2003 Dodge Caravan Starts intermittently

Electrical problem
2003 Dodge Caravan 6 cyl Two Wheel Drive Automatic

For about two weeks my van has been starting intermittently. When it is cold it takes two to three times for it to start. It will attempt to start but it will not completely turn over and then the word "done will be displayed on the odometer and then I will try to start it again and it will start. What could the problem be? I took it to my mechanic and of course it did not do it and he started it about ten to twelve times
Do you
have the same problem?
Saturday, March 21st, 2009 AT 10:53 PM

1 Reply

Common problem. Easy fix.

You only have one problem. The contacts inside the starter solenoid are worn away. The expensive fix is a rebuilt starter. The inexpensive repair is to replace the contacts. Cost with shipping is under $15.00, but I'd suggest you look locally first because the two contacts are different. The "Battery" terminal is the same in all Nippendenso starters built for Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda. The are three different versions of the "Motor" terminal and you don't know which one you have until you pop the cover off and look inside. Depending on the engine, and therefore the location of the starter motor, this can often be done without removing the starter, but you WILL have to remove it to replace the contacts. The entire job, if you have a V-6 engine, takes less than an hour.

I'm working on a web site related to electrical diagnosis and repair, but the page for this starter repair isn't done yet. I can help you find other web sites with the same information if you want to tackle this yourself. Beware of junkyard starters unless you can get one with a warranty because this is a REAL common problem. I like replacing these contacts because the rest of the starter is extremely reliable and rarely needs service. I don't think you'll find them at Carquest or NAPA, but you can ask. I have a local rebuilder in town who supplies me. Most large cities have similar shops. Some people also replace the plunger which has a copper disc that makes the electrical contact, but experience has shown it's usually not necessary to replace it.

In the meantime, just keep cycling the ignition switch until it cranks. It will take progressively longer to crank but could last you another two or three months. When this happened to my mother's '95 Caravan, the last time it started, she lost count after 700 attempts and a blister on her thumb!

As for your odometer, Chrysler has always had the easiest way to ask the engine computer which diagnostic fault codes it has memorized. On older vehicles you counted the flashes of the "Check Engine" light. Code 12 means the ignition switch was turned off recently and code 55 just means "end of the message". Some cars don't display the code 12.

By the mid 1990s, the codes were displayed as two-digit numbers in the odometer and the word "done" indicated when the last code was displayed. The fact that you didn't see any numbers just means there are no codes in memory. That's good.

To start the code-reading process, you must cycle the ignition switch from "Off" to "Run" three times within five seconds without cranking the engine. That's what happened when you repeatedly tried to crank the engine. When the engine computer sees pulses from the crankshaft position sensor, (indicating engine rotation), it exits the code-reading sequence. Since your engine never rotated, it didn't matter that you turned the key all the way to "Crank"; it still ran the test. Therefore and hencewith, ... No odometer problem.

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Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 AT 3:13 AM

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