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Caravan: a softened metalic clunk..bolts..parked..exhaust..firing…

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My 91 3.3L caravan began...
My 91 3.3L caravan began acting up and gotten worse. seems fine starting it up cold except there is a softened metalic clunk sometimes immediately when the engine starts (mechanic found no loose exterior bolts). After it has been parked and started again(hot) for slow city traffic, it quickly acts up: severe power loss and erratic power and not upping gear and sounds like backfiring and/or exhaust firing (eratic). Makes me think it will just drop dead with unknown parts broken. In park or idle, seems only to need a tuneup(sometimes slow/not smooth). Mech sprayed water on engine running in park but made no difference nor results. then also checked airflow he said it seemed to suck hard/loud, shortly it normalized. Flooring the accelerator(driving)and higher rpm seems to kick out the problem. Perhaps after running at higher speeds for a time suppresses this acting up until parked and restarted hot. I had tranny overfilled 1 pint for whole winter.
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Dodge
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Answered in 10 hours by:
6/27/2010
Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago
sprinkles08
sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 24,212
Experience: ASE Master and Advanced Certified, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep Master Certified, Trans and Hybrid Specialist
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Hello and welcome to JustAnswer!

 

Your symptoms sound like they may be coming from a broken flexplate if they all started at the same time. This is what bolts to the back of the crank and then to the torque converter. The flexplate also incorporates the tone wheel for the crankshaft position sensor.

 

These flexplates are known to break around the circle where it bolts to the crankshaft. It will then turn a little and stick again. This throws off the relationship between the cam and crank sensor causing rough running, and will cause some clunking noise on startup and often when the a/c compressor engages.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Contrary to starting all at the same time, the soft metalic clunk has been happening for a long time before the major driving problems started. (perhaps was a bit rough in park but hard to tell with hole in muffler.) The clunk does not always occur and when it does , it clunks usually once ... rarely twice. A.C. was removed 3 yrs ago. I have not noted any misfiring in park or sitting still in drive (brake applied) although perhaps runs then a bit more rough in gear. Does any of this change your diagnosis? Are there any other discriminating signs I can look for just operating the vehicle?
Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago

I didn't know that the clunk started at a different time because you talked about both problems like they started at the same time. Regardless, a clunk on startup is still a characteristic of a cracked flexplate, and running rough/backfiring is also. The tone wheel shift caused by a cracked flexplate causes cam/crank sensor sync to be incorrect and affects spark timing. It acts up more under a load when there is more stress on the crack and it flexes.

 

You're going to have to start by tracking down the clunk. There really isn't much it can be besides the flexplate if it's clunking as the engine starts. The crank sensor's signal can also be looked at with a labscope while it's acting up. If the signal is erratic that is another sign of a cracked flexplate.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

I don't mean to bore you but ... I relay to you accurate information to expand your INFORMATION of how a vehicle may operate with this problem.

QUESTION :

If mechanic takes it apart to replace flexplate, is there anything else he should look at or look for before closing it up ?

It was difficult for me to suddenly supply a lot of related information all at once without accidentally including that wrong implication: the (premature) clunk.

Last time it seriously acted up, I was out of town and after being parking then driving slow on residential street THEN up a hill it acted up, I kept limping along between(on the up-hill) park(reving) and drive onto the four-lane then able to keep it in drive a couple miles maxing at about 25mph on the level (not even imagining to floor the accelerator), the problem suddenly kicked out with smooth and sure acceleration up to 65 and I drove smoothly for miles on the four-lane even up a long rather steep (not super-steep) hill without the least indication of acting up then into town and to the STOP-light and to mechanic without any act up.

I expect your diagnosis is still the same.

Please don't forget my question at top of this reply. THANX

 

Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago

There isn't anything else that would need to be looked at while it's opened up for the flexplate.

 

Since you have a clunk on startup and a rough running/backfiring problem that happens more under load I would investigate the clunk and labscope the crank sensor signal while it's acting up. It seems likely that these problems are closely related, especially since there is little that will cause a clunk when starting the engine. The way that they could be closely related is the flexplate being cracked.

 

If the noise turns out to not be the flexplate I would still look towards the cam and crank sensors as being the backfiring problem, possibly low fuel pressure/volume. Low fuel pressure shouldn't be intermittent and should cause it to act up more when cold though. Backfiring is either going to be caused by an ignition problem like an erratic crank sensor signal, or by a lean mixture.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

The vehicle only seems to act up when driving/moving. If that continues , is the labscope of the crank sensor signal possible on a moving vehicle? Will the scope quite possibly pickup something in park?

Any ideas what may have caused the loud/sucking air intake in park at slow rpm?

Does that reinforce any former diagnosis?

2 1/2 yrs ago winter, I put fuel injector cleaner in the gas tank. Then drove 200 miles to 1/3 tank and car sat for a week. Then fuel leaks: 2 on fuel rail(recall item / I fixed with epoxy), 1 at fuel regulator (I made a fine cardboard washer to increase clamp seal pressure on gasket) and pressurised fuel hose developed BIG leak by gas tank (dumping all my gas and stranding me in other city).

Would that adversely affect fuel pump? With current problem, while driving the van, would higher gasoline flow (by flooring the accelerator or higher rpm) allow a weakened/sluggish fuel pump to suddenly pop into proper performance? That seems inconsistent as more torque resistance should cause demand for more gasoline where-as it seems to aggravate the act-up. (Once my wipers failed from grounding loss due to corrosion on mounting bolts) Do fuel pumps just simply quit rather than grow sluggish? Could higher voltage from higher rpm suddenly overcome electrical resistance to previously underpowered fuel pump?

 

Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago

Yes, it's possible to watch the crank sensor's signal on a labscope. It can be used at any time.

 

The loud sucking noise could have been from the idle air control motor opening farther to try to keep the engine running when it was running poorly.

 

It doesn't sound like anything that you did would have hurt the fuel pump.

 

Higher RPMs and higher engine load demand more fuel, so it would act up more under higher load if the fuel pressure was low. Low fuel pressure should make the van act up constantly, it shouldn't come and go and act up intermittently. Fuel pumps sometimes fail altogether, but they can also run slowly, or the fuel filter or pump inlet filter could also be plugged and cause low pressure.

 

Low fuel pressure or volume are easy to test for by installing a fuel pressure gauge. This would be the quickest and easiest thing to rule out.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
When I subscribed to this answer service, I wanted the answer to my current car problem . So far, your information gives me great confidence that you are on the mark. However, as your reccomendations have not been performed by my mechanic, I wish to reserve my access to continue THIS inquiry until my mechanic fixes THIS problem. Then, little doubt, I will be completely satisfied. Thank you.
Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago
You can come back and view or reply to this question at any time in the future.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

I do not accept your answer

and I do not wish to be charged

 

if you have charged me

please refund my money

 

 

 

It turns out I did not have a cracked flex plate

 

replaced:

 

plugs

plug wires

oxygen sensor

pending : PCV valve

 

runs fine

 

mechanic informed me

clunk was "broken" engine mount

 

not repaired

not obvious to my inspection

perhaps rubber cushions

are fatigued to be replaced

I don't know

 

thanx, bye

Dodge Mechanic: sprinkles08, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep master tech replied 8 years ago

If you don't click the Accept button you won't pay for the answer. Good luck.

 

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