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Old 08-13-2020, 12:46 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Instrument Cluster made of "Unobtanium"

When I bought our bus, it was with the knowledge that the LCD display in the middle of our instrument cluster was not functioning. This particular Bluebird instrument cluster was used in busses over just a couple years (2000-ish) and not in every bus of that era.

I thought it was going to be an easy fix, since the instrument lighting was not working either. I traced the wires, figured out how to get power to the dimmer dial, and figured out which wire feeds power to the cluster. It's hot, it's working off the dimmer, but still no LCD and no cluster backlighting.

Called BlueBird dealer and the panel is no longer in stock and no longer serviced.

Everything else works, all the lights, switches, dials. The only thing I'm missing on the LCD crystal is my air brake pressure for front and back, my odometer and hours meter. I can live without an odometer. I want the air pressure on the air brakes, though.

I have 3 options that I can see. 1), pull the cluster and send it to someone who can figure out why it's not working and fix the darn thing (which I would do if I knew how to disconnect the air pressure lines and the 20 or so wires snaking into what looks like a socket on the back but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to disengage), 2) find a used instrument cluster (needle in a haystack, but plausible), or 3) install a couple of outboard pressure gauges for front and rear air brakes.

Option 3 seems like the most likely solution, but I am open to any and all suggestions at this point. I don't know what gauges I would need to look for specifically, but I can't imagine it's that hard to source.

Whatdaya say? Can you help this newbie out of a predicament?
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Old 08-13-2020, 06:48 AM   #2
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Can you post a couple of pics from your broken cluster.. Front and back.
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:23 AM   #3
Skoolie
 
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Pictures of instrument cluster

I didn’t have any good pictures of th back, but I was able to shot some this morning. Thank you for the suggestion!
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:14 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
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My working solution...

I just picked up an Iveco Dual Needle Air Brake Pressure Gauge off eBay that can go where the "clock" would go in the console. I don't think there is enough air line to cut and extend all the way over to the other side of the dashboard, but I can cut close the instrument cluster and use push fittings to add extra length to the existing lines. That should work, then I can add a small light into the console for night driving. I think I can live without the odometer, as long as all the other gauges are telling me what I need to know.

Long term, though, I think I will keep my eyes open for a replacement instrument cluster. I'm sure learning a lot about school busses that I never thought I would have a reason to know!
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Old 08-14-2020, 12:56 AM   #5
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You might want to consider a BlueFire or ScanD to get the missing data from your engine computer via the diagnostic port. I have the BlueFire and it works well. Others on this forum have the ScanD and like it.
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:34 AM   #6
Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
You might want to consider a BlueFire or ScanD to get the missing data from your engine computer via the diagnostic port. I have the BlueFire and it works well. Others on this forum have the ScanD and like it.
Okay, yes! I've been hoping that there was something like this. I have a bluetooth OBDII diagnostic device on my Mini Cooper and it has been eminently useful. I'll be ordering one today!
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Old 08-14-2020, 08:59 PM   #7
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Should you go the Bluefire route ... buy it directly from the manufacturer and you can get 10% off the Amazon price by entering "AMAZON" as the code.


https://bluefire-llc.com/website
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Old 08-14-2020, 10:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Should you go the Bluefire route ... buy it directly from the manufacturer and you can get 10% off the Amazon price by entering "AMAZON" as the code.


https://bluefire-llc.com/website
Just ordered, and got the discount! I can see either an iPad or android tablet dedicated to my dash in the future.
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Old 08-14-2020, 10:27 PM   #9
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Yup! I am looking for an upgrade to my Android tablet. More horsepower would make it behave better.
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Old 08-19-2020, 04:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Native View Post
Yup! I am looking for an upgrade to my Android tablet. More horsepower would make it behave better.
I just got my BlueFire and plugged it in, it's working great on my iPad! I haven't tried building any dashboards yet (that may come much later) but I was disappointed to learn that the Odometer reading is considerably higher than what I was told by the seller. It's still in the expected range and I don't see any blowby, so I'm still expecting to get some miles out before any serious work is needed. But you never know, right?
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Old 08-26-2020, 11:06 PM   #11
Skoolie
 
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Just to circle back on this post, I bought a dual needle air brake gauge off eBay and installed it where the dashboard clock would go (just to the right of the instrument cluster) and it’s working great. I tapped into the dimmer switch wires and added an incandescent lamp with a green lens to the top of the instrument cluster and now I can see my gauges at night.

With the Blue Fire for an Odometer as well as some additional monitoring, I’m all set without finding a replacement instrument cluster. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, eh?
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Old 08-27-2020, 02:06 AM   #12
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Right on, brother, right on!
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Old 08-27-2020, 07:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoffeeGuy View Post
Just to circle back on this post, I bought a dual needle air brake gauge off eBay and installed it where the dashboard clock would go (just to the right of the instrument cluster) and it’s working great. I tapped into the dimmer switch wires and added an incandescent lamp with a green lens to the top of the instrument cluster and now I can see my gauges at night.

