1993 Dodge Caravan Dead battery to New Starter?

Tiny
GKA
  • MEMBER
  • 1993 DODGE CARAVAN
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 137,048 MILES
My battery died in my driveway overnight (battery is 4 years old), and I called AAA to come out and jump start my car. A few minutes after the tech attached the jumper cable clamps to the battery, but with no key in the ignition, the engine attempted to turn over several times. He unhooked the jumper cables and waited a few minutes and then attempted the jump again. The engine did not repeat the "self-start, " and I was able to start the car.

After allowing the car to run in the driveway for a few minutes, I pulled out, and started to drive down the street (going to find and purchase a new battery, since the tech said my battery definitely needed replacement). After less than 1/4 mile, the entire car shut down; no power at all. I am not very car savvy, but my understanding is the battery starts the car, the alternator charges the battery, the serpentine belt powers everything after the car is started.

So, having said all of that, my question is this: What happened here? Is it the starter? Is it the belt? I know I must buy a new battery.

Thank you!
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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 AT 5:52 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
BMRFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Open hood and check if belt on
I would suspect a bad alternator
have the battery change for sure and than start engine and check charging system

need manual CHECK IT @
http://www.2carpros.com/kpages/auto_repair_manuals.htm
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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 AT 7:29 PM
Tiny
GKA
  • MEMBER
Thank you for your response!

I am not doing this repair myself. But, I did look under the hood when the car started after the jump and after it died. Both times belt appeared to be on there. But, when the car started the belt was very noisy, not squealing, but a very loud rasping sound is the best I can think of to describe it.

The mechanic who is checking it said the alternator is fine, the battery is dead, and the starter is what caused the car to shut down completely. I believe he said he checked the charging system and that is how he determined the alternator is fine and the battery is not salvageable.

Being told that the starter caused the car to shut down completely is what has caused my confusion. As, I mentioned, I am not car savvy, but I don't understand the connection between a bad starter and the car going completely powerless after it started.

Thank you for your help. I am trying to educate myself enough to make good car repair decisions. It's very frustrating to agree to a $400-500 car repair and then have the shop call and say, "well, we replaced x and y, but we discovered z is also faulty/broken and the car won't run without it." So, since my car started with the jump and then died, I want to make sure that the starter repair is necessary or if I should go about this in some other way.
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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 AT 9:05 PM
Tiny
BMRFIXIT
  • EXPERT
What would change my opinion is the noise that you just described as it is possible that after starting the starter staying engaged
$500 for a starter in my area is a bit high
good luck
let me know
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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 AT 10:22 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Yup, $500.00 is WAY too much for a starter. This happened on my 1988 Grand Caravan a few years ago. I replaced my Bosch original starter with the Nippendenso like what is used on '93 and newer cars. One night, when heading home from school, the starter stayed engaged. I wouldn't have heard it if I didn't have to get out to brush snow off the windshield. Luckily, I was an automotive teacher, so I drove it like that into the shop.

These starters have a real lot of trouble with worn solenoid contacts causing a no-crank condition, but in my case, the plunger's copper disc got stuck between the contacts' wear spots. Didn't even have to remove the starter; just unbolted the solenoid cover, pried the plunger loose, and of course, put it back together and drove home! It never did that again, but I did eventually have my students replace the contacts.

Most mechanics will not replace these contacts because they don't know where to find them and because they have to warranty their work and have never done this before. It's not hard to figure out. Even a competent do-it-yourselfer can change these contacts.

It's odd that your starter would start cranking after sitting for a while. Just to be safe, you might try tapping on the starter relay to see if it cranks. Two things can happen. Corrosion can grow between the contacts causing the circuit to turn on. This isn't common in a high-current circuit like a starter solenoid circuit. More common is a contact arm that corrodes apart and doesn't fully release. The small amount of current isn't enough to produce any noticeable symptom, but the heat generated by the current causes the contacts and arm to expand and make better contact until eventually enough current flows to activate the circuit. In a lamp circuit, for example, you would see the lamps getting brighter and brighter. But in the starter circuit, you wouldn't notice anything until enough current was flowing to cause the electromagnet in the solenoid to grow strong enough to engage the starter. Full starter current turns on after the solenoid is engaged.

So there's two possibilities. I'd definitely suspect the starter first, but if I'm right about the relay, eventually the contact arm will break off and it won't crank. If that happens, just switch the starter relay with a different one. The AC compressor clutch is a good one because the car can live without AC for a while.

Caradiodoc
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Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 AT 2:44 AM
Tiny
GKA
  • MEMBER
Thank you both for your input!

So, I continue to wonder if a faulty starter or starter relay would cause the entire car to power down after the car was jump started?

The $400 + repair bill includes a battery and battery installation charge, supply fees, and taxes. The actual charge for the starter w/o taxes and supply fees is 281.00 which includes parts (starter, starter relay) and labor. The estimate is from an AAA service center near me (state: SC).

Also, sorry, but I won't be tapping on or taking anything apart at all. Not only am I not a competent beginner, I am not even a beginner. I don't do my own car repairs, but try to educate myself when I have a problem. Over the years, I have had too many experiences where my car was not repaired properly or exactly what I described in my previous post of "we repaired x, and y."

And, finally, in looking over my old repair receipts, I discovered that this very same repair center replaced my starter just under 2 years ago. At that time, I was able to have the car jumped and then just drove it in; no loss of power as described in my previous post. Prior to that no start, it was taking 2-4 key turns to get it to start. And, yes, I write notes on my repair receipts, so I can refer back to the symptoms that led to the repair, how long it took them to diagnose and call me, etc.

Thank you again
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Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 AT 8:53 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Your previous starter from 2 years ago was doing the very common problem of intermittent no-crank. That's what the new contacts would fix. For $281.00, I would suspect they're putting in a new starter. Ask if they can find a remanufactured unit. The motor and gear reduction section, which is the majority of the whole starter, hardly ever gives a problem. Remanufactured starters are cleaned and inspected, then new contacts are installed. There are so many of these starters out there, I'm sure the cost should be less than what they're quoting.

Now, you have to understand, I have never actually purchased one of these starters for me or my friends. I always installed the contacts. For this reason, my cost estimate MIGHT be out-of-line with reality. Call Carquest, NAPA, or Auto Zone and ask for the cost of a Nippendenso starter. That will give you a starting point. If they tell you, $200.00", your shop is not ripping you off at $281.00. They have to pay the guy who runs to get it, the guy who does the paperwork, and the person who sends the check to pay for it. Part of the profit they make on the part goes to pay their costs if the new part fails under warranty. They incur all the same expenses the second time, but no one would expect you to pay a second time.

Fortunately, this is not a difficult problem to diagnose. For future reference, if this problem occurs again, rest easy in knowing that it takes quite a while before it fails completely. When this happened to my mother's 1995 Grand Caravan, I ignored it for about three months. She drove it daily until finally it got so bad, she lost count after 700 tries and a blister on her thumb! But; it did still crank eventually.

Caradiodoc
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Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 AT 3:37 PM

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