Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

1999 Dodge Intrepid makes unusual noise and doesn't start

Not sure if someone has come across this problem, and I’m not sure the circumstances I’m going to describe just correlation or true causation. But I would very much appreciate any advice. Here it is: My son took his 1999 Dodge Intrepid to a friends house. The friend’s dad works on car bodies and offered to buff up the headlight covers, which were a little foggy. With the hood open, he proceeded to spray some sort of cleaner on the plastic headlight covers and buffed them. That turned out fine. However, the cleaner left a milky spattering all over the engine compartment. That mess was “fixed” with water which was sprayed over the engine and all adjacent components. My son then drove the car home, stopped in the driveway and could not restart the car. Turning the key produced a loud clattering noise like playing cards in the spokes of a bicycle, if those cards were hard plastic. Th car didn’t start and we had to push it into the garage. Does anyone have any idea what might be happening and could it have anything to do with the water, or is that just a coincidence?

Thank you in advance.

The first thing to check are the battery cable connections. Remove the cables from the battery, negative first, and clean the terminals and posts and reinstall the cables, negative last, and make sure they’re tight.


I agree with Tester’s advice, and will add that this may be tricky on this car. Most, if not all, Chrysler LH body cars locate the battery in the passenger front fender well. Removing the air box may allow access for removing and cleaning the battery terminals, but you may still have to pull the wheel and fender liner to get to it. As for this condition being caused by water being sprayed on the engine and adjacent components, damage of any kind is extremely unlikely and would have shown up immediately, not after he drove the car home and shut it off.

@mark9207: On my LH, which is admittedly a few years older, the air box is on the other side from the battery. The battery is right up top and easily accessible.

If this is the starter solenoid chattering, it could be the dousing with water damaged the alternator and the battery is now too discharged to start the car. Or it could be a poor connection. Or the starter might have gotten very wet and will not engage fully now.

Engines can be cleaned with water if you’re careful, but there are parts that you’re really not supposed to get wet. I’d push the car back into the sun and let it sit for a day so that things can dry out. Then I’d charge the battery and see what happens from there.

i think water got into the main fuse box on the driver side of the car, witch engine is in this car the 2.7,3.2, or the 3.5 i’m gessing maybe the coils got socked and the car is mis-firing or water got into the clynders. i’m thinking out load.

I generally clean my engine compartment once a year. Two things I always do: 1) remove the overhead light bulb and cover the socket (one splash of water and she’s kaput!), 2) put a plastic bag over the alternator. I also try to use the minimal amount of water at low pressure out of the garden hose to get the job done with a sponge, regular car wash soap and maybe a little SprayNine. I have even been known to use an old toothbrush on occasion. Never had a single problem…

I was reading the instructions on that headlight restoration product and it says to tape off all surrounding painted areas before application. Having the hood open was just asking for it imho…

How many miles does this car have on it?

The clattering sound when he tries to start the engine makes me wonder if the starter motor is not properly engaging with the flywheel ring gear. Or perhaps the starter motor commutator got wetted and it’s just producing enough field now to chatter, but ont turn the engine over. Much of the stuff in there is iron, and it rusts almost immediately.

I’d suggest that you start by picking up a mechanic’s stethescope, popping the hood, and trying to figure out where what component clattering is coming from. Post back with the results.

And if it were me I’d check the cable connections just in case.

@london, where do you live and when can I stop by to have you clean my engine compartment?? I’ll even bring a new toof brush!

Along with all the other comments, I’d be sure to check the larger ground connections to the engine as well.

Thanks everyone. The car has a new engine so miles are fairly low, just a few thousand. Same thing happened today but I found out the battery is dying. It’s having a hard time holding a charge. Tester was right about the cables according to the AAA guy, who suggested the same thing. After a few minutes on the charger though, it was clear the battery was choking. Mark9207 is dead on about the battery. The small space behind the bumper and in front of the wheel is really an inconvenient spot. The manual says it can be removed without taking off the wheel but AAA guy recommended doing just that. Apparently there’s an access door in front of the tire. I think Chrysler had the interns design this car.

Thanks again, everyone. This is a great place to get information.