Stumped To This Point

I had not mentioned the customer pay aspect of it but wrestling something like this could get so financially out of hand it would lead to nothing but trouble between shop and customer. And many customers would expect an estimate before beginning. No idea how that would work.

I had mentioned tracking down an odd Fiat fuel injection problem once. I spent about 10 hours on that car and at the end decided to bill him 8. Why cut it?
Because in high school I worked for his grandmother painting houses and mowing yards at times. She owned a lot of real estate and a number of vehicles.
After I started turning wrenches she would bring her cars to me and we stayed on good terms.

One day she called and asked about grandson’s Fiat.
She said he had it in 4 shops in the OKC area and no one could fix it. They just threw parts at it. So I grudgingly agreed and they towed that car 120 miles to me. Took me some dinking around for a week but finally sorted it out. An odd one too…

They use a dual relay; one side runs the fuel pump and the other side runs the computer; fuel injectors, etc. One side of the main contacts on the computer side had broken loose from the tang (heat related) and the engine would run when the sagging tang would contact the other half of the contact point. Now and then it would lose contact and the engine would shut down.


“I’m sorry Mr. Jones, this is a really odd problem. But I’ll fix your car no matter how much money it costs you!”

Fixed it for ya!

Update and an anomaly today. Started up and ran fine for a 50 miles round trip to town and back. Pulled back into the driveway, turned the key off and removed it quickly. The engine was still running with all dash warning lights displayed. Key back in to run, did not miss a beat, and all dash lights off. Key back to off and engine shut off normally with no dash lights.

A few weeks ago I went over ign. switch wiring to check for an oddball bleed and nothing even after doing this several times.

So that brings up the potential of something stupid in the switch anyway and what to do.

  1. Drive it until it does this again (weeks, months, never?) and test ign. wiring as it sits messed up. Which could mean whenever and wherever.

  2. Considering the aggravation; throw parts at it. I generally like to be 98% certain before buying anything but at this point I’m in guess territory.
    Ignition lock cylinder with key sensor magnets 50 to 75 dollars.
    Electrical part of the ign. switch. 75 to 100.
    Little fingernail sized key sensor roughly 50 dollars. (Last on the list as culprit IMO; tests fine with VOM)

There seems to be droves of complaints on the lock cylinders and dash light glitches. Some seem to be a bit misguided; as in left front wheel bearing causing dash light glitches…
So I’m open for opinions. What would you suggest or do if you were involved in this? I’m leaning towards the lock cylinder if I have to throw a dart at something.

Personally I’ve replaced far more of the switches than the lock cyls but I suppose at this age I would take things apart and inspect for wear.

Does this column have the gear housing where the lock cylinder turns gears which in turn operates the ign switch?

Have not taken it out yet so I do not know. My main experience is with the so-called import brands. I’ve got a few things to do but will pop the cylinder out later today and post back tonight.
I don’t think (?) it uses a gear drive and it is all self contained with the wire harness plugging into the chassis harness and wires to the key sensor which sends a signal to the BCM. Will verify this later so off to the salt mines… :frowning:

From what you post seems very unlikely to be a battery problem. Suggest to describe your method for measuring the parasitic drain current. When I do that myself, with the key removed rom the ignition, I first remove the negative battery connector, then I connect an amp-meter in series with the negative lead back to the negative battery post. Start with the highest amperage setting available on the meter and definitely don’t crank the engine, could damage the meter.

Given the problems you’ve discovered with the ignition lock, suggest to bite the bullet & replace the entire ignition switch ass’y with a new one. It sounds like this has to be done in any event eventually.

Have you tried connecting everything in the morning, and leaving it that way until the evening, rather than an overnight test? Could provide a clue. For example the temperature range is probably different.

My son-in-law had a Chrysler mini van, maybe from the 1998 era, that had an intermittent error in the cluster that made the odometer get all wonky and garbled, the engine would run rough, and it would lose power. Turned out to be cracked solder in the connections where the wiring harness connected to the cluster. The crack was at the board of the cluster in one of the many connectors to the board side socket. There was so little clearance behind the board that the cable was always forced into a sharp angle and the pressure on the joint broke the solder. It wasn’t too hard to resolder it once I found the break.

I’m only writing this to you because it drove me nuts until I found a similar problem discussed on a Chrysler minivan forum. You mentioned strange things at the gauges - maybe worth a look?

Another idea, when the current meter is installed, everything in the car turned off, doors closed, meter reading 70 ma, bang on the doors with your hand one by one, see if that has any effect on the drain current. If a door switch is iffy, that can make the computer think somebody is opening the door and that wakes up the computers.

