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Ask Dodgerench Your Own Question
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 3404
Experience:  30+ years Dodge/Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
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2001 Dodge Durango: itself off (stalling out)..more frequently

Customer Question

My 2001 Dodge Durango is turning itself off (stalling out) while driving. Sometimes it turns itself off and then back on while driving. The problem seems to occur more frequently when the a/c is running. A diagnostic electrical test was performed on the truck and no abnormalities were found. The dealership says that they have checked everything possible and there is no indication of what the problem is. Are there any additional test that should be considered or mechanical issues that would cause this problem?
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dodge
Expert:  Dodgerench replied 10 years ago.
Customer welcome to JustAnswer!.

Tough question. I doubt I'll be able to identify the problem from this end, considering trained professionals have had direct access to your Durango, but with no luck. If you'd like my take on the situation, well, here it is.

I'm going to assume (correct me if I'm wrong) that the stall happens suddenly, as if the key was turned off. In some cases, off, then back on. Sharp, defined separation of running and not running can be defined as an electrical problem.

Some electrical problems happen on circuits that are monitored by the powertrain control module (PCM). An interruption in their circuits, either by the powered side or the control side of the circuit, can set codes that are retained in PCM memory. These circuits include the ignition coil (or coils, should this be a 4.7), injector controls and autoshutdown relay output and control.

If something happens along these circuits, you WILL see something recorded in PCM memory.

But that's another leg of the story. Memory.

I know you stated you've had a diagnostic electrical test done, but (I hate to say it) these tests are only as good as the tech doing them. A great deal of information is available from the information stored within PCM memory. But there is simply no Magic Wizard of Dodge that forms conclusions on its own electronic merit.

Actually, thank goodness. I've done battles with these AI units in the past and found them to be a poor substitute for actual intelligence. I'll detail the steps I'd take in a case such as yours, just as a reference. Other shops or techs may take different paths (perhaps with better results). You decide.

The first step for the tech is to get good information. If your service adviser grilled you to tears about the circumstances and symptoms of your problem... job well done.

Information is all we have to go on in the world of intermittent events. I hope the adviser was skilled and that you withheld nothing. Even things seemingly inconsequential can be the key. If the repair order contained less than three lines of text, you got shorted.

Once at the tech level, a PCM scan is the first choice. I always copy the PCM electronic part number, as a reference later to find out if there are direct software updates available for this controller.

Next is the check for codes. If any are present, they become copied. There is a counter within the PCM that lets you know how many starts-ago the codes were set. It's useful.

If there are no codes, the restart counter once again becomes useful. It has a maxxed-out number of 255 starts, should nothing have happened at all. If this counter no longer has the maximum number of starts, but rather something much shorter, you can begin to wonder where the start count went...

A battery disconnect will do this. Left your lights on? Bad battery? Needed a jump start recently? These issues (should they exist) need to be addressed. A short restart counter might be telling the tech that the PCM memory was lost because of cruddy battery terminals or... a PCM that was unconscious or failed for a time.

The distinction is enormous. The counter may exactly coincide with a stalling event you had. If the battery was not run down during the restart attempt, memory should have been retained. Once the battery is pooped, however, all bets are off.

Another place to look for secondary information is the antilock system. ABS has an immediate issue with a PCM that does not communicate its vehicle-sensitive signal to it. It will set a VEHICLE MISMATCH code, possibly lighting the ABS lamp on the dash.

Any time the PCM is inactive, but the ABS is awake, this is a possible occurrence. The cause for the PCM's absence is undetermined, but can be narrowed somewhat.

Failed PCM? Certainly a possibility. But there are other possibilities. Power and ground circuits to the PCM need to be intact at all times. If either are lost, the controller takes a nap.

Short to ground of circuits feeding the MAP, TPS, cam and crank sensors and governor pressure sensor (5.9 engine only) will cause immediate stalling and loss of PCM memory. Lately, the 4.7 engine has shown problems with the crankshaft position sensor. When it shorts (internally) it takes the PCM down, but usually stays broken permanently. 4.7 engines have been having problems lately with their cam sensors, too. They, however, tend to be intermittent. No communication or function of the PCM is possible during these events.

Cam sensors have been having intermittent issues lately as well. Their MO is to cause bucking or intermittent stalling. They should leave a code, as long as the 5v feed circuit isn't shorted. That removes PCM memory.

One oddity that might help you is that the 4.7 engine will run without a crank sensor, but will run with only a cam sensor. Crank time is increased, but it will start.

So if you have a prolonged no-start event (and it's a 4.7) you can unplug the crank sensor (accessed through the right side wheel well, at the rear engine block) and see if the engine returns to life. It's a difficult act with a hot engine, so you might want to practice it when it's cooler. The release tab is toward the center of the connector, rather than to the back. It's also inconveniently located to the rear of the engine, making it harder to squeeze.

On the other hand, if your stalls involve prolonged periods of power loss, the evidence might be stored in the fuel adaptive cells. A high adaptive reading indicates the need for additional fuel (or that an 02 sensor had failed, tough call).

Aside from these few things, I can't really help further (at least immediately). If you have more information, let me know. My name is Ed.