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We bought our van last November from a dealer. Warranty is over :( Now we've got intermittent startup problems. The main noise is the sound when the engine is trying to turn over but immediately failing. There is no starter "clicking" sound.

When I say intermittent I really mean very rare, like 1 in 30 (or more). It appears to be at random and the weather/temperature doesn't appear to be affecting it.

I tested the battery with my multimeter and it registered at 18 volts. That doesn't seem right.

I also called the local starter/alternator guy and he said he doesn't even have a part number for the starter for my vehicle. He reasoned that since he doesn't have that number he's fairly certain that it's not a part that fails that often or this early in the vehicle's life. He thought maybe it was a bad connection or the battery.

The 18 volt battery is concerning me, but I don't know enough to say for sure.

Please help me diagnose this issue.

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You need to check the output from your alternator. With your volmeter connected across the battery, without the engine running, you should have a voltage of some thing like 12.2V (volts) to around 12.6V. depending on the state of charge of the battery. If you now start the vehicle, the battery connected as before, and you are getting 18V, then the Zener diode in your alternator is controlling the output current and preventing a complete run-away voltage. If these are your readings, or similar, you will need a replacement alternator. You may be best advised to let a repair shop electrician give it the once over just to ascertain what exactly is going on. Around 13.5 - 14.5v is the maximum you should see with the engine running. A broken cable or bad earth may also give the symptoms you describe, which causes the alternator to try and make a full circuit by going full output.

  • Great thanks for the advice. I had a short under the seat which prevented the power seat from working (which I repaired and heat shrinked) and I also added a lighting harness for a trailer. Could either of these be the culprit? – John the Ripper Sep 22 '14 at 23:06
  • There's more to this story than I thought. I visited my father in law (a retired mechanic) and we tested the battery using his voltmeter. With the vehicle off it was 12.9 V and around 14 V running. So maybe my meter is not working. I'm still lost as to what's wrong. And it hasn't happened for over a week now :( – John the Ripper Sep 23 '14 at 14:17
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For what it's worth, I've had the same problem, very intermittently, for about a year. Took it to the Dodge shop (I know these guys and trust them) and they couldn't find the issue. They replaced the TIPM, starter, couple of other things. Recently, I remembered a trick from somewhere - if it doesn't start, turn the key to "on" (not "crank") and put the shift into neutral. It starts from there every time. Next time I'm in the shop I'm going to mention that, it could be related to the neutral safety switch.

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