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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

We are the new owners of a 2004 PT Cruiser touring edition (non-turbo) with a standard transmission. The day after purchasing this vehicle we ran into an issue as follows:

The instrument cluster dies soon after starting (may be able to drive fine for up to 15 minutes). Then the vehicle dies within seconds. It does restart and we have been able to limp home.

I have read several different forums regarding this issue and they have suggested the following, with none of the answers being consistent.

A. Replace battery cables as the originals may be undersized and weak (did this no change, problem still occurs)
B. Replace ignition switch (have not done this yet)
C. Replace instrument cluster (have not done this yet)
D. Trace all wiring to make sure there isnt a short or grounding out somewhere. (have not done yet)
E. Replace the PCM (have not done this yet).

My wife is really excited about this vehicle and would love the chance to enjoy it. I will be spending tomorrow trouble shooting this as I want to put her on the road in it ASAP.

Anyone have thoughts or experience as to what this may be?
Any insight would be greatly appreciated as we are enthusiastic new PT owners.

When the car restarts we have checked and seen several codes displayed, but it varies each time the codes are cleared. The codes are as follows:

P0032
P0038 these two seem to display 80% of the time on restart after codes are cleared.

U0155
U0168
U110c
P0203
P0300 these five seem to display 10% of the time after codes are cleared.


The vehicle runs great until the instrument cluster dies, then it runs like a hurt dog.
 

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I'm no mechanic, but I'm just wondering if you've got some fractured solder joints on the back of your instrument cluster. I'm also wondering if a faulty output speed sensor or VSS would have this effect? Some smart person will perhaps address these issues.
 

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P0032 Oxygen Sensor Heater Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1, Sensor 1)
P0038 Oxygen Sensor Heater Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1, Sensor 2)
U0155 ? ("LOST COMMUNICATION WITH CLUSTER/CCN")
U0168 ? ("THe code that you have is for a loss of communication with the security and wireles control module (WCM).")
U110c ? ("This is a communication failure between the BCM and the PCM on the fuel level bus line. There is either a open in circuit between the BCM and PCM or faulty BCM.")
P0203 Injector 3 Control Circuit
P0300 Engine Misfire Detected

Chuzz has identified the most likely cause correctly - bad solder joints or bad ground connection at the back of the cluster.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ok, here is the update. Had the battery checked today and it is good. Car started up and ran/drove fine for 20 miles. Then gauges tripped out and car died. Car restarted fine each time again.

If I understand your responses correctly, you suggest pulling instrument cluster and inspecting the soldering? Or are you suggesting to replace the cluster?

I did talk with a mechanic today who inquired if the front control module was possibly bad. This recently happened with a dodge he was servicing. I looked where he suggested, side of fuse box behind air cleaner, but saw no FCM like he showed me on the dodge. I did locate the PCM on the firewall drivers side.

Thank you for the fast responses.
 

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Yes, I'd inspect the cluster board for solder joints, and also see if there are any ground wires or straps back there that are loose. Reason being, we had an intermittent gas gauge in our 2012 Chrysler 200 that was in the shop 3 times. First they replaced the sending unit, then inspected the cluster and its electrical plug, and finally resolved it by finding a very loose ground strap behind the cluster. But we had no stalling issues.

I've heard that there are circuits in the cluster which, if opened, will stall out the car. I know that there is a computer module on the back which takes the place of the old Body Control Module, which used to be behind the passenger kickpad.

The cluster stores the odometer reading and the VIN, so replacement requires writing this data over to the new one.
 

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Bob and I are not telling you to replace the cluster or anything else. Just pull the cluster and inspect it before going another step. If that "mechanic" can't find an FCM on your PT, then I have to question whether or not he's actually a mechanic or just a parts changer like so many nowadays. Keep changing parts until they hit the right one and then hand you a hefty repair bill that includes a lot of things you didn't really need.
 

