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1996 dodge dakota, engine stumbles and bucks during driving,

for the most part idles...
1996 dodge dakota, engine stumbles and bucks during driving, for the most part idles ok. check engine light is on but cant get a code from it. I have replaced plugs, wires, cap and rotor, and air filter is good and added fuel ingector cleaner.
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Answered in 8 minutes by:
7/13/2010
Dodgerench
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 3,423
Experience: 30+ years Dodge/Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
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Hi and welcome to Just Answer!.

Seeing the CHECK ENGINE lamp illuminated while driving almost certainly means you have a code waiting in PCM memory. If you had tried using a scanner, there might be a problem with your data link connector or the communication bus preventing that from happening. Let's try the old Chrysler "flash method", which isn't ideal for use in the newer models, but still works well enough to get an idea of what's going on. This is how it works...

Roll the key from off to on three times, leaving the key ON.

Watch the CHECK ENGINE lamp as it does a longer than normal bulb check (close to 5 seconds) and then goes dark.

When the CE light comes back, it will be flashing, so be ready to keep count.

The pauses between flashes tell you what to do, much like Morse Code. Short pauses mean you should continue counting... this digit isn't done yet.

Longer pauses mean the digit is completed and you're moving on to the next one.

All trouble codes are composed of two digits, like 12 or 55, so you will always have an even number of digits once the flash code process is over.

Repeating the process 2-3 times is highly recommended if you're not a flash code veteran... codes such as 12 often become... "3" if the pauses aren't recognized.

Since you at least have a working CE light, we have a good chance of getting at least something this way.

Talk shortly,

Ed

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Ok, I did manage to pull a code off the CE (thanks) Is it possible to have several codes?

Here is what I was able to determine

1 flash pause, 2 flash pause, 1 flash pause, 1flash pause, 2 flash pause, 3 flash pause, 5 flash pause, 4 flash pause, then ending code 55

Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Should I reset the CE light, drive it around till it happens and then try to get the code?
More than one? Most certainly.
It looks like you pulled up codes 12, 11, 23, 54 and 55... Yowza!

12 and 55 are pretty much normal, indicating a recent loss of memory to the PCM (12) which could be caused by something as simple as a battery disconnect within the last month or so. And 55 you already know.

In between are codes 11 and 54, which are very significant.
Code 11 indicates a problem with the crankshaft position sensor, where 54 identifies one with the camshaft sensor. These are the two sensors used by the PCM to determine engine rotation and timing functions.

Both codes could easily be related, as the two sensors share a common power source, so one bad sensor could be taking both down. My experience with the 96 2.5 engine has shown a much higher percentage of problems with the crank sensor, sometimes shorting the electrical feed bad enough to shut the PCM off altogether... which might account for your code 12.

Code 23 is an engine coolant temperature sensor code (voltage too high or too low). This one would need more investigation unless the ECT was unplugged during a time when the key was on for diagnostic purposes or something.

I'd run with a new crank sensor to start with simply because I've had so much trouble with them... and so little with the cam sensor. You'll find the crank sensor located in the transmission bellhousing at about the 1:00 position if you were to stand at the front of the truck looking back. Examine it for chafing of wiring at the pigtail or harness, even doing a little wiggle testing on the wire with the engine running to watch for a reaction.

Cam sensor lives in the distributor on this engine, so give it the same treatment (just because). ECT is typically very near the thermostat housing on most engines, but memory fails me on the exact position for this application. Look for a brass colored sensor that's threaded into the engine block near that location, using two wires (black/ light blue and tan/ black). We can sort this code out later if it proves to be an actual problem.

It looks like you've gotten all the codes we need already (good job!), so go ahead and do a battery disconnect to clear them. Replace the crank sensor and then see what comes back (if anything). If at all possible, try to get the factory replacement for your crank sensor because I see problems every day here on JA with aftermarket stuff. It complicates things when you have to wonder if the new sensor is the cause or the problem just hasn't been fixed yet so... run with the good stuff if at all possible.

