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Tom, ASE Master Certified
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 864
Experience:  Chrysler Level 3 Technician, Chrysler Training Instructor
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Dodge Caravan 1999 Dodge Caravan 3.3 Instrument panel is dead.

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1999 Dodge Caravan 3.3 Instrument panel is dead. No guages no lights. Car runs fine. I have voltage to the panel. I resoldered the connections. Disconnected the battery to reset the bcm. What should I do next?

Tom :

Hi, and welcome to Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help the best I can. I may need to ask questions to better understand your concern.

Tom :

Does the odometer work?

Tom :

Does the shift indicators light up and are they showing all ranges selected?


No odometer or shift indicator. Tried another cluster panel and that didn't work either

Tom :

Do you have a scan tool that can communicate with the BCM?


It did work, but it isn't illuminated to tell if it is working now.


No scan tool. I did have a code that suggest the transmission module may need replacing.


I'm gonna have to leave for a while. If you have any suggestion I'll check it in my EMail. I can drive the van to advanced auto and see if there are any updated codes if that would help your diagnosis.

Tom :

Reading the Body control moduel codes would be good. I do have one thing for you to try that is going to sound weird but I have found this problem on another van before : Take the radio/AC control bezel of and disconnect the AC control head wiring connector and see if the cluster comes back on. I have found a bad pin on the AC control head that shorted the bus making the cluster not come on. It was strange but I fixed the van by replacing the ac control head for $100.


Disconnected the AC control module and still didn't help...


I meant AC control head wiring connector.... took all three connectors off behind the bezel and it still didn't help

Tom :

Ok, it was worth a shot. If you can have the codes read it would be beneficial. The bcm controls the cluster, but I don't want to guess at it because they are very expensive and have to be bought new.

Tom :

Is there anything else on the van that doesn't work besides the cluster. Lights, wipers, locks, etc. ?

Tom :

Looking at the wiring diagrams and diagnostic manual there are only two other things that can make the cluster dead since you have already tryed a different cluster. The BCM and the two wires that the BCM and cluster communicate on (BUS).

Tom :


Tom :

Make sure the Vt/Br and Wt/Bk wires on the far left are good.


Why would the tcm code come up for this problem? Or do you believe it is unrelated? I took all the old solder off and put new solder on, gonna try the cluster again. I will check the wires you suggested for corrosion and continuity.

Tom :

TCM could be a side effect of the bus not communicating. Bus communication is between all modules, engine, trans, bcm, hvac, etc.


Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX the delay the bcm is more of a challenge than i anticipated. While I was trying to figure out how to get it down the thought occured to me that the cluster is getting voltage. Both black wires and the orange read 0. Both red read 12. The Brown and White are fluctuating between 5.3 and 6.2. I didn't know if this would help your thought process in condemning the cluster or the bcm. I am going to accept your advice, even if we don't resolve the problem. I appreciate your time. Does accepting the advice now terminate my session with you? I only tried this service once before and it wasn't a good experience.

Tom :

No it doesn't terminate the session. You can post back to the same question even after accepting.

Since you have already tried another cluster I am more likely to condemn the BCM, but I would wnat to see any trouble codes from the BCM before purchasing one. The critical part about the BCM is it has to be assigned to the vehicle and you can't try one from another vehicle. Once a new one is installed it cannot be returned either, and they are between $200-$300 so it is not a gueass that I wnat to make.



Actually it is 600 installed. I am get codes check back. Wires checked out good.

Tom and other Dodge Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Two further symptoms I failed to mention is that the windshield wipers don't park and the abs light stays on.

Ok, wipers are controlled by bcm and abs light may be related. If the light is on there will be code for abs too.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Tom,


A lot has happened since my last post.


I am 99 per cent sure the bcm is the culprit. I know you recommended a new one, but my budget can't reach it. I bought a used one with the same part number from a van with just 77,000 miles on it. I didn't install it, but took it to the dealer for programming and installation.


OK, here's the situation. I had previously seperated the bcm from the fuse box during the process of looking for the twisted pairs you wanted me to test. I never reconnected it, just left it hooked up to the lower wire connectors, but unplugged from the back of the fusebox. The van ran fine without it so I thought I'd save the dealer the time of removal.


