1998 Dodge Caravan Van won't start

  • 2.4L
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • 245,546 MILES
My van won't start. Tried the battery, the plugs, and the wiring everything looks good. It wants to start but won't kick over. I'm thinking it could be the fuel pump. I even changed out the coil pack. What might be some of your suggestions to try.

Wayne Hahn
Do you
have the same problem?
Sunday, January 11th, 2015 AT 12:41 AM

1 Reply

Hold the phone! Don't "try" anything. By now you've figured out that's the most expensive and least effective way to diagnose a problem. Also, you're inserting a lot of new variables that the Engine Computer is not ready to relearn.

You're bouncing all over the place. You haven't even listed the symptom, but the parts you replaced already fall into all different kinds of symptom repairs.

The battery might solve a failure of the starter to crank the engine but then you haven't even gotten to the point of needing spark or fuel pressure.

The coil pack will cause a crank but failure to start and run. First you have to check if you even have spark, but if you don't, the ignition system is responsible for no-spark about three percent of the time. Too many people get stuck on the first thing they find missing and neglect to look for additional clues, namely, a dead fuel pump. About 95 percent of cranks-but-no-starts are due to a failed sensor which results in no spark AND no fuel. With your engine, the Engine Computer will shut the engine down to protect the valves if the timing belt jumps two teeth. If you keep on cranking it in a misguided attempt to get it started, and the belt jumps one more tooth, the valves will be bent and you'll turn a minor maintenance repair into a major valve job.

Have you checked for fuel pressure? I know this won't make sense, but if you have no spark and a dead fuel pump, you'll still have fuel pressure. I'll explain why later if necessary. Listen for the hum of the fuel pump for one second after turning on the ignition switch. If you hear that, the pump is working.

The spark plugs could be worn and in need of replacement, but you know all four won't fail at once. You'll start with a misfire and the Engine Computer will detect that. It will set a diagnostic fault code that indicates which cylinder is misfiring.

That brings me to the place to start. That is by reading and recording the diagnostic fault codes. Chrysler makes doing that yourself easier than any other manufacturer. Cycle the ignition switch from "off" to "run" three times within five seconds without cranking the engine, leave it in "run", then watch the code numbers appear in the odometer display.

The next thing is to be very specific with the symptoms. "Wants to start but won't kick over" will not be understood by any mechanic. Some people incorrectly think "cranks" and "turns over" are different things. They are the same and that's the terminology we understand. Some people say it "kicks over" when the starter is cranking the engine. Some people say "kicks over" to mean the engine starts and runs but perhaps doesn't stay running.

What I need to know is, ... Does the starter crank the engine? If it does, have you checked for spark while a helper is cranking the engine? I also need to know if there are any fault codes. Those will tell us where to go next.
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Sunday, January 11th, 2015 AT 1:10 AM

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