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post #1 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 09:30 AM Thread Starter
Flying_LP
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Heavy Gauge Problem!

Fellow Forum Friends:

The gauges on my 1997 Jeep ZJ 6 cylinder 4X4 160K miles (or more? see below) are acting up. I've been through the threads "Gauge Failure" threads I have found here -- and elsewhere. The problem is, none of those threads I found completely matched up with my set of symptoms.

As with most of the other posts, my basic symptom is the gauges "die" after the jeep has been running a minute or so. The problem started as several quick "drop out" and recovery episodes. It did that a few times, then started dropping out a bit longer each time. I had to quit driving it through the winter because whatever affected the gauges also shut down the heater and the blower and the power windows allowing windows to fog/frost up making it impossible to safely drive the car. After the weather warmed a bit, I tried it out again and everything worked well for a week. Then there were a couple (2) drop outs. Then we went back into the full time failure mode.

So, with all the Gauge Failure threads I've found, why am I starting my own thread? Well, the problem with other Gauge Failure threads is most focus on the gauge failure part. Sometimes they mention the "air bag" light coming on, but that's about it for ancillary symptoms. Sometimes, someone will ask, "How about the same symptoms, but my heater dies too?" but not get much for a "differential" answer. I decided adding this post to one of those threads would probably not garner any additional alternatives to investigate.

Here are the symptoms I encounter:

Let's say I am driving down the road with my headlights off. In addition to the gauges dying, the Vehicle Information Center also malfunctions -- but not completely. It still shows the date and time correctly, but I've been at "650 miles to service" for the last 200 miles! The odometer also does not show or accumlate mileage. The right-hand power mirror will not adjust; the left-hand mirror will. As mentioned before, climate control is offline -- so no heater or blower -- though, sometimes, the heat comes on w/o the blower. The alarm LED often lights up and glows a steady, DIM red. The power door locks do not "auto lock" at speed. When I activate the Lock/Unlock switch, only the Driver Door lock moves. The radio plays and shows station/time, but the steering wheel controls for volume and channel do not work. Cruise control is, of course, also dead -- but that might be a secondary failure. None of the "idiot" lights function -- except the ABS light, which has been on since I bought the Jeep. The overhead information display still functions properly.

Now, as I am driving down the road -- with dead gauges et al -- let us say I rotate the ignition key to the <Start> position. I'm in Drive -- so the starter does not engage; but the gauges do! I get all my dash instruments back! I also get door lock function and rearview mirror function back. I lose radio (normal for "starting"), but when I release the key, things keep working -- for about 10 seconds; then, I am back to the new normal: dead.

When it gets dark, I turn on the headlights. The high beam indicator comes on -- and stays on, even if I am using low beams. Rotating the key to start no longer gets me working gauges -- but it does make idiot lights go through their test cycle. The radio no longer shows station or time, but still plays. The overhead display still accurately changes displayed compass point as my direction of travel changes, but all of the other normally available values (temperature, MPG, et cetera) are now replaced by dashes ("- - "). The alarm LED now glows a steady, BRIGHT red.

When I park and shut things down, the door locks work perfectly and the alarm works perfectly and, if I catch them in the "shutdown delay phase" so do the power windows and power mirrors.

Moving the key to the Accessory Position produces basically the same results as the Run position -- except, of course, the engine is not running.

=======

My thoughts thus far for possible causes include:

1. Ignition switch -- obviously, some functions work when the key is in <start> or in <off> that do not work when it is in <run> -- how can I not suspect the switch?

2. System Grounding -- there is about a 10 second lag between returning the key to <run> and having the gauges die. Also, sometimes things like the door locks work "anemically" -- like they might function with a low battery. This behavior "sounds like" a potential grounding issue.

3. The Body Control Module (A.K.A. Body Control Computer). Since I believe one or more of the items listed above are controlled, or at the very least, influenced by the BCM (BCC), that part is on my radar. The last major "computer problem" this Jeep had was diagnosed as everything from loose/dirty grounds to bad connectors. Replacing the ECM fixed everything. What are the odds the BCM (BCC) might be bad, too? I honestly do not know how many miles are on the Jeep -- yes, the odometer says 169K (when it works); but, if the previous owner had the same problem I am experiencing, a LOT of miles might have gone unrecorded. Maybe, it is just "old"?

