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Discussion Starter #1
I have 2000 Town and Country Lxi , 3.8 engine with 195,000 miles. I am second owner and it had 140,000 when I bought it for $3,400 about ten years ago.

About four months ago, I had the fuel pump replaced in a shoestring auto repair shop. The same day I had the battery replaced at Walmart. The next day, the TC wouldn’t start. I noticed white hard caked build-up around the battery connector so I poured hot water on it. The white build-up somewhat melted away and the TC started and I drove away. I felt so happy.

Then sometimes when I drove the TC, it surged while idling and ran rough. Sometimes it died in traffic but it restarted and I drove on. But most of the time, it drove and felt like a brand new TC. Then sometimes it wouldn’t start at all.

The symptoms were that it would crank easy, start, then die after about two seconds. Then it would start again then die after two seconds. All the accessories such as radio, door locks, horn, lights, wipers, windows, key fob and panic button worked. Then after three starts, it would not even crank but I could hear the fuel pump power up momentarily each time I turned the key. I would try again and again over a few hours but no luck. So I would just leave the TC and drive my Harley (not really that kind of Harley. LOL.)

This dichotomy of running great for a week then not starting at all continued for about four months. I didn’t want to take it to the shop because it was an intermittent electrical problem and we all know how difficult (and costly) those are to diagnose and repair. I felt that the shop might just change a lot of parts because it couldn’t isolate the REAL problem. Lucky for me, the TC always failed in my driveway so I didn’t pay for towing.

Over the four months of problems, I was reading this forum. But it was difficult to hone in on an absolute failure of my TC although it seemed most likely to be ‘solder cracks on back of instrument panel’ because there wasn’t any other better match of symptoms. At one point, I was nearly ready to remove the panel, but the TC started performing like it was brand new so I dropped that idea.

Then one day I drove fifteen miles to the other side of Dallas. The TC ran great for the entire distance. Then after the meeting, the TC started and died three times. Then it wouldn’t crank.

A couple of people tried a few things like jumping the battery, removing and visually checking the IOD fuse, and tinkering. But nothing changed and it wouldn’t even crank. No clacking, no noise except two small clicks of relays engaging and the fuel pump hum. The two friends gave up and left. Then I tried switching around the fuses in the ‘Fuse and relay center’ box under the hood such as IOD with a new fuse. I exchanged the low-beam fuse (after verifying that low beams worked) with the starter fuse and tried to start. Then I exchanged it with the ‘starter fuse’ then the ‘auto shutdown fuse’…..No luck. No start nor even a crank.

I didn’t want to pay for a tow so I decided I would keep trying to start the TC every 30 minutes over the next three hours. Lucky for me I had a book, cold drinks and access to a toilet. So I settled in.

Then I did some heavy thinking about the things I had read on this forum, particularly the ‘hit the dash’ advice. I thought that sounded like an urban legend. Even like a really crazy urban legend. But I thought, I have nothing to lose and it will be getting dark soon. So I headed toward the TC.

I put the key into the ignition with the right hand and wondered where I was supposed to hit the dash. So I turned the key with my right hand and thumped the 'closest to the driver' protruding dash once with my withered left hand. Low and behold…. The TC started and ran beautifully. So I really can’t believe it. But it must be those solder joints on the back of the instrument panel.

So I am going to ask my smart friend to help me remove the panel and solder those joints soon. I will buy solder kit from Amazon ($25.99) because the solder has to be ‘electronic-type’ solder NOT plumbing solder. Thanks to everyone on the forum that has commented regarding the solder cracks on the back of the instrument panel. You have probably saved me more than $1,000 and my sanity.
 

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Discussion Starter #2

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Can I just thump the dashboard rather than fix the solder joints?

*My question is: As it is now, the TC fails to start about two times per month. Yesterday was the first time I thumped the dash to start it. Do you think I could let it be, that is not fix the solder joints and just thump the dashboard when it won’t start for the next five years? I drive about three days per week for a total of about 5,000 miles per year.
 

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Eventually you'll have the problem more often. You could just thump it but you take the chance of damaging something else on the instrument cluster. Those electro mechanical instrument mechanisms aren't built to take continued thumps. Could even eventually crack the dash. You would be better off in the long run to dive in and fix it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks RIP. Your comments makes so much sense.

Now I have a solder kit and I plan to do this solder repair tomorrow. My question is: What is the probability that the solder joint is my problem? Do you think it is 99.9% with the following symptoms? Should I solder only the joints that are usually shown in videos or should I solder them all?

1. This is intermittent problem about once every three weeks. Either the car starts and dies then won’t crank or it starts and runs perfectly. I am using original factory key that seems to not have excessive wear. Using the key fob or interior electronic lock lever to lock or unlock doors has no effect on problem.
2. When problem is occurring, all the electronics work except instrument cluster does not respond when key is turned on.
3. When I encounter problem, TC starts quickly and dies within two seconds (similar to an anti-theft shutdown.) After three dies, TC won’t crank.
4. I shifted the gear lever several times and still no crank. I always put my foot firmly on brake pedal.
5. I switched around or replaced four or five fuses but that had no effect on starting.
6. I thumped the dash while I had the ignition turned on and the car started and ran perfectly.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OwrhVOHe1Y

I soldered the joints, about 15 of them, that are on the back of the main cable. All of those joints looked like they had tunnels in them like an anthill. I have successfully started the car after the repair. Yay! Now I will see if the problem is completely gone over the next few months. Fairly easy job and saved at least $1,000.
On my 2000 TC the main cable was hardest to remove. Push down on top of clip while wiggling cable left and right. Not the same technique for all these 3rd generations.
 

