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Dash gauge needles


Three-De Off-Road
Nashville, TN
So I found a set of pristine dash needles for my '96 ZJ at a junk yard and pulled them out to bring home. Last week I swapped out my sunfaded light orange/white gauge needles for these mint one.

Now my speedometer and my tachometer don't work. My other 4 gauges work fine, as does the digital odometer.

Anyone have any idea where I need to start to get the tach and speedo working again?
Hindsight tells me your choice is better. Unfortunately my ship has sailed...
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Do the needles still return to zero? If so, the springs are likely to be still connected. Usually, there are two springs that connect to a copper wire armature. Current applied to the armature rotates it around it's axis. It's just like a little electric motor that is constrained to do less than one revolution.

I am guessing that the force required to pull off the needle may have damaged the top spring. The force applied to fix the replacement needle may have damaged the bottom spring. If either spring has broken away, the circuit will be broken.

When I was a lad, I spent a week re-soldering springs on broken instruments as part of my engineering apprenticeship. It is a fiddly job, it requires a steady hand and a good illuminated magnifying glass with a stand.
Thank you both for this thread.

I have been looking at the needles on the ZJ trying to figure out some way to improve them.

I am thinking the paint is probably the better option, given the potential pitfalls of replacing them.
Well, I am VERY pleased. I got a replacement cluster from the junk yard today so that I had something to work with.

Turns out that the mileage is stored in the vehicle computer and NOT in the cluster itself, so when I popped it in, it showed the accurate mileage! Wish I had known that earlier, and I would have just bought the cluster as a whole instead of just pulling off the good needles. Live and learn.

Only issue with the new cluster is that the ABS light stays on, and I know I have no ABS issues. Guess I'll buy the paint and move forward.

What a relief. I was worried about not having accurate mileage on the Jeep if I swapped clusters, and I am not talented enough to remove and resolder the mileage chip to put into a different cluster.

Merry Christmas to me!
The joy of a Jeep.

You fix one problem only to get a new problem in its place.
Well, an errant light is a much less worrisome problem than an inoperable speedo and tach.

Worse comes to worse, I'll just pull out that light and call it a day.
If the ABS light stays on, switch off, disconnect the cluster and spray contact cleaner on the contacts in the plug and on the cluster, then reassemble. Hopefully, the ABS light will clear next start.

If it doesn't clear the ABS light, try pushing the ignition key in a bit deeper during the start. If the delicate ignition switch actuator rod is slightly damaged it will cause the ABS test to error. Pushing the key in deeper won't always work as it depends on how far up the rod the break occurs.

I bought a Dorman replacement and it worked first time to fix the ABS light error. However, the first Dorman actuator I received was broken in the box.

The ignition actuator link with ABS took me a while to discover.
I think it is the cluster and not the ignition. One of the clusters stays lit with the ABS light and the other doesn’t. If it was the ignition, I’d expect the ABS light on both clusters.
Sorry, brain fart... It wasn't ABS I had a problem with, it was Air Bag warning lamp! Both systems have mandatory tests on my Jeeps annual inspection. I have removed every component of my ABS system and it has now been officially recorded as not present so I have a test exemption for ABS.

Skruffy's LS3 project has inspired me to deal with my burdensome warning lamps compliance problem once and for all - rewire them to a different circuit that just fakes the startup sequence.
I have ordered the fluorescent orange paint. When it arrives I will post before and after photos of my gauge cluster.

Also, I believe I really do have an ABS problem. Of the three clusters I’ve had in it, 2 of them lit the ABS light. When I pull the cluster from my 98 to paint the needles I’ll slide it in my 96 just to check it also.
The paint arrived today and I did a some testing on an old set of needles.

First picture is two of the sun faded needles along side one of the OEM ones that hasn't been faded.

Second picture shows the middle needle painted with the new orange needle paint.

Next picture shows the painted needle (speedo) next to the OEM painted needle (tach).

Final picture is the one just above it, but in a dark garage with the dash lights on. It's more evident which is painted. Perhaps the paint I put on is not fully dry, or maybe I just went a little heavy.