The Chrysler Minivan Fan Club Forums banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
1997 Dodge Grand Caravan ES
3.8L
177,000 miles


Electrical Problems: 1st what currently works and what doesn't, followed by an accounting of attempts I made to resolve electrical issues over the last few days.

What works: power locks; power windows; power mirrors; directional lights; dashboard lights; overhead lights; door lights; blower motor(s), though the ac does not blow cold.

What doesn't work: the starter does not turn--no discernible solenoid click; headlights do not work (do not turn on at all); and the radio does not work, seemingly no power gets to it.

This morning I installed a new battery (the old one measured 11 volts the first time and 10.8 volts the second time this morning). What I've described above (what does and doesn't work) is the current situation with the new battery--that is, if I leave the key in the accessory position. If I try to twist the key further to start the engine, the dashboard lights go dim and the power devices cut off. Moreover, the van will not start now--even with a jump and the new battery installed. One other event after installing the new battery: while checking the starting motor relay, I pulled the cover off of the relay by accident when I tried to disconnect the relay; and when I tried to reattach the cover, the starting motor turned over a number of times, finally stopping when I reattached the cover fully. I am also unable to do the key dance for fault codes; the process will not start.

During the last few days, I had been able to start the car by jumping it. There was a slight drag before starting, but it worked--numerous times. A couple of times, during the last few days, I was able to start the van without jumping it; but, more often than not, I had to jump the car. The headlights worked, the ac blew cold, and the radio worked when I jumped the car, though a few times (late yesterday) the radio would fail; I could, however, revive the radio by stepping on the accelerator, raising the idle. The unattended idle appeared unable to provide the needed juice to keep the radio powered on.

Finally, I've checked the fuses a couple of times over the last few days--everything looks OK.

I don't know what to do next. Can anyone help?
 

·
Registered
2009 GCV SE
Joined
·
416 Posts
Well, when you turn the key to start the engine, the interior dash lights and all should cut out while the engine is in "crank" mode, so I wouldn't say that's an issue, that should be what happens.

I like to think of everything that doesn't work=has an improper connection or is faulty. So with the case of your radio, lights, and starter, I would say firstly, check the wiring first.

Firstly, make sure the battery connections are good, if there's corrosion, remove it with warm water and soap, and use a toothbrush for some help.

Then try the starter issue. Disconnect the starter and test to make sure it actually gets power when the key is turned to "Crank" mode. (Compare it to a good, secure ground). If there's not power, then you should follow the wire to where it leads, disconnect the connector, and make sure that between the actual starter connector and the connector you just disconnected has a good secure connection. Make sure the connection is good from where you disconnect as well. Also, plug the starter connector in and compare the power wire to the ground of the vehicle using the connector you unplugged for the power, and ground on a good ground spot. If you see there's a connection then you have a short somewhere between the connector and the starter.
If there's corrosion, on any connector you disconnect, clean up both sides so they have a solid contact. If you get good power at the starter, then the next thing to do is make sure the actual ground is good. I'm not sure if the ground goes back alongside the power wire, of if it is grounded directly by the mount that it's attached to itself, but check and make sure that whatever it has, it is a good ground. If both of those are good, it could be the starter itself.

Okay, the above really should get your starter issue fixed. In the case of your headlights, I would try the exact same process as the starter above. And for the radio, take the panels off and test for power, and test for a good ground by disconnecting the connector on the back of the radio. If power and ground are good, it could be either the radio, or the CAN Bus system has a fault itself. I tried an experiment with an 09 radio, I gave it power, and ground, but the display will only light up if the CAN bus system sends it a signal to start. The radio should always have power, even with the ignition off, it's the bus system which will allow the radio to actually turn on. I don't know how you would test if the bus system is sending a proper signal to the radio, and since you don't have any other issues it seems unlikely to me that the bus system has a problem. So, really assuming good power and ground, and the can bus system sends it a signal it needs, it will be the radio.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Well, when you turn the key to start the engine, the interior dash lights and all should cut out while the engine is in "crank" mode, so I wouldn't say that's an issue, that should be what happens.

I like to think of everything that doesn't work=has an improper connection or is faulty. So with the case of your radio, lights, and starter, I would say firstly, check the wiring first.

Firstly, make sure the battery connections are good, if there's corrosion, remove it with warm water and soap, and use a toothbrush for some help.

Then try the starter issue. Disconnect the starter and test to make sure it actually gets power when the key is turned to "Crank" mode. (Compare it to a good, secure ground). If there's not power, then you should follow the wire to where it leads, disconnect the connector, and make sure that between the actual starter connector and the connector you just disconnected has a good secure connection. Make sure the connection is good from where you disconnect as well. Also, plug the starter connector in and compare the power wire to the ground of the vehicle using the connector you unplugged for the power, and ground on a good ground spot. If you see there's a connection then you have a short somewhere between the connector and the starter.
If there's corrosion, on any connector you disconnect, clean up both sides so they have a solid contact. If you get good power at the starter, then the next thing to do is make sure the actual ground is good. I'm not sure if the ground goes back alongside the power wire, of if it is grounded directly by the mount that it's attached to itself, but check and make sure that whatever it has, it is a good ground. If both of those are good, it could be the starter itself.