4. Corroded fuses -- I had a very similar problem in my 1996 XJ. It turned out to be corrosion in the fuse panel under the hood. Cleaning that made the symptoms go away and not come back. That is why, when I first got this Jeep, I spent several hours cleaning all of the fuses and fuse panel contacts and coating the conductive surfaces with DeOx(tm). When this problem started, I "rotated" all the fuses (exchanged like-size for like-size) in the fuse panel. I also rotated all of the matching relays in the same fashion. The "character" of the failures did not change.

I do not think, as most threads suggested, that I have a "connector corrosion" problem on the back of the dashboard. If that were the case, rotating the ignition key should not bring the dash back to life. (Feel free to correct me if that assumption is wrong!) The other night, I commuted all the way home with the key rotated to <start>; the gauges never failed, or even flickered, once.

I am also reluctant to blame grounding -- for the same reason. If a ground wire is loose or a lug corroded, rotating the ignition key should not work.

So, personally, I am kind of down to ignition switch or BCM (BCC) as the strongest possibilities. I am tempted to go get a junkyard BCM (BCC) and see if that fixes (or at least changes the character of) the problem.

The ignition switch is $70.

The BCM (BCC) is $270 -- plus a $65 core -- or $335 total. If it fixes the problem, I would turn in the core. If the BCM (BCC) does not fix the problem, one I have would be good and the one I purchased un-returnable. For $65 I'd rather keep it as a spare for a $270 part.

So, if my assessment of likely failure causes is wrong, I have the possibility of spending $405 ($441 with tax; over $500 if I go get junkyard parts first) and still winding up with a non-functional vehicle. While that cost is better than the likely dealer or other repair shop outcomes in my area, I would prefer to be more frugal if possible.

===========

So, please tell me:

Is my logic flawed somewhere?

Are there other causes, particularly "simple" causes, I should investigate?

What say you good folks?


Thanks!!
-- LP --


Jeep: To boldly go where no wheels have gone before.
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 11:33 AM
GOLDWING
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My brothers Jeep had its' PO buying lots of parts trying to solve similar problems. He eventually gave up and sold it dirt cheap to my bro. I cleaned all of the engine bay grounds and everything started working correctly again.

GW

"The Dude Abides"
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 12:34 PM
CrypticScriptx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying_LP View Post
Fellow Forum Friends:

The gauges on my 1997 Jeep ZJ 6 cylinder 4X4 160K miles (or more? see below) are acting up. I've been through the threads "Gauge Failure" threads I have found here -- and elsewhere. The problem is, none of those threads I found completely matched up with my set of symptoms.

As with most of the other posts, my basic symptom is the gauges "die" after the jeep has been running a minute or so. The problem started as several quick "drop out" and recovery episodes. It did that a few times, then started dropping out a bit longer each time. I had to quit driving it through the winter because whatever affected the gauges also shut down the heater and the blower and the power windows allowing windows to fog/frost up making it impossible to safely drive the car. After the weather warmed a bit, I tried it out again and everything worked well for a week. Then there were a couple (2) drop outs. Then we went back into the full time failure mode.

So, with all the Gauge Failure threads I've found, why am I starting my own thread? Well, the problem with other Gauge Failure threads is most focus on the gauge failure part. Sometimes they mention the "air bag" light coming on, but that's about it for ancillary symptoms. Sometimes, someone will ask, "How about the same symptoms, but my heater dies too?" but not get much for a "differential" answer. I decided adding this post to one of those threads would probably not garner any additional alternatives to investigate.