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While you are getting at the instrument cluster, inspect the wiring harness that goes across the instrument panel next to the steering column. Some of these wires had a tendency to rub-through or break. Some ignition switches also failed in this era of PT.
They can be affected by moving the tilt column up or down or very slightly moving the ign. key towards 'start' or 'off'.
See if you can perform these checks the next time it acts up. I wouldn't replace anything yet until more diagnosis is done.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
chuzz said:
Bob and I are not telling you to replace the cluster or anything else. Just pull the cluster and inspect it before going another step. If that "mechanic" can't find an FCM on your PT, then I have to question whether or not he's actually a mechanic or just a parts changer like so many nowadays. Keep changing parts until they hit the right one and then hand you a hefty repair bill that includes a lot of things you didn't really need.
Thanks guys.

I believe tomorrow I will take the cluster out and see if I find anything with the soldering or connections. We did call a dealer today and the service manager indicated no known recalls or service bulletins with this vehicle. They want me to bring it in for a diagnostic, but I know if they cant replicate the issue then they are just billing me to stand there and watch it run out gas.

I saw a great youtube video for removing the cluster, so will try to follow those steps. I will keep it updated.

This vehicle is strange acting. We did drive it to pick our kids up from school this afternoon 10 miles round trip through town (stop and go) without any incident. 2 hours later she went to run to the store and it stalled out 4 times in a 1/2 mile round trip.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Update


This morning I removed the Instrument cluster and opened it up to look at the soldering. Upon inspecting I did not see any that were cracked or bad. Put the cluster back together, cleaned the lens while I had it out, and re-seated it into the plugs. I put it all back together and went test driving.

After multiple trips back and forth down the road, turning the car off and restarting occasionally, the problem has not repeated yet. Really the only thing that I could have possibly fixed was a potential loose seating of either of the 2 plugs that hook into the cluster. Although I can not reach behind to make sure they are snugly inserted, I used gentle force and made sure the cluster had seated.

Has anyone ran into a situation where one of these wire plugs had loosened from the instrument cluster (maybe not making the best of contact)?

We will drive the vehicle today and see if the problem reoccurs. If it does, I believe my next step should be taking apart the steering column and inspecting the wiring associated with the ignition switch. While in there, I think I will probably replace the switch since my parts store has them for $16. If I do this, do you recommend replacing the ignition actuator pin assembly as well, or do you think replacing the switch should be fine?

Thanks guys. Your helpful insight and quick responses are greatly appreciated.
 

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And it reared its ugly head again this evening. We drove the vehicle about 60 miles this afternoon without issue. This evening my wife went to go to a PTA meeting and it died within a block of the house. She brought it back and took the backup car to the meeting. I messed with it this evening and checked the wires in the steering column and saw no issues. I did not replace the ignition switch yet.

It gives me various code readings each time, and sometimes no codes are showing (just "done"). I even got a new code once (P0452) but that only came up once then cleared itself. This evening it would not stay running for more than approx. 120 seconds before dying.

Again tach fails first, then hot/cold temp gauge, then CEL, then the red safety light, then car engine sounds rough and dies. Car will restart each time and run fine for just a bit then repeat.

I am considering making an appointment at one of the local computerized car care places as they advertise specializing in electrical system diagnosis and repair. At this point I really just think it is a short somewhere. can these guys hook up a scanner and be able to trace the short if it is grounding out? or am I just looking at a wild goose chase with diagnostic time adding up.
 

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I broke down after meeting my match, so to speak. This evening I drove the vehicle to the local repair shop and discussed the problems I have been having and the things I have checked already. I have only authorized a diagnostic, and they assure me they can determine the cause.

I will let you guys know what they find, if it is a part and not a wiring problem, I will most likely pull the vehicle and replace the part myself. While I am willing to pay for them to be detectives, I just cant stomach $80/hr shop labor rate.
 

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I have had the vehicle at the shop for the last week. The first several days they were unable to replicate the problem, then it reared its ugly head on them. After contacting Chrysler they determined it was the wiring between the cluster and computer as well as a module in the cluster. They repaired the wire and replaced cluster with a used one. We pulled out of the shop with it today and the problem occurred within 1 mile. We took it back in to them.

