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#18 of 71 Chevrolet Trailblazer IC Repair Suggestion
Oct 06, 2011 (11:04 pm)
I wanted to start a new thread, since there are so many posts on the existing one about the problems with the Trailblazer instrument cluster. This is a long post, because I have tried to be thorough, so be patient.
I believe I may have found a reasonably economical solution to this problem, but first, I want to give some background information on my experience.
I also need to vent about my personal feelings, regarding the absolutely pitiful lack of customer service concerning this issue, so please bear with me.
My 2004 Trailblazer, with only 29 K miles, started having erratic gauge readings (Volts and Temperature) last winter (2010-2011), right after snow had been piled up on the hood for a couple of days (I live a little south of Detroit, so this happens frequently), and I was really puzzled by this problem.
The two gauges gradually returned to normal operation a few days after the snow was removed, and stayed okay until February 5, when the Tachometer, Temperature, and Speedometer all went to the 6 O’clock position and stayed there. After a few days, everything in the IC again returned to normal operation.
[Start of Venting]
I did some research on-line and found that this was a widespread problem with GM IC’s. I was also very, very unhappy to learn that, for some reason known only to their corporate bean-counters, GM was more or less selectively thumbing its nose at Trailblazer owners. I do not know why they decided to take this position, but they have lost a 45 year loyal GM buyer by playing this game.
I stuck with them through the garbage paint years (70’s-80’s), with two trucks, and the side-saddle gas tank (I had one of those trucks) but I am through. Enough is enough.
From now on, I will buy Ford cars and trucks.
I had terrible luck with my Dodge Dakota, which I bought from my sister (she now buys only Asian vehicles), but I will walk before I buy foreign, just on principle. Anyway, I had terrible luck with a 1985 Toyota Tercel (a real lemon, that my sister gave me for free, because she could not get the infamous carburetor problem fixed). I ended up donating that wreck, which I could not keep brake pads on, to the local high school auto shop.
My 2002 Silverado truck gives good service, but I am not going to reward such rotten and unfair [seemingly arbitrary] customer service on my Trailblazer, which is otherwise a really nice vehicle, by purchasing another GM product. They know there is a valid problem here, and the IC recall should extend the rest of the way, to include the Trailblazer line. A lot of innocent people are now stuck with a potentially dangerous and expensive problem, and they are just blowing us all off. Not cool, at all. We tried to buy American, and support GM, and look where it has gotten us.
I guess GM’s typically short-sighted cost-benefit analysis was not run far enough out to show how much money they will lose in the long term because of lost repeat sales and bad word-of-mouth. It sure would have been cheaper (it always is, isn’t it?) to just do the right thing by their customers.
I am a proud American, and always try to buy American, but I have to say that this short-sighted outlook by the Harvard MBA types who have taken over our industries is going to continue to force more people to buy from foreign-run companies.
Our off-shore competitors, especially the Japanese, do take a more long-term approach to R&D and customer service, and it is paying off for them, at our expense.
I even tried to contact a [local, but well-known and very frequently advertised] law firm, to try to start a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Trailblazer owners, but they never even responded to my e-mail. So much for their supposed and often repeated claim about caring about the little guy.
[Okay. Venting complete. Back to work.]
On March 7, I started the Trailblazer’s engine and the IC was completely dead. Even the PRNDL and Odometer were not lit. Now, what the h--- is going on? I turned the engine off and restarted it, but the IC was still tango-uniform. Only the seat belt warning light was flashing.
I let the truck sit for three hours, while I went to buy a new battery. I thought that the original one may have had low voltage issues, or internal high resistance problems, even though the Volts gauge had always read nominal. This original battery was almost seven years old, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to replace it, just for preventive maintenance.
After installing a new battery in the Trailblazer, and installing the old one in my 2002 Silverado [no problems with the 2002, using that suspect battery, to this date], the IC in the Trailblazer was fine. I drove it for 20 miles, with several off and on cycles, and all was well.
I concluded that the problem had been with the battery not being in top shape. Maybe the IC circuitry was sensitive to that (although I thought it should not have been designed to be that critical of supply voltages), and that leaving power disconnected for three hours had allowed the keep-alive circuitry in the PCM and/or IC to reset.
Then, a few months later, the IC started going bat manure again (gauges not resetting to zero and wildly swinging all over the place). I noticed this happened after several days of rain (Michigan has had an unusual amount of rain this year), and the operation of the IC would return to normal after the vehicle had apparently had a few days to dry out.
This, along with the experience with the snow earlier in the winter, now made me believe that the problem was moisture related. I thought that there was some corrosion somewhere, which was trapping the higher than normal ambient moisture, and causing a shorting, or at least a lower than normal resistance condition, somewhere in the Trailblazer’s electrical system(s).
I remembered reading, in an on-line forum, that someone had mentioned corrosion in an electrical connector, somewhere in their vehicle, and that their mechanic had suggested this was the problem.
