loved her too, but this one is more practical now that I'm an old woman who gave up her pick-up.

86,535

It cannot hurt to check all the electrical system for corrosion. Use dielectric grease to seal out moisture. Good luck!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
30

Thanks F_O_R. I have learned to use emery cloth to clean connections in the simplest of devices like head lamps and my old Kubota tractor but have not used dielectric grease. My son has dielectric grease I think, and he's going to take a look in the morning. He's not a mechanic but he also knows some things about how to navigate this climate with his vehicles (think backhoes, excavators, sports cars, Isuzu NPR etc).

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

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