Talk in a bit,
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I replaced the crankshaft position sensor a couple of months ago, parts from Autozone, but it dosnt act like it did when that was the problem. I would describe it as im driving along (happens in all gears) and all of a sudden the engine causes the whole car to buck like it cut off fuel or air, but I can still accelerate (say, when Im on the highway)
These types of problems can feel pretty different, depending upon just what's happening.

If the crank sensor is generating random signals, an early spark might be produced that actually tries to drive a piston backward occasionally, producing something much worse than a misfire. More like a buck... the engine almost stops for a moment.

Or it could be causing complete momentary failure of the PCM (remember the code 12). Shorting to ground of the 5v power feed to the cam or crank sensor will shut the PCM down instantly, but it will wake up as soon as the short is gone. Intermittent trouble like this can be hard to find, but I've sure had it in spades with this crank sensor.

Is your new cranks sensor a factory unit?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
No, I bought it from a local autopart store a few months back...
That's what I was afraid of, but you should have a warranty on it. Could you take it back for exchange?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I should buy a new CPS from the dealership?
Shoot... since you have warranty, run with that for now. I'm sure the new one will be at least good enough to settle the crank sensor issue. It's not something that's so important that I'd pass up a free replacement!
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Do you think it has any thing to do with the distributor, it was removed then reinstalled around the same time I replaced the cps..
I'm a little fuzzy on these units. Is the distributor adjustable? By that I mean can the distributor be rotated several degrees either way?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I dont know I will have to check, Im off to get a new CPS and to install it. I will let you know how it goes after its in.
That sounds good. If you didn't have an immediate problem after putting the distributor back in, I doubt the problem you're seeing now is with cam-crank sync... even if it could happen. If it ran fine from that moment for some time, we should be good in that department.

See ya in a bit!
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

ok, so i cleared the CE light, i drove it (i had a doctors appt.), same problem, CE light comes on and gives me code:

1 flash pause, 2flash pause, 1 flash pause, 1 flash pause, 55 end code. What do you think.

Have not yet replaced the CPS (I was thinking that I havent cleared the battery or memory since it happened, and didnt know how long a code would be stored)

Well, you lost the cam sensor code, but crank returned immediately. That's a confidence booster for sure! Replace it the first chance you get.

Codes are stored up to 255 consecutive restarts if they don't occur again. Each time they do, the restart counter begins all over again.

Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ok, I will replace it and let you know, it will probably be tommorow
Sounds good!
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I drove it this morning, and nothing really has changed. the check engine light has gone off, and even with it doing the same thing the check engine light dosnt come on (yet) During the stumble on acceleration, if I take my foot off the gas the problem goes away. Also i seems like the problem is worse on a cold engine after 30-40mins it reduces in severity? Maybe a mechanical problem like a fuel filter?
It's possible that you have some fuel issues mixed in. They tend to become more pronounced as you add load to the engine, so it can't be ruled out.

But lack of fuel isn't usually something that will cause sharp "cutting out" type sensations. Lack of fuel will usually give a more rounded feel to the symptom, not at all like a "light switch" type of sensation.

It could be something with the secondary ignition system... something as simple as a bad plug wire. Even if they check OK for internal resistance, you might have a plug wire boot at the spark plug that's pierced and allowing spark to jump to ground.

But I wouldn't try to over-think things too much before you get a new crank sensor in there. It's futile to go any deeper without having the basic signals needed for engine operation present and accounted for. I'm gonna look for information concerning the possibility of a distributor index procedure for your 2.5 engine since I've never run into the possibility before. I haven't seen a whole lot of these units over the years but that's probably because I live in Denver at 6000 feet altitude. People tend to buy vehicles with bigger engines out here to compensate for the 25% loss of engine output that we're saddled with.

See ya in a bit.
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ok thanks, ***** ***** forget to mention that I put in the CPS last night, and reset the code.
OH! That's why you haven't seen the code return!

I found the information mentioned earlier. As long as the distributor hold-down base (fork) still had a notch in place that prevented the distributor from being turned, you should be OK on that part. I doubt that the engine would even run if it was as little as a single tooth off.

