1981 Dodge Ram Engine stalls soon after starting

Tiny
2CP897
  • MEMBER
  • 1981 DODGE RAM
  • V8
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 233,000 MILES
I have a strange situation. After driving about 2-4 miles or so the engine may just shut off. It is obviously an electrical problem as it just quits with no sputtering.

Even stranger, after less than 5 minutes I can restart the engine and after that it doesn't shut off again for the entire trip. Eliminates a heat related problem.

Only happens when the van has not been driven for at least a few hours and the engine is physically cold when started. Later in the day, afer the sun has warmed the outside temperature and the sun has been beating down on the vehicle it is very unlikely to happen.

Doesn't do it every time but seems to (usually) happen when it is colder outside (50-70 degrees or so) and at night. Live in Southern California.

Possibly helpful info: Ignition coil is less than 2 years old. Voltage regulator is about 2 months old and gave reliable service for most of that 2 months. Mechanic replaced what I think he called a "resistor" but he didn't really think that was the problem as it usually causes a problem when hot. It is off-white in color and maybe about 3 inches long.
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Saturday, December 6th, 2008 AT 4:18 AM

3 Replies

Tiny
JACOBANDNICKOLAS
  • EXPERT
Hi:
Has your mechanic checked the pick-up coil in the distributor?
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Monday, December 8th, 2008 AT 6:05 PM
Tiny
2CP897
  • MEMBER
Will have it replaced and report back. Since it is sporadic I will wait a week or so before replying.

Thanks for your help.
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Monday, December 8th, 2008 AT 6:16 PM
Tiny
2CP897
  • MEMBER
After the problem failed to surface for about 10 days it stalled again.

I drove it to my mechanic to have it checked out and luckily it failed again while there. He isolated it to an electrical problem, my original suspicion.

He opened the distributor and found a red substance inside. So we agreed to do a major effort to replace several electrical parts that "could be" part of the problem, knowing that not all needed (for sure) to be done. I just thought it was best to replace several parts and get it over with.

Parts replaced:
Remanufactured distributor.
New ignition module.
New distributor cap.
New rotor.
New ignition coil.
New ballast resistor (not the problem but did it anyway as the old one was damaged - he put a used one in initially but the problem remained so it wasn't the problem).

This was done two weeks ago and the problem has not returned.

But, the good thing was that other irritants were corrected at the same time (with the above repair) including a rough-running engine at idle, many times would run VERY rough upon starting when cold (putting out smoke too as if the fuel mixture was too rich) and no more trying to run after the ignition was turned off. Thought these things had to do with the carbuerator but obviously not. It now runs like a top and am very happy with the results.
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Sunday, January 4th, 2009 AT 11:31 PM

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