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Ask Dodgerench Your Own Question
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Chrysler
Satisfied Customers: 3385
Experience:  30+ years Dodge/ Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
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1998 Chrysler Town & Country LX: v6..Security System..intermittent

Resolved Question:

1998 Chrysler Town & Country LX V6 3.8L - The Security System is arming after entrance to vehicle by key or remote. It will not permit the car to start. This has been intermittent and in for service but would not reenact the problem. If car wass left alone for an hour or two it will start, apparently the security system would clear. Now after driving the car first time in two weeks the security system will not disarm inturn the car will not start. Is there any way to bypass this system?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Chrysler
Expert:  Dodgerench replied 4 years ago.
Hi, my name is Ed. Welcome to Just Answer!.

Does the engine start and die within about 2-3 seconds when this happens? Does it lose starter operation eventually?

If so, you're probably suffering from the effects of a bad solder connection in the instrument cluster's printed circuit board. This problem can sometimes be bypassed momentarily by slapping the dash above the instrument cluster when it acts up since this is effectively a loose connection.

A second test would be to break out the digital voltmeter (set to 20v DC) and check voltage at two terminals of the data link connector, which is the odd trapezoid-shaped open-ended connector below the driver's side dash. The 3rd-from-the-left pin in each row of terminals are connected to the vehicle's communication bus network, which should read close to 2.5v when active and healthy.

When it's NOT... like during a loss-of-ground event at the cluster... it gets pushed to over 7 volts, effectively crashing the bus. Without communication between the theft and engine systems, the anti-theft system comes crashing down by default, killing the engine.

Watch the bus voltage while slapping the dash to detect any small changes even if it doesn't clear up outright. If effective, I can describe a repair that you can do at home if you're OK with a little disassembly and solder work.

Talk shortly,
Dodgerench and other Chrysler Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.


First I want to thank you, I'd have replied earlier but my internet modem just went south also, 2012 is kinda getting off on the wrong foot but . . . to answer your questions: 1) Does the engine start and die within about 2-3 seconds when this happens? Yes 2) Does it lose starter operation eventually? Yes, after three attempts at starting and shutdown. To further add to the symptoms, you mentioned the instrument cluster; the instrument cluster has dropped out four times; 1st ABS light comes on, 2nd the Alarm Set light, then all gauges go zero and speedpmeter & tach go to max speed then all drops to zero. These will return after about 10 - 15 minutes or cycle the power. The engine, transmission, brakes, etc. all function as usual but no instrumentation. This is beginning to sound like the instrumentation cluster like you mentioned. I started the car today with no problem after receiving your email, it started and ran fine. I cycled the start up, shutdown and locking of the doors w/ remote to arm the Alarm System several times. Every thing worked fine, could not get it to act up. One thing when you attempt to unlock with the key (not the remote) the security systems locks the doors immediately. This also causes the start up scenario. I will perform the pin out power check procedure as you outlined the next time it fails and add "slapping the top of the dash" to the things to do if it fails list. If this (poor solder joint) in fact is the problem how can I get this detailed repair from you?


Expert:  Dodgerench replied 4 years ago.
Hi Barney!

Hearing that the instrument cluster drops out at times while driving along is another good indication that the bus network is going down. While there could be another reason for it, I'd place the odds at 95% or better that fixing or replacing the cluster board will take care of your problems... except for the odd key re-lock issue. It sounds like you have a bad disarm switch.

We place a switch directly on the lock cylinder in each of the two front doors that's used for disarm/ arming of the alarm system and for Central Locking. Worn switches get a little over sensitive to relocking, which is why the doors relock as you return the key to the neutral position. The opposite side door probably works OK by comparison.

I'll get to work on sending you the cluster repair "tutorial" and it should arrive within the next hour or so. Be sure to write back if you have any questions or problems.

Many thanks!
Expert:  Dodgerench replied 4 years ago.

What you'll need to do the job would be a #2 Phillips screwdriver (I like a shortie and a long, around 18") and then possibly a #20 Torx bit for the screws on the back side of the unit. Most use Phillips fasteners but some were built with the Torx screws, so be prepared for that possibility. A headlamp or good droplight helps, too, unless you're working outside in bright daylight.


And then there's the soldering iron. It just needs to be something with a pencil tip type of end for working on the board, so the options are pretty varied. You can get a soldering "gun" with trigger controls and a pencil tip or just get an always-on soldering "iron" that's used for electronic repairs. A typical electronics soldering iron like that is a lot lighter and handier... as well as smaller which helps when working with delicate repairs like this.