Here are the symptoms I encounter:

Let's say I am driving down the road with my headlights off. In addition to the gauges dying, the Vehicle Information Center also malfunctions -- but not completely. It still shows the date and time correctly, but I've been at "650 miles to service" for the last 200 miles! The odometer also does not show or accumlate mileage. The right-hand power mirror will not adjust; the left-hand mirror will. As mentioned before, climate control is offline -- so no heater or blower -- though, sometimes, the heat comes on w/o the blower. The alarm LED often lights up and glows a steady, DIM red. The power door locks do not "auto lock" at speed. When I activate the Lock/Unlock switch, only the Driver Door lock moves. The radio plays and shows station/time, but the steering wheel controls for volume and channel do not work. Cruise control is, of course, also dead -- but that might be a secondary failure. None of the "idiot" lights function -- except the ABS light, which has been on since I bought the Jeep. The overhead information display still functions properly.

Now, as I am driving down the road -- with dead gauges et al -- let us say I rotate the ignition key to the <Start> position. I'm in Drive -- so the starter does not engage; but the gauges do! I get all my dash instruments back! I also get door lock function and rearview mirror function back. I lose radio (normal for "starting"), but when I release the key, things keep working -- for about 10 seconds; then, I am back to the new normal: dead.

When it gets dark, I turn on the headlights. The high beam indicator comes on -- and stays on, even if I am using low beams. Rotating the key to start no longer gets me working gauges -- but it does make idiot lights go through their test cycle. The radio no longer shows station or time, but still plays. The overhead display still accurately changes displayed compass point as my direction of travel changes, but all of the other normally available values (temperature, MPG, et cetera) are now replaced by dashes ("- - "). The alarm LED now glows a steady, BRIGHT red.

When I park and shut things down, the door locks work perfectly and the alarm works perfectly and, if I catch them in the "shutdown delay phase" so do the power windows and power mirrors.

Moving the key to the Accessory Position produces basically the same results as the Run position -- except, of course, the engine is not running.

=======

My thoughts thus far for possible causes include:

1. Ignition switch -- obviously, some functions work when the key is in <start> or in <off> that do not work when it is in <run> -- how can I not suspect the switch?

2. System Grounding -- there is about a 10 second lag between returning the key to <run> and having the gauges die. Also, sometimes things like the door locks work "anemically" -- like they might function with a low battery. This behavior "sounds like" a potential grounding issue.

3. The Body Control Module (A.K.A. Body Control Computer). Since I believe one or more of the items listed above are controlled, or at the very least, influenced by the BCM (BCC), that part is on my radar. The last major "computer problem" this Jeep had was diagnosed as everything from loose/dirty grounds to bad connectors. Replacing the ECM fixed everything. What are the odds the BCM (BCC) might be bad, too? I honestly do not know how many miles are on the Jeep -- yes, the odometer says 169K (when it works); but, if the previous owner had the same problem I am experiencing, a LOT of miles might have gone unrecorded. Maybe, it is just "old"?

4. Corroded fuses -- I had a very similar problem in my 1996 XJ. It turned out to be corrosion in the fuse panel under the hood. Cleaning that made the symptoms go away and not come back. That is why, when I first got this Jeep, I spent several hours cleaning all of the fuses and fuse panel contacts and coating the conductive surfaces with DeOx(tm). When this problem started, I "rotated" all the fuses (exchanged like-size for like-size) in the fuse panel. I also rotated all of the matching relays in the same fashion. The "character" of the failures did not change.

I do not think, as most threads suggested, that I have a "connector corrosion" problem on the back of the dashboard. If that were the case, rotating the ignition key should not bring the dash back to life. (Feel free to correct me if that assumption is wrong!) The other night, I commuted all the way home with the key rotated to <start>; the gauges never failed, or even flickered, once.

I am also reluctant to blame grounding -- for the same reason. If a ground wire is loose or a lug corroded, rotating the ignition key should not work.

So, personally, I am kind of down to ignition switch or BCM (BCC) as the strongest possibilities. I am tempted to go get a junkyard BCM (BCC) and see if that fixes (or at least changes the character of) the problem.

The ignition switch is $70.

The BCM (BCC) is $270 -- plus a $65 core -- or $335 total. If it fixes the problem, I would turn in the core. If the BCM (BCC) does not fix the problem, one I have would be good and the one I purchased un-returnable. For $65 I'd rather keep it as a spare for a $270 part.