Okay, the above really should get your starter issue fixed. In the case of your headlights, I would try the exact same process as the starter above. And for the radio, take the panels off and test for power, and test for a good ground by disconnecting the connector on the back of the radio. If power and ground are good, it could be either the radio, or the CAN Bus system has a fault itself. I tried an experiment with an 09 radio, I gave it power, and ground, but the display will only light up if the CAN bus system sends it a signal to start. The radio should always have power, even with the ignition off, it's the bus system which will allow the radio to actually turn on. I don't know how you would test if the bus system is sending a proper signal to the radio, and since you don't have any other issues it seems unlikely to me that the bus system has a problem. So, really assuming good power and ground, and the can bus system sends it a signal it needs, it will be the radio.
Michalbm, thank you for your thoughtful posting. It will probably take me some time to figure out how to do the things you recommend, as I have very little mechanical experience. For instance, I've struggled to figure out how to access the starter, much less how to check its connections and ground.
From your posting, I gather that the headlight, radio, and starter problems are discrete issues. After my experiences over the last few days with the van, I thought that all the devices were the result of a common electrical issue, given how they all occurred at the same time. Of course, I couldn't think of an electrical connection that was common to them but not to any of the other electrical devices that continue to work. I suppose I just wanted it to be an easy fix.
Again, thank you. I'll press on until I get it fixed.
 

·
Registered
2009 GCV SE
Joined
·
416 Posts
Michalbm, thank you for your thoughtful posting. It will probably take me some time to figure out how to do the things you recommend, as I have very little mechanical experience. For instance, I've struggled to figure out how to access the starter, much less how to check its connections and ground.
From your posting, I gather that the headlight, radio, and starter problems are discrete issues. After my experiences over the last few days with the van, I thought that all the devices were the result of a common electrical issue, given how they all occurred at the same time. Of course, I couldn't think of an electrical connection that was common to them but not to any of the other electrical devices that continue to work. I suppose I just wanted it to be an easy fix.
Again, thank you. I'll press on until I get it fixed.
Well, following wires shouldn't be too hard, also panel removal isn't hard either, search YouTube for a step by step guide, it's quite easy!

Do you have a multi meter? I was assuming you had one and knew how to use one, otherwise not much way to really check for a connection and such.

Other then the battery leads, I don't think these issues are related to one root cause for all of them. I think each one has their own cause and fix, because each one is a different system within the vehicle. The starter is the ignition system, the radio is the sound/accessory system, and the headlights are the exterior lighting system. Each one is independent of each other, but they all need a power source, and all need a ground in order to function at all.

Well, if you're up for some learning and have the time and energy, this is a great opportunity to try and learn something new. And when you're stuck or don't know something, you can google it!

If you're not up for this then it'll be best to take it to a shop and have them look at it and to do the testing for you, it's always easier for someone else to fix what is broken instead of you doing it yourself!!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
I do have a multimeter, and am learning how to use it. I plan on fixing this problem myself. I've also ordered a few more tools to help check some of the connections--among them a Venom battery pack (11.1v), which was featured on a YouTube video I watched. Another video I watched showed a guy replacing his starter (same van) from above; he did not use his jack to raise the front end. I don't know how he did it, however, as there is very little clearance in the front of my van. If it can't be done from above, then I have to move my van a couple hundred feet to a solid surface, as it is parked on the back lawn.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Not a very active thread, I'm afraid.

I thought I would add something to the thread--or rather re-state something I wrote earlier--but add pictures. The three images are of the starter relay. As I mentioned in the thread, I inadvertently pulled the cover off of the relay when I attempted to pull the relay out of the fuse box. When I attempted to put the cover back on, the starter turned, and kept turning, until I pulled the cover away. This happened with the ignition off. Then, with my wife turning the ignition key, I touched the relay again, which turned the starter--but the engine did not fire. I tried this a few times, using a new battery as my source and also via jumper cables with a running car.

The point of contact where I touched the relay is the plate with a single wire running to it. This is best seen on the image with the uncovered relay inserted in the fuse box. Does this suggest that the starter is (or could be) ok?

Other issue: I want to try Michalb's procedure for checking the system, but I have to reckon with where the van is located, in terms of jacking up the front end. The van is on grass, quite a distance from a hard surface. I want to do the job safely.

I've been a member of this forum since I bought the van in 2012. I still, however, consider myself a newbie with car mechanics. If something seems obvious to you--not worth mentioning--please mention it anyway. I can use all the advice I can get.
 

Attachments

·
5000 Club
Joined
·
5,719 Posts
Easier way to test the starter and avoid pulling it is to jump power at the relay. You don't even need your keys. Remove the starter relay and using a small piece of wire connect contacts 30 and 87 on the now empty socket on the panel. Contact numbers are embossed on the bottom of the relay. Find the corresponding contacts on the relay then correlate them to the relay socket. If you can consistently get the starter to spin move on to something else. No your engine won't continue to run. BTW - at this point it's irrelevant but you don't have a CAN data bus on your van. You have a CCD data bus. There are differences.

Another short cut? Many electrical headaches are caused by corroded contacts on the connections on the bottom of the PDC (underhood fusebox). It can get to the point of severing wires. Have a look. The problem may just slap you in the face.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
RIP, thanks for your posting. Did I achieve the same thing by touching the contacts in the method I described above? Each time I touched the relay with the edge of the relay cover, the starter spun without interruption, whether using the van battery or jump as a source; it also spun with the key on or off.
Again, I ask these questions because I don't know much about auto mechanics, especially the electrical side.
I only just remembered this. About 6 weeks ago, I replaced the cooling fan relay because the fans were not spinning. After doing that, the fans spun and the ac blew cold again. It's the only change in the electrical system in the last few years, other than the battery, which I purchased after this problem presented itself. Could a shorted cooling fan relay cause a problem in the overall electrical system?
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top