The operation of the IC gauges slowly returned to normal (they gradually reset themselves back to their initial “zero” position, a little more each time the vehicle was driven and cycled on and off).
I did not have the time to pull the IC out and check for corrosion on any connectors, so I lived with the problem, mentally calculating, on the fly, what the actual driving speed should be, by subtracting where “0 M.P.H.” happened to be on that drive’s “partial reset” cycle, and keeping the tank a little fuller than normal. The Fuel gauge seemed to be working, but I did not trust it.
Spending up to $700 to repair the IC was not an option, even if I could afford to do so (which I definitely can not!), just on principle alone. The local Chevy dealer gave me a verbal shrug, when I called and complained about the whole lack of a recall for the Trailblazer series, only. Also, I had read several posts where this expensive repair had still not fixed the problem, and that would not have made
#19 of 71 Continuation of Chevrolet Trailblazer IC Repair Suggestion
Oct 06, 2011 (11:06 pm)
I finally set aside some time to pull the IC out and try to properly diagnose the issue, which I did on September 12.
There are a couple of on-line videos showing how to gain access to the cluster (gee, that’s an appropriate name for this situation, isn’t it?). I found this one, which is actually about getting to the radio, helpful:
I would strongly caution that, as soon as the shift lever is moved to Low, you turn the key to “Off”, and REMOVE THE MAIN NEGATIVE CABLE FROM THE VEHICLE BATTERY.
You need to leave the battery connected initially, to be able to shift to Low. Also, the ignition key can not be removed after the negative battery cable is unhooked, so allow for that. I had to remove my key ring from the key, as you need as much clearance as possible to slide the main bezel past the steering column and its ignition switch bezel, with the key still in it.
Again, I don’t care what your friend, or your uncle, who both know everything about cars, say about not needing to completely remove power from a vehicle’s electrical systems, before doing electrical work on that vehicle. REMOVE THE NEGATIVE CABLE FROM THE BATTERY after the shift lever has been moved back out of the way (in the Low position).
After I had the IC out of the car (it is held in by four 7mm (9/32”) bolts, and is connected by a single large plug-in connector), I removed the plastic back cover and looked at the circuit board traces with a magnifying glass. There were many pockets of corrosion around numerous pads (the places where the component leads pass through connection holes in the board and get soldered in place).
Since I am a computer technician, I had access to an ESD grounding strap, so I could ground myself before touching the board’s traces. That may not be required, but I would highly recommend at least holding on to a grounded surface, while you are working on the exposed board and traces. Maintain this contact CONSTANTLY, as it does not work to momentarily “discharge” yourself, in spite of what you may read. As soon as you let go of that grounding point and move your arm, you will build up another static charge on yourself, and be right back to a charged up square one.
I’m not trying to be a pain about this; just trying to save you future problems. ESD damage does not always cause an immediate failure. It can weaken a circuit, on a microscopic level, leading to premature failure, later on.
I cleaned (remember that I was continuously grounded all during this time) all of the pads and their surrounding areas with a paper towel and 97% rubbing alcohol. It took a few rubs per corrosion area to remove the corrosion, which thankfully had not permanently damaged the pads or adjacent traces.
Before putting the IC back into the vehicle, I unplugged and re-plugged the large connectors between the IC cable and the vehicle’s chassis interface. This junction is in the engine compartment, and has rotating locking rings, which have to be carefully turned to release the connector from its mate, before separating the two parts. I wanted to be sure that any corrosion that might have built up on the pins or sockets of these connectors would be removed (scraped off) by unplugging and reseating the connectors. Be gentle with this operation, and remember, THE NEGATIVE CABLE MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE BATTERY BEFORE DOING THIS!
Really. It does.
After reinstalling the IC, reassembling the dash, AND RECONNECTING THE NEGATIVE BATTERY CABLE, the car started right up, and the IC worked perfectly.
As of afternoon today, October 6, the IC has worked normally, and there have been many cold and/or rainy days and nights since it was cleaned.
Hopefully, this will be the end of the problems with the IC. I sure don’t feel like removing it, again, especially in the middle of a Michigan winter, and having to replace all of those stepper motors.
I am still royally ticked off at GM for their total and dismissive lack of customer service on this whole mess, though, and I will never buy another GM product. Thanks for a whole lot of nothing, guys…
#20 of 71 Chevrolet Trailblazer IC Repair Suggestion
Oct 07, 2011 (7:18 am)
Steve, the moderator, suggested that electrical contact cleaner, which is available at auto parts stores, would be a better alternative to the rubbing alcohol I used, in case someone tries to use a more diluted type. I agree. Just check if there are any cautions about using near plastics, and mask off those parts. The can of CRC Lectra-Motive that I have in my garage has those cautions, so I would have masked off the plastic parts of the IC.
#21 of 71 One Thing After Another!
