I've been working up some FAQs about instrument clusters and related topics. At this point, I'm sort of at a standstill because I'm not sure what else to include. What I have is below...is there anything else that the community would like to see included in here?
Once I get some suggestions and write more up (and add pics), I'll repost it as a complete FAQ.
FAQ: Instrument Cluster / Immobilizer / MFA / FIS / SKC
What’s the difference between FIS, MFA, MFD, etc?
MFA stands for Multifunction Anzeige, or Multi-Function Indicator. The MFA cluster has an LCD screen backlit by red LEDs. It takes up the bottom half of the box in the middle of the cluster, and the top half has the usual assortment of idiot lights. MFA clusters came in a variety of MKIV models, including most VR6s, most GLI models, and VWs with GLX trim or technology packages.
The MFA is a glorified trip computer. In the top third of the screen it shows fuel economy (instantaneous and average), average speed, distance traveled, elapsed time, and (when enabled) distance remaining until the tank is empty. In addition, there are two separate sets of data. The first set of data resets after your car has been turned off for about two hours. The second set will continue to accumulate miles, time, etc., until you reset it manually or you reach 9999 miles or 99 hours. You toggle between the two sets with a button on the wiper stalk.
In the middle third of the screen, it shows the outside temperature, as read by the outside temperature sensor behind the driver’s side front bumper grille. If the cluster is installed in an automatic or tiptronic, the bottom third of the screen will show the gear the car is in.
Here are the six MFA screens...my car is a manual transmission, so my screens do not show the transmission gear below the outside temperature.
instantaneous fuel economy (the car was standing still), elapsed time, average speed:
elapsed distance (trip odometer, essentially), distance till empty (I needed gas), average fuel economy:
Note that not all MFA clusters have the distance till empty screen activated from the factory. It's possible to have it activated, but it's not something you can do with a VAG-COM, and it's not something the dealership can do for you. See the section below about aftermarket EEPROM tools.
FIS stands for Fahrerinformationsystem, or Driver Information System. The FIS cluster has an LCD screen backlit by red LEDs in the middle of the cluster, which takes up the whole rectangular area where most VWs have idiot lights. Of the B5 / B5.5 / MKIV lineup in the United States, only the Passat W8 came with the FIS cluster. Current B6 and MKV models pretty much all have FIS clusters.
The FIS cluster shows the same information that the MFA cluster does, but you can also toggle from the trip computer to a main menu, where you can choose to see “car status” (the equivalent of idiot lights and warnings), “navigation” (if you have a Navi installed), or you can turn the LCD screen off.
Hey, lets take a minute for some cluster pr0n...this is a W8 cluster I specially modified to work in a golf/jetta, and had installed in my car for a while. The features that distinguish this cluster from other North American clusters are (1) the FIS (of course), (2) the 180 mph speedo with sport faces (the R32 has 180 mph faces, but they're not sport faces), (3) the 6250 rpm redline:
MFD stands for “Multi-Function Display”, and is just another word for the factory Navigation system. I mention it here because the acronym is frequently confused with MFA.
All cars with FIS or MFA clusters also came equipped two items: a windshield wiper stalk with switches to control the functions, and an outside temperature sensor.
Can I install an FIS or MFA cluster in my MKIV?
With one exception, yes, probably. Early MKIVs without CAN-bus can NOT use the common American MFA or European MFA/FIS clusters because these require CAN-bus. There are clusters for non-CAN-bus cars that have the MFA screen where the digital clock is, but they are very rare. On the other hand, it may be possible for you to install a European FIS cluster (available on ebay.de), as there were many early models produced that do not have CAN-bus. You can tell if your car has CAN-bus by looking at the middle three digits of your instrument cluster part number: 919 clusters are non-CAN-bus, 920 clusters have CAN-bus.
What do I need to install an MFA or FIS instrument cluster?
