1998 Chrysler Town and Country Random Starting Failures

Tiny
AXEL
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 CHRYSLER TOWN AND COUNTRY
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 11,300 MILES
I have been trying to find someone with an answer for a totally random starting problem with my "˜98 Chrysler Town & Country LXI, 3.8L for over a year now. Regardless of the variables I’ve listed below, everyone I’ve taken it to has been stymied by the van’s inexplicable and unpredictable faulty starts.
I have noticed that the only constant with this, is that I can get the engine to willfully turn over exactly 6 times without hesitation. It will run for about 2 seconds, then shut down and on precisely the seventh try it does absolutely nothing. It doesn't matter if the weather is hot or cold, wet or dry. It doesn't matter if I've just turned the van off, or if it's been sitting all day and night. I've attempted to lock and unlock the vehicle various ways, being suspicious of an issue with the security system, but even when I left it unlocked, I've had this problem. It may behave fine for several weeks, even months without recurring or it may happen again within 2 days of the prior occurrence. Once I've reached that seventh attempt and it has no response, it may start again in a few minutes or up to a few days later. It's totally random in occurrence and recovery. The only thing for sure is that it will do a complete start 6 times, shut off in about 2 seconds and not even respond to the ignition on the 7th time.
I've been to 4 shops, including our area's preeminent electronics expert. No error codes are logged. I've left it for almost 2 weeks at the Chrysler dealership to have them attempt to recreate this problem, but of course, it wouldn't fail while they had it! I've waited for up to eight hours to attempt to start it again between the first six starts, but it seems that it will not go to the final total failure unless I've actually completed all six starts and failures, regardless of how far apart I space them. I've even disconnected the battery cable for various lengths of time between attempts, but it still "remembers" how many tries I've made since the initial false start, before failing to start entirely. It appears it will not recover until it fails entirely on the 7th try, then it’s a crapshoot at when it will finally turnover again.
I haven't had a consistent problem with the instrument panel failure at startup, although, I have had the panel dials flat line and the odometer/trip meter displays shut off, while other lights (ABS, Service Engine Soon, Seatbelt, etc. ) Begin popping on. This occurs mostly as I travel down the road and resets itself randomly, sometimes minutes later, sometimes days later. It doesn’t affect the overhead display for mileage, temperature, direction, etc. I’ve tested shutting the vehicle off to reset the displays, but the situation seems to also recur and reset just as randomly. I’m not sure that they are related issues, but I’ve included this information just in case.
Is there anyone who’s had experience with this or can share some insights?
Thank you!
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Sunday, June 8th, 2008 AT 12:33 PM

