What Causes Dash Gauges to Go Off Intermittently While Driving in a 1998 Jeep Wrangler?by Jen Davis
The 1998 Jeep TJ Wrangler is somewhat notorious for a problem where the airbag light will come on intermittently and then some or all of the dashboard gauges will stop working completely for several minutes. This issue causes the mileage on the odometer of these vehicles not to report correctly, the speedometer to stop working and even the gas gauge to stop reporting. Typically, the gauges will come back on within several minutes, or may come back on if the driver of the Jeep hits the horn or uses the blinkers. This is most commonly caused by a wiring problem. Jeep has issued a technical service bulletin about this problem, but has not recalled the vehicle.
Technical Service Bulletin 081599
In May of 1999 Jeep issued a technical service bulletin addressing the dashboard cluster failure issue. The TSB states that "some vehicles may exhibit an erratic, intermittent cluster operation/intermittent air bag warning light." This service applies to several different year models of Cherokee and Wranglers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the technical service bulletin on this issue listed as number 606058.
Technical Service Bulletins
A technical service bulletin is a bulletin that is issued from the manufacturer of a vehicle to dealerships and mechanics. The problem in the TSB has been recognized as a problem that occurs in multiple vehicles, but is not actually subject to a recall. This means that, while Jeep realizes that this is a consistent problem with this model of Wrangler and Cherokee, they will not pay for the repairs required to fix it and you will have to pay the dealership to rectify the problem.
This issue is caused by a malfunctioning, defective connector in the dashboard cluster wiring. You can take your 1998 Wrangler to the Jeep dealership and provide them with the information regarding the technical service bulletin in order to have the full repair done. Your local Jeep dealership will have the necessary parts and tools to permanently correct this problem. Costs to repair the problem will vary by dealership.