First, remember that it’s way more than just slapping the parts in there. The cluster needs to be adapted to your car, and your keys need to be adapted to your cluster, and your mileage needs to be programmed, and these are all things that can’t be done just by buying an MFA cluster out of a junkyard.
Assuming you have a cluster that will work in your car and the means to get it adapted to your car (see following questions), you will need to have:
--The wiper stalk with the buttons that control the MFA/FIS functions
--The outside temperature sensor (although the cluster will work without it, you’ll want to install it)
--The six wires with contacts that you need to connect them to the instrument cluster
Here are some part numbers:
2 x 000 979 008 -- instrument cluster repair wires
2 x 000 979 133 -- wiper stalk repair wires
1 x 000 979 131 -- temperature sensor connector repair wires
1J0 919 379 A -- outside temperature sensor
1J0 973 702 -- temperature sensor connector
1J0 971 845 E -- clip for outside temperature sensor
4B0 953 503 H (Golf / Jetta wagon) OR 4B0 953 503 G (Jetta sedan) -- wiper stalk with MFA control buttons
And, to finish making the wires, you will also need:
two ring terminals (for ground connections)
about 15 feet of electrical wire (no thinner than 0.5mm cross section)
Wiring these items is not particularly difficult, except that you need to be able to remove your steering wheel (and airbag) in order to install the new wiper stalk. Depending on how well you want to route the wires, it might take you between one and four hours to wire them up.
How do I get the cluster to work in my car?
You need to adapt the cluster to your car. Depending on your car’s IMMO version, this is either very simple (IMMO-II) or very tough (IMMO-III).
If your car is IMMO-II, you only need to know the SKC of the “new” cluster.
If your car is IMMO-III, you definitely need to know the SKC of your current cluster. If the “new” cluster is actually new, straight from the dealership, or it has been programmed to behave like new (“new mode”), that’s it. If the cluster is used, you will need to know the SKC of that cluster as well.
Okay, how do I get the cluster’s SKC? And what, by the way, is an SKC?
SKC stands for Secret Key Code. Think of it as the password for the immobilizer system. All immobilizer-equipped cars require the SKC to perform certain security-related functions, including adding keys, adapting ECUs or instrument clusters, and changing the mileage on the odometer.
1999.5 cars did not have Immobilizer, so they don’t have SKCs.
From 2000 to 2001, VW included a black plastic scratch-off tag with the keys to every new car. The car’s 4-digit SKC was under the scratch-off panel. After 2001, VW no longer distributed any car’s SKC with the car’s keys. If you don't have this tag with your keys, you're out of luck. VWoA will not replace the tag or otherwise provide you with your car's SKC.
From 2002 to early 2005, VW allowed it’s techs to receive an encoded SKC that was functional with the VAS service tool for one day and one day only. It came in the form of a seven-digit SKC that, when entered into the VAS tool (already programmed with the dealership’s workshop number and the importer number) on the date it was requested, allowed the tech to access the security-related functions of the ECU and instrument cluster. Because the VAS system’s date can’t be changed, the seven-digit SKC was only good for the day. If the work took longer than a day, the tech would have to request a second seven-digit SKC.
(There’s a program floating around out there that allows you to convert a seven-digit SKC, date of issue, importer number and workshop number into a geniune original four-digit SKC. It’s called “VAG 7 to 4 Digit Pin Conversion”, or VAG74.exe. If you happen to have an old service ticket that has the seven-digit code scribbled on it, you can probably use this program to get your four-digit SKC.)
Starting in early 2005, VW went with the Geko system. The Geko system securely connects the dealer’s VAS tool to the mothership at VWoA’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and allows the VAS tool to perform the security-related functions without exposing the dealer tech (or the consumer) to the SKC. It is no longer possible for the tech to retrieve your car’s SKC. When they tell you they can’t get it, they’re not lying. From that point forward, if you wanted to know your SKC, you would have to find it a different way.