Will update with end result.
 

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The repair shop called me today and indicated that in an effort to isolate the issue, they will be removing all 4 modules on the vehicle and sending them to be tested independent of the vehicle. They are doing this at their cost and not on my dime, so I said go ahead. They believe this will either indicate a bad module or eliminate them leaving only the wiring as a culprit.

Will update as I get more info.
 

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Talked with the repair shop again late this afternoon. The 4 modules were tested and 2 came back as failing, Instrument cluster module and PCM. This shop replace the ICM already and will replace it again at no additional charge to me. He is insisting that the one he just replaced was good and is concerned a short in a wire may have taken it out again.

At this point he has asked, and I have given the ok, to replace the PCM and related wiring harnesses. He is ot charging me for any additional labor, just parts.

Will update again when I have more info.
 

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I have an '08 PT (non-turbo) ragtop w/the same problem -- has been going on for at least 18 months. Cluster drops out and most often comes right back on/occasionally the engine dies. All I do is turn the key (as in starting) and everything returns to normal. Even when the engine dies, all I have to do is turn the key to START and the engines fires up (while still goin' down the road). My dealer (long time, small family-owned for generations -- good, knowledgeable folks) cannot find the problem but suggests (from codes) that it is one of four modules (possibly in "security" circuit); suggestion is to replace all with " parts know to be good" (beau coup bucks) or just wait for total failure.

As you are so actively engaged in hunting down this problem I will follow your efforts. I am prepping an '86 LeBaron (2.5) conv. to be my "every day driver" and when it takes over from the PT I am sending the Cruiser into the shop with a "do not return until 100%" order. I'll let you know how I make out (it will be a few weeks).

Blessings,

Bob W.
 

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Welcome to Allpar. I believe that Chrysler had solved the dash/column wiring harness issues by 2008. Yours sounds like a textbook ignition switch failure issue from the fact that by moving the key brings it back online.
These switch problems may not leave behind fault codes and the intermittent nature of the failure can be maddening for a diagnosis and a reassuring confirmation on what the real problem is.
A 'loss of communication' fault (not necessarily found in the PCM) usually means that something did happen at one time and it is usually this ignition switch failure.
 

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Update from the repair shop today:

They replaced the PCM, Cluster (again), and wiring harness. Sent the car to the Chrysler dealer to have the computer "flashed" (reprogrammed with correct info). They got it back this morning and went to test drive it and a whole new set of issues have popped up. They didnt go into detail on the new issues other than to say it is a bunch of codes that were never displayed before. This shop believes the chrysler dealer may have done something while flashing the computer (lol).

Anyways, the shop will no doubt have it several more days as they continue to trouble shoot this vehicle and come up with a solution.

I will keep this updated.
 

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Stopped by the repair shop this morning to check on it. They said that once the picked up the car from the Chrysler dealer it ran fine, but the dash was flashing like xmas lights. He indicated the talked with the service manager and they think the tech did not flash/reprogram the SKIM with the VIN # but only flashed the PCM. They believe this may be the cause of the new problems and the dealer was willing to re program/flash both thee SKIM and the PCM again to see if that takes care of the issue.

Will continue to update until solved.
 

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The shop called this morning and updated me. They confirmed what I have read online, that the SKIM is mated to the PCM and if you switch the PCM the SKIM needs to change as well. If you replace with a used PCM, be sure to also grab the used SKIM from the same vehicle. Anyways, they are awaiting the arrival of the SKIM module and once mated they will take back to dealer to get them both "flashed". They seem confident that this will correct the issues and the PT will be on the road.

I will update as time goes on.
 

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The 4-digit 'secret key' SKIM ID # has to be entered into the new PCM. I have replaced PCMs before without having to replace the SKIM module.
This ID entry can be done with the DRB III. The new SKIM will need it's 'secret key' ID # entered into the new PCM as well.
Do they have access to dealer information?
Be careful using an independent shop for this kind of work.
 
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