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  #1  
Old 02-21-2016
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Instrument cluster

After changing out all the bulbs on my instrument panel, all the gauges stoped working. Now not only do the not light up but the font read anything. Why did this happen. All I did was change out bulbs.
It's a 1996 Ford ranger with 2.3 manual 5speed
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Old 02-22-2016
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When reinstalling the cluster, did you plug ALL the connectors back in? Also, did you remove them carefully or simply yank them out?

Did you remove the clear plastic front and the gauges themselves?
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Old 02-23-2016
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Originally Posted by TheArcticWolf1911 View Post
When reinstalling the cluster, did you plug ALL the connectors back in? Also, did you remove them carefully or simply yank them out?

Did you remove the clear plastic front and the gauges themselves?
As much as I'm embarrassed to admit. It was just a fuse. I was checking the wrong fuses the whole time. One 7.5 fuse and now all my gauges work again. All though , they still don't light up. Check engine light and blinker indicators work just no light to any of my gauges.. Maybe another fuse? Not really sure how all this electrical stuff works. I replaced with all bulbs with correct bulbs.

Last edited by Zach1211; 02-23-2016 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 02-23-2016
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It could be a fuse. Now when you replaced them, did you use incandescent (standard) bulbs or did you use aftermarket LED bulbs?

LED bulbs, sometimes, are polarity sensitive; meaning they'll only work when put in the right way. Some led bulbs have circuitry inside them to get around this, but more often than not you'll find they're directional.
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Old 02-23-2016
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It could be a fuse. Now when you replaced them, did you use incandescent (standard) bulbs or did you use aftermarket LED bulbs?

LED bulbs, sometimes, are polarity sensitive; meaning they'll only work when put in the right way. Some led bulbs have circuitry inside them to get around this, but more often than not you'll find they're directional.
The instructions simply said to install the bulbs in. Didn't stay anything about direction. But i f one was wrong would they all be out? I figured at least one or two would work if some were in wrong.
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Old 02-23-2016
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Each of the six illumination bulbs are independent of one another. If they're incandescent, then it doesn't matter. This is what an incandecent bulb looks like. All 194 incandecent bulbs will look almost exactly like this, except maybe what color the glass is.


LED bulbs look very different, sharing only the general shape of the base. LED bulbs come in many different designs, unlike it's incandescent brother.

Unfortunately, directions can be woefully inadequate. Did these bulbs come in some sort of kit?

We need to determine where the fault lies. if the bulbs aren't getting power then LED or not they won't turn on. We can do this at the cluster really easily in a variety of ways.
You'll need either a multimeter or a test light, either will do in this case. You can either fashion a test light out of a small light bulb and a socket (194 or smaller ONLY) or you can buy one from a hardware store (or even walmart maybe) for cheap if you don't already have one.
Multimeters you can buy just about everywhere now. You'll pay for a good one that'll last, or you can get a cheapie from harbor freight for like 3 bucks.
No matter what you choose, take the probes from either the test light or multimeter and make contact to the copper pads where the 194 socket twists and locks into. If your tester lights up or your multimeter reads in the ballpark of 12.6 volts we know the cluster is getting power. Check all six sockets to be sure.

If there's no power going to the sockets, recheck your plugs on the cluster and get out your owners manual. First place to check is the fuse boxes. Your manual will tell you what fuse does what. If a blown fuse is found, replace the fuse only with a matching value. IE, replace a ten amp fuse with a ten amp fuse only. DO NOT put a higher value fuse in for any reason what so ever, period. I cannot stress that enough. I've seen a lot of people do this and it causes a lot more problems than it ever solves. And, by problems, I mean a melted truck type of problem. Seriously, I'm not joking around.

