Q and A: Salvage used part at recycler for self-install
QUESTION: My 2000 Ford Explorer -- a very good car, by the way; it must have been made on a Wednesday -- has an overhead thingy that gives you the temperature, time and direction. It went out about several months ago, so when I took it to the dea...
QUESTION: My 2000 Ford Explorer -- a very good car, by the way; it must have been made on a Wednesday -- has an overhead thingy that gives you the temperature, time and direction. It went out about several months ago, so when I took it to the dealer for a recall, I asked them to check it out. They hooked it to a computer and found it was shorted out -- $44 just to do that!
The part is no longer available. Anyway, they did give me the part number. Where would I get this part?
ANSWER: The "thingy" you need should be very easy to find at a local auto recycler, and it would be far less expensive than a new one, even if it were available. Thanks to the popularity of the Explorer, and the cash for clunkers program, there should be many to pick from.
A full-service recycler will hand the part over the counter to you, which is a little more expensive. Or you can remove it yourself from a self-serve recycler, which is more fun, plus you get to practice on another vehicle before removing yours.
Self-serve auto recyclers are really interesting to walk through. Most of the vehicles you'll see haven't been crashed; it just isn't economically viable to keep them on the road. Most recyclers offer a 30-day warranty on their parts or the option to purchase a warranty, so your only concern would be the unit's visual appearance.
Perhaps a more convenient method is to buy the part on eBay. I searched "Explorer overhead console" and found more than 70 complete consoles containing the compass and display for between $25 and $50. It looks like 1995-2001 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers all use the same part, although the outer trim band comes in a variety of colors. Very likely your trim could be transferred to the replacement unit, should you not find the color desired, or the needed contents could be transferred to your console housing.
I find eBay to be a great way to research replacement auto parts. You can quickly determine which parts fit which vehicles, what the part looks like when removed, and what replacement options exist -- new, used or remanufactured.
When a part has a high failure rate, used replacements will be few and expensive. In this case, it appears the failure of your part may have been a fluke. Renewing the overhead console unit should be as simple as removing a few screws and unplugging the single eight-pin electrical connector, then putting it back together.
Since the dealer reported the unit to be shorted, you'll need to also check and possibly replace fuse 10 in the central junction box, which is behind the left side of instrument panel. This fuse powers the microprocessor and compass within the unit, as well as a host of other vehicle components. If the turn signals and hazard flashers blink, it's OK. Often the word "shorted" is thrown around when something doesn't work, and in this case you'd find the fuse to still be good.
Regardless of terminology, $44 for an accurate electrical component diagnosis is a bargain. Depending on the region, the hourly labor rate for vehicle repair can run as high as $150 per hour, and many times one hour is the minimum charge. On modern vehicles, diagnosis time can often be the majority of the repair cost, whereas in the past, problems were pretty easy to figure out. Purchasing and renewing the console yourself will be fun and interesting, and you can save quite a bit of money.