CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Starting issue in Town&Country?

I have a 99 Town & Country that occasionally has a starting problem that has stumped my otherwise excellent mechanic. Every once in awhile when I start my van it kills right away. Even if I rev the engine with the gas pedal it kills immediately. It will do that 3-5 times, then when I turn the key nothing will happen, no click no dash lights, nothing. Often if I let it sit at that point for a few hours it will start and run fine.

The alternator was changed two years ago in an attempt to fix this problem and the starter was just replaced a few months ago.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

If nothing happens when you turn the key, it could be anything between and inclusive of the battery and ignition switch.
Basics first: what shape is the battery and its connections in?

Oh, yes! That’s the other thing. We replaced the battery in the last few months and all the connections look great.

When this happens, do things that normally work without inserting the key still work?
Like for instance, does the dome light still come on when you open the door?

It sounds like there may be a problem with the ignition switch or in the wiring to it. Check to see if voltage is getting past the switch when the trouble happens. It may also be a good idea to clean the battery connections along with the chassis ground lead from the battery.

You mean it cranks fine and starts, then stops? If so, I don’t see that as a starting system problem at the root. There must be something else wrong. My first guess is some kind of fuel mixture problem caused by the cold start injection circuit failing. That might cause the engine to flood, and would explain why it starts and runs fine after waiting. That wouldn’t explain why it won’t crank and there are no dash lights after this happens though. It could be a circuit breaker is tripping, caused by whatever is happening to cause the car to stop running in the first place. Ask your mechanic to double check the cold start injector stuff and verify it is working to spec. That’s where I’d start.

what about the auto shut down relay?

I think it’d be a good idea to start with the basics and first see to make sure that the battery’s cables indeed don’t have a problem. He says the dash lights don’t come on once it decides to not start.
That’s why I asked whether the dome light comes on. If they do, the cables are likely fine and then you can look into the ignition switch, interlocks, inhibitors, etc.