2002 Neon Starting Problem

Tiny
RJ4221
  • 2002 DODGE NEON
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 130,000 MILES

Turn key and sometimes the engine will not turn over. I used a jumper to the selenoid driectly from the battery with the key in th estart position and the engine starts every time. SOmetimes the car will start. Thought is was starter and selenoid passes bench tests. I am thinking a starter relay. Any Ideas?

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Saturday, May 7th, 2011 AT 11:58 PM

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Tiny
HMAC300
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Check your battery first, most auto parts do it for free then check the relay.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 12:37 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Hi guys. Sorry for but ting in but that is very common with the little silver Nippendenso starters. Worn solenoid contacts. If you cycle the ignition switch enough times it will eventually crank. A bench test is meaningless because those contacts only have to pass about 30 amps when there is no load on the motor. The accurate test is with it on the engine.

The contacts can be replaced for 20 bucks but most people just replace the entire starter. The clue is the single kind of loud clunk it makes each time you turn the ignition switch to "crank".

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 1:14 AM
Tiny
RJ4221
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There is no clunk when you turn the key just nothing at all. I will look at the contacts and see if they are dirty. When I put it in today they all looked good. I am going swap out the relay with another one and see if that makes a difference. Battery is in good condition. By the way it is kind of a pain to get to the starter, have to remove a lot of things to be able to get it out.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 3:27 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Don't knock yourself out getting to the starter. If you aren't hearing that clunk, it's not worn solenoid contacts. Try jumping the starter relay to see if it cranks. Remove the relay, then use a piece of wire to jump terminals 87 and 30 or the two terminals with arrows in the picture below. Be sure it's in park if you have the ignition switch on, but you can do the test with the switch off. If it cranks, that leaves the ignition switch and neutral safety switch as suspects.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 6:34 AM
Tiny
RJ4221
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Ok That is good to know I thought it could not be the starter seeing how I could connect to the battery and selenoid with a jumer and the car would start with the key in the full on position. Your arrow does not point to terminal 87 so I want to make sure it's 30 and 87 that I place a jumper wire on? At this point I am thinking ignition switch.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 1:03 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Yup. First of all, there are three separate circuits, the low-current ignition switch circuit, the medium-current solenoid circuit, and the high-current starter circuit. By applying 12 volts to the solenoid terminal directly, you proved the high-current circuit is working. If it cranks when you jump the relay, that will also prove the medium-current circuit is working.

Rather than look up each car to see which style relay they use, I just included both of them in my drawing. Jump 30 to 87 if you have the 1" cube relay, or jump the two terminals with arrows if you have the smaller rectangular relay. Not all of the drawing is shown in the thumbnail above. You have to click on it to see the second arrow.

All starter circuits that use relays, (98 percent of all cars) can be split into four parts and tested with a test light or digital voltmeter. Start with the test light's ground clip on the battery negative post. Probe the four terminals in the relay socket. One of them must have 12 volts all the time. That's the feed for the contact. A second terminal must have 12 volts when the ignition switch is in the "crank" position. That's the feed from the ignition switch. For the remaining two terminals, move the test light's ground clip to the battery positive post because you will be checking for a complete circuit to ground. Probe those last two terminals. The light should light up brightly on both of them. One of those is reading to ground through the double coil of wire in the starter solenoid. The other one is the ground for the coil inside the relay. In Chrysler products with automatic transmissions, the neutral safety switch is in that ground wire. You can identify that one by the light going off when you shift out of park or neutral. With a clutch, or with neutral safety switches on many other brands of cars, that switch is in the same circuit as the ignition switch so the two terminals that read to ground will do so all the time.

That is a real fast way to narrow down which of the four circuits has the problem or if it's a starter problem.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011 AT 6:32 PM
Tiny
RJ4221
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I checked the post of the starter relay and the one that should be off when the key is off has 12 volts running thru it. The other posts check out as indicated. So I am thinking now that this would be the ignition switch. If not then the neutral safety switch located near the gear shift lever in the center console.

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 AT 7:08 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Something is wrong there. If there is 12 volts all the time coming from the ignition switch, the starter should be cranking all the time.

The neutral safety switch is not in the center console. It's in the front of the transmission.

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 AT 8:14 PM
Tiny
RJ4221
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Ok I will recheck the spots again thought I checked them all correctly but what you said makes sense. Electrical stuff is such a pain to deal with, never simple never easy. Do you have a diagram of the neutral safety switch? I have a hoist so getting underneath is not an issue for me. Thank you.

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 AT 8:47 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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I can't get into the site we're supposed to have access to so I can't post diagrams. I'm working on drawing one up right now in MS Word for someone else. As soon as that one is done, converted to a Jpeg, and posted, I'll do one for you too. Diagrams can be a lot easier to follow than written descriptions.

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 AT 9:10 PM
Tiny
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Okay. See if you can make sense out of these. The first one shows the wire colors, and the parts are labeled. This is from a "Notes Pages" handout I gave to my students. It looks real complicated because of all the things I added. The second one shows just the ignition switch and neutral safety switch turned on. The lame-brained engineers added a Rube Goldberg circuit by adding the Engine Computer, (PCM) in the same circuit as the neutral safety switch. That means you can no longer perform a simple, quick resistance test to see if the switch is working properly.

In the third drawing, the relay contacts have clicked on and current flows through the two coils in the solenoid. Some current goes right to ground, and some goes to ground through the very low resistance starter motor coils. The magnetic fields of the two coils are strong enough to engage the starter drive gear. The solenoid contacts turn on at the same time.

In the last drawing, the high starter current flows through those contacts, (which cause a lot of trouble), and through the motor, to ground. Full battery voltage is on both sides of the Pull-in coil so it turns off. It isn't needed once the drive gear is engaged so by switching it off, that current is available to the starter motor. That might make the difference between starting and not starting on a cold day or with a marginal battery.

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 AT 7:22 AM
Tiny
RJ4221
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I took took out the ingnition switch and found a small piece of metal. It broke off from the small metal shaft that sits behind the key cylinder. I suspect that the piece would engage from time to time and then bend just enough until it finally broke off. I hope this is the case. It was easy to take this all apart. Going to the junk yard to get another part. I will update you to the status when I get it back together this weekend.

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Friday, May 13th, 2011 AT 12:20 AM
Tiny
RJ4221
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Problem solved. Changed the ignition switch along with going to the junkyard and getting the plastic shaft/metal prong assembly that was borken. Car has been starting fine ever since.
THANK YOU for all your help.

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Sunday, May 15th, 2011 AT 3:59 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Sorry for taking so long to get back. My main computer stopped getting access to this site so I'm on a miserable laptop right now.

The dealer has a repair kit for the lock cylinder. It's called a "cam repair kit". You break the old cam off, slide the new one on, and drill a small hole to slide in a roll pin. Did that on a few including my mother's Grand Caravan. Only takes about an hour and you can keep your old cylinder and ignition key. I didn't think of that earlier because I never saw one be intermittent. The typical symptom has always been everything else electrical worked except it didn't turn the switch quite far enough to crank the engine.

Anyway, happy to hear it's fixed.

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Monday, May 16th, 2011 AT 8:10 AM

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