So, if my assessment of likely failure causes is wrong, I have the possibility of spending $405 ($441 with tax; over $500 if I go get junkyard parts first) and still winding up with a non-functional vehicle. While that cost is better than the likely dealer or other repair shop outcomes in my area, I would prefer to be more frugal if possible.

===========

So, please tell me:

Is my logic flawed somewhere?

Are there other causes, particularly "simple" causes, I should investigate?

What say you good folks?


Thanks!!
-- LP --
I think that your reasoning is spot on with this one
The BCM/grounding is likely the source of your issues.

I had a truck (s10) that gave me a lot of issues with the gauge cluster and light system. Changing the BCM gave everything back to me.

I mention grounding because it's always "possible". Sometimes it's obvious, and sometimes you have to really check the harness out with a mirror and light.


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post #4 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
Flying_LP
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Well Grounded Suggestion

Quote:
Originally Posted by GOLDWING View Post
My brothers Jeep had its' PO buying lots of parts trying to solve similar problems. He eventually gave up and sold it dirt cheap to my bro. I cleaned all of the engine bay grounds and everything started working correctly again.

GW
Thank you, Goldwing, for the tip!

Though it is hard to tell from the length of my original post, I did try to keep it short

As a consequence, I left out a few details. One of those details I omitted was that, back when the ECM was acting up, I went through all of the engine compartment and undercarriage ground points and cleaned them -- than applied some high quality electrical anti-oxide grease. I also tested (or, when I could not test, replaced) all of the sensors that work by varying resistance to ground.

On my '96, there is an "under-seat" ground point; I do not know if the '97 has a similar grounding location... Which, since I do not know whether it exists, should tell you that I have not "spiffed up" that ground point (if it exists). Not yet having inspected that lug (if it exists), plus not knowing if there are other "under-dash" or "in cab" ground points that might require attention, is the only reason "grounding" remains on my "possibility" list.

Frankly, I was hoping somebody would say, "Did you check the under seat ground?" or "Clean the firewall ground!" so I would know where to go look. On the '96, the under-seat ground was a PITA to expose, clean, and cover up again (and it was not, in that case, the problem); so, I don't want to go digging for it if it is not there

Other than that, every ground point of which I am aware, particularly inside of the engine compartment, is in pristine condition.

Again, I appreciate the response!
If you have ideas about grounding point(s) inside of the cab, I am all ears (or "lugs" as the case may be)!

--LP--

Jeep: To boldly go where no wheels have gone before.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 01:14 PM Thread Starter
Flying_LP
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Switch Out?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrypticScriptx View Post
I think that your reasoning is spot on with this one
The BCM/grounding is likely the source of your issues.
That is the direction I am leaning as well; however, I still have the issue of rotating the ignition switch making the gauge failures go away.

Does anybody know if the functionality of the BCM is changed significantly when the switch is in <start> as opposed to <run> position? If so, then maybe the "run" functionality of the BCM is compromised. If there is no BCM function change, then I still have a mystery on my hands...

Or, does anybody know if more current is available when the switch is in the <start> as opposed to the <run> position? If so, then maybe it is a "high resistance" grounding problem. (This would also go along with the problem changing when the headlights are on and, presumably, there is less current available for the gauge system.) If there is not current change, then I still have a mystery on my hands...

Or maybe I have a bad ignition switch?

==========

Speaking of grounds, before I go disassembling the dash and removing seats and doing other potentially unproductive tasks, does anybody know where the ground point(s) inside the cab might be located?

==========

Unfortunately, the local junk yard junk yard has no used BCMs in stock. If they did have one, they would want $57 for it -- which is roughly the core charge on a rebuilt unit... And the rebuilt (Cardone) BCM comes, I am told, with a Life Time Warranty while the JYU (Junk Yard Unit) has a "30 days, same as trash" guarantee.)

==========

I will figure out how to measure "resistance to ground" at some useful point. Meanwhile, assuming I do not find any grounding problems, if you had to vote, would you start with the ignition switch ($65 for Borg Warner w/LT guarantee) or the BCM ($270)?