With the Blue Fire for an Odometer as well as some additional monitoring, I’m all set without finding a replacement instrument cluster. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, eh?
I have the same cluster on my '99 as you. Everything seems to be working for mine at this point. Is the bluefire unit you bought the 6 or 9 pin? I have an iPad I plan to incorporate into my dash for the gauges I want to monitor. I'm curious as to what gauges are available with the 6 pin connector and iPad set up. The ones I'm most interested are; coolant temp, trans temp, oil pressure and temp, speedometer, odometer, tachometer, and engine hour.
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Old 08-28-2020, 04:54 PM   #14
Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JackE View Post
I have the same cluster on my '99 as you. Everything seems to be working for mine at this point. Is the bluefire unit you bought the 6 or 9 pin? I have an iPad I plan to incorporate into my dash for the gauges I want to monitor. I'm curious as to what gauges are available with the 6 pin connector and iPad set up. The ones I'm most interested are; coolant temp, trans temp, oil pressure and temp, speedometer, odometer, tachometer, and engine hour.
My Blue Fire is the 6 pin setup with support for iOS. I'm pretty sure everything you list is available except engine hours. I could be wrong, though. Honestly, I hooked it up once, then took my dashboard apart so that I could get a working air brake pressure gauge in there so I really haven't played with it much. When we do a custom dashboard and front of bus build, I plan to incorporate a screen for bus monitoring into the build. I think it will come in handy!
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Old 08-28-2020, 07:26 PM   #15
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I went digital on my red bus and never looked back.. even though navistar gauges are available.. they dont last real long and are flaky.. digital with bluefire or any other method is the way to go if you have an electronic engine.. you'll enjoy the digital.. and ive been working with the bluefire people to try and get them to add custom J1708 / J1939 parameter requests so you can add proprietary codes.. . thus far no luck but they are looking into it...



my setup is custom. but nicer than the factory gauges. (which were working today amazingly)..


IMG_1831.jpg
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Old 08-28-2020, 08:00 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I went digital on my red bus and never looked back.. even though navistar gauges are available.. they dont last real long and are flaky.. digital with bluefire or any other method is the way to go if you have an electronic engine.. you'll enjoy the digital.. and ive been working with the bluefire people to try and get them to add custom J1708 / J1939 parameter requests so you can add proprietary codes.. . thus far no luck but they are looking into it...

my setup is custom. but nicer than the factory gauges. (which were working today amazingly)..

Are any gauges/parameters unavailable on the comm port on your bus? I'm thinking fuel level and air pressure wouldn't be, but IDK of any others off the top of my head. Maybe trans temp if you had a mechanical transmission.
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Old 08-28-2020, 08:12 PM   #17
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correct, air is an actual mechanical gauge on the older navistars.. in fact may still be.. fuel level is also not sent to the ECM, trans temp is available on J1939 with an electronic trans. but ive never seen it pop on servicemaxx or the J1708 link.. so your device would need to be able to make dashboards out of both..



nor is exhaust gas (till you get to the Maxxforce)


HPOP (ICP, IPR) are available on the datalin however are request-only so your device must be able to go out and ask for them.. many navistar parameters are request-only..



the dual J1708 / J1939 data links are why I have 2 screens.. the left screen reads the J1708 and the right screen reads J1939...



most vehicles were one or the other.. navistar decided to migrate slowly and had both for awhile before switching to completely J1939 in the Maxxforce ..
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Old 08-29-2020, 12:10 AM   #18
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The fuel level seems to be chassis manufacturer dependent. When I launch my BlueFire, it tells me that Freightliner no longer sends fuel data and for us to petition Freightliner to provide that data.


However, it does try to collect the fuel level. It *DOES* pick up total gallons used and gallons used in idle. Transmission temperature is one of those that is transmitted. I do not get exhaust temperature, but I do get boost pressure.


I had to enable both J1939 and J1708 pparameters to get the most out of the sensors.
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Old 08-29-2020, 06:30 AM   #19
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total gallons used is an estimate of the system and not an actual flow sensor.. the system knows the target fuel flow in a completely stock engine and estimates the gallons per hour flow rate and increments the gallons used. mine doesnt differentiate idle gallons vs total gallons. it may be something that the bluefire estimates by watching other data (speed of zero and trans in N) the total gallons used parameter is sent in navistar and freightliner both..



on mine actual fuel flow seems to be a little lower than the computer thinks it is, thats zeroing my dash and filling up then driving, going back to the same gas pump and filling back up.. on my bus I fill it to the absolute brim. (dripping over the fuel neck) since my tanks are so tiny I need all i can get.. im sure once i put mny bigger injectors in that the total flow rate actual will be higher than the computer assumes. by taking my own measurements i'll be able to correct it in my dash code to show the correct MPG still..



-Christopher
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Old 08-30-2020, 12:42 AM   #20
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The total gallons used is pulled from the ECM. When I have our bus PM'd at the CAT dealer, I have them dump out the ECM data store and print it. The resulting data dump includes the fuel used. It also breaks down the amount of time used at various engine RPM bands which shows you how the engine has been operated.


The MPG calculation is way off on our bus as well. I was thinking the ECM does not take into account the unburnt fuel that is deposited back into the tank.
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