UPDATED: Fixing the “Dashboard Christmas Tree” in Jeeps

UPDATED 10/8/2014 with a very important update!  Even though I applied this fix to my battery terminals, there must have been a very tiny gap that remained between my terminal and the battery post.

On a recent offroading trip, I was winching another vehicle and the additional strain on the battery caused a spark to arc and actually fused the terminal to the battery, causing battery failure.  The ground winch cable was too hot to touch. I was lucky to get out under power and make it home.  It remains an expensive fix (the OEM battery was only a year old) but if you are stuck in the woods, the costs and risks increase. Based on the temperatures, I would not rule out a fire risk. Please REPLACE your terminals immediately to prevent you from getting stuck, or worse.

Battery post with molten lead, fused terminal.
New battery, new terminals. I do plan on upgrading the terminals. These are temporary.

Original post follows:

The forums are ablaze with questions around concerned Jeep drivers, that their gauge cluster will suddenly light up, chime, and do some weird things – but only for a second or two.

I found myself dealing with this exact same problem in both my 2012 and 2013 Rubicons (the videos above are mine).  Taking the 2013 in under warranty, the dealer was just as perplexed as I was.  Eventually they changed the electronic sway bar disconnect motor (claiming it was not sealed for water and thus causing the short).

Not too long after, and the gremlins returned.  The dealership simply blamed the issue on my “aftermarket HID headlamps” (Trucklites), bigger tires, and my CB radio (potentially causing RF interference).

The official response from Chrysler. Click to enlarge.

It was clear to me that Chrysler had no intention of working with me on finding the problem.

Symptoms (May be different from vehicle to vehicle):

  • Random dash lights flashing w/chime
  • Traction control light remains on when cluster returns to normal
  • Speedometer drops to zero while lights flash then returns (tach remains unchanged)
  • Restarting vehicle removes TC warning light
  • Occasionally, radio would be interrupted
  • Slight loss of power characteristics

I know this seems odd, but I started to notice this would happen in the same spots of my commute, so the RF interference was gaining some consideration.  But then I realized the road was bumpier and had a unique grade to it (dip to the right) which made me better understand how the battery was involved.

Fast forward to last Fall, when I went to the garage to start the Jeep.  Dead.  No clicking starter, nothing.  But I had lights.  I popped open the hood, and heard a faint clicking coming from the TIPM.  As if it was rebooting or shorting.  I wiggled the battery cables, and the sound stopped.

I retightened the terminals to the post and the Jeep started right up.

And that was the last time the problem occurred.  I have had other friends with this same problem, and when I suggested this fix, they have had no recurrence in weeks, when it was a daily event.  I personally have not had the problem in 6+ months since making the fix.

Steps to fix:

NOTE: My issue was on the ground.  I still checked the connections on the positive terminal, but that seemed fine.

1. Using a 10mm socket, remove the nut which secures the terminal.

2. Press the terminal firmly down, ensuring it is seated at the base of the post.

3. Using very good needle-nose (or other narrow pliers) pliers, squeeze the terminal behind where it meets the post.  This will remove the tiny variance/gap that is causing the fault.

4. Reinsert the nut, ensuring it is threaded tightly to the bolt.

5. Check all other terminals and connections.

I also picked up a set of adjustable terminals for the rainy day I plan on installing some proper battery terminals.  Chrysler’s versions are NOT adjustable (cheaper) and that is why we are having these issues.

This issue has been mentioned for most Jeep vehicles, including Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.  I assume the terminal/post connection is loosened from offroading, so if you wheel a lot, be sure to keep an eye on it.

43 thoughts on “UPDATED: Fixing the “Dashboard Christmas Tree” in Jeeps”

  1. Great info and video.

    I have a 2012 Rubicon and this problem started about a week ago. All the same issues and chimes.

    Followed your suggestion on reseating the battery cables clamps. I went one step farther though and I took a battery post cleaner and thoroughly cleaned both the battery post and female ends of the battery cables. I did see a corrison pattern on both the negative and positive posts, of the battery, that suggested the cable clamp ends were not making good contact and that corrison was present. I was sure to reseat the cables ends down as far on the posts as they would go. I took my long needle nose pliers and tried, as best I could, to squeeze them back together. You’re right about one thing – these battery cable ends are pretty cheap and flimsy.

    I cleaned everything till the metal shined and was thoroughly scuffed up. I just test drove the jeep and I am not seeing the disco lights return. I’m hoping that this has done it for me.