IMWTK!!
-- LP --

Jeep: To boldly go where no wheels have gone before.
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-14-2018, 01:37 PM
CrypticScriptx
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The forum surfer in me says to always start with the cheapest item and work your way up, but if you get a nagging feeling that it's a specific item, the cheapest repair might not put your mind at ease, even if it shows signs of minor progress.

I vote:
Play cautious; Make a quick checklist and work your way up.

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post #7 of 10 Old 04-16-2018, 06:06 PM
Mudnbloodzj97
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Garage
Have same jeep similar problems to. Check ur grounds connections wires and o2 my sensor near the rear driveshaft was rubbed raw every time it got wet my gauges wouldn't come on till couple mins after driving. Also found a cut abs sensor and I had problems with the pcm. But it was the o2 sensor for my problems. Just check all ur wires and connections first before buying anything. Especially round ur blower motor if the heater was acting up.

send it shane!
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-23-2018, 07:48 AM Thread Starter
Flying_LP
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Making Sense Or...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudnbloodzj97 View Post
...Check ur grounds connections wires...
Almost all grounds were cleaned and coated with anti-corrosion, electrically conductive grease back when the ECM was acting up. The only exceptions were any grounds inside the cab. I have a '96 that has a ground point under the driver's seat. I have not burrowed deep enough on this Jeep to see if it has the same ground point; so, if anyone knows that for sure (or knows about other grounds) I'm a jackrabbit (all ears!).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudnbloodzj97 View Post
...my sensor near the rear driveshaft was rubbed raw...
In my case, the O2 Sensor was also replaced as part of the ECM troubleshooting... will look again, but is low probability on my rig...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudnbloodzj97 View Post
...Also found a cut abs sensor...
...My ABS light is on almost all the time; that is on my "list" of things to fix. Maybe it just moved up a notch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudnbloodzj97 View Post
...Just check all ur wires and connections first... Especially round ur blower motor...
I shall be doing that!

Good advice, Mudnbloodzj97!!
Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts!

===========
On another source, I read something about potential problems on the communications buss causing this issue. They indicated that the problem can be found with an O-Scope by looking at the sync pulse. If the pulse goes away or shifts frequency or gets altered by one of the modules on the buss, the system thinks the BCM has died...

Unfortunately, the article did not mention anything about the pin-out of the under-dash-connector. Anybody know about this failure mode -- especially a link or other source for finding the connector pin-outs? (I have the 'Scope )

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post #9 of 10 Old 05-05-2018, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
Flying_LP
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Okay, it has been a couple of weeks since I last updated this Thread. Life has been extremely busy, so I've just let the ZJ sit waiting for time to dig into everything. During that break, I did have time to do some pondering. It occurred to me that in all the scratching about I have done, the one thing I did not do was plug in a code reader and see if the computer system had any insights on the gauge problem.

I have an AutoXray 6000, so when that thought occurred to me, I went trucking right out to grab it... Today, a week later, after tracking it down and retrieving it from the son who "borrowed" it several months ago, I was all ramped up to check things out.

This morning I had to make a quick run to the Post Office. It is about 2 miles down the road, on the other side of US395 -- which is fairly busy. Nevertheless, the car has been running reliably -- except for the gauges -- so I figured I'd use it to go to the Post Office and see I if could catch something with the scanner. Unfortunately, I was racing against "closing time" for the Post Office, so I just tossed everything into the car and headed out. The battery was a bit "low" (slow cranking), but the car started and ran fine -- gauges and everything -- all the way to the Post Office.

I retrieved my package just before closing time, then went back to the GC. I plugged in the scanner and did a preliminary check. Of course everything looked good. Time to start 'er up... Slow crank... No Start... Buzz... Click... Solenoid Chatter... Dead...

Pulled my boost box out of the rear... Been several months since I charged it (haven't been driving the car). Hooked it up and tried again... Slow crank... No Start... Buzz... Click... Solenoid Chatter... Dead...

