By "dead clicks" do you mean a single kind of loud clunk from the starter, but it doesn't spin the engine? And if you cycle the ignition switch enough times it will eventually crank? If so, that's a real common problem. The solenoid contacts are worn. They can be replaced for 20 bucks, but most people just replace the entire starter motor. The problem will get progressively worse in the next few weeks or months.
As for the starting problem, I assume it's cranking ok but won't run. First, try holding the gas pedal down about a quarter of an inch. If it fires right up but stalls when you let off the pedal, the engine computer needs to relearn minimum throttle. It loses this from memory if the battery was disconnected or run dead. To do the procedure, drive at highway speed with the engine warmed up, then coast for at least seven seconds without touching the brake or gas pedals. That will meet the conditions to trigger the computer to put the throttle position sensor's value into memory. From then on, whenever it sees that same value, the computer will know it has to be in charge of idle speed.
If holding the gas pedal down a little doesn't help, suspect a loss of fuel pressure. The pump is supposed to run for only two seconds when you turn on the ignition switch, then turn off until you start cranking the engine. That two seconds is normally enough to insure fuel pressure is up in preparation for starting. The system will normally hold that pressure for weeks, but if it is bleeding off completely, that two second burst might not be enough to get the pressure high enough. There are three possible causes of loss of pressure. One is a leaking check valve in the fuel pump. That's rare and will not cause any other problems. The second is a leaking injector. That too is rare on a Chrysler product but it can lead to rapid engine wear by washing the film of lubricating oil off the cylinder wall. It will also dilute the engine oil and reduce its lubricating properties. An injector will bleed fuel pressure off relatively slowly so it shouldn't be that hard to get it started. Due to the fuel puddling in the intake manifold, you MIGHT see black smoke out the tail pipe when the engine finally starts.
The third possibility is a leaking fuel pressure regulator. GM has a real lot of trouble with theirs, but I've only run into two on Chrysler vehicles. The clue here came from watching a pressure gauge installed on the fuel rail. When the engine was turned off, the pressure dropped to zero almost instantly. The pump check valve and all six injectors can't leak pressure that fast. One problem was on a brand new car that was just delivered to our dealership. It turned out to have a cut o-ring on the nozzle of the regulator allowing fuel to flow through the return hose back into the tank. A five cent part and five minutes and it was fixed.
The 3.3 / 3.8L engines have a port on the fuel rail to install a pressure gauge. On the 3.0L, you'll have to fashion a tee to install in the supply hose. There is no test port on the engine. Watch the gauge when you turn on the ignition switch. If it drops to zero pounds right after that two second burst from the pump, suspect a problem with the regulator. If the pressure comes up a little and bleeds down very slowly, you may be cranking the engine before it has enough pressure to start. Cranking the engine will fire the injectors and keep bleeding the pressure down. If this is what you find, turn the ignition switch to "run" but don't crank the engine. Turn the switch back off, wait a few seconds, then turn it to run again. If every time you do that, the pressure comes up a little more, you can try cranking the engine when the pressure reaches more than 30 pounds. The system normally runs about 45 pounds under light acceleration, less when coasting.
Saturday, December 12th, 2009 AT 10:38 AM