Let's pull the spark plugs again to check insulator color and gap. I'd like to know if you have an odd coloring to the firing tips and if it's consistent across the whole engine.

Also, let me know if the problem improves if you go to wide-open throttle. WOT takes you outside the realm of what the oxygen sensor can affect, making it a good diagnostic tool.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
When its stumbling during acceleration sometimes I push the pedal to the floor it will stumble but try to accelerate, so sometimes it helps, at higher speeds sometimes it will just hickup. is this what you mean by WOT. when I put in new plugs the old ones had a white crust (high Temp?), they where pretty old..
Yup... wide open throttle.
White crust can be engine oil ash or possibly even coolant buildup over time. Let's see what these have to say.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ok, so I am making a command decision that the problem is definately worse before the engine has warmed up to driving speed, and only hicups a little after that. So ive put in new plugs, rotor, dist. cap, wires, air filter is ok, fuel injector cleaner, a new CPS... what componet would affect performance only when the car was cold?
Tough call! Most electronic parts tend to act up more once heated with the exception of your upstream oxygen sensor. While problems with the UP02 should be picked up and diagnosed by your OBDII system, that's seldom the case with the JTEC engine controller used during this time period. A slow-to-heat 02 sensor can cause some pretty horrible driveability in the first couple miles of operation until it finally reaches the +600 degree operating temperature it needs.

What causes this is the 5.0v diagnostic bias voltage that the PCM places on the 02 sensor signal circuit for self-diagnostics. As the sensor heats, it basically consumes this voltage with its much stronger output signal. But a bad sensor will let that bias voltage stick around too long, sometimes being mistaken by the PCM as an actual output... and a rich one at that.

A high voltage on this circuit will prompt the PCM to begin taking fuel back to trim air-fuel mixture back to its optimum ratio. Since the signal may be erroneous, that magic moment never happens and the engine gets almost starved to death for fuel.

Does that sound right?

Wide open throttle SHOULD bypass this effect, putting the fuel system in open-loop mode (disregarding 02 signal). If a quick punch to the floor improves things dramatically... only to see it return on lift-throttle... it appears an upstream 02 sensor is your current problem. I'm confident we're done with the CPS issues.

Sorry about the italics by the way... my keyboard spazzed out and I can't turn it off.
Let me know what you think.

Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ok, some of that was over my head, but I gather I need to check my o2 sensor? When I go WOT it does accelerate but with the same stumble.. the idle air control motor, it would be picked up by the CE light, and only works when in idle right? NO problem about the italics, i just appreciate you working with me for this long....
LOL! My wireless keyboard does some kinky stuff sometimes!

Yep, it might be something to do with your upstream 02 sensor. There are two on your truck, one before (upstream) and the other after (downstream of) the cat. Upstream is the only one that has its fingers into active mixture control and is a very important input.

You would usually feel a general loss of power (engine goes soft) at first and as things progress you might get misfire or even backfire through the intake on quick throttle openings. Does that sound about right?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ive never had any back fire, but the missfire could describe some of my problems, and the truck has never had lots of power... i replace the up stream about 2 years ago, but ive never replaced the down stream O2 sensor...
The downstream sensor's job is mostly catalyst efficiency testing, although it can influence a small air-fuel mixture shift to prolong catalyst life. But it's small and really wouldn't apply here.

Just because it sorta fits it doesn't mean your UP02 is actually bad tho. I was looking for a good theoretical fit for your symptoms, but if what you feel is actually sharper in nature than the normal effects of running too lean, we'll just keep looking.

What do you think? Does it feel electrical in nature (sharp, like on-off) or a bit more "rounded" like incorrect mixture?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I guess it feels kind of sharp, maybe a sputtering, very sharp, fast, hesitations, like its not getting air or gas, maybe water in the gas? But it dosnt feel like on/off switch...you can make the drive to NC to test drive it right, nice and muggy here!!!
Hmmmmmmm.... Have you looked at your ignition coil? We have a fair amount of trouble with these units, either bad connections at the primary connector or bad coils themselves.