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  2. tried the battery trick, but it did not work. one mechanic could not find anything wrong with it, but another garage found a broken wire (the scanned codes were all failure to communicate) and now it is all fixed. If anyone in the GTA cannot fix the problem, the place I went is called extreme tyre garage, on lakeshore promenade. good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Accessories must be put on the extra stud that has no nut. The reason being the primary stud with the nut is tapered and must have direct contact to have a good connection. By putting the accessories on the extra stud my Cristmas Tree problem is corrected.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes cuz ever since they installed my led lights ive been having those lights and gauges act like that. Its a 2015 model
          Thanks for the help

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        2. Hey bro, i saw my connection and only the cabling black that connects to the terminal has the extra nut and the other one the red one has 3 but it has the nuts, do i put it on one of those three?

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  4. Good morning everyone who could help me and advice me, every how many miles do you have to do your oil change on a 2015 wrangler 3.6 pentastar? Please help ,on the settings there is a life percentage. In my case i just bought mine 4 months ago and have 4k miles on it, the percentage of oil life on the dash indicates a 53 percent, how accurate is that or should u do oil change every 3k or 5k please and thanks

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    1. Kind of late seeing the date of your post. But anyways the dealer told me every 3,000 miles. Jeeps come woth good break in oil and i brought it in at 6,000 miles which was really overdue but noone told me.

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  5. I bought my 2014 Wrangler used and had the christmas tree issue on the ride home. After reading this thread, i checked the terminals. The prior owner had installed the winch lead onto the main nut/bolt so that it no longer tightened properly on the terminal. Removed, cleaned, tightened and changed the position of the winch lead. All’s well again! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Scott, great job and thanks for the tip on the videos. I have a 2007 JK with tons of accessories. My first encounter was the clock spring issue. Every time I hit a bump, a “bing” sound would occur with one of the dash lights came on. Luckily after researching, the clock spring was covered on the extended warranty. Now recently about a week ago, my dash lights would do exactly what your vids shows, and my radio would turned on and off. I was worried driving in the highway when this happened. Hopefully the fix would be as simple as you said about the battery cables. I’ll try this method when I get back home from my Christmas trip. Do you or does anyone knows if this could get any worst? Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I own a 2014 sahara unlimited, i faced the exact same problems the power would go off completely like when i even turn the key to start the car on it does aboslutley nothing no sound no nothing, and for some reason my RPM was dropping randomly while on the highway with Traction ABS and TC lights flashing randomly and clock keeps reseting and the radio turns on and off by itself, these happen all at once, also something i noticed the interior lights flicker as soon as i turn the car on but when i rev the car or move the lights stop flickering so i immediately thought the battery terminals are shorting out or not connected properly and i was right when popped open my hood there was this electrical shorting sound that is bearly hearable from the battery and the terminals had also had noticable gap so i took the terminals off cleaned them tied them back correctly and everything was normal again i drove the car tested all the lights buttons and everything was magically back to normal. I will update if this happens to me again.

    (Excuse my english it is not my mother language i’m from dubai)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I own an 06 Commander and recently had the same issue happen after I drove over some deep holes in the pavement due to city repairing the roads. I knew this issue was common on jeeps but I didn’t need it at the time because I didn’t incounter the problem yet. But now I know how to take care of it. I’ll check my terminals right away. Thanks for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a 2016 JKU Rubicon been doing Christmas tree lights as described above since mile 14. Gave it to dealer next morning after purchasing brand new here in Dallas and they kept for 8 days and were stumped. I took it back on Thursday with intentions of bring to another deal and set of eyes. After driving all weekend and doing my own trouble shooting. The issue doesn’t happen until well over 30 miles in morning when jeep warms up. The happen more and more till finally very hard to start and flashing lights on dash all the time. I can raise hood for 30 min cool engine compartment and it will start up again. I’ve tested almost everything I can think of changed relays added dielectric grease to most connectors. Very frustrated. Been all over battery terminals to ensure they are solid as well as every ground I could find on vehicle. Any ideas on why heat in engine compartment may cause it to start. Only has 200 miles on jeep at this point. Probably going to another dealer in morning. Has to be something simple.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well Scott I replaced negative terminal I thought it was fixed replaced positives as well at this point. Brought back to dealer two weeks later they replaced TIPM. Still does Christmas tree but only when in traffic and engine compartment temps go up. I can drive back and forth to work daily no issues as vehicle is moving. If I sit in traffic or wheel her she acts up quickly. Still stumped. Even put upgraded a GM battery in as original while new had low specific gravity tests. It’s a lot less testy as originally but will still give me grief.