Making some surprise visits in the middle of the night might find the starter motor cranking the engine over. Who knows? But dash is next I guess. I solved a problem with the radio in my dad’s new Plymouth must have been 1972. Cold solder joint causing intermittent radio service. He only let me look at it after the dealer failed three times to fix it and was driving him nuts. Cold solder joints though I think would cause an open circuit, not a short but gotta try everything.

You have more skill and determination than me but I have taken great pleasure in cutting up a piece of machinery causing me problems. I call it letting the spirits out to haunt someone else.

1 Like

This sort of thing can be looked at as a frustration , or as enjoyment. Depends on whether the vehicle is needed for road use asap or not of course. But difficult problems can be sort of a fun puzzle.

Like this crossword clue that I had very much difficulty with: A four letter word starting with “S” meaning cooler or jug?

To continue beating that dead horse, another anomaly today. A few days ago I removed the ign. lock cylinder and found nothing wrong. No slop in the bore, etc. I left the key in and disconnected the underhood fuse block. (No crime to speak of here so leaving keys in is not rare)

Before heading to town today I raised the hood and reconnected the fuse block. When I opened the door I see Security light, transmission indicator, digital odometer, and a few other lamps lit up. Key was in the OFF position.
So I very gently tapped the key with a fingertip and the lights went off.

A little more vigorous tapping and wiggling of the wire harness/key did nothing but by lightly tapping the key those lamps and warnings flickered a few times.
When I got back home I tried it again and got the same results; a few random flickers and then nothing.

Since the lock cylinder appears to be snug with no apparent problems I think I’m going to make an educated (coil flip) guess and go along with what asemaster mentioned about his replacing a number of the electrical switches.

I could see a 2 amp draw happening in this but could not check it as it came and went so quickly. The wind has been horrible here lately so It’s possible the truck rocking could have triggered a bad connection in a flaky ign. switch. Train had 21 rail cars blown over the other day.

Of course no one locally has the switch and has to be ordered. Be too cold this weekend anyway as they are saying 11 degrees in the mornings. If that does not fix it then I surrender as I’m guessed out.

1 Like

I hate crosswords. I can’t stand to have unanswered questions. So how about “stir” for the joint, or the hoosegow, or we used to say going up the river.

So what was it?

1 Like

You got it, ‘stir’ is the answer. I got off-track thinking it was literally a cooler or jug, i.e. something to drink from. Since it started with “s”, trying to come up w/a word similar to a beer stein. Stein has too many letters, & nothing else would fit. Eventually remembered that slang for jail is sometimes called “jug”.

Very interesting read.
Looking forward to the outcome.
Pretty crazy how just tapping the key got the lights to go on and off.

I was going to mention that.
I was looking at that the other day.

Apparently got this sorted out; by accident. Recently we had some higher than normal windy (common in OK) days. One day 21 cars of a train got blown off of the tracks…

So I go outside, connect the battery, open the door, and see some dash indicators lit up again. Tapping the key lightly made them go off. So while sitting I see the dash indicators flickering on and off a number of times while the truck is rocking in the wind which was hitting about 50 MPH.

Took a stab at the gear driven electrical part of the ignition switch and apparently what was happening is that it was on the razor’s edge of screwing up all the time.
The switch has the normal ACC/OFF/RUN/START positions.
In this case it appeared to have developed…

What made it tough was the the problem was rare with door/hood/tailgate use. It took some rocking from the wind to cause it to really flare up. One night at midnight with the wind huffing strong I went out to check and sure enough; key in the dead OFF position and dash indicators illuminated. (I leave keys in; no theft issues here)

That OFFKINDARUN position was just every so slight. So a week or so in at this point and the battery is staying up. I’ve aged a lot over this one… :frowning:


All I can say is yahoo. The wind was an act of God who helps those that attempt to help themselves. You deserve a win.

Reminds me of a joke. A farmer had taken a rutted and miserable piece of land and turned it into a productive farm. The pastor visited one day and remarked what a wonderful job he and God had done with the land. The farmer tilts he head a little and responds yeah but you should have seen it when God had it alone.


Glad you got it sorted out before you drove it into the ditch and set fire to it.

I sat out there for a while in the dark with the multimeter connected and taped to the wipers (to keep my meter from going to KS) with the illumination on.
After a fair amount of rocking the dash indicators would come on and the current draw would go up to 2+ amps but only for a second or two before the indicators would go dead again.

You are correct asemaster. If there ever is a next time on anything with wheels arson is going to be the first option and not in the ditch. The driveway will work fine…