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Amedee, Dodge Technician
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 26645
Experience:  ASE certified tech advanced level specialist. Wisconsin certified emissions state inspector
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Dodge Caravan: 1997 Caravan. 3.8 L engine. ABS light and charge

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1997 Caravan. 3.8 L engine. ABS light and charge light came on – and odometer light started to flicker.
Charging system test is good battery test is good.
The van will stall everything will shut down and reset within one second and I can be restarted.
Now when you turn the ignition switch on all it does is ding with no dash lights. No click no starter or anything.
Hello and welcome!

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I can assist you with your question.

Do the gauges stop working when this happens?

Are there any codes in the computer?

Have you checked for power down to the starter motor when this no crank condition happens after it stalls out?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Gauges jump and drop. It ask like it's connecting and disconnecting. It truthfully acts like it's not getting enough power. Like when your battery is superlow and the computer starts to do strange things and throw on strange lights.
I'll throw the scanner on it now and check for power at the starter.

Thanks for the extra detail. If the battery and charging system all check out good, then it sounds to me like you have a bad module on board the vehicle. The most common one to cause this condition would be a bad instrument cluster. This is very common on this vehicle.

The PCM, BCM or any other module on board the vehicle can cause this sort of condition you are describing. However, based on my experience, the cluster is usually the root cause here. You can try running a self test on the cluster to see if it is responding like it should. However, this will only work if the problem acts up long enough to run this test.

Here is the test.

Run the self-test on the instrument cluster by beginning with the key in the "off" position. Hold the "Step and "Reset" buttons down while turning the key to the "on" position. Continue holding the buttons down until the word "CODE" appears in the odometer window. Release the button and the instrument cluster should perform a self-test and all the lights should turn on and off, the gauges should sweep. If the cluster does not perform this test, the cluster is bad and will need to be replaced.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Can't run the test because it has no power. No dash now. No lights or gauges. No click, no start. Leaning toward ignition switch or connection. I'll keep pounding away at it. Thanks anyway.
Sounds good!

If you need to, check the battery voltage, voltage at the fuses under the hood and inside the vehicle with the key on. This will help narrow down where you are losing voltage. If needed, you can even remove the cluster and check for power going into the cluster at the connector with the key on.

Let me know what you find!


Its Amedee from just answer. I am just checking in to see if you still need help. Please let me know.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
So I did some checking and followed my voltage drop back to the battery and it turns out the terminal on the battery had a loose connection inside. Tested fine because when there was pressure on the terminal it made a connection and intermittently the rest of the time. Only reason I clued into the issue was I left the key in while trying to figure out the no dash lights issue and the neg terminal got supper hot. Presumably form arcing inside.
The question I have is, if the original problem happened because the battery was disconnecting from the circuit for periods of time, was the low charge and abs light caused by too much draw on the system without the battery to help? The two times the van stalled it was at idle. The a/c was on and well as the radio, so the draw was high.
The charging system tested good both at idle and under load.
Is there an issue that the load test isn't picking up?


This is a very good possibility. Electrical issues can be hard to pinpoint and it can be something as simple as a bad connection just like you are describing. So yes, it may be possible that the it may not be detecting an issue under a load while being tested.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
If you had this van come in to the shop, would you give it the wait and see and risk the come back, or put in a new alternator now?
Very good question.

I would run all of the necessary tests on it first. If no problems are found at that time, I would explain to the customer that we could put an alternator on but because it was not acting up, I would not be able to guarantee the diagnoses. If they rather not go that route, then the only other alternative would be for the customer to leave the vehicle at the shop for as long as needed until we are able to diagnose/pin point the root cause.
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