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        1. Well I found the problem. It was the ground on the drivers side of the vehicle next to the ABS Module. ABS Module would go crazy when heat soaked. I found it by pouring water on each module until the issue went away. I have numerous times cleaned the ABS ground and tightened it to ensure it was solid. But I finally tested resistance from that ground to the neg battery term and found it to be high. I added a 6 gauge battery cable from the battery to the frame behind the ABS Module and problem went away. This has been a crazy month or so tracking it down with lots of dealer ship visits and parts being replaced. Now 4 days into very hot traffic and not done it since. Hope this helps someone along the way. There must be a bad ground in harness somewhere that I bypassed by adding the new strap.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. What you’re describing is exactly what’s happening to my Jeep right now; I have no issues while starting it cold and driving it around, but after I hit the highway (I live some 30km out of the city) and come to a stop at a light, my oil light flashes and chimes, and won’t stop until I’m driving again. When I turn the vehicle off (pup has to go to doggy day care, so every morning there’s a 3 minute engine turn off period) it becomes almost impossible to start it back up again. But after the vehicle sits all day and cools off (it’s -38 here today, so it doesn’t take long!) everything is fine until I get off the highway again. I have zero mechanical experience so I can’t even begin to understand half of what you did to test for and fix the problem…any tips? Few weeks ago I had engine overheating problems, so had that fixed. Not sure if the problems are connected…

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      1. Next time it won’t start, open the hood and just wiggle the terminal connectors on the battery. You may hear clicking under the hood as your TPM starts and stops. If that happens then you need to fix the terminals.

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  10. Thank you SO MUCH for posting and hosting this solution. My ’14 Rubicon’s dash was FREAKING out yesterday, and today it’s back to being a perfectly well behaved machine. I was able to tighten up the clamp, but I’ll be picking up new terminals and replacing the crappy factory ones tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had same problems the other night on my 2014 wrangler. All lights were flashing speedo bottomed out. I made it home turned it off and wouldn’t restart popped the hood checked battery cables positive was a little loose nut was working it’s way off tightening tand checking all connections and now it’s been 2 days with no issues

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  12. Hey there! I have a 2012 rubicon that is doing slot of the same issues. But it’s also giving me error U110a. My dash cluster flashes all warning lights and RPM/Speedometer both go crazy. Any ideas?

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  13. We have had this problem with our 2015 Willys over the last year. We have taken it to the Dealer a half dozen times. They couldn’t figure it out, and said Jeep has no record of this type of problem. Finally, after 5 minutes on Google, we found, and took a copy of your post. I got the impression they didn’t appreciate the help. But, we’ll see if they completed the fix. (we are not mechanics by any stretch) Our Jeep is under warranty so we made sure to discuss with Jeep Corporation as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It worked for me only for 20 minutes…. just to become dead again. Same issues though. Dont know what it is. Dealership is around 300km far from where I am now. Got to figure it out by myself….

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  15. I have a 2012 Wrangler Rubicon and I had the same issue. All I did was disconnect both positive and negative clamps on the battery, cleaned everything off then reconnected. It has not had a single issue since. Previously, I did take it to the dealer and they really didn’t have an answer for me. I showed them the same videos that were shown on here. After about an hour they came back and said my ABS module needed to be replaced. Which is about 500$. I decided to hold off because I was not convinced that was the issue, I felt as though they were guessing. So if you have this issue. Try disconnecting, cleaning and reconnecting. Should be resolved. If the problem persist then I recommend getting new connector clamps for the stock ones are not very good. Hope this helps!!! I saved 500$ by not listening to the dealer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ABSOLUTELY!!!! The dealer replaced my Sway bar disco motor TWICE (thankfully under warranty). They have no clue this problem is happening and it is crazy. I even sent this page to my local dealer to uplevel in FCA, and nothing. Oh well.

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  16. I own a 2012 jeep liberty jet 3.7l, im having the exact same issue as posted above, tried heavily cleaning the terminals both sides. Issue remains!!! Please help here or even text me. 5703352286 I’m not new to the jeep world but this is stumping me

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  17. Can you post up a picture of the positive cable with the new terminal as well? I want to see how you mounted to the stock accessory wires to the new positive terminal.

    Thanks

    Like

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