Dash Indicator lights come one but everything works fine?

This might belong in GQ but I am not sure so I am posting it here.

I own a 1988 Mercury Tracer ( I know, I even hate to admit it) Anyway, I started it up yesterday and four of the dash indicator lights came on and remained on.

Fuel Low - the gauge indicates a 1/2 tank and I just put gas in it so that is about right.
Low Window Washer Fluid - window washers work fine and plenty of fluid
Brake lights - brakes and lights work fine
Battery - car started fine. We started it several times after and let it idol for at least 15 minutes and no issues.

What is making these lights stay on?

The car seems to start, run and drive fine. My daughter uses this car more than I do but I don’t want her driving it with these lights on.

Any suggestions or clues?

Well, it’s an older car, so it could be a lot of things. Decaying wiring is one of the first thing that comes to mind. Or it could be the battery or alternator. Hopefully the computer isn’t going nuts, that would be a fairly expensive problem.

If you’re near an Advance Auto, take it there and they will test the battery and alternator for free.

A friend had a 1988 Mercury Marquis; it was the first year they had come out with a computer system. Predictably, the computer died & was expensive to replace. He found out the '87 was non-computer based. He then chopped all the computer parts out of the 1988 Maquis and replaced all the relevent parts with 1987 model year parts. The car ran fine afterwards and as he put it, “now instead of the engine tuning itself three times a minute, I tune it once every six months.”

I ditto control-z on the computer price. I was told the Marquis’ computer would have cost 2 grand from a dealership in the early '90s when parts for it were easy to get. Trying to get one now would mean finding a junkyard Tracer and then stripping it of its CPU. Worse, you’d have to pay for it and then take it home just to see if it still worked after all this time.

If not, go back to step one and repeat. :frowning:

I know she is old. She only has 116,000 original miles though but she sure don’t look it.

I found an electrical and valve troubleshooting book at the library. Hopefully that can give us some more insight.

We do have an Advance Auto close by so I think we will take it there before we spend any type of big money.

I only paid $700 for it so I will not go to hog wild on expensive repairs.

First off what you are describing does not point toward a computer failure.
Do you have a DC voltmeter? If so measure the voltage across the battery with the engine running. You should read somewhere in the range of 13.9-15 volts. If it reads down in the 12 volt range (12.6 or below) your alternator is not charging. On many cars several warning lights are tied into the alternator warning light (your battery light), so if the alternator fails, several warning lights light up.
If however the alternator voltage is normal, you may still have an alternator issue (unlikely, but possible) or more likely the wire from the dash cluster is grounding out somewhere between the cluster and the alternator.

Well I posted this problem on several auto forums and people relied that it was most likely the alternator.

One person did have another suggestion. He said to disconnect the negative cable for fifteen to twenty minutes, reconnect and see if the ECM resets it self. He said it can take up to fifty miles for an ECM to reset itself.

We did that and drove around the block a couple time and the lights went off.

Got to love the internet!

Well, damn! That would explain why my airbag light came on three weeks ago…I wish I had followed my instincts and asked here, then maybe my car wouldn’t have died at 10pm with the kids in it. :smack:

Yup, at low voltage the system goes into standby, and the warning light comes on to alert the driver.

I had this happen a couple of months ago. The car ran fine for a few days after it happened a couple of times… right up until the battery died abruptly. When’s the last time you replaced the battery? Mine was supposed to be good for another year, but clearly wasn’t.