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Starter Engages While Driving

I have a 2008 Dodge Avenger with a 4 cylinder engine. About a month ago while my wife was driving the car she said it began to make a high pitched whining/grinding noise. She continued to drive the car about 2 miles to her destination. When she stopped smoke was issuing from the hood. When I got there, I tried to start the vehicle but it would not turn over.

Our mechanic said the starter had engaged while the vehicle was moving. It had thus burned itself out and he replaced the starter.

Car ran fine for about 2 weeks, until it did the same thing to me. Upon hearing the initial whining/grinding noise I pulled over and turned off the key only to discover that the starter was still engaging and turning over and it wouldn’t stop even with the key removed from the vehicle. Eventually it quit and I assumed yet another starter had burned out, but as luck would have it after returning that evening to tow the vehicle home it started up just fine as if nothing was wrong.

I drove it home and pondered on what could be making the starter engage at random times like that.

Some searches online and even a second mechanic I talked to said to replace the starter fuse/starter relay switch, but I was unable to find this and I am not sure there even is one on this vehicle. Other sources I found said it is located in the ominously named “Totally Integrated Power Module” (TIPM) but I was hesitant to replace the entire TIPM if that was not the problem.

I eventually replaced the ignition switch that is located on the ignition unit beside the steering column hoping that would solve the issue. I drove the car about 4 days with no problems, but just today the starter engaged while driving yet again and so I am at a loss as to what to try next.

My questions are:

  1. What else besides the ignition switch and the starter (the two items that have been replaced) could be causing this issue?
  2. Could my mechanic have replaced the starter but not the starter solenoid and it is actually the solenoid causing the issue?

You probably have a wire shorting to power between the ignition switch and starter relay. Or the relay itself. I didn’t look it up, but I can’t imagine this car not having a starter relay.

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Well, ain’t that just somethin? No relay. Then per diagram we would check the integrity of wiring and replace module if necessary.

Thank you for your time and effort in helping with this matter.

So my understanding is that you feel it is unlikely that the issue could be in the starter itself and that it is most likely either somewhere between the Ignition Switch and the TIPM.

I will try to check the wiring as best I can and see what happens.

Also note that Chrysler TIPMs are well known for strange failures, and have been subject to some significant recalls.

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Relays in modules still fail but the cost of an entire module is much greater than a relay. The manufacturer saves a few cents per vehicle up front then their customers pay dearly later.

I pulled out the TIPM (without actually unhooking any wires) just to examine it. I did discover where a mud dauber had made a nest up where one of the harnesses connect at some point. In fact, it really didn’t seem like a lot of residue was still there, but it did extend across a couple of wires and up into one of the empty holes in the harness receptacles. I scraped it off and put it back together. Will start driving it again tomorrow and see what happens.

This is an urgent safety problem, as it could cause the car to catch fire. This same starter-thing happened to a friend’s car, and not only did it burn up but two other cars caught fire from her car. So don’t take this lightly. Good idea to disconnect battery when the car isn’t in use until this is resolved. Best idea is to disconnect battery and tow the car to a repair place and let them fix it for you.

If I had that problem I’d run some test leads to monitor the two voltages at the starter motor. That will tell you right away if the problem is the starter motor itself, or something else. Unless you have some “customized” wiring there, I think that’s the best path toward finding what’s causing it.

My Dodge Dakota had this problem. Bad ignition switch. Hit a bump and the starter would engage.

One of my big trucks at work (1998 International 4700,) had this issue a few years back. It ended up being a starter relay that I didn’t even know existed til it went bad. It wasn’t with the other relays, and was taped up on the back side of one of the wire harnesses. It was melted inside, and was shorting out.

1 days worth of following wires and $15 and I was good to go again.

I’d qualify for a job at International it seems. That’s the way I design my home-brew wiring. There’s too much order in the universe is what I say … lol . .

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Somebody commented that I should immediately have the vehicle towed and repaired by a licenced mechanic. I just wish to note that this is exactly what I originally did. They replaced the starter, I am $300 poorer, and the root problem still exists.

A note also on safety – I didn’t explain earlier as I didn’t feel it was pertinent to the actual problem, but I have installed a battery powershut-off switch so that when the starter engages while driving I can immediately pull over, pop the hood and kill the power. (Although, for me, it was a matter of economics so that I didn’t have to replace a burned out starter every time this happened.)

Just an update after my clean-up of the mud daubers nest in the TIPM – it did it again the first time I drove it so apparently that was not the problem, although I am beginning to suspect that a faulty TIPM is actually what is causing the issue but I am unwilling to pay the high cost of replacing it for just a “maybe”.

My new plan is to find the wire coming out of the TIPM that sends the signal for the starter to engage and put a switch on this wire that can be turned off immediately after starting the car. If this works I will probably mount a momentary switch on the dashboard that can be pressed as the key is turned to start the car.

The wire from the TIPM goes not to the starter but to the PCM. PCM wire then goes to starter.

OK thanks. I will try to find it.

Are you the only person who drives this vehicle? If there is a possibility somebody else will drive it, suggest to find an alternate solution.

That’s what I would have done long ago to determine what the problem was.

I have a 2007 dodge caliber withe the exact same thing happening…word for word …i thought i wrote it. Im just about to put in my second starter…but was thinking of doing a hard reset of the TPIM…my mechanic wanted to charge me 1800 for a new started and TIPM…
Any advice ?

Ok. So I never did find out actually what was causing the issue. Could have been the TPIM, but it was too expensive to replace for a “maybe” so I guess I will never know.

What I eventually did was a workaround. I took the little wire that hooks to the starter (not the big thick one, but the little one that sends the signal for it to engage) and I cut it, spliced some wire onto it and ran it up into one post of a doorbell switch that I mounted in my dash. From the other post of the doorbell switch I ran a wire directly back to my battery. So that when I pushed the doorbell switch it sent 12 volts directly from the battery to the starter. To start the car I still have to turn the key to the on position, but then I have to push the doorbell switch to actually turn over the engine. Works like a charm and has for some time. Cost about $5 for the switch and I just used extra household wire that I had laying around for the wire.

If you haven’t installed a fuse in that circuit, suggest you do so.

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