My Dodge van won’t move. Would you like to assist in the troubleshooting?

Hi guys, my van wouldn’t move this morning (it starts/runs) and I’m stumped as to why. 1994 Dodge B350 10-passenger van w/ handicap lift outside the back door.

I haven’t driven it in about 3 weeks, and it performed just fine when I parked it. This morning, it started easy enough, and I let it warm in the driveway for ~ 8 mins. When I went to leave, I put it in drive, released the parking brake, and pressed the accelerator expecting to creep up the hill and out of the driveway. However, the van wouldn’t move. I tried pulling forward, I tried backing, too. The transmission was selecting the various gears I chose, and I could feel the motor and tranny try to pull the van (I can feel the driveline slack being taken-up). I even tried to rock the vehicle back and forth w/ the ~2 inches of travel I was getting from the slack in the drivetrain, but I never could get anything to budge. I tried applying brief doses of the ample amounts of the power available from the 360CID Dodge power plant, but as soon as I heard something squealing (with no movement from the vehicle), I aborted that plan. Well, I tried it twice, but stopped at the squeal point.

Anyway, I’m baffled. Last night got cold enough for freezing, sure, and it was about 32 this morning as I was trying to get going. It’s certainly gotten above 32F the last couple of days (http://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KTTA.html) . It has gotten snowed and iced-on in the past few weeks, but all of the snow/ice has been gone for days now. In summary, I don’t think it is temperature related.

Any ideas, support, sarcasm or other jabs would be appreciated.

This may be stupid, but is the emergency brake on?

I noticed that you released the parking brakes. Are the brakes frozen in place? Releasing the parking brake lever doesn’t mean the brake pads have released from the rotors (on disk brakes)or the brake shoes have released from the drum (drum brakes)?

Can actually see that all four wheels spin? You will probably have to jack up the non-drive wheels.

(warning. I am not a mechanic, nor am I your mechanic. don’t run with scissors, eat your greens etc.)

First thought was the handbrake was stuck on. if it is the handbrake, and it has drums rather than discs, knocking the backplate of the drum with a rubber mallet (when the handbrake is off) can release the shoes from the drums. When the shoes let go, you will hear a clunk when they release. Do both sides. Be careful that you don’t bend the backplate.

Reason for this is you only have a couple of small springs to draw the shoes back, but you have a hydraulic piston to move them out. it doesn’t take much corrosion for the strength of the springs to be overcome. See here for a pic of the internals.

Obviously, lying under a vehicle with the brakes off is a dangerous undertaking. A combination of chocking the wheels and having someone in the vehicle to stand on the brakes before you get run over will help. They can also help call emergency services if you do get run over.

I’ve had brake pads get corroded onto the disc after leaving a car sit for a couple of weeks after driving it on wet salty roads. Jack a wheel up and see if it turns.

I agree that it sounds like the brakes or parking brake are stuck on. Is it sitting on level ground or on a slant? If it is sitting up or down hill, put it in neutral, if the brakes are released it should roll. Alternately, if it is on flat ground and you have a friend, put it in neutral and try to push it. Or jack up the rear end and see if the wheels will rotate by hand.

If it won’t move, the rear tires can’t be rotated in neutral, then the brakes are stuck.

It sounds like the transmission is working properly and trying to move the car. Me, I would go back and try it again, bite the bullet, and see what happens when you keep going beyond the squealing noise.

If there was nothing obvious wrong when you parked it there probably isn’t much wrong now.

Don’t tell me I broke your van. :wink:

The first thing I’d try is simply pushing the parking brake pedal all the way down and releasing it a few times.

If the pads are just stuck to the drum, they’re usually fairly easy to break loose by just driving it. I think what’s more likely is a problem with the parking brake cable of the parking brake lever inside the brake drum. If it’s just the cable, it should be easy to just crawl under and check that it’s hanging correctly and not rusted onto the bottom of the car or anything like that. (It can sometimes be handy to have someone work the parking brake pedal/handle while you watch the cable.) The brake lever is a little trickier because to get to it you need to get the drum off, which is easier said than done if the parking brake is stuck on.

Thanks for the info, folks. The brakes have stuck in the past, but it’s not been an issue. They’d just pop a little as that V8 power snaps them loose and up the hill we go. Also, I thought to use gravity as one of my tools this morning, but it offered no assistance.

