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WEIRD radio problem - 2012 Caravan

Discussion in 'Minivans · Pacifica' started by ex-Gooserider, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    I'm having a very odd failure in the radio of my 2012 Dodge Caravan Crew with a Amerivan / Eldorado handicap conversion (I don't think the conversion would have anything to do with the problem...)

    The radio is the simple AM / FM / Satellite / CD unit, not the fancy touch screen version with the backup camera. It does have the buttons on the steering wheel to change modes, station and volume....

    The other day while driving with the radio on FM, it abruptly stopped playing as I was going around an exit ramp, but was still on.... Pushing the buttons on the wheel or radio, it appeared to be changing stations on the display, but no audio came out. (no sound, including static at max volume) Same problem with FM. I tried the satellite, and it played the Sirius advertising, so presumably it would have played satellite if I paid for it... It plays CD's just fine...

    So the audio works, and the radio LOOKS like it is working, but doesn't make any noise.

    I called Dodge Tech Support, and the nice lady there said she couldn't find anything on the problem and suggested I take it to a dealer for investigation (at my expense, no idea about how many hours at $?$?$? per....)

    Any ideas here?

    If the suggestion is that the radio is dead, how hard is it to do an upgrade to a fancier unit - I'd love to have a backup cam, and possibly GPS, but would really like to keep the on-the-wheel buttons. (Especially since I have to use hand controls those buttons make life a LOT easier...) I don't particularly care about OEM vs. aftermarket, but cost is an issue.
     
  2. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    Are there any identifying sales codes on the faceplate? Usually white letters beginning with 'R'.
    Are any of the steering wheel buttons for 'Mute' and could that have accidentally been bumped on?
     
  3. valiant67

    valiant67 Rich Corinthian Leather
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    I'd suspect the antenna system. Many modern radios mute static.
     
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  4. Rick Anderson

    Rick Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Do you have a factory amplifier, or even an aftermarket one? I doubt it, amplifiers come with premium sound system options and likely you'd get a better radio than just a basic one with that option.

    But, that is what happens when the amplifier fails or the fuse for the amplifier blows. Radio works just fine, but no sound out of the speakers. You may have logos for aftermarket speakers on the speaker grilles if you have a premium sound system that came with an amplifier.
     
  5. ka9yhd

    ka9yhd Active Member

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    But he said:


    The other day while driving with the radio on FM, it abruptly stopped playing as I was going around an exit ramp, but was still on.... Pushing the buttons on the wheel or radio, it appeared to be changing stations on the display, but no audio came out. (no sound, including static at max volume) Same problem with FM. I tried the satellite, and it played the Sirius advertising, so presumably it would have played satellite if I paid for it... It plays CD's just fine...

    So the audio works, and the radio LOOKS like it is working, but doesn't make any noise.
     
    Rick Anderson likes this.
  6. Oklahoma Wolf

    Oklahoma Wolf What sanity?

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    Tuner's likely going out. The problem could be the head unit (most likely from the sound of it), wiring to the AM-FM antenna, or tuner amplifier module (if present).

    I would probably start troubleshooting by pulling the head unit out far enough to unplug the antenna connector and gently stick an unbent paper clip in there instead (making sure not to push it in too far), then seeing if it would at least pick up a close station. I have a feeling though you'll need to replace the head unit or have it repaired if possible to get the AM-FM tuner back.

    Dad bought a 2008 Pacifica last year with a dead AM section but working FM. He decided not to bother replacing it and just had the Sirius tuner activated. Doesn't seem like he misses AM-FM at all.
     
  7. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    Does the 'ST' indicator come on with FM stereo stations and does the seek stop on AM and FM stations?
     
  8. Rick Anderson

    Rick Anderson Well-Known Member

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    I missed that, sorry, so you can get audio out of the speakers for everything except the radio. (which its very likely your sound system does not have a amplifier anyway).

    Pretty sure these era radios talk on the CAN Bus, and might have a stored trouble code. But that trouble code would be proprietary and the Dealer would have to read it with the Factory tools, unless a shop around town has one of the expensive tools that reads manufacturer extended codes.
    You can't rule out something went wrong with the cable to the antenna or its connections, like suggested already.
    Or the tuner in the head unit simply went bad.

    All your steering wheel controls work like they should? Can you get any indication on the screen of the head unit of volume going up and down when you press the steering wheel buttons, even if the head unit tuner isn't outputting any audio to the speakers? Can you adjust volume when its in satellite or CD mode? On the steering wheel buttons as well.
     
  9. paullybob

    paullybob Well-Known Member

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    Reread the OP's post one more time, lol!! The steering wheel controls appear to function normally. I'm thinking antenna loose/unplugged or unfortunately problematic radio tuner. Changeover to the REN or RER upgrade units are available and can get costly with the sat antenna module and Uconnect for handsfree voice. Better off to get an aftermarket unit installed as they almost all come fully equipped to accommodate steering wheel controls, cameras and GPS right out of the box with moderate expense. Pioneer and Alpine make very good in dash replacements.
     
