Originally published in TDR Issue 82.
REPLACING YOUR ’98-’02 DODGE RAM CRACKED DASHBOARD
by Brent Boxall
All you have to do is Google “Dodge Ram cracked dash” and you can get as many pages of results as you want. I’m thinking that unless you leave the truck parked in a cave the Second Generation Ram dash is going to crack and/or break.
There are three solutions to solve this problem:
First, purchase a fabric mat to cover the unsightly problem.
Second, purchase a plastic dash cover which comes with a silicone adhesive that glues the new cover to the existing dash. The silicone glue has two functions: one is to hold the dash cover in place and the other is to keep the broken pieces of the original dash from falling down into the dash and possibly damaging wiring, vacuum lines, etc. If your dash is just cracked this solution may work for you. It is a lot easier than an entire dash replacement and less expensive.
Third, involves replacing the entire dash top with a replacement dash top. This article will illustrate step by step how I accomplished this dash replacement on my 2001 Dodge Ram, Quad Cab.
Let’s go ahead with the dash removal.
There are many sharp edges under and around the dash and associated parts so, extreme caution should be exercised. Also, be very cautious with the vehicle’s wiring harness. Damage done to the wiring harness may not be readily apparent, but can result in lots of blown fuses and, worst case, a fire and loss of the vehicle.
Since this operation involves electrical connections and the air bags you MUST DISCONNECT THE GROUND STRAP ON BOTH BATTERIES!
1. DISCONNECT THE GROUND STRAPS FROM BOTH BATTERIES!
2. Set up adequate work lights inside the truck and have a plan for organizing the parts and fasteners that you remove.
3. Remove both doorway thresholds and kick panels.
4. Gently pull the plastic instrument bezel off the dash by gently pulling out with your fingers along the bottom edge, a little on each end, a little in the middle, a little on each end. SLOW and GENTLE is the idea here. If you can’t get it started, use a wide putty knife or a plastic trim removal tool so as to spread the load out instead of prying in one spot and cracking the bezel with the concentrated load. Take my advice; don’t pry plastic with a screwdriver. The key is gentle, even pressure to move the bezel out away from the dash.
5. The next step is removing the center console. Remove the six Phillips head screws from the gear shift boot and then six hex head screws from the center console with a 5/16” socket.
6. With the center console loose you can remove the metal bezel from the bottom of the transmission shifter boot. Then, with a small Phillips screwdriver, remove the two screws holding the center console’s cross brace inside the plastic shroud. Then slide the center console up the shift levers and off. You may be able to skip this step, but I found the center console uncooperative without removing this cross brace.
7. Remove the center bracket that ties the floor to the dash structure and supports the airbag control module.
8. Next, remove the glove compartment by opening it, then flexing it past the stop hooks on each side so that it tips on out toward the floor. (A trick here is to bow the back of the glove box which allows the tabs to move past their stops.)
9. Now that the glovebox is past the stops, push up on the hinges as shown below and the glovebox should ‘unhinge’.
10. Now remove the plastic strip that covers the glove box striker and the front airbag mounting screws as shown below:
11. Before trying to remove the passenger airbag module, it must be unplugged and the two rear mounting screws removed. Always remember that air bag electrical connectors are YELLOW. To help you locate the passenger airbag module electrical connector, it is shown in the picture below. (The airbag is already removed for clarity but you can access this connector through the glove box opening.)
12. Next remove the five screws holding the dash top along the windshield carefully so that none of them fall into the defrost vents.
13. Remove the hood latch release and allow the release to drop to the floor.
14. Remove the knee panel below the steering column and the stamped steel cross brace along the bottom of the dash.
15. Disconnect the parking brake release handle linkage and the parking brake switch electrical connector.
16. Disconnect the driver’s side air bag module which is the yellow electrical connector just below the steering column shown in the picture below.
17. After determining that no wiring will be damaged by lowering the steering column, remove the two bolts holding the steering column and gently let it pivot down so that the steering wheel is resting in the driver’s seat as shown below:
18. Disconnect the vacuum harness connector under the dash near the center as shown below:
19. Disconnect the three wire harness connectors from the back of the fuse box on the driver’s side. One comes from the body wire harness, and the other two come from the dash wiring harness as shown below:
20. Loosen the bolt and disconnect the large electrical connector near the clutch pedal as shown below:
21. Loosen the two bolts on either side of the instrument panel that bolt outward into the A-pillars. The objective here is to let the instrument panel pivot back on the lower bolt which will require removal of the upper bolt. GREAT CARE MUST BE TAKEN NOT TO STRESS ANY WIRING HARNESS COMPONENTS OR OTHER CONNECTIONS. A lift strap or cargo strap should be used on each side to support the dash when it is tipped back. Verify that all items are clear and unstressed prior to allowing the dash to pivot. When you are satisfied that no damage can occur, remove the upper bolt on each side and allow the dash to pivot aft.
The photo below shows the position of the dash from each side pivoted back:
22. Once the dash is tipped back, it is time to remove the old dash cover. This is done by removing all the screws around the instrument cluster and glove box area, as well as the single screw on each side at the A-pillar.
23. Now comes the interesting part! I had my local windshield replacement guy stop by and remove my windshield prior to this operation because it was cracked anyway. The photo below will show you why; there are screws that must be removed that are under the dash cover.
Given the difficulty of getting at these screws you may opt to have your windshield removed even if it is not cracked. Here are the facts about our windshields:
• There is a risk of breaking an ‘uncracked’ windshield during removal. But, my windshield had a crack approximately two-foot long and it was removed without further cracking or breakage.
• Getting at these screws to remove them is going to be very difficult with the windshield in place.
• Should you choose to opt for a new one either because it broke during removal or needed replacing anyway, the price of a new windshield here in northwest Georgia is $238.
Also, this a great time to replace your heater core while the truck is disassembled to this level. I winched my entire dash up to allow access to the heater core for replacement. The photo below shows the approximate position of the dash for heater core access:
Once the heater core is replaced, the dash is merely lowered back down to rest upon the lower cowl mounting bolts, which were used to pivot it back originally. This looks a lot worse than it is! The passenger side support scheme is shown for reference:
24. To prepare the new dash cover for installation I found it easier to add the side window defrost ducts to the new dash cover prior to installation as shown below:
These ducts can be snapped onto the main manifold when the new dash cover is initially placed onto the dash.
25. Place the new dash cover in position inside the truck and snap these side window defrost ducts into the main duct manifold.
26. Install all the screws into their respective holes and into the new dash cover to secure it. Remember, this is where rattles and squeaks are created, so use great care not to omit screws and make sure all the screws are tightened securely.
27. The remainder of the assembly involves reversing the dis-assembly procedure, so work carefully through this list in reverse order, taking care to triple check your work as you go. Don’t forget to add the dash pad reinforcement washers to the five screws that install from the top in the recesses in the dash where the dash meets the windshield, as shown below:
The results are worth the effort!