IF all six sockets in the cluster are getting power we can eliminate the vehicle side being the problem. It is possible the bulbs you bought were DOA, and if this is the case I'd get my money back if I were in your shoes and buy new bulbs. To test the bulbs, you can either use a 194 socket you have laying around and the vehicle's battery to test each one, or you can simply use an existing 194 socket on the vehicle already. Your cargo light/third brake light has 1 or 3 of these. Granted, they're 921 bulbs installed, but they're interchangeable for the most part and will work fine for making sure the bulbs are good.

If the bulbs are good and the cluster is getting power, they were either installed wrong (depending on bulb type as I mentioned earlier) or the black socket that the bulb pops into is junk for all six bulbs. In which case you can get more of these off ebay or at a salvage yard, etc.

Hope this helps.
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Old 02-23-2016
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Originally Posted by TheArcticWolf1911 View Post
Each of the six illumination bulbs are independent of one another. If they're incandescent, then it doesn't matter. This is what an incandecent bulb looks like. All 194 incandecent bulbs will look almost exactly like this, except maybe what color the glass is.


LED bulbs look very different, sharing only the general shape of the base. LED bulbs come in many different designs, unlike it's incandescent brother.

Unfortunately, directions can be woefully inadequate. Did these bulbs come in some sort of kit?

We need to determine where the fault lies. if the bulbs aren't getting power then LED or not they won't turn on. We can do this at the cluster really easily in a variety of ways.
You'll need either a multimeter or a test light, either will do in this case. You can either fashion a test light out of a small light bulb and a socket (194 or smaller ONLY) or you can buy one from a hardware store (or even walmart maybe) for cheap if you don't already have one.
Multimeters you can buy just about everywhere now. You'll pay for a good one that'll last, or you can get a cheapie from harbor freight for like 3 bucks.
No matter what you choose, take the probes from either the test light or multimeter and make contact to the copper pads where the 194 socket twists and locks into. If your tester lights up or your multimeter reads in the ballpark of 12.6 volts we know the cluster is getting power. Check all six sockets to be sure.

If there's no power going to the sockets, recheck your plugs on the cluster and get out your owners manual. First place to check is the fuse boxes. Your manual will tell you what fuse does what. If a blown fuse is found, replace the fuse only with a matching value. IE, replace a ten amp fuse with a ten amp fuse only. DO NOT put a higher value fuse in for any reason what so ever, period. I cannot stress that enough. I've seen a lot of people do this and it causes a lot more problems than it ever solves. And, by problems, I mean a melted truck type of problem. Seriously, I'm not joking around.

IF all six sockets in the cluster are getting power we can eliminate the vehicle side being the problem. It is possible the bulbs you bought were DOA, and if this is the case I'd get my money back if I were in your shoes and buy new bulbs. To test the bulbs, you can either use a 194 socket you have laying around and the vehicle's battery to test each one, or you can simply use an existing 194 socket on the vehicle already. Your cargo light/third brake light has 1 or 3 of these. Granted, they're 921 bulbs installed, but they're interchangeable for the most part and will work fine for making sure the bulbs are good.

If the bulbs are good and the cluster is getting power, they were either installed wrong (depending on bulb type as I mentioned earlier) or the black socket that the bulb pops into is junk for all six bulbs. In which case you can get more of these off ebay or at a salvage yard, etc.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the help. They were incandescent 194 bulbs. I think I have a blown fuse. Unfortunately I don't have a manual so I'm trying to find the right fuse diagram for a 1996 Ford ranger xl. I will be checking the fuses later today. Ill let you know what I find out.
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Old 02-24-2016
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Originally Posted by Zach1211 View Post
Thanks for the help. They were incandescent 194 bulbs. I think I have a blown fuse. Unfortunately I don't have a manual so I'm trying to find the right fuse diagram for a 1996 Ford ranger xl. I will be checking the fuses later today. Ill let you know what I find out.
All fuses were fine. And I used incandescent bulbs. So I supposed there is something wrong with the instrument cluster itself. Not sure.
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Old 02-24-2016
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Just because the fuses are fine doesn't mean power is going through them. Did you get any power off the cluster's back illumination pads?
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Old 02-25-2016
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Just because the fuses are fine doesn't mean power is going through them. Did you get any power off the cluster's back illumination pads?
I'm not getting any power on the pads. I'm using a simple 3 dollar tester from the auto parts store. So if fuses are fine and the bulbs are new, whats the next to check?
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Old 02-25-2016
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The backlighting for the gauge cluster is activated by the headlight switch and the gauge cluster portion is run through the dimmer switch.

