Can anyone diagnose this?

it2neal
100

Asked by it2neal Sep 22, 2013 at 08:05 PM about the 1995 Dodge Ram Van 3 Dr 3500 Maxi Cargo Van Extended

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I drove a newly acquired 1995 Ram Van 3500 (52K mi.) 5.9 L engine from Seattle to Los Angeles about a month ago. I got it from a friend and there were no obvious problems until just before I left. From that point until now, there have been lots of things going wrong. And the most consistent thing is their inconsistency. None of the problems are constant, nor are there obvious causes. I think there may be two separate issues at work here but maybe not.Before I left, there was a point when the engine wouldn't start for a few minutes. It fired up a short time later. Up till that time it always fired right up. Leaving for L.A., the cruise control worked for a while, then quit. The overdrive light came on. This continues to go on and off. On the way down, the cruise control would work for a while when first starting out, then quit. It now doesn't work at all. Upon reaching California, when I pulled into rest stops, the engine would quit at low idle. It would start right up again and would be OK as long as I applied the gas pedal. This continued occasionally driving around L.A., but not lately. The Check Engine light will come on every once in a while but if you turn the engine off and start it up again, it goes off. Now the engine is VERY difficult to start in the morning, but after it does start, it is fine. Except that the idle seems rough. The last few days when I started it, it would emit clicking sounds and the Check Engine light would flash in unison. I should mention, the check engine light doesn't seem to be constant, but flickers even while driving. I haven't been able to isolate a pattern to all of these symptoms. They seem random. I took the van into two Dodge dealerships. The first had it two days, said there was no trouble code and then told me the crankshaft position sensor showed low voltage and needed to be replaced and then we'd go from there ($360 + tax). The second dealership had it a day and told me the computer needed to be replaced and then we'd go from there ($860 + tax). I have done a lot of reading and I'm not convinced either of these solutions is correct. Anyone have an opinion? Thanks for reading.

38 Answers

judge_roy
Not Active

get a NEW battery...they only last five years before they will stop charging back up properly...also clean the 1/0 battery cable connection to the ground/chassis with a wirebrush...the lug and the frame till shiny...look for the presence of the 1/0 cable to the block (near the alternator) this will pull the necessary amperage to turn your starter around~

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
judge_roy
Not Active

reset the codes with a small OBD-II scanner~

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
dandyoun
61,135

I agree with the judge. Sounds very likely that you could have a battery or a battery connection issue.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
it2neal
100

Thanks for the responses. I installed a new battery about 3 weeks ago thinking that may be the problem. I will check and clean the cable connection tomorrow and report back. One more thing: driving down from Washington I got 12-13 mpg which I understand is somewhat normal. The last few weeks, I have noticed a heavy gasoline odor and sometimes a white vapor emitting from the exhaust. I would guess I am only getting 4-5 mpg right now. Also, would the battery connection account for no cruise control, overdrive light going on and off, etc. May be more than one problem here.Thanks for the help.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
judge_roy
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...yes well the computer needs good data to make it all happen the AIT sensor will tell the computer what's the temperature goin' in---like a "thermal" choke used to do....the engine temperature sensor.....(O2 sensor is pictured here as well)

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
judge_roy
Not Active

the engine temperature if defective will do as your complaint....not leanin' the mix properly...this one tells the computer and the temperature gauge as well...probably is faulty...or the data stream corrupted, because the other sensor will be after the fact...EGR and O2...MAF and MAP (if equipped)...but definitely would change the Intake Air Temp Sensor....it's like jammin' your big back pocket comb in the carburetor like you used to do back in the 70's~

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
it2neal
100

Sorry to take so long getting back. I work full time, go to school full time. I changed out the Intake Air Temp Sensor. I am no mechanic but that one was simple. :) I don't know if that solved all the problems but it certainly solved some of them. I'll report back this weekend when I have a bit of time and can check it out a little more. Thanks a lot for the help.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
it2neal
100