I prefer a medium melting rosin-core solder and the smaller the wire size the better so you don't feed too much metal into the joint at a time. Connecting terminal joints with a solder blob is the only reason to this point for lack of success that I've seen on this procedure.


Begin by removing lower knee blocker which involves taking two lower screws out at the bottom of the unit and two at the park brake release handle area. The upper portion of the blocker panel is held in place by clips, so just pull outward. Your brake release cable will come out with the blocker, so be careful to avoid too much monkey motion because it can become detached at the park brake assembly deeper inside the dash (not good). Leave it hanging or remove the cable at the handle itself.


Now exposed, remove the single screw at the base of the left side vent assembly and pop the vent out, which will expose still more screws. Take 'em out, along with the screws you can now see since the knee blocker came off along the lower portion of the upper dash.


The trim that lives just below the instrument cluster (and above the column) will be freed as those two screws are removed, but clips remain holding it in place. Pull up and toward you and this panel will pop right out. There might be a switch attached to the left side of the panel if you have traction control and it will have a short pigtail/ connector lead that has to be disconnected (use a screwdriver to release the keeper tab and pull).


At this point you should see a screw or two at the lower portions of the dash, so take out anything that's left. Then pull the upper panel toward you... as there are a number of clips that just need to be shown who's boss. There are no screws from the lower portion of the panel other than the ones you've removed, so it's all trust and pull at this point. Some adhesive or spilled Coke might be sticking the upper portion of the cluster trim to the dash.


As a rule of thumb, if there are no screws showing, your part attachment to the dash is from just clips so go ahead and pull. If your van happens to be equipped with Traction Control, a 2-wire connector (for the switch) on the piece of trim above the column will need to be released.


Now released, you have the option of just tilting the cluster "bezel" up to the left for access to the cluster or removing the electrical connectors at the headlamp switch side.


Four Phillips screws remain to be removed to get the cluster out. Once loose, pull it toward you and rotate the top out a bit to get a hand in behind the unit to release the connector. It's done by lifting a tab on the connector and then (pretty much) pulling the whole cluster toward you. It's tight back there, but you can pull a little bit on the harness to get some extra pigtail length from the connector harness without damage. Be careful though... sometimes the message center pigtail above the cluster is wrapped around the cluster wiring. It's not tolerant of too much abuse and will rip the connector right off of the message center printed circuit board (experience talking here =/ ).


Now removed, set the cluster on the work bench face down on some cloth and start taking screws out until the cardboard cover on the back is removed and then the board is loose. This is the view you'll have, courtesy of one of my JA customers, Dean.


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Lift the board carefully to avoid bending it as best you can. Once the screws are removed it's held in place only by friction on the gauge pins, so work it off slowly and evenly.

Now off, rotate the unit toward you with the umbilical for the electronic PRNDL display still attached. It can be disconnected or just left in place like the picture shows. The only downside of disconnecting it is that you have to remember to reconnect it when going back together.

Solder up the joints as Dean so aptly demonstrated, then begin the reassembly process. These pins are the ones directly opposite the red connector you had to struggle with earlier. As the only stressed portion of the board, it figures that these solder joints would be the ones to suffer. If you have magnification, you might be able to spot a dull ring around the pins in the centers of these joints... the actual cracking that brought you here. Be very careful to avoid creating a solder blob that would connect two pins... using a sharp soldering tip and small gauge solder wire sure helps.

Once the cluster is back together, hold the cluster up and inspect the needles of your gauges for resting on the left side of the faces, as they may have wandered a bit during the operation. If they go back in the van with their needles facing toward the right side of the gauges, key-on will rotate 'em to the wrong way and you'll wind up with a tach or speedometer needle on the bottom side of the stops. Rotating the cluster in the air while watching the needles will get you where they need to go.

Reassembly is just reverse of the disassembly at this point, with no real surprises. Oddly, it seems easier to reconnect the cluster than disconnect it, so going back together goes pretty smoothly and I don't expect any major differences for right-hand-drive.

One more thing; simply disconnecting the cluster will restore CCD bus operation if it's the cause of your troubles, so you could check to see if your starter returns before doing any work on the cluster. Since there is always the possibility of some sort of failure in the board other than what I described, knowing whether a disconnected board behaves differently than connected may be good information.


Carry on!


Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Got it thanks! We'll see what the near future brings with this money pit.





Expert:  Dodgerench replied 4 years ago.
LOL! Good luck, Barney!