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I am pulling my hair out here and could use some help.

A friend of mine has a 2001 3.8 Chrysler Town & Country with just about every option. It has been a reliable car never needing any repairs until now (some 200k miles later).

Owner was driving to get fastfood in ~51 degree rainy weather, parked at a McDonalds, walked in & bought food, went back in the van to go home and the car would not start. Multiple people tried to jump start the car, which did not help, so it was towed home and now I am trying to fix it.

When trying to start the car the starter relay makes one CLICK and then the starter solenoid engages which causes a quick solid CLUNK/CLACK noise and that is it. NO CRANKING. I figured that maybe the engine or an engine belt-driven accessory had seized but ruled this out. Belt turns freely, crank pulley turns freely, ac compressor turns freely, and alternator turns freely. Symptoms the same with belt removed.

Here is what I have tried so far:
-Verified battery is good
-Verified engine & engine accessories are not seized.
-Replaced starter (both the new one and old one bench tested as GOOD)
-Replaced starter relay
-Verified starter is getting +12v from battery using multimeter
-Verified starter solenoid is getting +12v from battery using multimeter
-Verified that the ignition switch is sending +12v to pin 86 of starter relay (this should engage starter solenoid)
-Tested starter's pathway to ground by putting a fluke digital multimeter between the metal body of the starter & the battery's terminals. No stray voltage sits on starter when triggering ig switch.
-All fuses good, all relays swapped out for known-good ones.

Possible additional symptom:
When battery was disconnected to replace starter, no battery disconnect code was triggered. It should have. Bad PCM maybe?

No codes on the PCM.

The car uses a transponder/key "remote" to unlock/lock doors, open/close side doors, but there is no known alarm system on the car (factory or aftermarket).

I am at my wits end. Anyone have any ideas? The owner is this close to crushing the car over this.

Super Moderator
21,398 Posts
Is the boxed 'P' lit up in the gear selector display? Does it also not crank over in 'N'?
If the TCM doesn't think that it is safe to start, it will 'click' once as you describe. The PCM grounds the starter relay actuating coil when it is safe to start.
Try a dash top fist 'thump' to check for possible cracked instrument cluster circuit board solder joints before trying to crank it?
Do the headlamps stay bright when it 'clicks'?
Have you removed and checked both the '+' and '-' battery terminals for corrosion between the post and terminals? You may want to check for voltage drops along the paths in the 'start' position.
If you jump the solenoid terminal to the large starter terminal stud, does it then crank over?
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