OK, slowly catching up. I drove the van about 5 miles. Low idle stall seems solved and it is not idling real rough as before. The biggest problem now is it doesn't want to start. This situation began about two weeks ago even before I changed out the Intake Air Temp Sensor. I can't get to the 1/0 cable on the block, at least not enough to loosen it. But I'm almost positive that is not the problem. Here's the deal: when i turn the key, the starter turns over no problem. But the engine will not start. Yet if I continue with this for 2-3 minutes in 10-15 second bursts, eventually there is a clicking sound accompanied by corresponding flashes of the check engine light. This clicking isn't the normal low battery clicking you hear. And it continues even when the key and starter aren't engaged. Once the clicking and the check engine light begin, the the engine will try to and eventually does start. If the engine then runs for a minute or two, you can turn it off and start it right back up again. You can park it for an hour or two and it will start right up again. But if it sets 4-5 hours or overnight, you have the same "no start" situation. Got any ideas on this one?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
operator_13
Not Active

yes....the ignition relay...or start relay...will start hunting...gimme a sec~

operator_13
Not Active

yes....the ignition relay...or start relay...will start hunting...gimme a sec~...okay there seems to be a plethora of choices...from about seven bucks on up....they alll LOOK GOOD~

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
it2neal
100

Thanks for reply. As I mentioned, I am certainly no mechanic so please pardon my ignorance. I assume an ignition relay and a start relay are different parts, correct? Is this something I can work on or is it time to take it to a real mechanic/

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
operator_13
Not Active

easier than changing a light bulb---start relay on some cars ignition relay on other models...different nomenclature to explain the same goodie~ if in doubt, check your schematic~

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
it2neal
100

Had to special order the starter relay. I don't have a schematic. Can't seem to locate the one in the van. Searching the internet only produced "look under the hood". You wouldn't happen to know it's location or where I might find a schematic, would you?

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
operator_13
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..honestly it2neal am at a loss...actual drawings of your architecture are difficult to find...but I might say it attaches to the side of the underhood area~ wish I could be of some help~

operator_13
Not Active

Believe it or not it is probably on a pigtail connector near the ignition switch....you might look there~ heard of this situation before~

operator_13
Not Active

although the number 2 spot in your relay box has been established...no?

it2neal
100

I don't see anything that looks like the pictured relay box. There is a fuse box under the hood with 8 higher capacity fuse slots. The are also a couple of pigtails so I thought that may be the answer. I will compare when I get the relay. A little update: yesterday I decided to start it up and take it for a ride to check symptoms. 1) It was 90 degrees outside. Instead of taking a couple of minutes to get started, it only took about 20 seconds (something to do with engine temp?) The OD light came on and would not turn off. But like always, when I turned off engine, on the next start OD was off. 2) Before I left, I tried to check fault codes. I thought I got 12 and 55. 12 is battery disconnect. Battery was connected so that was probably misread. When I got back, I was going to check it again but couldn't because the check engine light did not come on in the run position. 3) Engine still running a little rough. 4) Carburetor sounds like it is sucking air upon acceleration. 5) I started and stopped 5 times over 5 hours and about 12 miles. The last time the heavy white vapor out of the exhaust started again. Very strong fuel smell.

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operator_13
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...wow, that's a toughie considering what you've been through on this...we must push forward to get to the answer...am experiencing this myself with replacing three thermal fuses which tested okay, but did not solve the problem...finally the Brain (a$259value)....did not solve the problem finally asked James (the guy who sold these items to me) for a copy of the electrical schematic....rather than sell me something more, said it would be a couple of days (brush-off) am still shleppin' it over to launderland to use their mighty dryers~ the IAT sensor and the engine temperature sensor in effect do the job of what used to be the heat-riser, stove kit and diverter valve)...but now is simpler with the "air charge" or IAT sensor and engine temperature.....is it runnin' rich, when it finally does run?

operator_13
Not Active

...okay here are a few bases maybe you haven't touched in your pursuit of making a fully functioning engine out of An American beauty such as this...the Engine temp sensor and the "ambient air" sensor....now I always thought this one drove that cute little display above the mirror to tell you how Icy it is outside, but perhaps THIS one tells the ECU what the correct air/fuel mix is...and is faulty?...grabbin' at straws here it2neal (geez, you sound like a technical guy)~

it2neal
100

Seems to be running rich but not all the time. As far as technical - I'm the 2nd worst mechanic of all time (I'm sure somebody must be worse). But I'm reading and trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks for your help. It's encouraging to know even smart mechanics still struggle sometimes too. .