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Good news. Ya, I don't recall how many solder joints are associated with that connector but 15 sounds about right. Been on this forum and others for 10+ years and don't recall anyone fixing anything by soldering anything else on that board so no, no need to reflow every solder joint on the board. Many times people don't see any visual problem with the solder and just reinstall the cluster. Bad move. Good to hear you could see problems. The fact you smacked the dash and the engine then started makes it a 99% chance the cluster solder joints are the problem. Crossing fingers.

I've often wondered how many out there had this prolific issue on their van then got fed up and vowed to never buy another Chrysler product again. We'll never know but a good conservative guess would be at least four digits. Chrysler has never done better than #3 in sales. Here's one reason why.
 
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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I used a magnifying glass that I use to view sand as a hobby collectible. The point being unless you have a magnifying glass that has the strength of a microscope, you will not see a problem. So go ahead and solder. You will have at least eliminated that possibility of broken solder joints. I am very happy with the outcome. The solder joints were a problem definitely.
But I noticed something else. The door does not chime consistently when key is in ignition and door is open. Wiggling the key can make the chime to be quiet.
 

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Congratulations on the fix. I fully expect that you will reap the benefits of your work for as long as you own your van.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
*****After my solder repair and four days of perfect starting, I am sorry to report that I had same symptoms and failure to start today. After three dies, TC would not crank. The top information instrument bar was lit up but seems like ‘transmission indicator PRND12’ was not lit. No activity of gauges on instrument cluster. I tried pausing in ‘run’ position for a few seconds before trying to crank. I tried to start over a 2 hour period and tried using key fob to unlock, used key in driver’s door, moved shifter several times and hit top of dash. No luck and I was 15 miles from home, sun was going down and sky was starting to get dark, storm clouds were forming and clouds were starting to sprinkle.

Someone had stated that TC would run without instrument cluster, so I removed bottom kick panel, removed over column panel, removed air conditioner vent near door, pried off instrument bezel (but did not disconnect any cables except TRAC and did not remove cluster)…… put key in ignition and tried to start AND TC STARTED. With all these parts hanging, I drove home. Don’t know what to do now.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I am still trying to fix this intermittent problem. I have been reading big orange service manual and many of instructions regarding starting problems say to "Check connectors. Clean and repair as neccesary" so I have can of 'TV tuner control cleaner' that I am going to use with clean rag to wipe tips of fuses and relays.

I got excited when I read this "The Sentry Key Immobilizer System (SKIS) is designed to provide passive protection against unauthorized vehicle use by disabling the engine, after about two seconds of running, whenever any method other than a valid Sentry Key is used to start the vehicle." because it sounded like my symptom. But I can use a $2 key made anywhere and start my car most of time, so evidently I don't have that 'SKIS optional equipment' on my TC.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
June 8 2017. Yesterday I drove TC for 8 miles starting at 8:30am. Parked TC in a garage and at 5:30pm it started right up and ran great for the eight-mile trip home. Made several uneventful stops on the way.

Today TC was parked in the sun all day with no attempt to drive it until 4:30pm. TC started five times and died each time after two seconds and then it wouldn’t crank. When I turned the key, the cluster was dead but message center had all lights lit including alarm set. PRND12 was not lit and it would not show cluster error codes. I tried a new technique of really giving TC the gas while starting, but TC died after two seconds regardless of more gasing.

Got a wrong-number-phone-call from someone, they hung up and I Googled their number. It was an auto repair shop in Texas so I Googled the name. Showed me a reference to a shop with same name in New Mexico and they were disCUSSing in a thread about this same problem that I am having. Thought it must be Divine Intervention so I decided to print the six pages of discourse and try some of their suggestions.

Went to TC and decided I would remove cluster permanently because I had read that TC would run without cluster. I unplugged the three controls (mirror, headlights, interior lights) and removed the cluster bezel. Tried to start TC and it started and ran fine. (This was the first time recovery time was less than one hour.) So I extracted the small sub-bezel that holds the three controls from big instrument bezel and reattached the cables for those three controls and mounted only the small sub-bezel to the dash. I decided not to remove cluster today.

TC was still starting and running fine. I was so happy. I drove off to do my errands.

I am thankful that all the screws are the same and that I only need two Phillips screwdrivers (regular and stubby) to remove these dash pieces so. many. times. I should get a job doing this one procedure because I am really fast now.

