Warning lights and loss of power

Tiny
BRENDA LEE D
  • MEMBER
  • 2010 DODGE CALIBER
  • 2.2L
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 72,000 MILES
This is kind of long, but I wanted to give you as much information as I could.

First my husband drove it cross country and he began getting a warning light (the temperature one) but the temperature gauge never went past half. The car also lost power and slowed dramatically. He turned engine off and waited about fifteen minutes and was able to continue. This seemed to only happen when in high altitudes (New Mexico and Eastern Arizona).
He returned home Friday with no issues from Dallas to Indy.
I drove the car to Chicago from Indy with no issues the following day. Today, Sunday I began driving home and was only about half an hour into the trip when the engine light came on, the oil warning began flashing, the temperature warning came on and flashed. I pulled over, waited, restarted and pulled off the freeway seemed okay until I slowed on an exit ramp and it went haywire again, including this time the ETC? (Lightning bolt) warning and lost power dramatically, not able to go above thirty mph while limping to the nearest Autozone to get the codes read which I will list at the end all sixteen.

After a Mechanic looked at it, he believed that it was the PCM needing to be replaced (Ugh) but If I drove carefully I could probably make it home. He reset and cleared the codes and the car was fine until I was twenty miles from home when it went even more haywire. ALL warning lights were going on and off, some solid, some flashing, even the gear indicators were flashing, ABS everything! Loss of power was dramatic but this time I stopped for over half an hour with no change. I limped the last twenty miles at about thirty mph with the mileage gauge jumping around, the temperature gauge jumping around and finally dropping and staying at zero, the check engine light, the battery and oil light, the ETC light and the ABS light on, and others flashing and the car dinging (like your seat belt is not on) whenever I had to accelerate from a stop.

Is this the PCM? Should it be replaced? Can we get a reliable used/already programmed one? Need to be sure we get the right part.

also, saw something online that said you might be able to resolve issues by resetting it by removing battery cables holding cables together for ten minutes to drain power, then reconnecting them? Is this worth trying first?

Codes read by two at Autozone and a Mechanic.

u1110, u0101, u100c, u0402, p0481, p0480, u1120, u0140, p0463, u1403, u110e, u0402, p0463, p0700, u0001, u0100










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Sunday, July 10th, 2016 AT 7:15 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hold on. Before we assume the worst, lets look at the most common suspect. Much of what you listed has nothing to do with the Engine Computer so put that way at the bottom of the list of suspects. Pulling the battery cable off to magically reset something is a throwback to the late 1980's and early 1990's when GM had a huge computer failure rate. If doing this was standard practice, they would have built in a switch somewhere. While it is true disconnecting the battery can clear up some things, that is not fixing the problem. It is making the problem not show up right now, and that can make it even harder to solve later. What defect do you expect to find when everything is working properly?

As for the circuits and systems that are run by the Engine Computer or the Body Computer, there are separate circuits for each one. A failure in a computer might involve two or three systems, but then not another one, and another one, etc. That is like saying one light bulb in your kitchen stopped working yesterday, then another one today, and another one tomorrow, therefore it must be a bad switch. (In case you did not get my comparison, if the switch was bad, all of the bulbs would have been out right away).

Every symptom you described can have one cause in common, and that is the voltage in the electrical system, meaning the charging system. If the alternator fails while driving, the car's electrical system will run on the battery until it slowly runs down. The most you will get is about an hour if you have the head lights and heater fan turned off. As system voltage drops, computers, which are real sensitive to supply voltage, will start to become confused and do weird things, including shutting down. Part of them will operate just enough to turn on their warning lamps to let you know their system isn't operating. As battery voltage drops lower and lower, more computers will shut down or do strange things.

The mileage you listed is rather low for this problem, but the most common cause is worn brushes in the alternator. To test for this, measure battery voltage with the engine off first, then with it running. With the engine off, it will be 12.6 volts if it's good and fully-charged. If it is closer to 12.2 volts, it's good but discharged. Charge it at a slow rate for an hour, then recheck it. If you find 11 volts, the battery has a shorted cell and must be replaced.

