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1997 chrysler: van 3.8l periodically starts but wont stay running…

1997 chrysler town and country...
1997 chrysler town and country van 3.8l periodically starts but won't stay running
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Answered in 17 minutes by:
6/29/2010
Dodgerench
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Chrysler
Satisfied Customers: 3,423
Experience: 30+ years Dodge/ Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
Verified
Hi and welcome to Just Answer!.

I have a feeling you're right... a recurrent problem with the vehicle communication bus system (CCD) can interrupt the OK-to-start signal sent from your theft system to the engine controller (PCM). When that happens, you have immediate engine start... then stall when injector pulse is negated by the PCM. After 3-5 tries, the starter is even removed so the key does nothing.

Sound familiar?

If the rest of the vehicle electronics were to be scanned... one by one... the key is that you'll find communication errors with every system but the instrument cluster, which is where the problem originates most of the time. When healthy and "awake" vehicle systems are deprived of communication, they set codes... while napping (inoperative) systems do not.

While other problems can crop up to interrupt the CCD bus, the most common one on a 20-1 basis (or more) is with the instrument cluster printed circuit board. More than a simple PC board, it's a processor in its own rite.

It lives on the back side of your instrument cluster assembly and supports gauge operation, telltale bulb illumination and also the all-important CCD bus, providing bias voltage and grounding termination. When this unit goes bad, it floods the CCD bus with voltage, effectively halting communication throughout the vehicle.

One of the easier tests (but not always effective) is the firm open-palm slap to the dash test, delivered directly above the cluster when it's acting up. It used to be pretty effective, but as time wore on... not so much. If this maneuver immediately restores cluster operation and allows the van to start and run, it's a positive diagnosis, however.

The repair is really pretty simple. Either dig out $500 for a new board... have the dealer install and calibrate it (another $200) or I can show you what needs to be soldered. It's a pretty easy fix if you don't mind pulling the cluster out and requires only a pencil-tip soldering iron/ gun and some instructions which I'll be glad to pass along if you're the adventurous type!

Let me know and I'll shoot the info on over, along with some disassembly instructions in case you don't do this every day.

Thanks,
Ed
Dodgerench
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Chrysler
Satisfied Customers: 3,423
Experience: 30+ years Dodge/ Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
Verified
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Outstanding!

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 a Phillips 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 (like my SnapOn unit) or just get an always-on soldering "iron" that's used for electronic repairs. That's probably handier, but takes a little while to heat up. No biggie.

I prefer a medium melting resin-core solder and the smaller the wire size the better so you can't feed too much metal into the mix at a time.

Begin by removing lower knee blocker, requiring 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 rearward and this panel will come out. There might be a switch attached to the left side of the unit if you have traction control, so disconnect it down deeper into the dash (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 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 attachment is from just clips so go ahead and pull.

Now released, you have the option of just tilting the column 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 taken out to get the cluster loose. 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 bit to get some extra pigtail length from the connector harness without damage to anything.

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.

graphic

Lift the board carefully to avoid bending it as much as possible. It's held in place once the screws are removed 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 PRNDL 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.

Once the cluster is back together, inspect the needles of your gauges for resting on the left side of the faces, as they may have wandered a bit. If they go back in the van with their needles facing toward the right side of the gagues, key-on will rotate 'em to the wrong way and you'll wind up with a 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 is usually easier.

Many thanks and let me know if you have any problems. I'm in jury duty tomorrow, but will be online tomorrow evening no matter what.

Good luck!
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Okay, here goes...I'm gonna get at it on the weekend...
-ron
You'll do fine, Ron. Honestly, just take your time and you'll be outa there within 90 minutes easy. Just holler if you get stuck!

Ed
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Dodgerench
Dodgerench
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Chrysler
Satisfied Customers: 3,423
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Experience: 30+ years Dodge/ Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist

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