A series of electrical problems in my Dodge Truck

I have a 1997 dodge 1500. The motor runs fine, but a couple of things have been happening lately that have me concerned. The first thing I am going to do is clean my batery connections and possibly get a new battery. I hate to replace it due to the cost but I’ve had this battery for three to four years and it might be time. I’m also considering getting new connectors for the battery cables.

My first concern is what happened to me coming to work today. I was driving along and a red GEN light came on. I noticed that my battery gauge on the dash was much higher than it usually reads. Normally I would think that if a Gen light would come on then the gauge would show less voltage, but I don’t know. Is this a sign that my alternator is going out?

Next problem. This happens rarely, but I need to get to the bottom of this so I won’t be stranded one day. I put my key in the ignition, turn it and nothing happens. I hear a rapid clicking or just a click from under the hood. I turn off the ignition, try it again and it works. On one of the times I could not get the engine to turn over I disconnected the batery and cleaned the connections. Put them back on and all was well. This was probably about six months ago, and I’ve had this problem happen recently. So I’m wondering if it is my ignition switch. I’ve replaced this in the past around the same time I got the current battery that’s in the truck.

Once or twice my starter would not shut off even when I turned the engine off and took the key out. One of the times it finally shut itself off, another time I had to get under the truck and tap the starter for it to get unstuck, so to speak. Yet this happened only a few times and I haven’t had this problem in about six months to a year. I’m just now remembering this and thought it is worth mentioning.

So any help would be great. Is all I need just a new battery or is there more that should be done?


The high voltage spike is probably a sign of a faulty voltage regulator. It might be built into the alternator, but for a long time on Chrysler cars it was a separate part which cost about $20 and was easy to replace.

The clicking sound when you turn the key is either a low battery or a faulty starter solenoid. On my Toyota and also on my Plymouth Voyager I’ve had trouble with a pair of contacts inside the starter solenoid; they erode as time goes by until they’re so worn that they’ll occasionally fail to pass current, and then the car acts as though it’s got a dead battery. The contacts cost only a few bucks and if you’re reasonably handy you can replace them yourself. I bought mine at an auto-electric shop.

The failure of the starter to shut off sounds like a faulty starter to me.

If it were my car I’d replace the voltage regulator, then pull off the starter and take apart the solenoid, replacing the contacts if they were worn and also generally cleaning it up inside to try to keep it from sticking.

This makes me think it might be the battery cables themselves. If you had heavy corrosion on the batt. post then there could very well be corrosion inside the cables and/or on the ends opposite the batt. That, along w/ a weak batt. could cause the symptoms you describe. A full service batt. retailer should be able to diagnose the problem, or at least confirm/eliminate corrosion as the cause.

As far as corrosion on the battary cables there isn’t much. A little where the bolts are that holds it tight but nothing more. Most likely I’ll go ahead and replace the cables anyway.

Rocketeer. The solenoid you are talking about is normally located next or close to the battery? There is a box next to my battery that has some fuses and what not, this is where the clicking is coming from not the starter itself. Is this what you were refering to? If it is thank you. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have thought of that because I had to replace one on my lawnmower. As far as the voltage regulator where would that be located, on the alternator itself? Most likely I’ll have to replace the whole thing, but if I can avoid it I would like to try.

On most cars, the solenoid is part of the starter.


On the Dodges I’m familiar with, the voltage regulator is a metal box, about 3x4x0.5 inches, located on the firewall on the passenger side. It has a wiring connector with two or three wires going to it.


(However, on modern Chevys and many other cars, the voltage regulator is integrated into the alternator, and you’d have to replace the entire alternator.)

High voltage and “GEN” light most likely means faulty alternator, though the PCM (computer) is a possibility. There is no separate voltage regulator on this vehicle. Voltage regulation is handled by the PCM.

This design uses a starter relay (most vehicles don’t). It’s in the box by the battery. The solenoid is integral with the starter.

No response at all to key in “start” position could be ignition switch, neutral safety switch, starter relay, or starter. In general, rapid clicks or one vigorous click could be starter, battery, or battery cable connections (including connections at end of cable not going to battery). On this design, single click heard only at relay box indicates relay is working, almost certainly faulty starter. Rapid clicks from relay is unusual - might be faulty relay or battery/cable problem.

