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Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan


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corndog
New User

Nov 13, 2012, 2:50 PM

Post #1 of 6 (2034 views)
Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In

Looking for some advice on a 1993 Dodge Caravan(3.3l). Been dealing with an electrical issue for weeks now. I'll be right up front and tell you I am poor and don't have the money to take it to a mechanic to be diagnosed. Been given some ideas but not sure I've been led down the right path. My problem started with a drained battery which I replaced after it would not take a charge when jumped. Probably the wrong course of action, but I'm not a mechanic and when I places the new battery it started up fine. That lasted a week. While sitting parked idling, I lost power to my stereo and then it came back, followed by a clicking noise and all my lights, interior and exterior ,flashing. I found out later that shutting off the van might not have been the right idea because I ended up stranded. Tried jumping it again and nothing. Talked to my mechanic friend and he said he was pretty sure it was the alternator gone bad. Went back with some help because I am disabled and another friend of mine removed the alternator and we took it to Autozone to get a new one. They tested it there and said it was fine. Talked to my mechanic friend again and he said it would either have to be the PCM or possibly there was some damaged wiring by animals chewing in them. Checked all the wiring leaving the alternative and it all looks fine. Took both batteries home and charged them on a trickle charger and then went back a few days later. Still didn't start. Went back the next day to get my things out of it and try to figure out a way to get it towed home. Just for the heck of it I tried starting it and it fired right up. I looked to the heavens and said thank you and was able to get it home. It had been running fine since. Almost 3 weeks... until today. While parked idling again the battery gauge flatlined and it died. I had the spare battery with me so I swapped them and it started and I got it home. But while driving home the lights were all flashing and clicking, and about a mile from home the battery gauge flatlined again. When I got home I left it running and popped the hood and banged on the alternator with a wrench(per my mechanic friend). This did nothing. But then I banged on what I believed to be the PCM and when I checked the battery gauge again and it had moved right up to full voltage. Didn't mean to write a book here, but I wanted to be as specific as possible. I've taken a picture of what I believe to be the PCM and will post it if will help to identify the problem. Thanks greatly to anyone who can help me out here.

Cory


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Nov 13, 2012, 3:29 PM

Post #2 of 6 (2010 views)
Re: Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In

Cory: Not being able to get a professional diagnosis is a problem that could cost you more even if you do the work found. This battery issue you might be able to take care of if lucky and just some basic things ruled out.

Seems by my wild guess that the battery isn't getting a good connection to cables. The same cables have to be good with good contacts at the other ends too at a minimum. Ground should end up right at engine block then if not direct at the battery negative cable also would ground to body metal. There are several body to item grounds in a vehicle but primary for the strongest one to ground from engine block to body.

Minimal tools will probably do for some of this. Would be nice if you have even the cheapest volt meter or better a multimeter. Small junky ones can be found for around $10 bucks and no awards for their capability.

Just keep in mind that if you remove and must have already battery cables at battery always take the negative off first. When done with whatever it goes on last. That at least prevents a wrench or whatever not to have the positive side touch ground and cause real problems.

Alternator on this checked fine so knowing it really charges would help when installed as it should be regulated thru PCM to charge or just sit there.

At a minimum if only ruling out some things like mentioned combination wrenches and or sockets, pliers, sandpaper, voltmeter, a plain 12v test light LED can be found for under 10 bucks.

It's right at 20 years so all the wires and connections are on a maybe list with this behaviour. Would be nice to know voltage reading when you can get it running that it is generally able to stay between 13.5V and under 15V area with or without electrical things in use while idling. If it just stays at the same voltage running as when off it's going to need more help and diagnosing to blame what is causing it.

It's a rock and hard place without some tools and know how. Tossing parts as guesses almost always ends up costing more than finding the root cause. How much can you get a diagnostic check done in your area? If you end up towing it all around that will break the bank too,

T


corndog
New User

Nov 13, 2012, 7:21 PM

Post #3 of 6 (1985 views)
Re: Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In

Thanks Tom. Really appreciate the insight. I'll see if I can't get a multi meter tomorrow. Forgot to mention, the same day we pulled the alternator I also got new battery terminals, so the connections ate good. I assume, which I probably shouldn't, that the ground is good. It's grounded to the engine block. Would the fact that I banged on the PCM and the gauge jumped back up actually indicate an issue with that? It was my mechanic friend who suggested it. Also pulling the negative cable while it was running( which he also suggested), it continued running. Would that indicate the alternator truly is fine as Autozone's test suggest? Unfortunately taking it to someone just isn't an option. I've had people tell me that I might get charged anywhere from $75 to $125 an hour JUST to identify the problem. Frown


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Nov 13, 2012, 7:45 PM

Post #4 of 6 (1982 views)
Re: Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In


Quote
I've had people tell me that I might get charged anywhere from $75 to $125 an hour JUST to identify the problem.



OK, now compare that to $300 to $400 in parts that don't fix the problem or made it worse and now you have t resort to paying someone to tell you what the real problem is. Which one was cheaper?



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



nickwarner
Veteran / Moderator
nickwarner profile image

Nov 13, 2012, 9:00 PM

Post #5 of 6 (1977 views)
Re: Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In


In Reply To
r I also got new battery terminals, so the connections ate good. I assume, which I probably shouldn't, that the ground is good. It's grounded to the engine block. Would the fact that I banged on the PCM and the gauge jumped back up actually indicate an issue with that? It was my mechanic friend who suggested it. Also pulling the negative cable while it was running( which he also suggested),

This 'mechanic' friend is going to end up costing you way more than a real on is if you follow his advice on a van that has electronics like yours does. He told you to bang on the PCM? He actually told you to physically strike a solid state circuit board which internally isn't built one bit stronger than the boards inside the computer you are using to post this? Red flag should come up when you hear an idea like that. Never unhook a battery cable from a running car. The subsequent electrical spike that can be generated can fry the PCM if it survived being hammered on. Also on that list is your TCM and BCM. This isn't a proper way to test this. I'm guessing the new battery terminals are those universal bolt on things, not the ones you crimp on, solder and cover with heat shrink. The old ends broke and were corroded up bad, so you put these on instead because it was cheaper than a cable. Well, you haven't guaranteed a decent connection yet. That cable the end came off of is still 20 years old and likely in rough shape. I'd be shocked if the power and ground can even pass a voltage drop test (which is a big reason why these problems are happenning to this van right now). You need good power and ground supplies to be able to troubleshoot anything in this system. Post back when you have a multimeter available and I'll explain to you how to do voltage drop testing to see if we can determine where the issue is here. Please don't run it with a cable unhooked or hit anything with a hammer until then.


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Nov 14, 2012, 5:21 AM

Post #6 of 6 (1963 views)
Re: Electrical issue on 1993 Dodge Caravan Sign In

Note on battery cable ends:

These were everywhere once and still see them. Not much good. In a wild jam you could get home perhaps if original totally failed. Package was always marked "Temporary."



Assorted types but this if cable wire is in excellent condition can be permanent. Still needs exacting attention and enough extra cable or forget any tricks and go new.


Generic pic of probably hopeless. Right around model year 93 vehicles in general were cutting down on copper, lead ends. Doesn't matter either way now at the age but whole new or properly done splicing. At least a whole cable gets you both ends and clean up plus should have commonly used extra wire(s) right off of the cable if required.

If these things are not known good you are screwed to be sure of much else,

T






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