  10. Rick Anderson

    Rick Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Ugh, Ok, I got some sleep and its a new day. Hopefully this time I'll contribute something that isn't a waste because I missed it in the original post.

    Troubleshooting; since the van is modified perhaps the antenna cable was tugged and loose during the conversion, and finally disconnected. Like I said, the dealer has the ability to read proprietary fault codes for non-engine things, the late model radios are on the CAN bus and can report trouble codes that they find wrong in their own self-tests. Of course you'd have to pay the dealer for this service, and there isn't always a trouble code for every malfunction. Also, having a dealer replace or upgrade your radio will be expensive, and there are much cheaper options.

    If you need to replace the radio...
    eBay often has perfectly good, barely used factory radios for really cheap, being sold by someone that upgraded.

    Upgraded radios with additional features like GPS, Back-Up Cam, etc may take extra equipment and cabling that you would have to purchase and install as well. Expect a new radio from the Dealership to come "De-Activated" and can only be "Activated" by the dealer scan tool, meaning if you install it yourself, it won't work at all, until you bring it to the dealer and pay the labor to have them hook it up to the Dealer ScanTool and press a button to flip a bit in it to actually work.

    If you go aftermarket, most of the head units will support using steering wheel controls but need a 3rd party device that translates the CAN bus commands to the expected input for the aftermarket head unit, there are several brands of these devices.
    • I have used the PAC units for Chrysler, two of them, and both have failed within a month or two of installing them.
    • I have switched to the iDataLink Maestro, it is still going strong, but the RAP feature doesn't work (Retained Accessory Power, where the radio continues to play after you remove the key from the ignition for a certain amount of time). It might have been my mistake during install, I have not had the time to go back and troubleshoot it.
    • Metra has devices also, I wish I had tried them, I'd stay away from the PAC units.
     
  11. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    Thanks for the many replies, good info in most of them.

    To answer a few questions...

    "Are there any identifying sales codes on the faceplate? Usually white letters beginning with 'R'."
    No codes that I saw... Top row label just says "Single Disk - MP3 - Anti-theft" and there are logos on the faceplate for Sirius XM and Compact Disk. I saw a couple photos in other threads when I searched on the problem, and it looks like there are varations in the top row of function buttons - mine are "Seek left/right; Scan; RND; INF; RW and FF", no Bluetooth or Uconnect.

    "Are any of the steering wheel buttons for 'Mute' and could that have accidentally been bumped on?"
    No - steering wheel buttons are three function, left is station seek up/down and preset when in radio or satellite (I haven't really experimented w/ CD functions, but it does stuff), right is volume up/down and mode change.

    "Do you have a factory amplifier, or even an aftermarket one? I doubt it, amplifiers come with premium sound system options and likely you'd get a better radio than just a basic one with that option."
    No amplifier that I know of - if there is it was either installed by previous owner or factory, and doesn't have any accessible controls, like an on/off switch...

    "Does the 'ST' indicator come on with FM stereo stations and does the seek stop on AM and FM stations?"
    I didn't notice if the stereo indicator came on, the seek does stop. It doesn't do the long scan of the entire band like I've encountered a few times when driving though hilly rural areas where there aren't many stations and reception is sketchy.

    Seems the general consensus is either the antenna has come unplugged or the radio unit has crapped out... Thanks for the comments on upgrade / alternative options.

    How hard is it to pull out the radio unit? Last time I played w/ changing automotive radio stuff was back in the '70's and my first car, a 60's era Ford - I assume that the technology has changed a bit o_O

    ex-Gooserider
     
  12. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    There is a YouTube tutorial on the radio removal (easy):

    Couple of things I would do differently than the video. I would not remove the radio with it powered on, the safest way is to remove the negative battery terminal before doing dash or electrical work.
    Use a screwdriver with a magnetic tip to reduce the possibility of dropping screws into an inaccessible area.
    As for the antenna if it is defective, you might pick up strong local FM stations, but the AM band would be dead. You can test with a substitute antenna, basically a piece of wire. On a 3' long meter test probe for an antenna, the probe tip may be placed in the antenna plug hole to contact the center pin socket. This should give you fairly good AM/FM radio reception. Holding the test antenna wire up, you should be able to get out-of-town stations. This will test the radios sensitivity and can be used to see if the vehicle antenna is a problem or not.
     
  13. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    Thanks for the video link, doesn't look like a terribly hard job...

    I agree on the suggestions about no power and magnetic screwdriver, but I've heard that some of the newer cars have some problems if you disconnect the battery - so I've seen 'battery substitutes' that plug a 9V transistor battery in to replace the battery - are these needed on this van?

