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1st ever check engine light & electical fade

My 15 year old Plymouth Sundance '93, innards mostly rebuilt now appeared to die this Sunday.

While on thruway, the Check Engine light came on for first time EVER. I pulled over and checked oil & added the 3/4 bottle I had left…the dip stick was only showing about 3/4 up towards the high mark. I let the car rest awhile then got back on the road…no where else to go.

The car sounded “weak”…I decided to go the 90 miles back home. About 12 miles from home the radio kicked off, then the signal lights, the flasher didn’t work…I pulled into my parking lot and turned the car off. I turned the key again and NOTHING.

Monday I figured I would check the fuses and just for the heck of it turned the key…the car started, but sounded weak. I checked the lights and radio and they were working…?

I am unemployed now and can’t do any more rebuilding. Maybe this is quite simple. At least now I hope I won’t have to tow it for an opinion and/or repair.

If anyone has any ideas I would be grateful. Thanks

Most likely it is the alternator.

Alternator is my guess as well.

Thank you both!

Do you know a ballpark price for alternator work?

While I agree with the other two, I would point out that the CEL (Check Engine Light) can mean many things. is just like a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

    ASAP means driving to the berm of the highway right now and not waiting for the next exit.

But if the MIL/CEL is not flashing, then it’s not an urgent indicator.

There Isn’t Really A Ballpark Price

Notice how advice included words like “likely” and “guess”?
You should have it tested before proceeding. A chain auto parts store may do this free, I’m not sure. They would need it to be in the car I would think. If it’s easy to get to, you could remove it and have it tested somewhere. I guess it’s likely that it’s bad. An auto parts store will give you the exact “ballpark” price for a replacement. Most places don’t do alternator work. Most places just replace them with new or remanufactured units.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I have a wonderful independent auto electric shop within an hour of me that would rebuild this baby for a fraction of the cost of a replacement, while I wait, after a free bench test. They also would work on it in the car if desired. You can use a phone book (remember those) and see if you have an auto electric shop near you and give them a call.

Good Luck With The Sundance!

Here’s A Link To The 2.2L Engine Alternator Testing, Repairing, And Installing
The 3.0L is there, too.

Autozone, for one, has them for around $130 ballpark, and can maybe sell you repair parts instead.

I don’t think that Autozone or Advanced can read OBD I codes.

You Can Pull Generic 2 Digit Codes From This Plymouth With The Ignition Key

With the engine off, turn the ignition to “on” (not start) and immediately back to “off”, then “on”, then “off”, then “on”, (third “on”) and leave it there and watch the “check engine” light. It will begin to blink you a code. Flash, Flash, pause, Flash, Flash, pause, Flash, Flash, Flash, pause, Flash, pause, for example.
This would be codes 22 and 31. These codes are 2-digits. It’s likely the car will start with code 12 (Flash, pause, Flash, Flash, pause) and always end with code 55 (that’s the “end of codes” “all clear” signal). You may have to do it a couple of times to verify what it’s sending you. It takes a bit of practice.

If you do this and post the code(s), I’ll probably look them up for you.

I just tried to get these generic codes w/the ignition key. I did it four times and believe the first one to be wrong as it is 341 (three digits?) then 51, then the 55. Maybe it was 12, 41, 51, 55. Sounds ominous.

From your description, the battery is almost completely discharged. The Alternator not charging the battery would leave the battery discharged.
You could put a charger on the car’s battery for a couple of hours, or jump from another car for a half hour. Call ahead to your auto parts store to ask if they will do a curbside battery and alternator test. Then, have your buddy, with the other car and jumper cables, follow you to the auto parts store. They can tell you if the alternator is bad.
This parts store has the alternator for $120. In the link, scroll down for the instructions for your car.

Here are the 1993 Chrysler (who make Plymouth) OBD I codes. Take the codes you have decoded from the flashes and see what matches.

This is one of these situations where a AAA membership comes in handy. All of the above is “likely” correct but does not help you much if you can’t drive to the parts store to have the alternator checked and the codes read for free. I don’t know if AAA can read codes but here’s what they did for free for me:

  • Jump start
  • Battery and alternator check / diagnostic which would diagnose if the above assumptions are correct

At the very least (and if it’s indeed the battery/alternator) they can jump start you and charge you enough to drive to a parts store or repair shop. Even a short tow is I believe - free.

Of course that remark is worthless if you are not a member.

The trouble code 41 seems to match your problems: “Charging system has excess, or no, field current.” The problem may be a broken wire to the alternator. See the wiring diagrams starting at Fig. 83.
The primary difference between the wiring to the alternators on the different engine sizes and body types is that on one type, the field current comes directly from the battery. On the others, the engine computer controls the field current.
Turn the ignition key ON, and see if there is voltage to all three wires at the alternator. If not, a fusible link may be blown, or a wire may be broken, or disconnected.

Sorry I disappeared On You! Stuff Happens.

Hello Kit is doing a fine job advising you. Your “Maybe it was 12, 41, 51, 55. Sounds ominous.”, looks right, but isn’t really ominous. Code 12 is nothing. Code 41 is the fault you are dealing with. Code 51 is saying “lean condition indicated”, not a big concern, now. Code 55, as I said, is nothing, just “end of message”.

So, back to code 41, that’s the one, “charging system excess or no field circuit.” I would follow the advice of Hello Kit and Young Timer. They have you covered.

You will probably wind up with a replacement or repaired alternator to cure this.
Good Luck!

P.S. Please let everybody know what happens or ask more questions.

Check the ALTERNATOR DRIVE BELT. Is it there? If not, here’s one:,1163023/vehicleId,1912502/initialAction,partProductDetail/store,1140/partType,00077/shopping/partProductDetail.htm

You Mean As In “Easiest, Cheapest Things, First?” Simply Brilliant!

You guys are AWESOME! I’ll let you know what happens. Thanks.

I don’t think that Autozone or Advanced can read OBD I codes.

Yea, I missed that 15 year old part.

You’re Welcome. Thanks For Keeping Us Updated!
That’s how we fine-tune our fine advice.

That reminds me, “Do you know how much free advice is worth?”