My van suddenly died while driving 30 mph and it does nothing when trying to restart

Tiny
PEOPLESME
  • MEMBER
  • 2003 FORD WINDSTAR
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 95,000 MILES
Battery has full charge. With key in the on position all gauges work, radio works, windows work. When you turn the key to try and start it everything turns off and nothing happens. It does not even try to turn over. No clicking just silent. When you release the key and it goes back to the on position everything turns back on. The information panel on the dash states a fuel computer data error and a charging system data error. I do not know where to start looking. Any help would be appreciated.
Do you
have the same problem?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 4:35 PM

9 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
How did you determine the battery is okay and fully-charged? What you are describing is commonly caused by a discharged battery or loose or dirty battery cable connections. Given the additional symptom of stalling while driving, a failed charging system and run-down battery is the best suspect.

The place to start is by measuring the battery's voltage with an inexpensive digital voltmeter. If it is good and fully-charged, it will measure 12.6 volts. If it is good but discharged, it will be near 12.2 volts. Charge it at a slow rate for an hour, then measure it again. Let me know what you find for battery voltage.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 5:29 PM
Tiny
PEOPLESME
  • MEMBER
I determined it was not the battery by attempting to jump start it from a vehicle that was running. I connected it and let it run for about a minute and when I turn the key I got nothing not even the clicking noise you would normally get when your battery was dead. Also the battery was operating all electronic devices with no problem while the key was in the on position. However, when you turned the key trying to start it everything would would loose power and there would be nothing not even a click. The terminals are clean and had a tight connection. Also when it died it did not stall it just shut off.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 5:45 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
What do you consider to be the difference between "shutting off" and "stalling"? We need to be sure we are talking about the same thing.

There are two potential problems with your observations, although you could be correct. First of all, a battery that is almost totally dead will run the radio and lights just fine because those do not take much power. You can run your vehicle's radio with a 9-volt transistor battery, but you know that would never crank an engine. The starter can draw over 200 amps, (400 times what it takes to run radio). That is where a dead battery and bad connections will show up.

The second issue is jumper cables have jaws that have very little contact area, so they cannot pass enough current to run a starter motor on their own. Add to that, they often will have a really bad connection on one of the four connections, and it is common to have bad connections on two or more at the same time. I have to jump-start my daily driver quite often as I run the battery down while running my computer on it, and nine out of ten times, I, (the "expert"), have to wiggle the clamps multiple times before the engine will crank. Add to that, if your battery really was run down, a minute of charging it from the jumping vehicle might not have been enough time.

It sounds like if your logic is to be followed, you have two different problems. The engine died while you were driving, and the starter wont crank the engine. I am inclined to doubt two totally different problems occurred at exactly the same time. Rather, both problems are commonly caused by a failed charging system, which is why I want you to measure the battery's voltage and tell me what you find. If it is okay, bad connections are the next most common cause, and finding those is much more involved than performing a visual inspection. I can describe how to do that with your voltmeter if that becomes necessary.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 6:24 PM
Tiny
CJ MEDEVAC
  • EXPERT
Different Guy,

Do/ Try some of this stuff in my link! Before you spend money!

https://www.2carpros.com/questions/1996-chevrolet-tahoe-wont-start-sounds-dead-battery-jumpbox-get-same-reults

If these easy things do not solve the problem, and your battery tests fine (not seems fine).

Symptoms seem to show either the battery or the starter may be the problem.

Both can be tested at most auto parts stores usually for free!

Should you need to purchase either, Before you compulsive buy, Look at my link again, towards the end of the thread is another link. The methods within it may save you some money at the store I use a lot, or even at others (using their own methods).

Return with good news!

The Medic

Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 6:29 PM
Tiny
PEOPLESME
  • MEMBER
I will definitely test the battery to make sure. However, I have changed many bad batteries and starters in the past and I am by no means an expert, but every time before they have at least made some sort of noise when I turn the key to try to start. It makes no attempt to engage the starter it is completely silent. When it died it was as if the key was just suddenly turn off while I was driving. No hesitation diminished of lights it went from running perfectly to just shutting off. This has me so confused because it is difficult to describe and I have never seen anything like it.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 6:47 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Okay, different thought. You still have not given me the battery's voltage, but based on your additional observations, follow the smaller battery positive wire to the under-hood fuse box and be sure that connection is clean and tight. That bolted-on connection causes a real lot of problems on every car brand and model. Some circuits will work; some will not. If some current is able to get through, you wont get enough as more circuits are turned on. The clue then, as in when trying to run the starter solenoid, is the voltage will drop, hence, the dash lights turning off.

For future reference, also follow the smaller negative battery wire to the body and be sure that connection is not rusty. Head lights and tail lights wont work when that connection is bad, but it will also affect the starter and dash lights.

Once I know the battery voltage, if the problem still hasn't been solved, we will need to pick one circuit and take some voltage readings. For some of these a test light will be more accurate than a digital voltmeter, but we can make either one work.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 AT 8:34 PM
Tiny
PEOPLESME
  • MEMBER
I tested the battery and it had 12.5 volts. I went ahead and put the charger on for an hour and it now reads 13.2.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Thursday, December 1st, 2016 AT 7:40 AM
Tiny
PEOPLESME
  • MEMBER
I have good voltage at the fuse panel under the hood.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Thursday, December 1st, 2016 AT 7:55 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hold on. You're could be falling for a trick I built into some of my cars for students to diagnose. With a poor mechanical connection at the fuse box, you'll still read 12.5 volts, ... Until you try to get significant current to flow through it, like when trying to supply ten to 15 amps to a starter solenoid. This would be like saying you have good water pressure at the nozzle at the end of a hose while you have that hose 99 percent blocked by standing on it. It isn't until you open the nozzle and try to get water to flow that you'll see the pressure drop to almost nothing. I suspect you are right that the connection is okay, but we don't want to overlook something stupid. Measure that voltage again when current is trying to flow. Either turn on the head lights or have a helper try to crank the engine.

I didn't bring this up earlier because it doesn't relate to part of the symptoms, meaning the engine that stalled while driving, but by the mid 2000s almost every manufacturer had complicated their starting circuits unnecessarily by adding a computer to the neutral safety switch circuit. In the past, with a weak or run-down battery, the engine would crank slowly or you'd get that chatter from the starter relay. Today, a weak battery, or a less-than-perfect connection, can cause a voltage drop just enough that the neutral safety circuit does not turn on to allow the starter relay to be turned on. The confusing result is we don't get the rapidly-clicking or buzzing relay any more. We get nothing.

The next thing is everyone has gone from a neutral safety switch to a "digital range selector". On the F-150 that is simply a set of four switches built into one assembly that goes in place of the older neutral safety switch. I'm not sure if that is what is used on your van. Some vehicles use a range sensor, identical in operation to a throttle position sensor. 5 volts or 12 volts is applied to one end, then the signal wire picks a voltage off of it relative to its position. That voltage only has to be off a little for the Engine Computer to think it's in gear and not in "park" or "neutral". That will inhibit the starter relay.

The problem is you really need a scanner to see what the computers are seeing to figure out a simple no-crank problem. The neutral safety switch or sensor will be listed along with its "state". Inputs are also shown. In this case, the "crank request" will be listed typically with something like "off", "denied", or a reason it's denied might be listed. If it never changes from "off", we would start by looking at the ignition switch and its wiring. The alternative would be to test the individual circuits and try to solve it that way. If it comes to that, I'll dig up a wiring diagram and figure out where to start.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Friday, December 2nd, 2016 AT 9:53 PM

Please login or register to post a reply.

Recommended Guides