He only had it in the shop fifteen minutes and came out telling me, "bus failure". He said, I would have to bring it back another day and leave it for an extensive process of finding a loose connection or bad wire that was causing the bus failure. Some techs give you a good feeling, this guy didn't give me a good feeling.


Is it possible the unplugged bcm caused the bus failure? I mean, I'm no tech but when I reinstalled the original bcm and took it to Advanced auto they read the codes fine. It said, "no codes", not, "bus failure". I was honestly waiting for the girl at Advanced to shake her head and tell me she couldn't get a reading. You should have seen the look on my face when she said "no codes". I was puzzled. She thought I didn't believe her because she was female and stuck the reading in my face so I could see it for myself.


Well, ok, there is the answer to an original question you had, there are no codes in the computer. At least, not from the Advanced auto reader.


OK, here's my dilemna, I'm dying to find out if this bcm will solve my dash cluster issues but I don't want to risk messing it up installing it without programming it first.


I don't know if I have to reprogram the bcm I purchased before I install it, or if it can be programmed after I install it.


I understand that the odometer reading is stored in the bcm. Will the dealer be able to recover the original odometer reading from the van and program it into the one I purchased so the van will have actual milage recorded?


Ok, there is one more issue I want your opinion on. The dash lights flicker constantly could this be from a faulty bcm as well?



Thanks, I appreciate your help.


Sorry for the late reply, I was away from a PC most of the weekend.

You have to use a new bcm. The VIN is assigned to the BCM and a used one will be assigned to the vehicle it came from. I mentioned that in the original chat response on the 16th.

BCM's PCM,s, and TCM,s can't be swapped from car to car. The bcm being unplugged will not cause a bus failure, but anything that involves the bcm will not be communicated on the bus. If they plugged in the used bcm that could have given the bus failure.

The advanced auto parts code reader may not be reading anything but PCM codes, I don't know for sure, but this is something that the advance auto code reader is likely not capable of.

I know that you are trying to save money on the repair and I can relate to that, but a used BCM should have never been sold because it is useless to anyone else. Hopefully you can return it for what you paid for it.You can order a new BCM from aftermarket part stores now that should be more affordable that dealer parts.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I didn't expect a reply over the holiday weekend, that is fine.


Tom, I thought experts would all say the same thing. It would sure help us novice mechanics in decision making if they did. I know there are difference of opinion on how to approach certain jobs, or what to do first or check first, but whether or not a used bcm with the same part number can be used shouldn't be a matter of opinon. I know what you said in your earlier post. I have read many other posts from highly qualified techs that disagree with your assertion that the bcm has to be new. Even the dealer I took it to had no problem with a used bcm. How is a fellow to lknow what is for sure.


The van with the dangling bcm was returned to me as I delivered it to them.

I can't imagine this fellow would have instaledl the bcm I bought, ran the test, and then reinstalled the original and left it dangling from the fusebox the way I had it originally.


Could the dangling bcm have caused a bus failure?


Could the failed bcm cause flickering dashlights?


I have stated I am 99 percent sure the bcm is at fault. Given everything we have been through so far, how sure would you be?


Thanks for your input.




The dealer that you took it to sounds like they are more a problem than the van. You need a different dealer that knows what they are doing to fix your van. I'm not going to argue about BCM's. I teach Chrysler training classes and have now for 11 years. As I said BCM, PCM, TCM, and also SKIM modules, all have the VIN number permanently assigned to them and it can not just be reprogrammed. This has been true for minivans since the 1996 model year. When you need a new BCM the parts department needs to know the exact mileage, and the vin to order the correct one and when it is installed in the vehicle it reads the VIN of the car of of the bus that is communicated from the PCM and other modules. Once that is done it cannot be reversed which is why the parts department cannot take it back once it has been in a car, they should know that. I found this out the hard way on a van a long time ago and the process has not changed. Other manufacturers don't do it this way but Chrysler does.

You have the wrong person working on your van if they think otherwise and they need to go to training and not be hack. This isn't a brand new system that they may not be familiar with, so they have know excuse to not know how to handle a BCM problem.