I called my Bride. She grabbed the boost box that lives in my "back up Jeep" and came to my rescue. While waiting, I heard what sounded like a "motor" running under the passenger side of the dash. Open the door, and the sound would stop... Try to start, and the sound would stop... Almost sounded like the servo that moves the dampers in the heating/ cooling system... Hmm, maybe that's why the battery was low?

But I am not entirely sure what I am hearing... The "motor" sounds like a model airplane to me. Unfortunately, it is Saturday Afternoon in beautiful Downtown Clayton; all the prominent residents are outside enjoying the day; both of them seem to be running string trimmers... So, am I hearing something from inside my car, or an "echo" of something running outside? I keep trying to check, but every time I open the door, the buzzing stops for a bit... (And I have to keep opening the Door because it is Saturday Afternoon in beautiful Downtown Clayton; all the residents are outside enjoying the day; and all the ones not running string trimmers keep wandering by and asking me if I need some help, so every few minutes, I have to open the door, let my neighbors know that my Bride is coming to rescue me, take down their telephone numbers "just in case," then close the door and wait for the "Motor Sound" to start again. I'm still not sure if I am hearing something from the inside or the outside because, I swear, every time I open the door, the String Trimmer Brigade shuts down so they can hear my conversation with the passerby...

I actually L-O-V-E living in Small Town America, so I refrain from yelling over to the String Trimmer Guys to either keep whacking their weeds or come on over and ask if I need help for themselves...

Wife arrives... I have her listen to the "motor" sound... Confirmed that it stopped when I turned off the disable switch (have a battery cut-off; no "pulling" battery terminals for me)... Hooked up to Boost Box and tried again... Slow crank... No Start... Slow Crank... No Start... Slow Crank... No Start... (Hey, I'm a slow learner -- what can I say?). I decide there's no point in killing the second Boost Box, so I exchange it for my jumper cables and try again... Fast Crank... Start(!)... Stall... Fast Crank... Start(!)... Stall... Fast Crank... Start(!)... Stall... Fast Crank... Start(!)... Stall... Fast Crank... Start(!)... Stall... (Like I said: slow learner!)

Had Bride listen to "motor sound" again... Now she describes it as a "clicking" noise... Aw, darn it all to String Trimmers, I bet the Anti-Theft System has triggered!!!

We lock up the car (Anti Theft System does not set), and go home for spare key (in case we can use it to reset the Anti-Theft System) and bring back a truck (in case we can't)...

Put spare key in passenger door and rotate to unlock position and have wife hold it. Put key into ignition and crank (battery apparently got happy sitting there with jumper cables hooked up). GC starts and runs fine... Go home the long way (back roads ~ five miles), but Jeep runs fine; gauges work fine; AutoXray Scanner shows nothing interesting...

After two hours of tinkering with Jeep and visiting with Neighbors, we get home. I do a little Internet / YouTube digging... Spot a fellow giving the "key in passenger door + Key in Ignition to Reset Anti-Theft System demonstration... I know this works -- because I just did it, but it is only a 150 second video, so I watch anyway... Fellow happens to mention that, when his Anti-Theft system malfunctioned, not only did the Jeep do the Crank... Start... Stall... routine, in his case ALL OF THE DASH GAUGES "DIED" AS WELL.

So, now that I've bored everyone with my morning's adventure, here's my question: Given that almost every failure mode I have observed seems to include something "funky" going on with the Alarm System Dash Indicator, what are the odds that my problem might actually reside somewhere in the Anti-Theft System, or an associated relay?

IMWTK!!
-- 101 --

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post #10 of 10 Old 06-24-2018, 04:24 PM
Benthal8
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Yep, I had most of that recently, in addition to overheating - efan not functioning. I had the same questions and was completely thrown by the fact that the gauges etc died a few seconds after startup. It's fixed now. I guess when something is obvious to everyone else, even though you madly search for answers in posts, you get crickets. It's mostly likely a ground issue, as Goldwing mentioned. I finally connected a battery jumper cable from my engine to the chassis and BOOM ... everything works. Even though I had continuity on that connection it wasn't enough, apparently.
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