Help! Vehicle won't start!

I have a 1998 Chrysler Town & Country. 3.8 liter auto, fwd.

It won’t start. I turn the key, all dash lights, stereo, etc. come on. Turn the key to the start position and nothing. A click from the starter relay, that’s it.

Have bench tested the starter, it’s good. Put in a new ignition switch and starter relay. No good. I put in the new relay because I didn’t hear a click from the old one. New one clicks when key is turned to ‘start’, but thats it. Battery is fully charged.

Anybody have any ideas what this could be? I’m drawing a blank after trying the above.

how did you bench-test the starter? i.e. where did you apply power to run the starter motor?

have you verified the high-current cable to the starter is in good condition? have you checked the wire that energizes the solenoid for 12 volts when you turn the key to “START?”

My 1998 T&C had the ECM and PCM modules go out at the same time. This sounds suspiciously similar.

If it turns out that this is the problem, I think it is possible to get ones from the salvage yard to replace them (neighbor said this worked for his 1999Dodge Grand Caravan). New, they are $1000 each from the dealer.

I do not know how to test them, I had to have it towed to the dealer.

Oh ECM=engine control module PCM=powertrain control module.

Took the starter to a local parts house (I’ve known the guy for years, he’s honest) and he tested it in his machine, said it’s good. Not sure how to test if juice is actually getting to the starter while in the car.

Something else: the gear indicator, the little illuminated P-R-N-D-2-L that is always on when the ignition is on? It’s not working. Neither is the gas gauge (the gauge registers when the key is turned to ‘run’. Now its not doing anything.) The fuses are good - checked them with a VOM.


Finally, there are two relays in the relay box I can’t figure out what they are. One is marked “EATX shutdown relay”, the other “auto shutdown relay”. Don’t know if these could be a culprit since I don’t know what they do.

ok, if you’ve got the starter out you can probe the wire that energizes the solenoid (it’s the thin wire) and it should have battery voltage when you turn the key to crank.

the “auto shutdown relay” provides power to the ignition coils, fuel pump, and injector driver circuits in the PCM. It shouldn’t affect the starter.

Wild guess: Have you tried resetting the security system? Is the “security” light on the dash on or flashing? Assuming it has one, one or more components may be worn enough that it’s not receiving the correct resistance and thinks the car is being stolen and has helpfully shut everything down for you.

Resetting the system is worth a shot (if you can find out how – should be in your manual)

I confess I don’t have a manual for it.

As far as the alarm goes, the little ‘activated’ light on the dash is illuminated when the doors are locked, which is normal. I’ve only had the alarm go off once, when my four year climes in, locked it, then unlocked it from the inside. All I had to do was turn the ignition on and the slender silenced. It started just fine after that. Not sure if there is more to resetting the alarm.

Christ, its been a long, frustrating day. Apologies for the typos above.

Again, I’m winging it, but your car probably has an immobilizer built into it to prevent it from being hot wired. In whatever state the car is in now, it THINKs it’s being hot wired so it’s probably shut down the fuel pump or something else important.

I’m not finding a ton of info on this … but this thread may be related.

As it’s just fiddling with the back gate door lock it’s worth trying!

It looks like you aren’t alone:

that’s a different thing, tnough. Lancia’s car won’t even crank. The condition you’re talking about means the car will start and immediately shut down.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to my poor google-foo, the search terms return mixed hits. Some of the conditions are “wont’ turn over” and other are “turn over but dies”. They’re mixed within the same threads sometimes.

My wife’s GM (not a Chrysler) is currently going through a “won’t even crank” situation which is related to the security system. It seems it is quite wide spread through many manufacturers and vehicles. Resetting the security system resolves the problem (at least for a while - at some point a replacement or bypass is required).

I’m quite possibly entirely wrong. It just came to mind since Lancia’s already replaced many of the other “wont’ start” parts.

I’ve been unable to find much on resetting the system on a T&C, other than the rear door gate lock thing. It might be worth visiting a library and browsing through the Chilton’s or H… something 3rd party maintenance manual.

If the starter will go properly out of the car, then put it back in the car and get a set of jumper cables. Go directly from the battery (check terminals for crud and tightness) to the starter and to ground and then make the small contact to 12v with a screwdriver or something. If the starter works, then you have cabling/wiring/switching issues. So remove the ground jumper cable and check again. If it still goes, hook the battery to the fat starter positive only and jump with screwdriver again. If it still goes, lose the cables and jump it again. If it still goes, put a $3 remote starter on it and drive it to the shop. If I had to bet, I’d say you have a bad terminal/cable.

We have a 2000 T&C - this is exactly what our problem was when we were experiencing the exact same symptoms.

So I went out just now, and the damn thing started right up. God, I hate computers in cars… whoever thought computers in cars was a good needs to be executed on the spot.

Everything I’m finding online points to what MobiusStripes suggested: the anti-theft is wonky, somehow. The fix, basically, is get a new BCM. I can’t even find a used one online, and I’m sure the dealer wants some big bucks for this part. At least they can tell me what part number it is, so I can refine my search.

Thanks to everyone who helped; this little journey isn’t over yet.

As I already stated, the anti-theft stuff on Chryslers will generally result in the car starting then immediately dying. I asked you twice, when it was acting up, if it had voltage on the wire that energizes the solenoid and you didn’t answer that. here’s the thing about the starter- inside the solenoid is a copper plate, when you turn the key to “START” the solenoid pushes that plate so it bridges two copper terminals, thus sending power to the starter motor. Over time that plate (and the terminals) can erode and pit, which means that occasionally you’ll just get a click when the plate bridges the terminals but the pitting/corrosion won’t let it conduct. repeated tries can “break” enough of the pitting for the starter to engage.

I reckon this is your problem - the switch that tells the car “we are in P so you’re good to start” is faulty, and the car thinks it’s in R. The jiggling around you’ve done has possibly made it good for the time being, until next time.

I have not tested the 12v wire that attaches to the solenoid. Considering the starter works when bench tested, the likelyhood of the starter getting juice when key is turned is practically nil. I’ll put it on my list of things to test.

Interesting you should bring this up. While discussing this issue today with my father-in-law, and reading the comment on some of the other forums, my wife mentioned that the van did exactly that - fire up, ran for a second or two, then die. It did that twice then nothing. While she failed to tell me this I don’t know, but it ties in with what the other people on the other forum are saying. Also, the whole ‘gauges and odometer/shift indicator lights not working’ thing is indicative of a bad anti-theft system. Although there seems to be some disagreement on whether or not it’s a BCM or PCM which could cause this. I haven’t been able to find much info on these. I don’t know if they can be pulled from the van and tested at the shop.

Sorry, no help to offer, but just wanted to say the userid/thread title combo made me giggle.

I am guessing it’s a bad cable or terminal. They can get touchy when they go out and sometimes work depending upon the temperature and moisture conditions.