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
operator_13
Not Active

used to be easy...a thermal spring drove a butterfly mechanism....now? I am as much of at a loss as we are increasingly reliant on these ECU's to make critical decisions for us...personally do not trust them....when they are having problems is normally due to BAD grounding...to the chassis/ground~ if you can get your OBD-II diagnostics read~

operator_13
Not Active

okay, we already said that...it's gotta be an error on the part of the computer...it has the data (because you replaced this critical sensor)....just ain't makin' the right decisions....as being a "perfect" creature is incapable of errors, but varying available amperages and varying voltages has got to put a little cat food in the chili~

operator_13
Not Active

I'm actually judge_roy and was gettin' a little too big for me britches~

operator_13
Not Active

let's assure that this unit has clean power to it....get a NEW battery if yours is older than five....CLEAN the ground connection 1/0 cable connection from the battery to the chassis/ground....frequently gets corroded from dis- similar metals actually "welding" themselves after repeated starts...so even if NOT subject to driving through a flood or rainstorm accelerating the corroded condition should be wire brushed with a coarse wirebrush to allow the full 300 or so amps needed for the starter motor...and the 1/0 block connection near the alternator~ a wire brush (coarse and unfriendly) is about six bucks and could save your hide~

it2neal
100

OK, got a new battery about a month ago. Got a wire brush then too but can't get to where it connects to the block. I don't think that's it. NEW INFO: installed a new starter relay- no difference. But I located the source of the clicking and I think it's significant. It looks something like the starter relay and is located behind and just below the battery mounted on the firewall (ignition relay??) There are two relays on one mount. It's the right one as you're facing the engine. I assume I can replace just the one though I haven't been able to get ir out of the mount yet. When I turn the engine over, there is no check engine light coming on and engine won't start. Once the clicking noise starts, the check engine light comes on and then I can coax the engine into starting. Haven't been able to get codes though.do I need to buy a OBD-II scanner?

operator_13
Not Active

good catch it2neal~ I was going to suggest the starter solenoid, but the "starter relay" would make sense~...good man~

it2neal
100

Neither starter relay nor ignition relay made any difference. And now I can't even coax the motor to start. No clicking from the ignition relay and no"check engine light" equals no joy. Any ideas?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
judge_roy
Not Active

yes...checkeechekchek with a 12V tester~

it2neal
100

Please don't laugh at this naive question: what am I checkeechekcheking? I don't even have a 12 volt tester but will buy one forthwith. :)

judge_roy
Not Active

...in addition to listening for the fuel pump to begin circulating the fuel through the fuel rail...so we can rule out fuel pressure...okay the key in the on position should be providing 12 volts to the coil(s) in the on position...check presence of power at the ignition switch connector....we're looking for an electrical concern so use the little test light to check for the presence of 12 volts...where the car is ON what will be energized~?

it2neal
100

Have been searching the internet. Found this that is identical to my problem with a couple of answers: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061106073624AAdAvCD I thought it was me trying to start repeatedly that got it started. When in fact, it was just having the key in the "on" position. After leaving the key in the "on" position for 1-2 minutes, the clicking starts and the the check engine light comes on. After that, it will start with a good deal of pumping on the accelerator. Once it starts and is driven a mile or so, there is no more problem. It restarts right up, no pumping required, until it sits for a long period of time and the engine gets cold. Then back to square one. The clicking was coming from the fuel pump relay. I replaced that (Duralast 19394) but that made no difference.I am getting a lot of white vapor (heavy fuel odor) out of the exhaust. May or may not be related. What do you think of the answers provided?

it2neal
100

A couple more things: After the initial start, there is no check engine light when key is in start position, yet the van starts easily. And, I am now getting less than 4 mpg. Anyone?

judge_roy
Not Active

yes...the same answer as four months ago..intake temp sensor...or the IAT sensor~ would smoke and not run so good once it warmed up...be chokey and low energy with tons of smoke if you unplugged this device while running...for example...examine and replace~

judge_roy
Not Active

starts easy on account is in a RICH condition...once it warms up should lean out if the temperature sensor is sending the right data, and the IAT sensor feels the temperature...there is also an ambient air sensor for the onboard thermometer~

it2neal
100

As I mentioned three weeks ago, I changed out the AIT sensor. It solved the stall at low idle and really running rough problem. But as I have discussed, there are obviously other problems. I appreciate your help and am trying to follow your advise but I am a real nooby at this.

it2neal
100

It does lean out. I need to figure out where the ambient air sensor is and replace it then?

judge_roy
Not Active

...well this one is for the little thermometer at the mirror on on the instrument panel...I suppose this may play into it...what do I know~>?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
judge_roy
Not Active

retarded spark...dragging parking brake?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

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