Next, measure the battery's voltage with the engine running. For this test to be valid, it must be done while the problem is occurring. It must be between 13.75 and 14.75 volts. If it is low, suspect the alternator. If it is okay, that only means it is okay to perform the second part of the test, and that requires a professional load tester. Your mechanic will test for full-load output current and "ripple" voltage. If one of the six internal diodes has failed, all you'll be able to get is exactly one third of the alternator's maximum rated current and ripple voltage will be "high". 30 amps from the common 90 amp alternator is not enough to meet the demands of the electrical system under all conditions. The battery will have to make up the difference until it slowly runs down over days or weeks.

Diodes almost always fail permanently and can be identified during testing. Intermittent problems like you described are typical of worn brushes and those always start out that way and get gradually worse over the next few months. Most people replace the alternator for this problem, but it is possible to replace the brushes. On some Chrysler engines that can be done without even taking the alternator off. The brush assembly costs around 12 bucks.
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Sunday, July 10th, 2016 AT 9:59 PM
Tiny
BRENDA LEE D
  • MEMBER
But if the alternator were failing would the car be hard to start? Show other signs of battery issues? I have had battery and alternator problems in other cars, but I have never seen this kind of crazy before.

Also, my husband drove all the way from Indiana to New Mexico with no issues, then he had issues four times from New Mexico to South Arizona. Then no issues for the next few days just driving short distances. Then it was okay from Arizona to El Paso when it failed again and then it went to Texas and Indiana with no issues. The following day I drove over two hundred miles with no problems. The next day drove only about thirty miles before it went crazy with a harder crash then my husband ever experienced. It was off for about forty five minutes to an hour. The mechanic cleared codes. Then I drove another one hundred and sixty miles before it happened again and had to limp home the final twenty miles at 40 mph or less. This time not only were warning lights flashing and going nuts and the speedometer was jumping from 0 to 40 and everywhere in between very erratically which is why I think I was going around 40 mph it was quite hard to tell.
Today it continues to happen even in short trips. Starts with dinging, then oil light and battery light, followed ETC light then limp mode and no acceleration.

I will look into testing the battery and alternator though it is certainly a bit less expensive than the computer, unless of course it is still the computer and it is just adding to our bill. I think we need to go back to horses. Lol
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Monday, July 11th, 2016 AT 12:55 PM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
I agree with caradiodoc. One other thing to check is belt and tensioner as well as recommended replacement is 60,000 miles for both so it may have been slipping at low rpm and at higher rpm like it was working, but not as efficient.
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Monday, July 11th, 2016 AT 1:35 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi HMAC300.

Yup, what you're describing is exactly what a failing alternator can cause. The most common failure on Chrysler alternators is worn brushes, and those always start out by making intermittent contact. When the problem occurs, it can take a few minutes for the battery's voltage to drop enough for the first computer to act up. You have dozens of computers, and one by one more of them will start to shut down and / or do weird things. The brushes can suddenly start to make contact again making the alternator start working again and recharging the battery. Typically the brushes will wear enough for this to become a permanent failure within the next month or two.

I've included a photo from my web site of the Nippendenso alternator brush assembly. The pretty blue arrow shows the worn brushes. The nifty red arrow shows what they look like on the new assembly.
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Monday, July 11th, 2016 AT 11:46 PM
Tiny
BRENDA LEE D
  • MEMBER
Well. Mechanic tested alternator. Said it's fine. He was convinced it was the computer. Got one and replaced and reprogramed it. Fine for a day then blew up again. Same symptoms. Any other ideas?
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Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 AT 12:59 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You aren't following my logic. The alternator almost always starts out being intermittent, and that's how this problem is acting. That means it will work fine at times and not at other times. Any testing has to be done while the problem is occurring. If your mechanic tested the charging system while it was working, naturally everything will test good. My money is on the alternator or the wiring associated with it.
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Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 AT 8:35 PM

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