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Sajeev
Community Manager

Community Question: How much fun is it to pull a dashboard?

So I am having a lot of fun (ha-ha) gutting my 1983 Lincoln Continental to fix a few issues, install a standalone transmission controller, upgraded EFI computer, etc.  and that meant I had to pull my dash and gut my interior.  

 

I'm gonna stop short of saying this was a miserable experience (it was so only because of the weather) but I wanna ask everyone: How much fun have you had pulling a dashboard? 

 

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I didn't get to rip anything out, it all was carefully removed as to be reinstalled in the future. So perhaps I didn't have any fun at all!

31 REPLIES 31
Guitar74
Technician

I pulled the dash on an '88 Tbird that I used to own to repair the damage that happened from the sun. I actually re-skinned it with fiberglass using the original as a template. It was about as fun as getting circumcised with a chainsaw. It is no fun on an older car, and even less fun on a new one that has SO many circuits tied together. I feel your pain.

Sajeev
Community Manager

Wow, I did the same thing on my 1988 Cougar!  Well not the fiberglass part, I had mine reupholstered at a local trim shop.  The Lincoln was WAY EASIER than the Cougar, mostly because the wiring harness has less bulk...which I assume is because it has everything standard, while the Tbird/Cougar has everything as stand alone options.  No doubt you went thru a nightmare doing that! 

Guitar74
Technician

Correctomundo. The harness on a fox body Thunderchicken/Cougar is terrible. Another one that is a convoluted mess is my wife's '79 Tbird Town Landau. I recently had to pull her wiper switch to clean the contacts and re-grease it and could not believe the amount of wiring under her dash. I thought dusassembling the switch would be the pain. It wasn't. Fishing through the harness to get the switch out was a nightmare. 

 

On another subject, fir those of you who have a '79 tbird with intermittent wipers, you will not find a replacement switch, whether a restoration repop, or auto parts store replacement. You will have to get a N.O.S. (new old stock) one and it is interchangeable with the Lincoln Continental. Somewhere around $300 is what you should expect to pay. 

 

Gharris
New Driver

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This is a photo taken after I started the reconstruction off my '74 Z28 -LT Camaro. I had just finished the sound deadening and installed the rear carpet when I thought to get a picture. On the first ride after completion, I found out the back of the heater box (out of site) had a hole punched in it where heated air escaped all the time. Luckily, I was able to cover it with aluminum duct tape, but I was not happy that I missed the opportunity to fix it when it could have been easy. There is no way I'm going back to that stage.

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NITRO450EXP
Instructor

I personally hate electrical work on a car. Fortunately my dash is primarily mechanical (speedo cable, oil line) and the gauges I do have, are simple 2 wire units.
Bravo to you, have fun putting it all back together.
Ggeo
Pit Crew

I pulled the centre console of Project Vantage to refit the start button. You realise very quickly why it’s a prototype and concept car 😬

Sajeev
Community Manager

That Vantage console musta been fun to reinstall!

Ggeo
Pit Crew

It’s a concept car so fairly simple. But you don’t want to go there if you can help it

Zephyr
Detailer

The newer the car is the easier it is to remove the dashboard. I think the R & I time (remove and reinstall) on most modern dashes is 4.5 hours. Newer construction has a lot of standardization of wiring looms and easy disconnects; on older cars the wiring was practically handmade.

Guitar74
Technician

I would beg to differ on newer cars being easier. Of course by newer cars, I mean anything with EFI made after 1987. Trust me when I say that I would MUCH rather pull the dash or tackle the wiring on an older car than a new one. FAR fewer circuits to deal with, and at least in my classics (excepting the '79 TBIRD which was designed electronically by the spawn of pure evil), they still have subharnesses that are relatively easy to understand what they are going to, their purpose, etc. ALTHOUH.......Changing the heater core on my '68 cougar was as fun as a 4 hour road trip with my in laws. but as far as wiring goes it is pretty simple until you get to the sequential turn signals.
DaveVan
Pit Crew

My 1973 AMC Javelin needs a dash voltage regulator replaced.  I have been putting it off for 10 years as it does work about 50% of the time.

I did have to do a complete rebuild on my 66 Mustang dash during it's restoration and I have a few small issues that I will need to go back in and fix....but as simple as a 66 Mustang is....it is still a bear!!!

MrMag00
New Driver

I have a `65 Skylark, so pulling the dash is not an issue. On my 2016 Chevy 2500HD, 4WD, and my wife`s `16 Mustang GT Convertible, it`s more complicated. My wife and I, raised two children. Both engineers., one has a physics degree, to do the work.
agtxr7
New Driver

This already seems to be a FoMoCo/Lincoln-Mercury thread...my experience is with my standard (non-XR7) '68 Cougar...the steel framework prevents actual removal of the entire dashboard, but I have had every component out, multiple times.  While my wiring harness is nowhere as complex as that pictured, it is complicated by 60+ year old tape, connectors and brittle wires, and some degree of previous owner amateurity that defies my best electrical crime solving efforts.  Instruments of this era, if they can be called that, are often simple two wire elements that were of dubious accuracy when new and were never meant to last this long; their solder connections, circuit boards and plastic often fail at the slightest touch or pull.  Right now the car is back together primarily stock; long term plan is a modern replacement wiring harness with modern production real instruments.  Wish me luck, and good luck to all on your much more challenging dashboard pursuits...