20 Replies

Tiny
SAPEACHEY
  • MEMBER
I have the same problem with my 1999 town annd county (random starting failure and dash board flat lining) the mechanic can't fix as it usually works when brought in, but it hasn't started for a few days so I am towing it in on Monday, just wondering if you have heard anything, if not, if they can fix mine I will let you know what the problem is, thanks.
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Friday, July 4th, 2008 AT 11:00 AM
Tiny
AXEL
  • MEMBER
I have not received any help at all regarding this problem. I have taken it to the dealership; Martin Chrysler in Saginaw, MI, and left it for almost 2 weeks, but they were unable to help. I have tried 4 other service centers, some who were reputed electronics specialists, to no avail. I have sought advice from several online sources, but no one seems to have an answer. Chrysler was unwilling to offer any direction on this matter as well. Please let me know if you have any luck and I will, likewise, keep you posted. Thank you!
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Friday, July 4th, 2008 AT 11:15 AM
Tiny
SAPEACHEY
  • MEMBER
Hi again, looks like the dealership (sarnia, Canada)can't look at it till friday now, but it will probably work for them when I bring it in there on friday! It started a few times this weekend, But no start this morning. I've been doing some research and sound like chrysler has problems with EGC sensors, crank sensor, fuel pump. Have you had any of these replaced? Also I checked for recalls, there was none, but it can't be just coinsedence that we have the EXACT same problem, (mine will turn over 6 times exactly and on the 7th nothing) But will get back to you when I know more.
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Monday, July 7th, 2008 AT 3:10 PM
Tiny
TLHILTON
  • MEMBER
I also have a 1999 T&C that is having the same problem my step dad works for a Nissan dealership and still after being a mechanic for 23 years can not figure this out.I have had every mechanic within 30 miles look at this and it seems like it is fool proof as soon as someone gets here it starts.I have the local electronic enginer looking at it this weekend if I figure any thing I'll let you all know. But it very weird that for as common of a problem as this is noone has an answer.
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Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 AT 9:32 AM
Tiny
SAPEACHEY
  • MEMBER
My mechanic is replacing the SKIM (security key Immobilization module) will let you know how works out.
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Thursday, July 10th, 2008 AT 9:38 AM
Tiny
LADETA
  • MEMBER
I had all of those same problems, spent a lot of money at different dealerships and local mechanics. Finally, I refused to drive the van any more because I never new when I went somewhere if it would start again. I gave it to a mechanic to keep for 2 months. One night he was out in the van and it did it with him----all the guages flatlined, van motor would turn over several times and then nothing. He replaced the instrument panel with a used one and it seemed to have solved the problem for the last 2 years.
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Thursday, July 17th, 2008 AT 12:24 PM
Tiny
KATO00
  • MEMBER
Did that fix it. Because my mechanic is telling me that I will have to replace the instrument cluster? Can you call me 419-270-0230 Jay, this is my work line
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 AT 3:48 PM
Tiny
SAPEACHEY
  • MEMBER
To have to SKIM replaced it would cost too much, over $1300.00! So I just bought a new car instead, And they wern't sure that was the only problem for sure, they said thats what showed up on the diagnostic check when it wouldn't work! They didn't think that the instrument gauges not working was connected to the random starting failures, even though everyone that has this problem seems to have the same problems. But I heard from a few people that replacing the instrument cluster has worked for them, and they've had no problems since. So I am sorry I couldn't help. I gave up! Its sitting in my drive way, anyone want to buy? Ha ha just kidding.
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Thursday, August 7th, 2008 AT 10:22 AM
Tiny
PATRICKB
  • MEMBER
Pound (kind of hard) on top of the dash until the lights and gauges start working.

This is a known issue, except to dealers and mechanics it seems, because the solution can be found on numerous forums.

We have a '98 T&C and it works for us.

BTW, if you find your key won't turn when it's put in the ignition, simply tap on the key three times with your knuckle and it will turn.
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Sunday, September 28th, 2008 AT 10:57 AM
Tiny
RMENDEZ8
  • MEMBER
The problem is definetly with the Sentry Key Immobilizer System (SKIS). Read the sentry key section in your manual. If the car does not recognize you key for what ever reason, it will disable the engine and it will shut off after 2 seconds. I just hope my warranty covers it.
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Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 AT 8:02 PM
Tiny
CRACKER JACK
  • MEMBER
I finally found out, by trial & error, how to fix the starting problem on my T & C. (After spending over $3000.00 to dealers that didn't know what they were doing)
The problem is in the instrument panel. Chrysler said the alarm system couldn't be bypassed but I took out the instrument panel & by doing this bypassed the alarm system. My van starts everytime now. One time I put the old instrument panel back in & the same problem happened again. I finally took it out & am now currently looking for a good used panel. The Chrysler dealership in my hometown wants $600.00 for a new one. (For as much money as I've spent there on this problem I think should give me one.)
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Thursday, March 5th, 2009 AT 9:19 PM
Tiny
FRABLA
  • MEMBER
My 1998 LXI T & C has exact same non-starting issues. Starts fine for long periods and then nothing leaving me stranded. Have had towed in and it starts fine for them. Replaced starter & battery and still does it. Has become totally unreliable and is sitting on street now since wont start for last 2 days. May start tommorow but who knows. It is going to have to go - as soon as/if I can get it started!

I have lots of time to reply on this forum since I am missing so much work because of this.
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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 AT 10:52 AM
Tiny
CRACKER JACK
  • MEMBER
I located a 98 Dodge Caravan & bought the instrument cluster for $25.00. (Same part # as the one from my T&C) Easy to remove & install. Now my T&C starts every time. After years of frustration trying to get it fixed it's hard to believe the answer was so simple.
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Saturday, April 25th, 2009 AT 6:44 AM
Tiny
FRABLA
  • MEMBER
I'll try it. Is the instument cluster behind the dashboard gauges? If so I assume I need to remove a good portion of dash behind steering wheel? What does it look like?

