The Abarth / Fiat 500 instrument cluster
The Fiat 500 was relaunched in 2007, marking exactly 50 years since the original model graced the automotive industry: the retro styled Fiat 500. And what a success it is. The 500 not only achieved the full five-star rating on the NCAP safety test, but it also won many prizes shortly after its introduction. For example, the small hatchback was named European Car of the Year 2008. In the ten years that followed, Fiat has managed to sell more than 1.7 million 500s: an outright sales success.
However, not every part of this car is perfect. Especially the first series of the "Cinquecento", which was produced between 2007 and 2014. One of the common parts that we see from this vehicle, is the instrument cluster. The complaints for the unit can vary a lot, so all the more reason to delve deeper into these.
Fiat 500 cluster in other models
Defects to the Fiat 500 instrument cluster can occur on all variations of the model. In addition to the "standard" Fiat 500, other models have been released in recent years with the same cluster:
- Fiat 500 Twinair
- Fiat 500 S
- Fiat 500 C
- Fiat 500 E
- Abarth 500
This cluster has a number of problems that we often see coming back. This usually concerns the issues listed below:
What breaks down in many cases?
- Weak / non-lit LED lights
- Defecte Display
- Defecte meters (snelheidsmeter of toerenteller)
Weak / non-lit LED lights
The most common fault that we see with the Fiat 500 instrument cluster, are that the LED lights do not function properly. The LEDs are positioned in the outer edge of the cluster and have an orange, green, blue or red color. Most LEDs are warning lights, but there are a few that are also used as an indicator or control lights. As an example of these different LEDs are the direction indicators and the LED’s for low or high headlight beam.
In some cases it may also happen that the lights stay on for about 30 seconds after the key has been removed from the ignition. This should not happen and should be seen as a fault with the instrument cluster.
The display becoming defective is another common fault we see with the instrument cluster on the Foat 500. The middle screen of the cluster on which, among other things, the fuel gauge, temperature gauge, mileage, time and outside temperature can be found, can in some cases malfunction. The display will then flash or go out completely. Moreover, this display is not available separately, so our R&D department has had to develop a solution for this fault itself. The result is a completely new display that is designed entirely in-house: the only correct solution for this problem.
Another known problem of the Fiat 500 cluster are defective rev and/or speedometer. The failure can be caused by a faulty gauge motor. Incidentally, the cluster of the Fiat 500 is not the only one with this problem: we see defective gauge motors with almost every manufacturers instrument cluster.
The Fiat 500 cluster in detail
Although the design of the Fiat 500 cluster deviates considerably from the standard format, the technology inside is relatively conventional: a gauge motor activates and sweeps the needles, LEDs are used for warning lights and the central display is an amber-colored LCD.
Fiat has strangely enough not opted for a multifunctional dot matrix display. This choice has meant that dozens of different displays have now been released: the Fiat 500 is in fact quite customizable, which means that the functionality of the display must of course be adjusted. Consider in particular the use of specific icons for the start-stop system or the acceleration indicator for cars with a automatic gearboxes.
The LCD of this cluster is transmissive, which simply explained means that lighting is placed behind the cluster to make the segments visible. A layer of liquid crystals in each segment transmits light as soon as it is put under (alternating) voltage: the LC molecules in the LCD segment then rotate to the orientation of the second polarization filter. Fun fact: If you turn this second polarization filter a quarter turn, the segments would be black and the background would turn amber.
Disassembly of the Fiat 500 instrument cluster
With the correct tools, it is possible to remove the instrument cluster without having to disassemble the steering wheel and steering column. First put the steering column in the lowest position. Then remove both covers around the steering column switches. The top cover is attached vertically to the steering column with 2 screws. Then unscrew the trim around the cluster and remove it: 2 screws below and 1 above center. Then unscrew the cluster itself and take it out: the cluster is connected with one central plug.
Why to remanufacture the Fiat 500 instrument cluster?
Quality is one of the most important core values within ACtronics. This is why we consciously choose to remanufacture all the automotive components instead of repairing them. We will always look to remanufacture the fault with the unit, but if there are other components that are known to fail, these will also be replaced. The components that we use during our remanufacturing process are just as good or even better than the original (which you can also read in “Display problems”). In addition, each component follows a fixed route, so that the quality can actually be guaranteed.
Besides remanufacturing, testing the instrument cluster is also an important part of the process within ACtronics. The part is extensively tested both upon arrival and after the remanufacturing process, so that we are 100% sure that all functions of the cluster are working properly again.
This is done with the help of our Vision test set-up that can simulate all signals from the cluster, such as CAN messages, and thus detect errors. Only when all signals are properly processed again, the cluster is approved and is it ready to send back to the customer.