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INSTRUMENT CLUSTER/DCL TUNEUP: 88 - 94 CONTINENTAL
Submitted by pro-five-oh / 10-13-04

    Special thanks to jtrader, MarkJ, TintedChrome, and Steve Moran for lending their advice to this problem on the Continental Forum


  




Introduction

The Continental Electronic Instrument Cluster has a series of warning messages and beeps to inform you of potential problems. Yet when the system gives false alarms, it can drive you nuts in a very short period of time. Believe it or not, this is a simple problem with a simple solution. The problem is that the connections on the back of the instrument cluster are weak, and need to be cleaned to work properly. There are three parts of the cluster we will work with:
  • Instrument Cluster Unit
  • Data Control Link (DCL message center)
  • Light bulbs
What Has To be Done?

All we are doing is using isopropyl alcohol or a pink eraser (whichever is easier to use for your needs) on the copper contacts on the back of the cluster. Cleaning these contacts removes oxidation will cause weak connections, incorrect oil pressure readings, unreliable lighting, and loss of DCL functionality.

Getting Started

Removal of the instrument cluster is relatively easy, requiring basic tools and a little patience. NOTE: Cluster removal information is specific to 1990-1994 dashboards; older Continentals will follow a similar procedure for interior trim removal.
  • Disconnect the battery
  • Pry up the vinyl strips on the bottom shelf of the dashboard: one is about 8" long and 3" wide, the runs along the bottom of the instrument cluster to the passenger door. Use a small blade screwdriver and cover with a thin rag to avoid scratches.
  • Using a Phillips screwdriver, remove the 4 or 5 screws now visible. These screws attach the instrument cluster finish panel to the dashboard.
  • Pull out the headlight knob. With a blade screwdriver, GENTLY pry the finish panel from above and the sides. This is connected by clips, like the vinyl strip in step 1.
  • There are four connectors to remove from the back of the bezel. Twist and pull out the light connected next to the light switch.
    • The white connector for the gear indicator can be pulled straight out. The indicator should have a tag with arrows that point to two tabs. Pull or push the two tabs toward the rear of the cluster to release the indicator. At the same time pull up with your other hand and it should be free.
    • The other two light connectors can be pulled out by slightly indenting the sides inwards.
  • With the finish panel out, use a 7mm socket wrench to remove the screws holding the instrument cluster in.
  • Remove three connectors to free up the instrument cluster. One is the biggest, and connects the light strip, DCL, and oil pressure indicator. Remove this by pinching the sides and pulling it out. The other two are on top of each other and can be easily pulled out by also pinching the sides.
  • With the instrument cluster out, thoroughly clean the ribbons and connectors. Pay special attention to the copper ribbon connectors that were detached from the male connector.
  • Change out all the bulbs in the instrument cluster and clean their copper contacts too. Twist the bulbs and then pull them out. The copper is now exposed and can be easily cleaned from here.
  • Carefully replace the cables and the clips. It may take some force to install the clips, but don't overdo it or you could damage the boards or cables. Put everything back in reverse order.


Final Thoughts

After reconnecting the battery, see if the alarms clear after you start the motor. The computer might need to reset to clear the codes with the engine running. If the problem(s) still occur you have two options:
  • Put a piece of tape over the 3rd contact counting from the left to hold it down tighter. This may not stop the components from beeping, but it is worth a try. Usually the connection is the only problem.
  • Replace the DCL using another DCL from a working unit. The DCL is a separate unit. Replace the DCL in your "old" cluster with the one from the "new" cluster.


Good luck!

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