My friend (yes, really, a friend, not me) parked her 2004 Dodge Caravan in the driveway the evening before. The next morning it would not start. No crank, no grind, no click, and no dash lights, nada, nothing. She took it to the shop she’s taken the car to for years for repair and maintenance. She trusts them. They’ve replaced the battery and run a full diagnostic on it, but are unable to solve the problem. The shop is telling them her it could run into the thousands just to figure out the problem. What could they be missing?
Based on what you told us (as well as what you did not tell us), I assume that the vehicle is starting and running properly after installation of the new battery. If that is the case, it is very possible that the problem was limited to a dead battery and nothing more. Believe it or not, the newer no-maintenance sealed batteries can go dead with no warning.
Years ago, you would almost always experience slow cranking and/or dim lights for a few days before your battery went dead, but these new batteries can go from seemingly good to absolutely dead within a matter of minutes. How do I know? Because it happened to me, with my first no-maintenance battery.
As to the shop that told her “it could run into the thousands to figure out the problem”, I would not continue to patronize a shop where the boss makes statements like that. Essentially, they were telling her that they are not interested in trying to resolve the problem–assuming that there is still a problem. Is there still a starting problem with the van?
I’ll assume the opposite which is that the van still doesn’t start. In that case, what you need your friend to do is provide a complete run down of everything that the shop did in terms of checking things out. For instance, the first thing to do is just move the shifter to neutral and try to start from there. Has anyone done that? But the list could go on…So rather than have wild guessing with no info - provide all of the info you can.
And VDC is quite correct about the shop. A no start condition such as this is not uncommon. Any decent shop should know what to do & it shouldn’t cost thousands just to find out.
“The shop is telling them her it could run into the thousands just to figure out the problem.”
Thousands ? That’s ridiculous. This is not a shop that I would allow to diagnose a no-start problem.
The shop obviously doesn’t know how to solve this relatively simple problem and can only guess at the solution to it so that would cost the owner a lot of needless repair time. If possible find another shop that specializes in electrical repairs. They should be able to fix the trouble at a minimal cost to the owner.
The trouble is due to a problem in the main distribution panel under the hood. Power from the battery is most likely not making good connection to it. That will prevent power from reaching anything except the starter but it can’t run until the solenoid is activated. The main fuse may be blown also or there could be a chassis ground connection problem. Whatever it is, a savvy tech should be able to pin down to source of the trouble within a half hour of checking things and have it fixed in no more than hour and a half.
One easy thing that could be done is just run a jumper wire from the positive battery post to the main fuse in the panel under the hood. If that makes things work you know the connection to the battery is faulty.