    Thanks,
    ex-Gooserider
     
  14. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    Minor additional data - I was talking with a friend that has done some ham stuff in the past, and he suggested double checking for both the "stereo" indicator, and the 'metadata' about station ID and song that some FM stations send out...

    I tried this in acc. mode a couple of minutes ago. I'm getting the stereo indicator, and if I push the "Info" button, I get a display with the station ID. It doesn't give me the current song, but I'm not sure this radio does that. I also tried playing with some of the other features that I've never used, and it seems able to do a seek by 'music type'....

    Unless I'm not understanding how this stuff works on modern radios (as opposed to the old non-digital ones), it seems like this means the tuner has to be working OK and have a enough decent signal to be decoding FM stereo. Presumably this means the antenna is feeding it OK, and the problem has to be something inside the radio that is keeping the tuner output from connecting to the audio stage...

    ex-Gooserider
     
  15. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    I agree that an internal radio problem is what this is beginning to look like. The tuner portion, at least part of it is operating if the 'ST' indicator lights and it can stop on stations.
    There have been factory software updates (flash) that address some radio issues. The radio 'logic' can lock-up and cause an inoperative condition. Sometimes a 'reboot' will get it out of a lock-up condition. A reboot would require a battery disconnect.
    Still trying to identify your radio, is there an 'RES' in white letters at the lower right-hand corner next to the AUX input?
    Swapping or replacing a radio with the 'anti-theft' would mean a trip to the dealer for the proper 4-digit code.
     
  16. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    Will double check and also try to get a picture of the radio tomorrow, but I was looking especially for anything that started with 'R' per you suggestion early on, and didn't notice anything...

    Per CarFax, the car was originally a rental for one of the big name rental companies like Hertz or Avis (I forget just which one) that I believe have enough purchasing clout that to more or less get their own special option package. It was then bought by the previous owner that had the handicap conversion done, and I bought it from the dealer they traded it to... I wouldn't be surprised for the rental company to have ordered the cheapest radio available - why pay for more?

    This is a fairly common history pattern for HP vans as many state rehab programs will subsidize the conversion of new or used vans that fit within a fairly narrow range of year and mileage. Usually the client has to buy the van, and the state pays to have the very expensive conversion done. The timing of when rental companies typically replace their fleets fits the window of eligibiity for a used vehicle, and they tend to be among the lower cost used vans in that vintage...

    Also it may or may not mean much, but as mentioned earlier, I called the Dodge factory tech support line and the lady I spoke with for quite a while said that she looked up a bunch of stuff; apparently working both from my van's VIN info on what it was built with, and looking for anything related to radio issues in general... She said that there didn't seem to be anything in the system that applied, especially since it was NOT one of the 'cracker-Connect' equipped models.

    I haven't tried taking it to a dealer, just because it seemed like such a high probability of costing a lot of money for not a lot of extra information, but if a 'reboot' or software reload is needed, that may be my only choice - so much for "right to repair"...

    ex-Gooserider
     
  17. peterjon1

    peterjon1 Well-Known Member

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    Just for the heck of it, why don't you disconnect the battery for a few minutes. That will do a reboot, and it is free.
     
  18. ex-Gooserider

    ex-Gooserider Member

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    First off, I goofed :oops: - when I looked again, I saw that the radio DOES have "RES" printed next to the aux input jack, not sure why I didn't notice it the first time I checked...

    I will also try doing the battery disconnect, will try to do it myself, but if I can't get it from the chair, I'm sure I can get a friend to help me...

    Just to see what it would be, I called the local Dodge dealer - diagnostics $116 / hour!!!! :eek: I really don't think so...

    Also called a local car audio place, spent some time on the phone with the guy, who said he tried looking it up on the forums that he likes, and found several reports of the problem, but no solutions... If I decide that I want diagnostics, he at least sounded nicer to deal with... OTOH, he said to upgrade to a fancy Alpine radio with GPS, backup camera etc. would be about $12-1400 with all the needed bits, labor and so on...
     
  19. ImperialCrown

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    I see no factory TSB for software upgrades on the RES. A momentary battery disconnect/reconnect would be my next suggestion (just to rule out any logic lock-up or glitch). You would have to reset the clock afterwards.
    Anything after that sounds like an internal radio issue. The RES is a basic audio system. I see them for very reasonable prices online.
     
  20. Rick Anderson

    Rick Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Just remember, a lot of electronic modules have capacitors to retain setting even if the battery is disconnected. So disconnecting the battery for only a few moments might not reboot it or dump its stored settings, its wise to disconnect the battery a good 1/2 hour to an hour.

    You could pull fuses for the radio, but the radio may have more than one fuse to totally secure power, you also want to remove the IOD (Ignition Off Drain) fuses as well.
     

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