There are three or four aftermarket tools that allow you to read your car’s SKC directly from the instrument cluster, via the diagnostic port. They range in price from cheap (~$80) to really expensive (~$650). As with many other things in life, you get what you pay for. At this point in time, these tools are the easiest way to obtain your car's SKC. If you've got mad electronics skillz yo, you can use a clip-on EEPROM reader to read the 93C86 chip that VDO clusters use for memory storage, but the diagnostic-port-type tools are much easier to work with, and don't require disassembling the cluster.
Can’t I use VAG-COM to get my SKC?
No. Ross-Tech has made it clear that they will not write software for their tool that will allow you retrieve the SKC. Ross-Tech has a great relationship with VW, and VW clearly doesn’t want the general public to have access to their SKCs, so it’s unlikely to change in the near future.
VW can’t keep my SKC from me! That’s illegal! The Something-Something Act clearly states that I should be granted access to any code required to work on my emissions control system! Someone needs to sue VW! Blah, blah, blah!
A specious argument, at best. No one’s sued VW yet with it, have they?
I bought this cluster off of eBay. If I install it in my car, will my car’s mileage automatically show up in the odometer?
No. The mileage is stored in the cluster. The cluster will show the odometer reading from the last car it was installed in.
I heard you can buy a Passat cluster and get it to work with a Golf / Jetta. Is that true?
Typically not. To get a Passat cluster to work with a Golf / GTI / Jetta, you need to be able to load the G/J software onto the cluster. Usually, Passat clusters don’t accept G/J software. Some european Passat clusters do, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
This misconception came about because it happens that the underlying circuit board for the Passat is the same size, and the gauges are in the same places, as the Golf/Jetta circuit board. The onlydifference appears to be the housing, which you can swap out with a G/J housing. But it still won’t work with G/J software.
Can the dealership correct the odometer?
No, unless the cluster has less than 100km (62 miles) on it. Then they can roll it forward once to match your car’s correct mileage. The dealership cannot reset the odometer to zero, or roll it forward or backward under any other circumstances.
I have a VAG-COM. Can’t I change the mileage myself?
If you have the cluster’s SKC and the odometer reads less than 100km (62 miles), yes, you can do the same thing the dealership can do: change the odometer once, and only by going forward.
Isn’t it illegal to change the odometer?
I am NOT a lawyer, but considered opinion on it is this: You can change your odometer to your heart’s content, as long as you are not doing so to misrepresent the car’s true mileage in order to defraud. Some quick examples of odometer fraud would include misrepresenting the mileage to your insurance company (to get a larger settlement check), your dealership (to get warranty service, or a better trade-in value), or to a potential buyer (to get a better sale price). And by the way, the “car’s true mileage” is actually the body’s mileage, not the engine’s. I didn’t know that.
So how can I change a used odometer to show my car’s mileage?
You can buy the tool and software to do it yourself, or you can send it out to someone with experience and knowledge and a better tool to do it for you. OR, you can buy the tool and software, foul it up yourself, and THEN send it out to someone with experience and knowledge and a better tool to do it for you.
That’s all too complicated. Can’t I just transfer the MFA screen from the junkyard cluster into my current cluster?
Hehe. No. The underlying circuit boards are completely different, not to mention the software that runs the thing. That is far and away not an option.
Okay, I don’t need the screen, but I do like those cool sport edition faces and aluminum trim rings. Can I install those in my current cluster?
Maybe. But probably not.
There are three basic revisions of instrument cluster gauge faces. Meister has a nice set of graphics that shows the differences between the three eras. Check out his site at www.meistergaugefaces.com. The three eras are, roughly, 1999.5 to 2000, 2000 to 2002, and 2002 to 2005. Faces from one era will not work well with faces from another era because the number and location of the idiot lights changed from one era to another. All North American sport gauge faces (with the silver trim) are from the most recent era, 2002 to 2005. They will not work with instrument clusters from the previous eras.