Try wiggling the 2-wire connector at the base of the unit with the engine idling. Do it lightly at first, trying to simulate what sort of engine vibration might be present under actual driving conditions.

Then check coil output.

Pull any of the plug wires, stick a paper clip or something into the open boot (between boot and terminal) and then start the engine. It should be safe to lift the plug wire a few inches back of the boot so you can position it near a good ground source. It should be capable of making close to 3/4" of spark at its maximum length. Less than that makes me wonder.

Thanks for the invite! There was another 96 2.5 liter Dakota I'd like to have seen in person. It lived in Florida and their complaint was that it wouldn't do more than 80 mph. I worked and worked with this guy for like a month and we finally just gave up.

WILL they do better than 80 at sea level? =/
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
HA! I really dont think so the highest I ever got mine up to was 85mph, but that was down hill. thanks I will check the coil tommorow...
Dang. OK, see ya later!
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Well, i couldnt even make it out of the neighborhood, every time i gave it gas it would just studder and try and stall. when I finally gave it gas it just wouldnt go...so what ever the problem is just got much worse. It will idle fine...any clues?
This is a perfect time to check spark length! Ignition requirements go up with load (as do fuel delivery), so finding out what you have on tap for spark right now would be great information. See what you can find!

3/4" would be great at the plugs.... 1/2" is barely adequate and might well be your misfire problem.

Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Well I ended up pulling the coil and got 0 ohms at the electrical plug in, when I ran one lead from the distributor plug in to the electrical plug in got 10 ohms....does this help?

Neither one sounds good. You should have between 0.6 and 1.0 ohm between the electrical primary terminals and close to 11,000 ohms from either one of those terminals to the output stud that connects to the distributor. If that's right, you have an internally shorted coil.. one that could pop your PCM. Don't drive it if what you sent was a typo. Get a coil pronto!

Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Ed, that was the case and I did install a new coil. I drove it (it actually ran!) and it didnt seem to do as it did before. I am holding off untill morning (it was always worse in the morning) to say if it is finally fixed. But i am hopeful. If that dosnt do it, I guess I will take it to a shop. thanks for all your help, I learned quite a bit, and that all I can ask for in life. Good luck
That's great news! By all means let me know tomorrow how it goes either way and....let me know if it ever breaks 85.

I gotta know!

Many thanks!
Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Hey! Hope your doing well. So its happening again. Ive doubled checked all electrial connections to make sure that they are snug and Ive pulled this code:

1flash, pause 2flash pause 5flash pause 4flash pause 2flash pause, then end code? What does this mean? thanks

It looks like you missed an actual pause there...

You got code 12, what appears to be 54 and then a 2?
Code 12 you're familiar with (loss of memory or PCM memory recently cleared).
Code 54 tells us that the PCM has seen problems with the camshaft position sensor signal or electrical circuit. A more specific code might be obtained with a scan.

And code 2 could be the dreaded code 11 again. All codes are binary, so you should never end up with an orphaned digit like that which is why I suspect a code 11.

Since both sensors share a common ground and power feed from the PCM, one sensor could cause problems with both. See what you can do about cruizing past an Autozone for a free code scan and write 'em down for me.

Ed
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
OK thanks
If their scanner discloses the restart count when each code was set, be sure to get that as well. It's really handy to know if codes are set at the same time or happen separately.

If a Freeze Frame is available... snag that too!
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Automotive Consultant
Vocational, Technical or Trade Scho
19,264 satisfied customers
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Disclaimer: Information in questions, answers, and other posts on this site ("Posts") comes from individual users, not JustAnswer; JustAnswer is not responsible for Posts. Posts are for general information, are not intended to substitute for informed professional advice (medical, legal, veterinary, financial, etc.), or to establish a professional-client relationship. The site and services are provided "as is" with no warranty or representations by JustAnswer regarding the qualifications of Experts. To see what credentials have been verified by a third-party service, please click on the "Verified" symbol in some Experts' profiles. JustAnswer is not intended or designed for EMERGENCY questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals.

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