Starter continuing to run could be faulty starter or starter relay, but if it responds to tapping on starter it is definitely the starter.

Where battery terminal corrosion really matters is between the battery posts and the inside surfaces of the cable ends. External corrosion suggests that there may be that type of internal corrosion. The thing to do is remove the cable ends from the battery and clean the posts and cable ends. This is easy to do with a battery terminal brush, difficult to do without one.


Clean battery terminals and cable ends inside and out. Check for tightness of connections on far ends of battery cables.

Fully charge battery and test it. If it fails a test, it’s faulty. If it passes, it’s probably okay, but that’s not 100% certain. Verify age of battery - if it’s over 4 years old, replacement makes sense as preventive maintenance.

Properly test charging system to identify fault. While it’s probably the alternator, replacing a good alternator is an expensive way to find out that the PCM is faulty.

Testing the starting system is desirable, but probably won’t yield useful results unless it is tested while it is acting up.

thanks for all the great solutions… im searching for almost 3 hours finding the best answers for my dad’s problem to his dodge truck… finally i found this thread…

Remember the street car cannot turn out.
dodge truck parts and accessories

Gary correct me if I am wrong;(Or anyone else):slight_smile:
Is there an initial priming of the fuel system every time the ignition is turned on?

On my Dodge pickup, I have better results starting the truck after it has sit for several days by turning the ignition on for say 3 sec. then off and on again 3 seconds (to allow fuel pump to reach set pressure(in my mind anyway)) and then engage starter. If i don’t follow this sequence a longer cranking of engine is required and engine will initially run rougher. It has become second nature to do this in cold weather also.

And I went through the faulty starter scene a couple years ago with it not disengaging. I would turn the ignition to start a couple times to drop it out. A new starter hurt the right back pocket, but what a relief from the hustle!

I think your high voltage condition is more likely an indication of a bad battery connection than a voltage regulator problem, though it could be either. Most cars and trucks today rely on the battery to do the bulk of the voltage regulation and filtering, so if you disconnect the battery you tend to get these really wild voltage swings. These voltage swings can be quite dangerous to your car’s electrical components, by the way. A bad connection might also explain some of your starting problems.

I had an old car once where the electrical contact on the starter came loose inside the starter. The wire was solidly attached to the contact, but the contact itself had play in it. This caused all kinds of weird things to happen, like the car starting by itself while I was underneath it trying to see what the problem was (I don’t think I’ve ever gotten myself out from under a car as quickly as I did right then). The fact that you whapped the starter to get it to stop makes me think you’ve got something like this going on.

Clicking when you are trying to start can be a sign of a bad battery, a bad electrical connection somewhere, or a bad starter. With all of the other stuff going on you’re definitely not going to get out of this with just a simple battery replacement. The simplest would be just a bad connection, so maybe you’re just talking about fixing a wire or replacing the starter. Worst case you’ve got battery, alternator, and starter problems all together.

In addition to Gary T’s suggestions (which are always good) I’d suggest also taking a really close look at the starter and its electrical connections.

On most modern vehicles, yes. The fuel pump is energized for several seconds when the key is turned to “on,” whether or not it is then turned to “start.” On some, it will do this repeatedly through on/off/on cycling without any time constraints; on others, it must be left off for ten seconds before it will do it again. If you can hear your fuel pump run (usually a faint humming/buzzing sound), you can tell how it works on your vehicle.

Some vehicles do not run the fuel pump simply by turning to “on” as in the above paragraph, but all run the fuel pump while the key is in the “start” position, and then while in the “on” position after having first gone to “start.”

Fuel injection systems normally have residual pressure in the lines when not running, but this pressure is less than the operating pressure. The fuel pump priming brings the pressure back up to the proper level to allow starting. Sometimes there’s not enough residual pressure for this to happen quickly, and it takes more time to get the pressure up to where it needs to be, hence the longer cranking time or the need to go through the on/off/on sequence you described. Loss of residual pressure is usually caused by a faulty check valve in the fuel pump. It may or may not be worth fixing depending on the price of fuel pump replacement and the severity of the symptom.

Thanks Gary.

I replaced the fuel pump 60-70 K miles ago. I was wondering if injectors would fault/bleed off pressure also?
After pricing injectors my pickup runs just good enough:eek:

Yes, that’s the next most common cause of residual pressure loss.

Yeah, they’re not even cheap, are they?