Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

'98 Dodge Stratus: bad sound, electrical freak-out?

I’ve got a 1998 Dodge Stratus with 116K miles. For the past two days, I’d been having difficulty turning the key in the ignition. The key would go in, but the ignition wouldn’t budge an iota. If I played with it or managed to turn it backwards to the ACC position, I could then turn it forward and get it started. But it’s only been happening a few days and I was always able to get it started with less than 15sec of playing around with it.

This afternoon when leaving work was a different story. I had the usual ignition problems but finally started it. As soon as I did, a horrendous sound came from beneath the hood, like something metallic was spinning and scraping. I opened the hood to have a look, and I could only guess it was coming from the very bottom underside of the engine.

My BRAKE and AIRBAG lights remained lit on my dash, and the shift indicator on the dash (LCD?) indicated ALL shifter positions were selected, rather than just [P]. The noise under the hood continued until I depressed the brake and shifted into drive, and it ceased. However, I noticed that my radio would not function, nor do my blinkers. Headlights are fine, as is the backlighting to the factory radio buttons/display (but not the radio itself). Dashboard lights are fine.

Four miles later and I"m home. I move the shifter to the park position, but the dashboard shift indicator says [R] (reverse) and starts making a nasty sound. I shift down one to reverse and I feel the car go into gear, so I put it back to park although the indicator still says [R]. The sound continues until I shut it off.

Is this a crazy occurrence of multiple things going wrong all at once? It seems maybe the transmission could be going (which would account for not being able to turn the key if it’s not in park?), but what about the electrical?

The loud noise your heard was most likely coming from the starter motor. It sounds like the ignition switch has gone bad. Hopefully replacing the switch will fix things up. Check for bad grounds between the battery and chassis also.

Agreed, it sounds like the ignition switch has failed and is sticking between Start and On.

Wow, no kidding… this accounts for the noise running continuously when not in drive, as well as the quirks with the electrical (radio, blinkers)? Does it also account for the shift indicator saying [R] when I’ve moved it all the way forward to Park?

I’d also wonder if you have an idea how much it would cost, and if this is a job a complete amateur could accomplish? Thanks so much!