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Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

  #1  
Old 02-08-2007, 05:23 PM
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Default Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

Within the last year, our 2002 T&C Limited started experiencing an intermittent starting problem where it occasionally would notstart (i.e. - starts fine, runs fine, 30 minutes later....won't start, won't turn over, click-click-click....if that). Sometimes it will "click-click-click" other times nothing. Then if I jump it with my other car, the thing turns over and runs fine. It will continue to run fine (start normally and run) for any period of time (one week to as many as four or more weeks) before the problem occurs again. Each time, the car will start up if we jump start it. I have not diagnosed the issue deep as I'm not good with electrical issues. But starting with the basics, I've looked to see if there are any interior lights, switches, etc. that are being left on that might drain the battery and have found no such problem. The Chrysler dealer replaced our battery within the last year so I would believe the battery should be fine.

I know it's a vague start but any suggestions or ideas on what the problem could be so I can work on fixing the problem by starting somewhere within reason as opposed to blindly tackling the problem?

Any help is greatly appreciated. If pics would help, let me know what you need to see?
 
  #2  
Old 02-08-2007, 07:08 PM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

So you're confident that the battery cables and the battery are in good shape, right? When it DOES start, the starter motor doesn't lug down or anything either, correct? And you hear the clicking of the starter solenoid when it won't start? You're CERTAIN that there's good connection at the battery and that the battery itself is not the problem? Have you tried wiggling the terminals on the battery when this happens to see if that solves the problem - this would simulate the inherent "wiggling" that occurs when you attach the jumper cables.

I would probably want to get the battery load tested to make darn sure it was capable of providing the necessarycurrent toactivate the starter solenoid. Otherwise, why is it working when you jump start it? If the battery TRULY checks out OK, and thewiring to the starter checks out OK, I would think the starter solenoid wason its way out. The only thing that bugs me is that I've never heard of being able to "overpower" a starter solenoid - i.e. if it didn't work at NORMAL battery power levels, I've never heard of it then working at above-normal power levels (as when it gets jump-started). That part doesn't make sense.

Chad
 
  #3  
Old 02-08-2007, 08:45 PM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

Thanks for the fast reply Chad. I'm not positive the battery isin good shape and I'm not positive the battery cables are OK (these are assumptions since we had the battery replaced as part of routine maintenance within the past year). Since the van jump starts right away and since it seems to start regularly for a period of time after jump starting, I mentally ruled out anything with the cables and battery thinking maybe there's a device or ground somewhere that drains the battery quickly every once in a while. What's puzzling is that even if it is the battery, cables or a poor ground somewhere, I can't understand why it doesn't happen all the time. But from our response, it sounds like something as simple as the battery?

As for starter sound when it won't start, most times it will have enough juice left to at least click. Somethings though, the battery is so drained, nothing happens (no click, no door lock power, etc.). FYI - The problem occurred again today (prior to me posting on the forum). I don't have a battery load tester so is there a way to do the load test using a decent voltmeter (i.e. - Turn on high beams or something for a while to put a load on the battery, check voltage drop, turn high beams/load off and see what voltage the battery returns to.)?

Thanks again for the assist.

John
 
  #4  
Old 02-08-2007, 11:39 PM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

is it a click clikc when u try and start or fast clicks ........... when u hold the key over???
 
  #5  
Old 02-09-2007, 12:35 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

It clicks when I hold the ignition key over...turn the key, hold it turned, click-click.....etc.
 
  #6  
Old 02-09-2007, 12:39 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

With regards to is theclicking fast? Th times it does click, I would say it's fast (clicks every second or less).
 
  #7  
Old 02-09-2007, 02:17 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

Sounds like it's just a bad starter selenoid
 
  #8  
Old 02-09-2007, 08:40 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

I don't have a battery load tester so is there a way to do the load test using a decent voltmeter
No, there's no effective way to load test the battery while it's in the car to my knowledge. The starter draws more current than any other single device (or even combination of devices)I'm aware of, and that's the item we're trying to test. A lot of automotive places can load test your battery for you. Many do it for free - such as autozone. To my knowledge, a load tester is just a giant power resister in which you ensure voltage doesn't drop off too much under an enormous power draw.

My initial reaction when reading about your problem was also to suspect the starter solenoid, and I'm not ruling that out entirely. Just the fact that it ALWAYS starts when you jump start it makes me question if the solenoid is really bad or not. Provided they're getting enough juice to activate, my experience has been that solenoids either work or they don't (perhaps itermittently). So assuming a good battery, I fail to see how the addition of a second battery would suddenly get the solenoid to work (consistently).

While reading the initial post, I thought that when the engine WOULD start that it showed no signs of a dead battery (i.e. cranked over like there was no tomorrow). From your last response, I get the distinct impression that the starter motor DOES exhibit a "sluggish" cranking when this problem occurs. If that's the case, I would be wanting to test two things:
1) Check the current draw on the battery with the engine and all accesories off - to ensure there's no shorts to ground somewhere that's draining your battery. Hopefully this is not the problem (electrical gremlins are a PITA to track down)
2) Check the alternatorto ensure that it is charging the battery while the engine is running. Otherwise, the scenario could be that you jump start the vehicle, and it drives fine, butis slowly draining the battery to the point where it eventually won't start up again.

If the alternator does test out bad, it would explain why a jump always works, and also why your current battery may be on its way out so soon. If you end up needing to replace the alternator, I would DEFINITELY charge up the battery and have it load tested to make sure it's not going to fail on you any time soon. Others will tell you to just replace the battery in this case, but I'm a big fan of testing items before replacing them whenever possible. Good luck and keep us posted of your progress.
 
  #9  
Old 02-09-2007, 10:49 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

WHne i asked about a fast clikc I mean clicks vary fast as in 10 to 20 clicks in a second when u are starting the van. Or when u start the van do u hear just a click or chunk???
 
  #10  
Old 02-10-2007, 01:29 AM
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Default RE: Electrical Problem, Starts occasionally

Sorry for the delay. Couldn't get back online this morning (server down?). Also, I had to change the driver's side window motor on the van. Anyway, I borrowed a load tester from a friend tonight (haven't tested yet, plan to do so tomorrow). And based upon the help, I'll also check the alternator at the same time.

Here are some more details about the problem that may or may not be relevant (thisoccurred today while I changed the window motor on the driver window). While testingeverythingonce I had the door panel back together, I noticed I didn't have enough juice to get the window back up (BTW - I had onlt spent 2 - 3 hours working on the window motor and the van had started fine when I started. But then again, I did not disconnect the battery while doing the window motor change). When I finished, I tried to turn the car over and as usual it wouldn't start. What's strange is that while Itried to start it, the front and rear wipers started goingand thecontrols forboth were in the off position. I couldn't get them to stop. Once I jump started the van, everything returned tonormal (we're nicknaming the van Christine). As for the clicking I hear from the starter, if I have enough juice to turn it over, I'm getting a couple of clicks or so every second (or less) and when I do jump it,the starter does struggle slightly to get the engine turned over - it basically turns a couple of time slowly then goes quickly intoa normal start the way a starter should sound.

Sounds like I'll be testing the battery in the AM along with the alternator. Thanks again for all the help, I'll keep you posted.

John
 

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