Oct 27, 2011 (12:06 pm)
Well, just got back from my dealer after having my fuel sending unit replaced with the 50/50 offer from GM. My gas gauge has not been working in my 05 Trailblazer for the past three years. Imagine my dissapointment when they told me that they replaced the sending unit because it was bad but my gas gauge still doesn't work because of an Instrument Panel Cluster failure. This is just a tip of the iceberg for repairs on this vehicle. I'm thinking the next car probably won't be a GM!
#22 of 71 Re: One Thing After Another! [jennb76]
Nov 01, 2011 (8:22 am)
It’s great that you got the 50/50 offer! But I’m sorry that you still have a concern with your gas gauge. If you would like Customer Assistance, please email Christina here with your name, VIN, mileage, contact info, and involved dealership.
GM Customer Service
#23 of 71 Re: heater,dashboard lights,alternator go off after starting [chevytas]
Nov 16, 2011 (4:22 pm)
For quirky things like this, it's usually the actual ignition switch itself, not the one the key goes into. It's under the steering column and is black, not hard or expensive to replace. Very common problem.
Mar 22, 2012 (12:02 pm)
Well it looks like I am not the only one that goes 90mpg while sitting perfectly still....thankfully I can use my husbands GPS to determine my speed because should I get a speeding ticket on base I loose base driving privileges and I hardly think they're going to be good with looking at the stuck speedometer!
So what's a gal to do? Looks like Chevy won't do anything about this and it's not my first dash issue. I had issues with the gas gauge in 2007 shortly after we bought it. And the whole elec system was nutty, but it worked almost every time I went in with it. Go figure. Anyway the fixed the gas gauge deal for a minimal fee if I remember correctly. I forget what the culprit behind the elec system, lights coming on when they pleased..maybe it was that sensor on the dash.
Also have the reving bad idle deal, strong smell of antifreeze with no leak? And speakers that come on at random. (not a major concern on the speakers) But if I can't trust my speedometer then how do I know if my engine temp gauge is good or not?! It smells hot year round, but there isn't any leakage?!
SO now what..speedometer...is the Trailblazer Chevy/GM's disposable baby? Not worth the hassle of repairing for their owners at I am sure what is a far lesser cost than the $500.00 plus fees their garages are charging on here from what I have seen. AND the 500.00 is totally accurate as I just called our the dealership here in Jacksonville NC. 350.00 for the part and 150.00 for the labor and he too said GM is not doing a recall!
I am QUITE disappointed in what I have read and in Chevy as I grew up a Chevy girl. My Hubby's 1996 Silverado with over 230,000 mi is looking to be more reliable than the vehicle I use to tote our kids around when he's deployed! (no he is not deployed right now, Praise God!)
#25 of 71 Re: One Thing After Another! [gmcustsvc]
Jun 25, 2012 (6:32 am)
Hello Christina my name is Sherrall and I have have several problems with my 2005 Chevy Trailblazer:
1. the gas gauge went out in 2010
2. the car will stall at a stop light or drive through
3. the oil gauge went out April 2012
4. the truck is now idling low June 11, 2012
5. the speedometer went out June 22, 2012
I've taken my car to the dealership on two different occasions and they have told me that as it relates to the car stalling, they have no idea what is causing it. As far as the gauges are concerned I would have to have the instrument cluster replaced and it would cost me approximately $800. I took it to another shop last week and they told me I need a new ENGINE! This is my only means of transportation and I can not afford to replace the engine and have the instrument cluster fixed and whatever else is wrong with it. I have read many posts regarding this same problem and I'm curious to why GM has not had a recall for this problem? It is extremely hard for people to support "American made" if we don't take care of our "OWN!" I would appreciate any help you can provide me with this matter.
Thank you in advance.
My VIN# 1GNDS13S452119817
Mileage-141K (It was less than that when I took it)
Chevy Dealer-3707 West Colonial, Orlando, Florida
#26 of 71 Re: One Thing After Another! [chyna24]
Jul 31, 2012 (10:25 am)
My 2004 Trailblazer ext has lost tach, oil pressure, temp, speedometer. Gas guage still seems to be ok but we certainly do not trust it. Also quoted $800.00 for gauge repair from Chevy dealer in SW Florida. I too have issues with the stalling and the idle. It hurts the budget a little bit but we have been using premium fuel and that seems to help with the idle and stalling. Mine is at 105K. It sure would be nice if GM stepped up. Thank God for the GPS to help manage with the speed.
#27 of 71 Re: One Thing After Another! [mmstandish4]
Aug 03, 2012 (1:54 pm)
I had the same issue with my 2004 Trialblazer EXT. The driver motors on the instrument clusters are junk and fail intermittently. Please do not spend hundreds of dollars to get it repaired. IF you are fairly handy and can do basic soldering you can fix yourself with a $35 kit found on amazon. IF you are not comfortable with soldering the new driver motors on then you can send your instrument cluster our for repair or some places will just swap yours for another repaired and keep yours as a core to shorten turn around times. There are videos on you-tube also that will walk you through the process.