How do I know which instrument clusters will work in my car?
A very good question.
Each different instrument cluster has a part number. The part number indicates, to a certain extent, what functions and options came with the cluster, but there’s no direct translation. For example, the instrument cluster in my car is a 1J0 920 926 F. Here’s how that breaks down:
1J# ### ### # : The first two digits of any part number usually indicate the platform. In this case, 1J is the MKIV platform. For comparison, 3B is the B5/.5 Passat platform, and 1C is the New Beetle platform. Some part numbers are interchangeable between platforms…instrument clusters are not.
##0 ### ### #: The third digit might be thought of as an “edition” indicator. For Golf / Jetta clusters, there are only three choices: 0, 5, and 6. For the most part, 0 and 6 indicate a “regular” edition, and 5 indicates a “sport” edition. Sport edition clusters are found in a variety of models and typically have silver trim rings, silver-ringed faces with a smaller, rounder font, and different (nicer) needles. The one exception is the R32 cluster, which has silver rings and nicer needles with silver buttons, but is still a “standard” edition.
### 9## ### #: The fourth digit is always a 9, and simply indicates that the instrument cluster is part of the electrical parts catalogue.
### #20 ### #: The fifth and sixth digits indicate a subgroup of the parts catalogue. In the case of instrument clusters, there are only two subgroups: 19 and 20. An instrument cluster in the 19 subgroup is from early in the MKIV production run and is associated with NOT having CAN-bus. The 20 subgroup is associated with clusters having a CAN-bus. Non-CAN-bus clusters will not work in CAN-bus cars, and vice versa.
### ### 9## #: The seventh digit is either 8 or 9. An 8 indicates the cluster has scales for the canadian or european market, where the speedometer face has kph units and, for most years, the speedometer scale is non-linear. A 9 indicates that the cluster is meant for the American market, with linear scales in mph.
### ### #2# #: Here’s where things get dicey. For 1999.5’s non-CAN-bus clusters, the eighth digit is somewhat inconsistent, so I’m just going to ignore that small subset. For CAN-bus clusters, the numbering system is more consistent. There are three possible digits: 0, 2, and 4. A “0” indicates no MFA or FIS screen. A “2” indicates the smaller (half-height) MFA screen. And a “4” indicates the larger (full-height) FIS screen. In north america, the ONLY cars that came with the FIS screen either as an option or standard were the W8 Passats. (Well, the Touaregs and Phaetons, too, but they’re not really part of this discussion.) FIS screens were much more prevalent (although still somewhat uncommon) in europe, where they came as “highline” options on Golfs, GTIs, R32s, Boras, and Passats, as well as a number of other lines. This is where almost all of the FIS screens you see in north american cars originated. It is possible to use a W8 Passat instrument cluster in a Golf or Jetta, but it requires some excelsior soldering skills and the ability to write Golf / Jetta firmware to the cluster.
### ### ##6 #: The ninth digit, in CAN-bus clusters, generally indicates a major revision. For the most part, it’s an indicator of immobilizer generation. In north america, there are only four possibilites: 0, 5, 6, and 7. A zero or a 5 indicates an IMMO-II cluster. A 6 or 7 indicates an IMMO-III cluster.
### ### ### F: The last digit, almost always present in north american cluster part numbers, and always a letter, usually indicates a specific combination of engine and transmission that the cluster was originally intended to work with. For example, “K” indicates a gasoline engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. My “F” indicates that the cluster was originally intended as a part for a 177hp VR6. (Because the software and the soft coding allow some flexibility, it can be used in nearly any engine and transmission combination, including my 5-speed manual 1.8t.) The lettering is not consistent year after year, though. Later in the production cycle, “F” indicated a diesel engine, as well.
That's it so far. Suggestions?
And don't say "PICS!". I know. I'll work on pics once I figure out what needs to be illustrated.
Modified by Nihilator at 10:36 AM 2-11-2008