98 Cavalier Speedometer/Odometer stopped working


Asked by Jun 25, 2015 at 01:07 AM about the 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

'Non-digital' speedometer and odometer suddenly stopped working. The panel lights up and the gas gauge works. Is this a common problem with these cars? Would the whole cluster need to replaced? Is there anything else I should check before taking the dash apart? BTW just before this happened, I had a new car stereo installed. Connection? Or coincidence?

10 Answers


The transmission sensor may be bad or wires are broken. Also it is a common problem of most GM vehicles from Cavaliers to Hummers, Buick and GMC for the stepper motors in the instrument panel to stick or not work correctly or stick and give bad readings. The dash needs to be pulled off, the cluster gage removed. It will take an experienced mechanic just over two hours to pull the instrument panel and unsolder the stepper motors off then replace them. There are repair shops that specialize in instrument panel repair or have the dealer do it. It will not be a cheap endeavor, but unless you are an expert at repairing and soldering electronic circuit boards, have a experienced expert do it. You can go on line and look for Caviler speedometer repair and watch the on line videos on this.

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Thank you for your reply. Regarding the transmission sensor, would this be something that should show up on a Code Scanner? I am getting no error codes on my scanner. Also, I have a bluetooth scanner that I can plug in, and with an app on my cellphone, it gives me the speed that I am travelling very accurately. Would that be an indication that transmission sensor is functioning properly? (And therefore, indicate a faulty cluster?)


Are you sure it is a bluetooth hooked to your speedometer or to a GPS reading someone can get from a navigational system? I am not sure if the car uses a blue tooth signal or a wire sending signal to the cluster panel. I'd guess it is a hard wire unit. for some reason GM has had the stepper motors on the instrument panels go bad on several makes and models. The replacement ones have been found not to fail as often. It is recommended if you change one, change all five.


Hi, sorry for the misunderstanding. It is a 'ELM327-OBDII--Bluetooth-Auto-Car-Diagnostic-Interface-Scanner' .which I plug into the car, as with any other code reader, and it sends the data to my cellphone via bluetooth connection. With a particular app, I can read the data and it also tells me my actual speed as I am driving. So, my question is, if this data is being accurately reported from the OBD in real time (as it apparently does), is it more likely that the transmission sensor is functioning properly, and that I am, therefore, dealing with a defective instrument cluster?


You are correct in that assumption. I found on line that the electronic motors that turn the needles on the instrument panels on several makes and models of General Motor vehicles, cars and trucks, have been found to be defective. If you are not too skilled at pulling off the dash covers and pulling solder from the large circuit board that hold the stepper motors to the board, it is best left to those that do it for a living. From what I saw on u-tube, it really is a max of 4 hour job start to finish if they have the stepper motors available. I'd say between $200 to $300, but I may be wrong on that price estimate.

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Hello again. Well, I replaced the instrument cluster with a second hand one from the auto-wreckers. Exact same model. Then the car would not run. I went back to the wreckers, got another cluster and installed it. Same thing happens. It turns over, starts, and then shuts off after about 2 seconds. I put the old cluster back in and the same thing occurs. Eventually this kills the battery. And yes, it does have a 1/3 tank of gas. It was running fine until I swapped the cluster, which was pretty easy and no damage occurred. I am stumped, as is a mechanic friend of mine. Any ideas?


Follow-Up: I learned that this car has a "pass lock" theft system which was tripped. I found out the way to re-set it is to crank the motor, let it stall but leave the ignition engaged. The theft light blinks for 10 minutes then stays on solid. At that point, turn the ignition off, wait 5 seconds, then turn on the ignition again and the car starts up. I did this and now its running, but I still have no working speedometer or odometer on the third cluster I have tried and after also replacing the speed sensor (VSS). Any ideas?

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I have a 1998 Chevy Cavalier my Cluster panel when it's cold outside does not work will the diagnostic test tell me that my Cluster is bad because when it's hot outside I have not one problem

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I can get the car started after late 20x of the ignition once the car starts getting hot it has no problem starting up so my question is will a full diagnostic check tell me if My Cluster is bad

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I just experienced the same issue with my stereo install, on base model 98 cavalier. the speedo stopped working, unplug stereo, speedo works again!! there's something weird with the stereo wiring I guess. the harness has not been hacked up, and it was a GM stereo I plugged in. There was an aftermarket stereo with adapter harness that worked fine before, not affecting the speedometer, but someone stole it. I'll try another aftermarket stereo with the adapter harness and see what happens i guess.

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