CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

94 dodge spirit electrical oddity

This will be long please bear with me. My dodge spirit has started acting a bit “odd” to start with a week ago i was going to drive to work, when i started the car and then put the car in reverse the break light (the error indicator on the dash) lit up, i discovered that i could put it in drive and the light would turn off, i also discovered that the light would turn on if i turned on the fan for the climate controls. wanting not to be late for work i took my chances and drove the 42 miles to where i work with no incidence. that evening on my way home i stopped at a store. when i was done shopping i got in my car and tried to started it but instead of turning over a puff of smoke came from the engine and the car would not start. when i looked in the problem later i found out one of the fusible links under the hood was blown. Also a friend who was helping me discovered that the test points for the ignition were not working. i took out the ignition module and noticed there were burn marks and melted plastic, obviously the connections were loose and had been arching. I replaced the fusible link and got a new ignition module. now, this morning, as soon as i put the car into reverse the radio, wipers, and turn signals were not working. i thought i had perhaps lost another fuse, however when i got to work and put the car in park the radio wipers and turn signals started working again. does anyone have any theories behind this? what could possibly causing electrical problems that only happen when in gear?

It’s a dodge… Rebuild it and you’ll have a FORD.

“It’s a dodge… Rebuild it and you’ll have a FORD” --Is this a useful comment? I’m sure 94 Fords are all impeccable after all these years and never suffer problems, because after all, Ford never had any electrical problems with their cars. cough Ignition switches that caused fires, cruise control systems that caused fires, etc…

Check for a bad ground wire somewhere, possibly under the dash, or perhaps if there is a short wire that runs from the negative battery terminal to a ground on the chassis, make sure that’s intact, as well as the ground strap that runs from the engine to the body. Wiggle wires under the dash and see if things that don’t work start working, or that are working quit. If this car has some rust, it’s possible that a ground connection somewhere under the hood has rotted out, possibly near an under hood fuse box.

What’s happening is your circuits that are acting wonky don’t have a good ground connection, and when you change gears, the current is finding a different path to ground, one that likely was never intended, maybe from the shift linkage moving something, maybe due to the backup lights and other systems that are activated when you change gears causing a new ground path to be created. This is causing overloads on circuits that weren’t meant to take the additional current, and may have been the cause of your fried ignition module. If you can get a schematic diagram for your car, look for a ground that’s common to all the systems that are acting up and start there.

Does the sprint have a floor shift or column shift?

Usually what causes the ignition switch failure on that car is a loose connector due to a high current load/over heating of the connector. You should replace the connector pigtail with the switch (part # 4419594). You may also want to recheck that fusible link repair.

I suggest you check the wire going to the reverse light switch. It may be grounding out possibly. Look for burns due to possibly contacting the exhaust system. Also check to see if the reverse lights are working, I suspect they aren’t. This would mean there is a problem with the power line to them.