If the bcm is plugged in it doesn't matter it is dangling form under the dash. The dashlights flickering sounds more like the headlight switch or one of the other used clusters that you put in. Your van needs a new BCM and someone other than a parts store and untrained mechanic to fix it. THe one that you had working on it so far sounds intimidated to work on the van since it is a bus issue. If you want a different opinion I will opt out to see if other experts can help you.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

No Tom, I don't want another expert. I believe you. I just wanted you to understand my confusion.


I hope I'm not wearing on your patience. Truely I am trying simply to get to the root of my problem without wasting money. Which doesn't seem to be working so well. I'm out almost 200 dollars and still spinning my wheels... For which I accept the blame for buying the used bcm. I didn't realize I could get a bad dodge tech.


Seriously at this point I just want the van fixed. What questions do I ask the dealer to assure he knows what he is doing and will resolve my problem without further wasting my time or money?


You say you believe, it is a bus issue. Do you believe the new bcm will resolve the bus issue? If not, should the bus issue be resolved before the new bcm is installed.


Thank you for your advice on the flickering lights.


Because the van was delivered to me with a dead cluster I don't know the exact odometer reading. Can they retrieve it from the old bcm? If not how shall they know which bcm to order.


If I could, I'd drive it to your shop and let you have at it...


Thank you for you time, I will compensate you, I know your time is valuable.









Sorry if I sounded impatient. Yes the BCM should correct the bus problem. The odometer reading can be read off of the PCM as well since you don't know it from the cluster. It would be best to ask a dealer that the Level 4 tech in body electrical, (skill area 6) works on your van. They should have the proper training to handle this type of work. Unfortunately not all Chrysler techs are at the training level that they should be. That is not necessarily their fault since the dealer is the one who sends them to training.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Actually Tom, Not finished yet, I contacted the junk yard that sold me the
part and told them what you said. They said the dealer in their area
disagreed with you that the part could be reprogrammed if it was the same PN
and security system. I have written Chrysler for a clarification. I
contacted another local Dodge dealer that agrees with you. This is a mess.
As soon as I get a confirmation from Chryler and resolve the used part
issue, I will be able to proceed with the purchase of a new one, accept your
answer and move forward. I'd appreciate any other advice you'd have for me
for this process. I do plan to compensate you for your effort, once the
dust settles. Thanks for your patience.
Sorry to hear about the incredible inconvenience that this has turned out to be. Don't fret over accepting my answer unless you are completely satisfied and hopefully are able to get your money back for the used bcm.
Tom and other Dodge Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.



The Junk Yard has agreed to refund the money. They still contend it's a plug and go, only the milage would be different. However when I sent them a copy of your post they conceded to a refund.


All the advice you have given me has been right on and deeply appreciated. I read last night that I can send my bcm away and have it refurbished. What is your experience, with a with refurbished bcm?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Tom. Already got the refund from the junk yard. Which is a blessing because I never dreamed they would refund it.


Still curious as to whether you think refurbishing my bcm is a good way to go. The refurbisher stated because it was already programmed to my car it wouldn't need to be reprogrammed and they would recover the lost milage. The entire cost is only 199 and I can install it myself. The dealer wants 600 dollars to install a new one. If it were your call what would you do?



Refurbished on sounds good as long as it has some kind of warranty. As long as it has at least a month or more warranty I would do it.
Tom and other Dodge Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hey Tom,


I just want you to know that I am not requesting a refund from Just Answer for the accepted answers. These folks are talking in so many circles I'm having a hard time following them. I enrolled in the unlimited plan when I accepted your response the first time. I accepted your responses twice after that. Then I noticed my credit card was being charged each time. I am only trying to get them to honor the unlimited agreement and refund the two charges that were erroneous.


I don't know how this effects your compensation. They are making it sound like I didn't realize there were three transactions and they are doing me a favor by refunding two of them. That's bogus, I knew exactly what I was doing.


I even sent them a copy of the EMail they sent me confirming the unlimited subscription May 18th.


I may need you help in the future. I don't want you to feel I've renegged in anyway.

If they aren't compensating you right, please let me know.


I just felt you should hear my side of the story, I'm still pondering the van, haven't really done anything since the last post.