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Minivan Randomly Stalls and no one can find out why!

Hello everybody,

I own a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan and for the last 2 years it has been stalling randomly. When stalling the following happen:

1) The check engine lite turns off

2) The speedometer drops to 0 (even though the car is still moving at a good speed)

3) Power steering turns off - I can hardly steer

4) Brakes become really tight

The only way to turn the van back on is by putting it in park and restarting it. However, if I’m going fast enough and the phantom stall occurs, the stall occurs but since the car is going fast enough after

the stall finishes, the car turns back on as if nothing has happened in the first place – this usually occurs when I’m on the freeway.

I brought it into the shop and they could not find out what the problems was and they couldn’t even reproduce it. The managed to find ‘something’ by banging on the PCM (the electrical box) which would slow the motor down and sometimes stall it. They replaced it and the problem went away for about 2 weeks and then it happened again.

For the longest time I was unable to reproduce it except when I started my car on a small hill, put the car in drive, and then let it ‘idle’ up the hill. I checked the oil and it was pretty low and very dirty – I’m not sure when I got it changed last, also the antifreeze looked like it had a leak as it was also below recommended level. Since then, I changed the oil and put in more antifreeze and the stalling while idling up the hill stopped but the random stalling still happens. (By the way the stalling happens at least once every 60 miles)

Where do you think the problem is ? The engine? Transmission?


No one can find it and I feel like I might spend more on finding the problem then the car is actually worth!

The Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Is driven by the transmission. It sends it’s electrical signal to the engine computer. The computer uses this signal to control the engine, and sends a signal to the speedometer. When the signal is stopped, the speedometer can drop to zero, and the engine can cut off. Any part of the VSS wiring from the VSS to the engine computer, or from the engine computer to the speedometer, or the VSS, itself, can be faulty.
Have the engine computer scanned at an auto parts store, for free, and bring the trouble codes here for advice.

So to be a little more clear, here is the current normal status of the car:

  1. no check engine light is on
  2. parking break light is permanently on (even though its been released) – this started after the stallings happened

The stalling status:

  1. The little oil engine dripper light turns on, its also on when my key is in the car and started the electricity but I have not yet turned on the engine
  2. I’m actually not sure if its the check engine light, I think the ABS light turns on, basically the dashboard symbols default to what my car is like when they car is on but the engine is not.

I went to autozone this morning and got

  1. 0 error codes
  2. error communicating during the I/M stuff ( I forgot what this was )
  3. error communicating during another stuff
  4. no freeze data

I have a 97 dodge grand caravan se w/ a 3.0 that would gracefully stall while driving. We would pull over and a minute or 5 it would start. A day or 2 later it would do it again. Long story short after checking all sensors, replaceing the full filter and still recieving no error codes, it was still happening.(I even had a code reader on it when it happened.)I found a post on the net from a mechanic w/ the same trouble and he ended up replaceing the crank position sensor (cps). I think it was 35 bucks, I replaced it myself, the van hasen’t stalled since. Its been about 20k miles. Good luck, hope this helps!

I will have to try that out! and I will let you know what happens. Do you have the thread from that mechanic? And is the CPS a pretty easy think to purchase and put in?

I do not have the thread. If I remember correctly, I only removed the air intake hose where it goes onto the top of the engine. I have a haynes manual that helped me locate it. It took maybe 30 minutes taking my time, the cps is a 1 bolt mount. I called 3 stores for prices and they all had it in stock.

Sometimes, the crankshaft position sensor (CkPS) HAS been found to be erratic when it (the CkPS) gets hot. And, it returns to “normal” when it cools.
Here is Auto Zone location for the CkPS. A Chilton’s, or Haynes, will tell you how.