This 2004 Nissan Frontier came in with the complaint that the gauges had been working erratically for several months but not they have stopped working altogether. The customer had stated that the gauges and odometer would stop working and that he would tap on the dash and they would come back on. The also said that the truck would feel like it was pulling back when the gauges stopped and like it was surging forward when the came back on. There was also a code P0500 stored in the PCM. Looking at a wiring diagram showed that the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) signal is sent to the instrument cluster and from there it is sent to the PCM. In 90% of cases the vehicle speed sensor would be the most likely cause of this problem but two things change that scenario. All of the gauges & the odometer stop working in unison and that for quite a while the owner was able to restore gauge function by tapping on the dash. This diagnosis is now trending towards a poor connection at the harness connectors or inside the instrument cluster. I know this repair will apply to several different years and models of Nissans, hopefully you will leave some of that information in the discussions area at the end of this article.
There are several things that have to be removed in order to check the Instrument Panel Cluster (IPC) starting with the steering column covers. There are several phillips headed screws that have to be removed from the underside of the steering column.
The two covers can then be separated.
Rocking the lower cover to the right or center of the vehicle will cause the ring around the key area to pop off easily.
Using the tilt handle on the left side of the column the steering column can be moved around to make the cover removal easier.
There are two phillips headed screws at either lower corner of the under dash knee bolster panel.
From there it just pulls towards the driver’s seat for removal. You can see a few of the spring tabs that secure it to the dash in the next image. The harness connectors will also need to be removed from the switches.
Now the IPC trim panel can be removed. It has the same kind of spring tabs holding it in place.
The turn signal indicator bulbs have to be removed from the panel. They just twist and pull out.
There are three phillips headed screws that hold the IPC to the dash carrier. On at the top center and two at either lower corner. Once they are removed the IPC can be pulled forward enough to work with disconnecting the harness connectors.
They both have locking tabs that have to be depressed before pulling the harnesses loose.
This securing cable tie also need to be pulled loose from the dash. A firm grip and a little wiggling is needed.
This mini harness needs to be disconnected at the edge of the IPC before disassembly of the actual cluster.
There are multiple tabs that have to be lifted as the rear cover is being lifted from the IPC.
Once the rear cover is removed look at the lower right side of the circuit board. There are three solder joints in a horizontal row. A close inspection found one clearly open solder joint and two others that were deteriorating.
The solder joint after they were resoldered. I know that you may not be able to see everything in these images that I could in person but the point is to show you where to look.
All back together and working.
Nearly 264,000 miles on this little truck.
This repair took listening to the customer, some testing, in depth understanding of how the systems work and careful inspection to complete.