Tripminder Computer Installation
For All 1983-88 Cougars / Thunderbirds
Page Revised: 10 May 2019
Thanks to Sajeev for the information in this article.
The Ford Tripminder computer was a forefather to the modern digital interface systems of today's automobiles. Though computers weren't exactly affordable in the early 1980s, Ford decided that their more premium automobiles should have an optional computer to showcase its new engine technology. This computer shows you month/day/time, elapsed time, average MPG, average speed, instantaneous fuel economy and gallons of fuel used. By the late 1980s, computers were not that unique, therefore Ford decided to remove the Tripminder option from many cars—including the 1987-88 Thunderbird and Cougar—in order to cut costs.
Sajeev writes, "After over a year of working the bugs out, I installed a Tripminder from a 1983 Heritage Thunderbird into my 1988 Cougar XR7. You would want to add this to a Cougar if you have the analog performance cluster or the standard cluster. Once installed, your dash will have all the benefits of the optional all-digital cluster. The Tripminder replaces the standard clock (digital or analog) in the center of the dash."
- Functional Tripminder computer with its connector and wiring
- Fine grit (around 800) sandpaper
- 4mm deep socket for a 1/4" drive ratchet
- A good cutting and crimping tool
- Tap splices (2) and butt connectors (6-7)
- Extra 14 or 16 gauge wire, two different colors preferred
- Electrical and Vacuum Trouble Shooting Manual (EVTM) for your vehicle (HIGHLY recommended)
The hardest part of the install will be actually finding the parts. We cannot give an exact breakdown of which year Fords had the optional Tripminder, but it is from about 1980 to 1989.
- 1980-1989 Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis
- 1980-1982 Thunderbird/XR7
- 1983-1986 Thunderbird/Cougar
- 1983-1986 LTD/Marquis
The Crown Victoria Tripminder has a different mounting bracket than the Fox body Fords, so you will either have to modify it with the brackets from your clock or use it for spare parts. For 1985-88 Cougar owners, the ideal Tripminder unit will come from a 1985-86 T-bird/Cougar because of its green display color. The other lenses will be bluish, but it still looks fine with everything else in the dash.
If you see a Thunderbird Heritage, Fila, Elan or a loaded Cougar LS in the salvage yard, odds are it will have the Tripminder.
Cut the Tripminder loose with its connector on the back intact. Take a look at the wires on the back of the Tripminder. Notice how there are more pins in the harness than there are wires. Here are what the pins correlate to and their wire colors:
- Pin 1: EMPTY
- Pin 2: EMPTY
- Pin 3: Ignition Power (light blue/black stripe)
- Pin 4: Dimmer (light blue/red stripe)
- Pin 5: Power (light green/yellow stripe)
- Pin 6: Fuel Flow Input (light blue/pink stripe)
- Pin 7: Ground (black)
- Pin 8: Speed Input (dark green/white stripe)
- Pin 9: Ground (black)
NOTE 1: Wire colors may differ slightly from year to year.
NOTE 2: Pin 7 and Pin 9 may or may not be connected together at the factory.
Once you acquired a junkyard Tripminder, it would be wise to test it outside the car to verify it works. Hook up power, ground, and ignition. If the unit works you will see ?12:00 RESET? on the display. Try the buttons. If some or all of the buttons don't work, do not worry.
This is how you fix the buttons: take apart the computer (when turned off, in a static electricity-free area) and clean the metal contacts of the buttons with the sandpaper. The Tripminder comes apart pretty quickly. A flathead screwdriver inserted into the four slots on the sides will separate the case into a front and a back side. Pull the back from the front and unfold the computer's circuit boards. It unfolds like an accordion.
The last board is bolted to the front of the Tripminder via four 4mm bolts. Unbolt these and pull the circuit board free of the Tripminder. You will now see the other side of the circuit board: seven little push buttons (metal, not the plastic ones) that surround the vacuum fluorescent display of the Tripminder. Fold a small piece of the sand paper (sand on both the top and bottom) and GENTLY slide it between each of the seven buttons. You should be sliding the paper between the metal you see and the circuit board. Push down on the button and move the sandpaper up and down a few times. This will clean both sides and remove all corrosion/oxidation from the contacts. When this is done blow off any sand or residue with compressed air. Reverse the disassembly process.
Now take a look at the standard (what is currently in your car) digital clock's wiring. When you compare this to the Tripminder you will see that you already have 5 of the 7 wires needed for the Tripminder:
- Pin 1: Ground (black)
- Pin 2: Power (light green/yellow stripe)
- Pin 3: Ignition (light blue/pink)
- Pin 4: Dimmer (brown)
NOTE: Wire colors may differ slightly from year to year.
You will need to remove the wires from your car's clock harness and splice them into the Tripminder's harness. Your brown wire (pin 4) goes to the Tripminder's brown wire (pin 4). Your black wire (pin 1) goes to the Tripminder's black (pin 9) wire. Your light blue/pink wire (pin 3) goes to the Tripminder's wire in pin 3 (colors may vary). Lastly, your light green/yellow wire (pin 2) goes to the Tripminder's light green/yellow (pin 5).
There are only two extra wires needed: all the others are there with the factory clock. One is for the fuel flow, which you will have to splice from PIN #34 at the EEC-IV engine computer. The other is the input wire for the speedometer.
For the speed input, you will have to remove the gauge cluster and disconnect its wiring harness. This is where the Ford EVTM manual will come in handy. Directly from the EVTM, the signal you want is located in circuit #150, a dark green/white stripe wire. The analog performance cluster (XR7 models) has the speed input at PIN #18. The regular cluster has it at PIN#3. Double check all wires and circuits to see if you are getting a pure speed signal from the engine computer. There may even be two dark green/white striped wires feeding it. Your car may vary from this. Once you are sure you have found the right circuit, use a tap splice and connect a length of wire to this circuit. Run the wire back to the Tripminder and connect it to PIN #8 on the Tripminder. You now have speed information to your computer.
The fuel flow input works on the same principle. Just about all Ford products using EEC-IV computers have a fuel flow signal that comes from pin #34 of the EEC computer. Anyone that has done the mass air conversion should have no problem getting the signal either. Just remove the passenger side kick panel, slide out the computer and look for pin #34 and a light blue/pink striped wire coming from it. Use the tap splice again and connect this wire to the Tripminder's pin #6. Route the wire between the glove box and the blower motor. We suggest using a very long wire and tucking the extra length away, just in case you have to replace the blower and need that wire out of your way.
Now reconnect the battery, turn the key, and that's it! In a matter of hours you have now given your car a neat little toy that almost no one else has. Many cars costing $30,000 or more today do not give you the information this Tripminder will. More importantly, it will look factory.