Ensure both of them are plugged in completely and the connection is sturdy, as well as clean. If they appear corroded (green or white discoloration) I would recommend a can of contact cleaner which can be found at most hardware stores or music stores or computer stores too. It doesn't take much. If used, allow the connections to dry in open air for 15 to 20 minutes for good measure.

You may want to have your tester connected to the pads and cycle the dimmer switch up and down through it's full range of motion.
Also, with the headlight switch on, does the HVAC illuminate? If it does, we can reasonably rule out the headlight switch on being the culprit.


Also, here's a video worth watching on the subject of troubleshooting electrical circuits. Electrical circuits can be the biggest headache, so the more knowledge you have at your disposal, the better off you are.



PS: If you really want to see if the cluster is bad, take a look at this diagram here. It'll tell you what wire does which. To figure out which plug is which, simply match up the colors of the wires. If, by chance, you do get power for the respective pin, then your cluster is, infact, bad. Don't hold your breath though, as the cluster itself being at fault is rarely the case. You can also get spare parts from a junkyard for, usually, dirt cheap. So, if you want to mess around and see if a new cluster or a new headlight switch, new dimmer switch or whatnot will fix your problem, that's the cheapest way to go. Brand new switches are usually upwards of 20 dollars.

Last edited by TheArcticWolf1911; 02-25-2016 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 02-25-2016
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Originally Posted by TheArcticWolf1911 View Post
The backlighting for the gauge cluster is activated by the headlight switch and the gauge cluster portion is run through the dimmer switch.

Ensure both of them are plugged in completely and the connection is sturdy, as well as clean. If they appear corroded (green or white discoloration) I would recommend a can of contact cleaner which can be found at most hardware stores or music stores or computer stores too. It doesn't take much. If used, allow the connections to dry in open air for 15 to 20 minutes for good measure.

You may want to have your tester connected to the pads and cycle the dimmer switch up and down through it's full range of motion.
Also, with the headlight switch on, does the HVAC illuminate? If it does, we can reasonably rule out the headlight switch on being the culprit.


Also, here's a video worth watching on the subject of troubleshooting electrical circuits. Electrical circuits can be the biggest headache, so the more knowledge you have at your disposal, the better off you are.

Electrical Troubleshooting Basics - EricTheCarGuy - YouTube


PS: If you really want to see if the cluster is bad, take a look at this diagram here. It'll tell you what wire does which. To figure out which plug is which, simply match up the colors of the wires. If, by chance, you do get power for the respective pin, then your cluster is, infact, bad. Don't hold your breath though, as the cluster itself being at fault is rarely the case. You can also get spare parts from a junkyard for, usually, dirt cheap. So, if you want to mess around and see if a new cluster or a new headlight switch, new dimmer switch or whatnot will fix your problem, that's the cheapest way to go. Brand new switches are usually upwards of 20 dollars.
The HVAC does not lights up. I have replaced the headlight switch with a junkyard switct because the previous one fell apart. However the hvac didnt light up with the last one either. So maybe it is the connector for the headlight switch.when I get a chance I'll see if I can check the connections.

Last edited by Zach1211; 02-25-2016 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 02-25-2016
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You may want to check and see if you're getting power at the HVAC. Four 7mm bolts remove the hvac, and the backlighting is a simple two pin connector.

So far it's sounding like the headlight switch. Those seem to like to act up from what I've seen.
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