I will leave the cluster bezel off and see what happens. However, it does seem that moving and jarring the instrument cluster and inside controls and cables change the dynamics of the starting and cranking.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
June 11 2017. At 10:30am I started the TC and drove 8 miles with one enroute stop. Everything was fine and I spent three hours in a meeting. At 4:30pm drove 8 miles to a restaurant and ate. Today the weather was hot and humid. After dinner the TC started and died two times then wouldn’t crank. Noticed that fuel gauge pointer did not move at any time but lights in message center lit up. Tried hitting the dash… no luck. Tried hitting the cluster… no luck. I was so hot I had to go sit in the shade for fifteen minutes. Then back to the TC.
Because I had not replaced the bezel, I only needed to remove four screws to loosen the cluster. I removed those four screws, tilted the cluster toward me and reached my fingers to the cable. I wiggled it and I heard a little pop. I didn’t remove cable but I decided to try to crank. TC started so I drove home! Did not replace four screws that hold cluster in place. Cluster is just sitting there in place. (Still haven’t tested the theory that TC will start and run without cluster.)

On June 8 I spliced a repair on a little tube on the motor that has something to do with air quality. The little rubber tube with inside diameter of 1/8 inch and length of 2 inches cost about $3 at Autozone. Completely overpriced and could have probably achieved same thing with something like duct tape. TC seems to run smoother now due to repair.
 

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June 20 2017. TC has been starting fine for nine days so I haven’t messed with it. I am leaving ‘good enough’ alone. However, I did order a used cluster from eBay for less than $100 and laid it in the backseat. It is not a reconditioned cluster but it looks good even though it smells like strong cigarette smoke. It was just pulled from van that a guy is parting out. It was a good deal as I saved a lot of time because it was delivered to my door. The one that I ordered looked just like mine with black (versus red) plug on the back however the part number 620A is shown as NOT a fit for TC but for a Caravan. I will not wiggle my current cluster to find its part number because my mantra is to leave ‘good enough’ alone. If there is a future day when TC will not start, then I will remove cluster and see if TC will run without cluster.

There is a guy who offers cluster repair service on eBay for about $100. He claims a person can remove nonfunctioning cluster and send it to him for repair but that person can continue to drive without cluster. Sounds incredible and I have not tried that. When my TC is starting and running, I don’t disturb it.

Actually it is difficult to find the right cluster on eBay as the descriptions are vague because sellers will usually only say what they removed the cluster from but there is no comprehensive list of what a particular cluster will fit.

**My thought is that the soldering that I did actually fixed the problem but when I reinstalled the cluster I did not connect the main cable on the back of the cluster securely. So I had two incidents of ‘start and die’ since the soldering. Fidgeting with the cluster on the occasions of those two failure incidents caused me to finally get the cable connected hence no problems for nine days. Keeping my fingers crossed.
 

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Maybe less typing and more cluster soldering! :huh:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
July 13 2017: TC has started perfectly for more than 30 days. Good thing because it is too hot in Texas to be stranded.
The little pop referred to in previous post was when I pulled on the plastic keeper that locks the main cable to back of cluster. Maybe I had not push them together tightly enough to connect during my reinstallation of the cluster.
 

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July 29 2017. TC started fine between June 11 and July 29, that is about seven weeks. TC wouldn’t start today. Because I had not replaced the bezel nor any of the screws that hold the cluster in place, all that I needed to do was just rotate the bezel forward and wiggle the cable. Then I tried to start and it started right away.
I have not tried to start TC when no cluster is installed nor have I tried to install and second-hand cluster that I bought from eBay. If it starts, then I drive it. Leaving good enough alone.
 

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One More Time with Feeling!

This is quite the saga you are producing. I don't think you should give up here. Perhaps one of your solder joints is still in question. You have to make sure that the ground trace in particular on the instrument cluster board gets enough heat to have proper solder flow. Having seen some peoples idea of soldering on You Tube I'm often quite suspicious regarding solder repairs. Have you inspected the HVAC panel connections in the centre of the dash to make sure it is not burnt. Smacking the dash was your first clue that the instrument cluster might be the issue. There is an outside chance you might have an intermittent Crankshaft sensor that is toying with you. If the vehicle is not setting any codes then this is the INTERMITTENT CLUB which is the baine of auto electrics. ...hope you stay on this until it starts to make sense. The vehicle operating fine then dying-I would change the Crankshaft position sensor for lack of another solution. At least you would know what it is not. Also for ****s and giggles I would inspect the wiring harnesses from the PCM and the harness that crosses through the motor mount from the Transmision control module. (TCM) After years of vibration these harnesses occasionally rub through and intermittently short to ground until they stay shorted or burn up depending on which wires are involved.
I didn't read anything in your post regarding an OBD code attempt by cycling the ignition key. This maybe a different procedure for the 2000 T&C but there is a function that could possibly help you. Perhaps someone will post the procedure for you. Code 12 is a recent battery discontent, code 11 could point to your Crankshaft position sensor. 55 signals end of OBD code scan. Hope you find resolution to this problem.
 

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Maybe less typing and more cluster soldering! :huh:
all that I needed to do was just rotate the bezel forward and wiggle the cable. Then I tried to start and it started right away.
Seriously?

If you don't know how to solder, why don't you just have someone do it for you?

Maybe you like having the problem so you can post about it.
 
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