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

Van won't start

I parked my 2014 dodge grand caravan in May 2020 in my garage and 2 days ago tried to start it but it was dead. I assumed it was the battery so I charged it for 24 hours and I only got flashing dash lights.

I then tried to boost it and that turned the vehicle on but the flashing continued and the van was weak, engine trembled somewhat (shaked).

I called a guy to inspect it and according to his little diagnosing tool he said it is the alternator. Charged $80 for diagnosis.

Now I want to buy an alternator and have him replace it but he was not looking too sure that it was the problem. He said he is sure but you can tell he is not.

Do the symptoms I described sound as it could be the alternator?

Should I try any other tests before I buy the part and have it replaced?

PS. Should I buy a new or old alternator. The price is $300 new vs $150 used. Is battery replacement also neccesery?

You definitely need a new battery. The old one was destroyed by letting it sit for almost a year… without recharging it periodically. Replace that first. Likely you don’t need an alternator.

Edit… Don’t jump start the car. The battery is far too gone for the alternator to recharge and you may burn up the alternator in the process.


Dead battery my starting point. Alternator after a test fine, Got roadside assistance for a free jump?

I went to buy a new battery but they said they want to test mine first. Since it was almost empty they told me to come in the morning once it is full so they can test it if it is good.

If they say my battery is good (despite being idle for so long including 2 months of extreme cold weather) then I suppose I will bring it home and see if that solves the issue? No need to buy a new one?

If it doesn’t, I have to decide between the new and used alternators.

Also, another guy offered to replace the alternator and oil/filter for only $100 comparing to $160 the guys who diagnosed it today wants. But if the new guy does it and problem is not solved it is not his business because that’s what I hired him for. But if I get the original/more expencive guy to do it he WILL say there is another issue (if that doesn’t solve it) because unfortunatelly most mechanics around here aren’t honest.

Oh what a headache, I should have tried the battery first myself but the flashing dashboard lights and engine shaking made me think it’s more than just the battery.

It is an interesting question whether or not a battery which has completely run down can be recharged, and if so how reliable it will be. My experience is that it can be recharged, but not with a smart charger, as those need to sense a certain amount of remaining charge in the battery or they won’t turn on.

A trickle charger such as the Schumacher MC-1 will charge even a completely discharged battery (over the course of multiple days). However, even though the battery can be recharged, and may work for several months or longer, it can not be considered reliable after being fully discharged for a while.

Why? Unless you are trying to get so kind of warranty replacement, the condition of the old battery shouldn’t matter. Never had that kind of problem before. I walk-in tell them I want a battery, minutes and xxx dollars later I walk out with a new battery. The only thing they cared about was the core charge.

1 Like

It wasn’t a problem. Since the new one costs $200 they give $30 back for my old one. I told them I will first try the new one and if that is not the cause of my issues I will return it but they said once I put it in it is not returnable. So they suggested testing my old one first.

Im on my way to see what happens.

You guys were correct.
It was the battery. After I installed it the engine was shaking for a minute so I turned it off thought it is the alternator after all but later it was working just fine.
Thanks every one.

1 Like

I would also recommend you to change the spark pulgs…

Modern car electronics are very sensitive to incorrect voltages and can cause all kinds of weird problems .