Guitar74
Technician

I must have lucked out with my '68. At least as far as the under dash wiring is still good and pliable with soft insulation. The under hood harnesses were another story altogether.
LesFender
Pit Crew

I was an instructor at a post-secondary automotive repair vocational school. I used to tell my students "NEVER let a customer see their car with the dash removed. You will get blamed for everything that goes wrong with the car from that day forward, real or imagined. Mostly imagined."

Sajeev
Community Manager

Very few customers would have the understanding to know this is a pretty standard affair, so you are right, never let them see this.  Heck, depending on the customer, let them see as little as possible. 

DrSchinbeckler
New Driver

The ashtray lid was broken on my '02 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage. Can you just remove a couple of screws and replace it? Of course not. Firstly, they are NLA. Secondly, the center console has to come out to remove the ashtray assembly. And by the way, there are no instructions for disassembly in the profusely illustrated service manual and the nearest dealer is 7 hours away. Right. Armed with a box of bandaids and a pitcher of gin and tonic, I dove in. Haven't had this much fun since my last root canal.WP_20200428_15_35_02_Pro.jpg

Ggeo
Pit Crew

😬 don’t go there

CT-car-guy
Pit Crew

Bought a 2004 Dodge Ram pickup in "as is" condition. The car salesman showed me how everything worked including the heater. When I got it home I found out air only came out of the dash vents, and it would not select either the floor vents or the defroster vents.

With the aid of the shop manual, I was able to determine the plastic diverter door was broken inside the heater. I would have to remove the airbags, drop the steering wheel, remove the A pillar covers, remove the radio, remove the glovebox, drop the dashboard, then disassemble the heater. 

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When I started this job I discovered that someone had tried to do this without the aid of a service manual. I could see where they took a sawzall to structural steel that held up the dash. They also managed to cut some other wires by accident. When they tried to remove the airbag controller, they bent some pins on the connector, then plugged it in again causing a 12 volt short circuit the vaporized some pins. Apparently, they gave up and reassembled the mess.

I spent four full days on this job. Eventually I was able to get at the heater and replace the plastic part. I also was able to repair the airbag controller.

No wonder they sold this truck "as-is".

Beestly
Pit Crew

The 70 Coronet requires removal of the windshield to remove the dash. Having purchased a painted rolling shell with the front and rear glass previously installed, the dash completely gutted of its components, I did what real men do:  Leave the new windshield in and lay on my back on the floorboards of the car for days on end rewiring it and reinstalling everything while looking at it upside down, doing much of the work by feel. Opting to go with the American Autowire Highway 15 wiring kit rather than a reproduction harness added to the challenge which included designing subharnesses by hand. I even kept the bulkhead connector! In the end it was well worth the effort and achy back. 

Guitar74
Technician

Had a '69 Sport Satellite that I had to rewire back in the 80s due to some VERY bad attempts at add-ons by previous owners so I feel your pain. I too did eveything on my back (that just doesn't sound good no matter what forum you're in), and swore I would never do it again. I recently just did some repairs to wiring on my stepdad's '71 Duster. Fornutaley, there was enough GOOD factory wiring that I was able to remove the bad stuff (again from bad attempts presumably made in the 70s by previous owners) that I was able to solder in good wire. Still no fun on your back, under the dash, in an A body. The fact that I am 6'1" and 230 lbs also doesn't help. 

knucklebusted
Pit Crew

I have had the dash out of my 70 and 71 Buick GS's more than a few times. Wiring is usually not the problem. Broken tabs on the dash plastic housing and the lack of good grounds cause most of the issues on these cars.

 

I've had the dash out of my 13 Lexus GS (Yeah, I like GS cars) to replace the clock. It is dead center of the dash and looks easy but it is pinned behind several other pieces that have to come out all the way down to the radio and the main driver cluster cover.  I almost stuck a $12 clock in its place.

 

Before that, I had to replace nearly every light bulb in a 99 Tahoe and the fan/heater controls that had melted. The dash was so brittle that all the snap-tabs that held various things in place were breaking off. The 4x4 lights kept flickering after that even though I cleaned all the contacts (in the dash and at the transfer case) and straightened the pins.

 

A late-model Chevy 3/4 ton truck of a buddy's dad had a horrible smell inside. We started stripping stuff and finally narrowed it down to a dead mouse in the vents. The evaporator was full of nuts, seeds and fluff.

YardDogDoctor
New Driver

I once checked my sanity at the door when restoring an 81 TransAm. I doubled the mayhem by removing a good dash from the donor car in order to install it into the "good"one....and changing the firewall to an AC car at the same time.  Slow and steady won the race even though I absolutely hate dealing with old, brittle electrics. Once I decided to take a lesson from the factory and build the whole dash off the car and install it it one piece my sanity was restored. 

