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2001 T&C - Starter engaged while at 55mph?

Discussion in 'Minivans · Pacifica' started by mike5plus5, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. mike5plus5

    mike5plus5 Member

    Feb 13, 2020

    2001 Chrysler Town and Country LXi 3.8L

    This cost me a $140.40 wrecker bill and a starter. It ruined the starter, which I replaced. It starts and runs fine now. No Brake or ABS light. Only code is P0456 (EVAP). I haven't figured out what caused this although I suspect something with the ABS might be involved.

    It did this momentarily at a slow speed (~25mph) in 2018. It did not ruin the starter that time. Both times when it has happened all the accessories (gauges, dash indicator lights, radio, etc) went out/non-functional (for about 2 seconds) except for the red 'Brake' light and yellow 'ABS'. These lights came ON during this 2 seconds event. At that time the engine lost power and the van "fell on it's face" like the ignition switch was turned off, but it wasn't. The last time it happened (2018) I replaced the Electronic Brake Control Module (CAB) and all was fine for a while (~9 months). Then occasionally the yellow ABS light started coming on temporarily then go off, usually before my next drive cycle. No ABS code is displayed when accessing codes, only P0456 EVAP code. Yellow ABS light has been coming on occasionally (maybe once every 2 weeks) but has had no effect on drive-ability otherwise.

    Any ideas?

    What could cause the starter solenoid to energize while loosing power and all instruments/ dash lights etc (except for 'Brake' and 'ABS') while driving 55mph down the interstate?
  2. AllanC

    AllanC Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    The front control module is attached to the side of the fuse box / integrated power module that faces the radiator support. Possibly dirt / corrosion has collected on 1 or more of the pins that are associated with the starter relay, caused a short to power and ground for the control side of the relay, and caused it to inadvertently engage. This is a wild guess on my part.

    A simple scan tool that retrieves engine management codes in format Pnnnn will NOT reveal any ABS codes. That requires a more sophisticated scan tool.

    P0456 is usually associated with a medium size evaporative emission leak. When the CAB module was replaced, is it possible an evaporative hose line was dislodged between the tank and the vacuum source in the engine compartment?
  3. Gerry G

    Gerry G Well-Known Member

    Mar 7, 2003
    What is the state of the battery and alternator? A weak battery or failing alternator can cause all sorts of weirdness.

    My daughter had a similar issue with her '06 Charger though not as severe. All of the lamps in the instrument cluster would light intermittently like when first starting the motor. The car never stalled though. While I was trouble-shooting with an OBD code/data reader, I noticed that all of the obd monitors were not ready. With this information I surmised the alternator might be allowing an ac ripple that the pcm was seeing as a reset and caused the instrument cluster to reset as well as the emission monitors. I had just replaced an alternator in an '04 Sebring where an ac ripple was messing up the output speed sensor (speedo reading 15-20 mph when stopped).

    Unfortunately, your alternator will likely pass any testing an auto parts store would be able to do. I just bit the bullet and replaced the alternator. The new alternator solved the instrument cluster lighting up and the obd monitors went ready and have stayed there.

    Good luck
    Tony K likes this.
  4. 1fastrunner

    1fastrunner Member

    May 28, 2017
    Had the same thing happen in my '71 Roadrunner. I was stuck in traffic on the way back from a show in a severe thunderstorm. Because of all the sitting, the car was running hot. When traffic cleared, we had a long downhill section, so I put it in neutral and coasted. Then out of nowhere, my starter starts running. I pulled over as fast as I could sand had to get into the trunk to disconnect the battery. The starter was smoking pretty bad. I called AAA as I was about 120 miles from home. After an hour a tow truck showed up. I told him I needed a flat bed and he wanted me to move the car, so I rolled it forward to a ramp area. Then I figured I'd hook up the battery and tried to start it. It started so I just drove home with no other issues. I replaced the starter the next day to be safe. To this day, no idea how that even happened.
  5. AgentSkelly

    AgentSkelly Active Member

    Sep 23, 2018
    I've seen this problem when I did work for AAA as a tow tech. Its due to a combination of the alternator trying to overcompensate for a bad battery on Chrysler's computer controlled alternators. Most vehicle electronics don't like 15V-16V, so weird things can happen with voltage drops and spikes when it swings low as 12V. And to make matters worse, some times this is when you find out you have an alternator closer to failed.

    P0456, which invovles the EVAP detection sensor uses the same signal path as the alternator PCM control signal. You might need a new PCM...

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