But reading what you guys are saying, I see that there may be compounding circumstances. Last time I drove it, it was a little icy/slushy, complete w/ salt treatment. Since I park on a hill, I usually put a little extra-ass into setting the p-brake, stretching the components and smashing the shoes against the drums. Not having driven it within the last 2-3 ice/snow cycles probably hasn’t helped, either. So I’m comforted to conclude it’s probably the brakes are happily married to the drums.

I’ll crawl under (after properly securing the vehicle) and check the cable and levers/pulleys, too.

But I’m still surprised that the engine wouldn’t pop the brakes free. And how will rappin’ it with a hammer deliver more force than the Dodge’s mighty internal combustion engine?

Paraphrasing Dallas’ advice, I think I’ll start `er up, select neutral on the trans, bring the revs up and dump it in reverse. That oughta do it ! :smiley:

I think it’s got to do with putting a series of short sharp shocks to separate the pads from the drum and backplate. That takes a surprising amount of torque to overcome. it’s like trying to make two bits of velcro slide over each other, despite it being easy to separate them by peeling.

And the solution to every problem lies in whacking it with a hammer! :smiley:

Breaking them loose with the engine will only work if the shoes are frozen to the drum. If the cable or the actuator lever is stuck, it’s just like the parking brake is still engaged and turning the drums against the shoes won’t help, but a well-placed mallet blow might knock the crud out of the relevant parts.

Nuh uh!!! Sometimes it takes duct tape. Not in this instance, though. Sounds like somebody already duct taped his brakes.

Do not forget chewing gum and bailing wire!

It is not more force, it is force from a different direction!

Once you get it freed up, you might consider taking it to a shop. As you have said, it has happened before! It is not getting any better on its own.

IHTH, 48.

From the OP’s description, I wouldn’t be surprised to find solid ice inside the drums, locking everything in place. It would take just the right runoff from snow into the brake elements, followed by freezing, but it can happen.

Engineers never do anything as crude as whacking something with a hammer.

(we call it percussive maintenance instead)

I’ve accidentally driven with my parking brake on. It makes a racket but the car does move.

Ice in the drums would keep a van from moving.

Wanted to thank everyone for their thoughts and give a quick report back. It rained hard for 2x days, so it was Friday night before I got a chance to crawl under and inspect things. I think we all suspected rear p-brake malfunction, so that’s where my focus was. Everything looked good mechanically (what I could see), so I decided to rap the drums with my ball peen and pray for the best. When I got back in the van, I was initially disappointed that my efforts seemed to have no effect. I rocked it back and forth a little and realized that I really wasn’t getting enough distance to do anything that way.

Then I remembered Dallas’s words about the squealing (“let it squeal” I think he said). I gave it a little more gas than I was comfortable with and I heard the expected squeal. Only it sounded more like a chirp. “What was that?”, I thought. Sure, it was the same sound I’d heard the other morning, but now I had some time and patience to analyze the sound a little deeper. “Why, that’s tire squealing I’m hearing”, I said to myself with a big grin. Now there really was little more to do than let horsepower be my master and put the hammer down! Ok, I actually took it gently at first, but a firm application of the throttle busted that stubborn brake free.

I drove the Dodge beast around the neighborhood to be sure everything functioned properly, and made a promise to myself to take the next sunny day and dedicate a portion of it to brake maintenance. Of course, this weekend was sunny, so I took the van and went dirtbiking instead. I hope my van still loves me.

Hey, you really should look after those brakes pronto! From the picture that is at least a 3/4 ton van. It is HEAVY! You failed to mention the handicap lift on the back (It must weigh 1000 lbs). The taller roof and that it is the longer version are facts that were also omitted. With all that added weight of that stuff, you need good brakes on that monster! :eek: I am not counting the weight of the dirt bikes.

For some reason, I thought that we were talking about a minivan. I see that the OP did say it was a 3/4 ton van in the 1st post.:smack: I bet that that van weighs at least as much as my 3/4 ton service truck.

shunpiker, I want you around to harass. Please take care of this soon. C’mon now! No more dirt-biking until this is fixed! Or else I’m gunna tell your mamma!:slight_smile:
Thanks, 48.

I agree that the brakes are of paramount importance before the van’s next use. I do want to be around for you and the other doper’s to harass (without worryin’ about the wrath of momma)!