96 Caravan w' lots of mysterious electrical problems, please help

I got a great deal on a 96 caravan but am now having lots of problems, most just annoying but now they have become critical. I think most of it centers around relays or control systems. Most importantly the radiator fans do not turn on. The fans were checked with a fused link they are ok, I also tested the ohm readings from the temp sensor near the thermostat and it appeared to be working, a friend mechanic informed me that the fans should turn on automatically when the AC is engaged, no fans. I tried to swap all relays around in the PDC (under hood fuse and relay box) and in drivers kick panel under dash, no luck. It does fine while driving but any traffic will put me on the side of the road nearly overheating. The in car heat also quit working but hot fluid appears to be circulating through the heater core. The fan and in car heat problems occurred after I had flushed the coolant system and changed thermostat. Also the rear washer fluid pump turned on and won’t turn off, I unplugged it from the tank as to not pump out all the fluid. The horn, backup lights, cruise control, do not work. The air bag light is on, and the odometer light flickers, it also has crazy fuel economy fluctuations. It appears to me that the problem is with the PCM powertrain control module, as the horn, washer fluid, and radiator fans are controlled through the pcm but I was also told by mechanic that if the pcm went, nothing would work. I heard a rumor of relays being in other locations like under the bumper, all I found was something that looked like an airbag sensor. Any help would be greatly appreciated as this my only mode of transportation for the family. Thanks

allpar.com has a minivan site. That would be a good place to ask for help specific to your vehicle.

Tell them year, model, and engine (4cyl., or 3.0, 3.3 or 3.8 6 cyl.)

I am thinking flood damage is behind these problems.

And, none of these things have turned on the check engine light? Have the check engine light scanned (for free) at Auto Zone Auto Parts. If there are trouble codes, bring them back, here for translation.

I did the ignition check with the check engine light and it came up with 1. (12) battery has been disconnected… 2.(21 or 22 can’t remember) something about engine temp too low or too high, probably because it recently overheated, 3. was a code about o2 levels and then the end of sequence code. As of recent the check engine light has not been on and it has only been reading code 12 battery disconnect and code 55 end of sequence.

the radiator fan is relay is located beneath the air cleaner, and is fastened to the frame rail. pay attention to the connector for damage (burned connections). air bag light, horn, cruise, is a recall. see a dealer. hope this helps.

I would start with the simple stuff, battery connections, the cable connection to the body from the negative battery terminal, the ground from the engine to the frame.

On the radiator fan issue (at least), go to http://www.dodgetalk.com/forums/ and do a search in the Caravan forum (or post your question). There are many very knowledgable Dodge mechanics who hang out there. I have a 1997 that had the exact same problem. The manual does say the fans should come on when the A/C is on, but that was not the case with my car. There is a fairly easy way to test the relay, so that should be your first move. (Basically, if I remember correctly, the PCM grounds the relay to turn on the fan, so all you have to do is ground it yourself and see if the fan comes on). After you replace the relay, testing was a bit difficult on my car because it turned out that in normal weather (below 85, say), the fans NEVER came on when driving. So, I had to sit and idle for 15 minutes or something to get the fans to come on. But, what a sweet sound!

Again, my car is a 1997 so it may be different. But if the airbag light is on and the horn doesn’t work, that would indicate something called the “clockspring”. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to replace ($600 if I remember). Fortunately, there was a recall on it (again, for the 1997), so a dealer might do it for free.

The pcm (engine computer) turns the fan on when the a/c is turned on, besides temperature causing it to turn on. Like anything else, the pcm can be partially faulty, or, it can be wholly faulty. As a work-around, you might consider wiring the control wire for a fan’s relay and putting the control switch on the dash. ++ For RECALL information, go to: www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls. There are 15 recalls for 1996-1996 Caravans. One is, “the clockspring can turn on air bag warning lamp.” Another is, “Some aftermarket (WIX, Purolator, etc) fuel filter can block fuel or cause a fuel leak”. Most recalls are good forever and you don’t have to pay a dime for the recall.

edit: Recalls for Caravan years of 1996-1998.

This was a great site, they should print this sites URL on the dash of all dodge vehicles, Thanks

I checked the recall list and it did have the clockspring but when i went to the dealer for that they also informed me of a recall on the solid state fan relay, this was not on that site, the repairs costed me about three bucks for all the vending machine junk that occupied my six hours of time at the dealer, but all is fixed now.

hanks to all for all the help, Everything is now fixed and I thought I would post quickly to say how. As for the horn, cruise, airbag, and flickering odo light, I checked the recall list and I took it to the dealer to have the clockspring looked at. They replaced it and now it all works, I have no idea what a clockspring does but it affects a lot of things. While there they also informed me that my van had three other recalls that had not been taken care of and one of them was the solid state relay (see pic) When checking recall lists, this relay was not listed but the dealer also replaced that for me under recall and now I have the fans working again. As for fuel economy there was recall on some seal on the fuel tank, they took care of that also, but I am still waiting to see if my mileage gets better. What a happy day to find out all my problems were covered under recalls and my repair bill was $0. As for no heat in the vehicle, I have been monitoring the heater core hoses at first both were hot but recently one side has progressively become cooler and cooler so I am assuming a heater core replacement. Well I guess ya can’t have it all. . . . Thanks to everyone for your help.

Just one follow up question on the repair they made for the relay, They placed the new relay in a different location than the original (see pic) instead of on the vertical frame rail, they mounted it on the bottom where that rail fastens. My question is this, is this going to affect performance at all? I’m a little worried about something smashing it from the underside. I am sure they put it there for ease of installation but a little concerned, is this going to cause me any problems?

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