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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Vehicle: 2000 Chrysler Town and Country minivan Lxi 3.8 Liter engine
There has been some sort of drain on my car's battery. My neighbor, who has worked on his own cars for about 50 or 60 years, tried to help me narrow down why it is my car's battery will completely drain if I leave it hooked up for more than 30 hours.
He gave up after lots of attempts to figure it out. I have to unhook the negative cable of the battery every evening. And, now, I am thinking, that may not be often enough.

Note: I am new to working on cars, so if you can teach me the correct terminology for the parts I don’t have the correct name for I’ll be glad for the help.

One day I turned the key and it hesitated to crank. By the next week all I got was a "click" under the car.

I took off the starter and rebuilt it. It is a NipponDenso starter, and this is at least the 3rd time the starter’s been rebuilt before I purchased the vehicle in July 2019.

Upon opening the solenoid I see the contacts, specifically the more curved contact, are burnt, and the more curved contact was worn, whereas the more square contact was only slightly worn, See photos.

I replaced the contacts and the plunger, so all were in pristine condition. I took it to the auto parts store for them to bench test the rebuilt starter before I put it back on the minivan. It tested good.

Notes on the testing: on the first test there was arcing from the ignition trigger wire, as the employee who put it in the container where they bench test them had bent the black holder where the ignition trigger wire is. Before the 2nd test I asked him to adjust the starter and not keep that part bent. The starter tested good.

I took the starter home and opened up the solenoid and discovered the new copper disc on the plunger where it comes in contact with the contacts was now pitted in 3 or 4 spots.

The starter is now back on my car. When I turned the key I got only a “click” again. The helper under the car said the thing on the starter that goes out when you crank the key was indeed moving outward to engage the flywheel, it just wasn’t turning it.

My guess was that perhaps my battery (which hadn’t run down recently, and had been unhooked every evening) just didn’t have enough cranking power to turn the flywheel?

Previous to removing my starter I had tested my battery and it read 12.5 volts. I thought that was normal.

In any case I took the battery to the auto parts store where they charged it up over night on the slow charger. They didn’t bother to do any diagnostics on it, telling me my battery was one they couldn’t put their equipment on to test or diagnose it. I took the battery home the next morning after they told me it was fully charged.

On cranking the key my car didn’t start right away, it took 2 tries, but it did start on the 2nd try. It hesitated a few times on the first few tries, but now seems to start just fine.

I asked my neighbor (who has the many years of experience working on his cars) to help me find out if my car is properly grounded. We put the negative end of jumper cables on my starter while it’s hooked up to the car and when he touched the other black end of the jumper cable to the negative terminal on my battery my car wouldn’t start. Whereas it had started just fine with the starter. He was puzzled by why my car would do that. He went home to look up a wiring diagram on my vehicle.

Other symptoms include:
No problems with dashboard lights
No problems with headlights or other lights as far as I can tell
No problem with radio
Power windows and locks work fine
The “Check engine” light comes on if I drive more than about 12 miles in succession. While the check engine light was on I stopped into an auto parts store where they put a diagnostic tool in. I was told the code meant “misfire on cylinder 3.”

The ignition (where I put the car key in to start the car) doesn’t require me to be in park for the key to be removed. Also I seem to be able to remove the key when the ignition is NOT all the way shut off.

1) Could you tell me if maybe my car has the symptoms of not being properly grounded?
2) what is the procedure to test this model vehicle to see if it’s grounded properly?

3) how do I ground this particular model of vehicle?
Thanks!
Light Gas Auto part Machine Engineering
Light Gas Auto part Machine Engineering
 

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I have the same generation of van and my Key/lock is worn to the point where I can remove the key while driving down the street. On a few occasions, I have quickly shut the vehicle off and removed the key without turning the ignition switch all the way back to off. This leaves the accessories still powered and has run down the battery a couple of times. Perhaps you are draining the battery as I have.
I doubt the #3 misfire code is related to any of this. Spark plug or dirty injector is more likely.
Jumping the starter to the ground of the battery produced the same no start condition. This would eliminate the possibility of a bad ground strap.
Dirty connections, bad battery and or starter is where I would look for faults.
When I won't start, jump it with another battery if you can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Drunken Elvis,
Thanks for the info. When you said “Jumping the starter to the ground of the battery produced the same no start condition” does this mean that this is what my neighbor was doing when he touched the negative terminal of the battery to the starter nose cone? So, is it normal in this vehicle for the starter not to start when you do this?

Does the “no start condition” when doing this mean that there is not a possibility of a bad ground strap? Or at least that it is unlikely there’s a grounding problem with my car?

I phoned an auto-electric shop today and they say that unhooking my negative battery terminal every night is bad for the electrical system of the car. They said it could mess up the computer and that the computer needs a constant supply of energy to keep memory in it. Do you have any experience with this or thoughts on this?

Additional info:
Today I was able to drive my car on a freshly charged battery. I went to 3 different locations and, upon leaving, had to restart my car each time (so a total of 3 restart times). I was very careful to make certain the ignition was completely in the “OFF” position before leaving the vehicle. The positive terminal of my battery has a thick red cable leading to it. Several times, wiggling this thick red cable before retrying a turn of the key, has allowed my car to start with no hesitation.
Could this cable be the problem? Or is it more likely I am just wiggling the cable and by chance getting the engine to crank?
Continuing: The 3 locations, each with a set of attempted restarts, each of which had more than 1 key turn.
After Location 1, Restart 1, key turn 1 at the 1st location: my car tried but did not start. Restart 1, key turn 2 my car started. Thus for Restart 1 it took 2 tries (2 turns of the key).
On the second restart it would not start on the 1st key turn. Before the 2nd key turn, I wiggled the red wire on the positive connection to the battery before trying to restart the car. It started right up with no hesitation. At the 3rd location (the 3rd restart), it took 3 tries. Wiggling the red wire didn’t work on the 3rd location, 2nd key turn. I waited and then wiggled the red wire again before turning the key the 3rd time (this is Restart 3, key turn 3) starting my car. I arrived home and turned off the key. Ignition was in the OFF position, to make certain no accessories were on.

After the car sat for 1 hour I tried to restart the car by turning the key. 1st turn of key I heard only a single “click.” 2nd turn of key I heard only a single “click.” I decided I’d better not try to go anywhere, as my battery might once again be too low to have enough power to turn the flywheel.
As is usual, I unhooked the negative cable on my battery.
What would you do next?
 

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The starter needs a good strong 12V+ , a 12V+ trigger signal and a good path for the electricity to make it to back to ground. With all three it should turn the engine over. The path to ground from the starter is through the engine block and some ground straps back to the battery negative post. The negative battery post and ground are one and the same. When your neighbour connected the negative battery post to the metal of the starter he was eliminating the ground wires that connect the engine block to the negative battery post. This did not improve the situation, so it is safe to assume the ground straps from engine back to neg battery post are not the problem.

You hint that wiggling some wires sometimes produces a good start. Sounds like you are on the right track.
This vehicle has this fault not once a week but everyday. This means the fault should be readily apparent to a knowledgeable electrical shop. Your vehicle is not complicated. Sometimes taking it to a professional for a professional evaluation is the cheapest and quickest way to solve a problem. Could be as simple as a dirty connection. Have a look.
 
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