Speedometer/instrument cluster gauges suddenly jump...

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Speedometer/instrument cluster gauges suddenly jump...

Postby chrismireya - June 9th, 2021, 7:55 pm

Hello Escape City!

I have been having a strange issue with my old 2003 Ford Escape (V6) for about a year. The gauges on the instrument cluster (including the speedometer, RPM, fuel, etc.) all suddenly spike nearly every time that I drive the vehicle. It happens periodically -- whether I am idling or driving forward/reverse. When this happens, I usually feel a "hiccup." I'm not sure if it happens while I am driving on the highway.

About 16 months ago, I took the vehicle to the Ford dealership. They recommended a very expensive "full tune up;" however, it didn't fix the issue. In fact, I immediately drove it back to the dealership after picking it up -- pointing out the "hiccup" and instrument cluster issue. They spent about ten minutes looking at it and came back telling me that they didn't know what it could be. They wanted me to pay another $200 for a diagnostic. Moreover, the Check Engine light came on the next day. That was the last time that I'll go back to that particular dealership.

Other than the hiccups, there aren't any noticeable changes in fuel economy, temperature or anything else. I had an issue a few months later with a fuel injector that was going out. At that time, I purchased an OBD-2 scanner tool. It indicated the faulty fuel injector and P0136 -- the O2 Sensor Circuit (Bank 1 Sensor 2). I took the vehicle to a local shop. They replaced all of the fuel injectors (as suggested). When I asked about the O2 Sensor, they replied that they didn't see anything wrong with it (or a code on their computer). In truth, I think that they forgot to check.

So, my car still has the P0136 O2 Sensor Circuit (Bank 1 Sensor 2) code. Oddly enough, it passed our most recent smog test about 10 months ago (despite the Check Engine light and code).

This Escape still hiccups nearly everyday. However, I don't have any fuel economy or power issues (even when driving up hills or mountains). This vehicle has just over 200K miles; but, it drives well and is in immaculate condition. It has been an amazingly faithful vehicle since my wife purchased it new when starting college. While I am keen on buying a new vehicle (cough cough Ford Bronco cough cough), she wants to keep this vehicle until it hits 20 years old (although news about the upcoming Ford Maverick truck caught her eye yesterday).

Any ideas about what causes this?
Are there any steps that I should take to find/address the cause?

I've considered the possibility that the batteries, battery cables or battery connections could be the issue for the hiccups. If so, the O2 sensor could be unrelated. I've often wondered if the O2 sensor might have been simply incorrectly connected after the tune-up at the dealership (since the Check Engine light came on the day after I picked up my Escape).
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Re: Speedometer/instrument cluster gauges suddenly jump...

Postby SCOOTER - June 10th, 2021, 1:44 am

It looks to me the voltage is fluctuating? Does the headlights temporarily brightens or radio sound gets raised up a bit when the gauges jumped? That "hiccup" you are talking about sounds to me like the fuel pump is getting a spike in voltage when it does that. At 200K, is the alternator still original? If you have a multimeter, can you test the voltage on the battery if it is fluctuating? If you don't have a multitester, go to a major auto parts store like AutoZone, NAPA, AAP, O'Riely's . They'll check the alternator for free. There are others on this forum as well that will offer their ideas & finally a solution to your problem. And also, in your case, I think it's about time to look for another Ford dealership.
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Re: Speedometer/instrument cluster gauges suddenly jump...

Postby tomw - Yesterday, 2:17 pm

Were I doing the checking, I would look for bad grounds or look for loose connections at the PDB - power distribution box - underhood near the battery. Power is routed from the battery through a largish fuse to the box. It is then distributed to all hungry circuits via fuses, links(?) and circuit breakers.
The hiccup could be the whole system losing its battery power, and then regaining. The cluster is likely fused from one source. I have not looked but there could also be a fuse in the fuse box inside at the left end of the instrument panel. If it had corrosion due to the common(reported) windshield leak at the drivers end of the windshield, it could have intermittent connections.
I think you can unbolt the PDB and work it so it is upside down for a visual inspection for loose connections, corrosion, and things not being in place.
Any and all corrosion at the BIG ground or any other body ground can also cause problems. You can unbolt them, shine up the metal and connector, re-bolt them and spray with a lubricant that prevents further corrosion.
If you have had engine or transmission work done, some ground straps could be left loose, or not reattached as needed. If you live in a salt zone, you could have corrosion just about anywhere.
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