Thanks for help. If it fixes problem will be a great relief.
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 AT 9:41 AM
Tiny
CRACKER JACK
  • MEMBER
Frabla: Remove screws on left side of dashboard & under steering wheel.(You will have to do some prying with a screw driver to pop it out) This will reveal other screws that holds the small panel on thats located above the steering wheel. Unplug wires behind panel. (Light switch)You can see which ones when you get the panel off. I couldn't figure how to disconnect the emergency brake handle from the lower panel so I just let it hang down out of the way. The speedometer is the instrument cluster. Four screws, two on each side holds it in place. It takes a few twists & turns to get it out. Hopefully you have a tilt wheel. Unplug wires from the back. Disregarding what Chrysler says this bypasses the alarm system & you can start your van.
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Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 AT 8:18 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I see this was posted in July 08; not sure why it's showing up now, but there's simple fixes for these two unrelated problems.

First, for the intermittent stuff on the instrument clusters, the connector pins work loose and become intermittent. The fix is to solder the pins to the copper circuits on the back of the unit. Proof that it's not a component failure is that it starts working at times.

The cranking issue sounds like worn contacts in the starter motor solenoid. Most people replace the whole starter, but competent do-it-yourselfers can easily replace just the contacts for $20.00. The symptom that is prevalent is one loud clunk when you turn the ignition switch to "crank". If that's not the case, this description doesn't apply. Every time the ignition switch is cycled to "crank" a plunger pushes a gear out of the starter to engage the flywheel. That's the loud clunk. After it engages, a copper disc on the plunger makes the connection between the two contacts and the motor spins. Usually, just the contacts wear away, but sometimes the disc gets burned spots too. Every time you cycle the ignition switch, the plunger / disc rotates a little so over time, the entire disc wears evenly all the way around. Sounds like there's one spot on the disc yet that is making enough contact for it to work. The odd part of the whole story is that so many of you are finding exactly six dead spots before it cranks, and that it has lasted this long. On my mother's van, it began with one no-crank per week, then became two no-cranks per day, until finally, three months later, she lost count after 700 tries and a blister on her thumb before it cranked and got her home. But; she had three months warning to get it fixed. Twenty bucks and a half hour. Very easy job.

If you're not hearing that loud clunk when it doesn't crank, I would start by turning the ignition switch only as far as "run", then bypassing the starter relay with a jumper wire or paper clip, or by removing its cover and squeezing the contact. That will narrow the problem down to the ignition switch / security system circuits, or the starter solenoid circuit.

Caradiodoc
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Monday, May 4th, 2009 AT 4:41 AM
Tiny
FRABLA
  • MEMBER
I have located a used cluster and will try it. Thanks, I'll report what result is.
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Monday, May 4th, 2009 AT 9:00 AM
Tiny
99_T&C_AK
  • MEMBER
Intermittent or no start is a VERY well known glitch on chrysler vans. There is a bad solder on the back of the gauge's circuit board. REPLACING the board with a used one may not solve it because many of these vans had the SAME defect. The temporary fix is to bang on the top of the dash! The real fix only costs a soldering pen and maybe some solder. Some just re-heat the existing solder. Dealerships & Chrysler claim no knowledge and will have you replace the BCM or PCM module etc for $500+. Forums are FULL of this common problem. A very helpful man has posted a series of photos on Flickr showing the fix. Here are the easy fix pictures. clicking on them, enlarges them: http://www.flickr.com/photos/landar/ The failure to start will turn on the anti-theft shutdown - which leads to more nightmares and dealership woes! It's not the key, it's not the starter, it's not the theft system.... it is one measly bad solder on the back of the dash circuit board. Good luck. No wonder chrysler is kaput.
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Monday, May 11th, 2009 AT 12:40 AM
Tiny
FRABLA
  • MEMBER
I spot soldered the circut board and it did not work for me. Next step will be buying used cluster and see if that works. Pretty easy getting to the cluster thnks to the recommended pics site. Took approx 50 tries to start today. Does not seem to like to start when its raining.
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Friday, May 15th, 2009 AT 12:00 PM
Tiny
CONVERGIES41137
  • MEMBER
Pounding on the Dash board REALLY DOES WORK! For engine immobilizer issues!
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Thursday, June 13th, 2013 AT 7:35 AM

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