John
Pit Crew

Depends on the vehicle.  I am a mechanic by trade ( retired - 25 years an ASE Master Tech, 15 years a High School Auto Shop teacher ). Electrical systems was one of my specialties.  As an example; pulling a dash on a 1970 to 72 Chevelle is a 20 minute job.  The same task on a 1990 Mustang is 4 to 5 hours.  Some newer cars it is an all day affair just to get it out.  I have found the biggest problem to be people adding accessories with no real idea as to how to properly wire them in.  Most fuse blocks have spots to pull power with extra plug in ports.  But many novices cut into wires and overload circuits and cause problems.  A lot of stereo shops also do a poor wiring job.

MMonte
New Driver

Did an 85 Town Car some years back. Takes patience and extreme care not to damage anything. This car burned in the engine area, and so I replaced the harness nose to tail. Use masking tape and mark everything. NOT completely idiot proof and can be mis-assembled. All clips are easy to break too. Go slow.
Did a 68 Olds 98, loaded, and same difficulty. This time I needed to replace dash pad and add Comfortron and cruise, both of which just plug in deep inside. Old wiring is very stiff, and often needs new tape. 
if you don’t mind punishment, these are just tedious jobs, not too complicated.

Replaced the touch screen on my wife’s Caddy XTS. Substantial disassembly including the console. Thank heavens there are videos for the newer stuff! Here was a definite sequence, and you have to be extremely careful, or pay big bucks for new parts damaged. 6 hour job, and not one comfortable work position! 

Tcoradeschi
Pit Crew

Pull a dash? Easy.

 

Put it back together properly? Not so much. 

I had considered replacing the heater core in my 02 Passat, which would have required pulling the dash. Fortunately, my son totaled the car and saved me the trouble:-)

61Rampy
Pit Crew

I worked for 8 years as a Ford Trim Tech in the 90's. I did quite a number of dashes. Mustangs were the easiest- I could get them out in less than an hour. Doing your first dash is harder, because you do not know where all the hidden bolts and screws are. You also learn to HOLD THE DASH IN PLACE as you remove that last retaining screw!  Probably the worst dash was a Windstar- they were huge and heavy!  I also bought or made some special tools to help get to those screws at the base of the windshield. Never what I would call "fun".

gdommjr
New Driver

In 1980 someone tried to steal the radio out of my 1980 Pontiac T/A by destroying the dashboard. The insurance company paid but with a deductible. not having much money, because the car payments, I decided to do it my self. I started at 10:00am Saturday and after about 16 hrs what seemed  like 2000 screws, by hand no screw gun, at 2:00am Sunday morning it was finished. It wasn't hard to do but a lot of work. It was hard on the my nerves after the old dash was out looking at that hole with ALL those wires and stuff hanging out. My new car only 5 or 6 payments. I guess I did it right because I had no problems. I sold the car 280.000 mi and 25years later.

     PS. You should try to change a heater core on this model car.

hunternicholas
Pit Crew

It's not fun at all.  I've always hated dashboard work even when I was a teenager replacing a cigarette lighter socket.  My last big dashboard job was to remove nearly everything on a '99 Chrysler LeBaron Turbo Convertible, and it was due to mice damage.  The mice even chewed up the vacuum hosing routed to the inside of the HVAC housing.  I didn't have a digital camera so I had to do the entire job in one shot so I wouldn't forget how to reverse install everything.  That included cleaning/disinfecting everything with all the mouse wee and poopie doop. The job turned out perfectly but I hated it.

dgriffi2
New Driver

Fond memories of being upside down with my head under the dash of my 1982 Oldsmobile Firenza putting in a new stereo. Basically the entire dashboard had to come out to install a new radio, what a great car that was.🥵 It met its demise near Morgantown WV in December 1992 where I bought my first new car- a 1992 Ford Tempo!

acooper529
Intermediate Driver

Have pulled many dashboards over the years in automotive... and 42 years in my own repair shop. If you don't think they are nearly all a nightmare, then I would have to wonder exactly what you were working on.

 I had said for (many) years that the dash should be made in two or three sections with an easily removable top or windshield filler plate (which some cars do have).

 On small aircraft you have a pressed firewall which is fairly heavy aluminum, roughly 1/8". It holds the engine mountings and is (obviously) extremely strong.

 Why not make the basic dash parts this way, then fit them on locator pins, and secure with flange washer nuts like a steel wheel? This would help with structural integrity, too.

The driver's side could stay the same or similar and then add a removable center and right side section. It could be configured in roughly a 40-20-40 set up.

 Imagine your next heater core, evaporator core, HVAC blower or blend door motor replacement! Pull off some trim, loosen the stud nuts and remove the panel. Reassemble and torque the plate to specs. Sounds too easy to me.  Design and production could not really be that difficult to do, right?

There are currently many hidden parts behind the dash that routinely fail after 8-10 years and WILL need service (not so much in the older cars.