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Won't start in the heat--wiggle shifter helps

We purchased a used 2010 Journey in May. In early June, we found that when running errands in the heat, at about the third errand the car won’t start. It will kind of chug chug, turns over, but doesn’t catch. We took it in once and they rewired the starter. (someone had wired with with a piece of extension cord?). Then, a couple weeks later took it in for a new starter. Still does it. BUT, I think I figured out that when you wiggle the gear shift (Automatic) while in Park, it will start. It may take a few times, but it started for me twice this way.

Someone posted about the Neutral Start Switch. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

If wiggling or otherwise moving the shift lever improves the ability to start the engine, that is a very strong indicator that your Neutral Safety Switch needs to be replaced.


If the starter operates without wiggling the shifter, it’s not the neutral safety switch. Something else is going on. It could be a bad check valve in the fuel pump, allowing gas to flow back into the tank, or a number of other things. More diagnosis is needed.

Thank you! Advice on where to concentrate the diagnosis?

The first thing is to determine what is missing when the car won’t start spark or fuel.

When at times the thing would not start what did you do to finally get it started?

Purchasing the new starter was probably not needed since, as you said, the engine turned over and the guy who sold it to you should have known if you told him about the whole problem…

Unless the problem is consistent every time you attempt to start the engine, I doubt it is the check valve (sorry NYBo) because if you do have a bad check valve it would happen every time you attempt to start the car, especially after it has been sitting around for several hours or overnight.

My wife’s car has this problem and after the car has been sitting for several hours it takes two tries to start the engine. She can overcome this by turning the key to the on position, wait four or five seconds and then start the engine. The few seconds in the on position is enough time for the fuel pump to supply fuel to the system.

I’m a bit conflicted about this problem. The way it’s presented it could mean there are 2 separate issues.

The neutral switch and shifter wiggling would affect starter motor operation.

The turns over, chug chug could point to something else. If it chugs for a while then runs fine that could mean loss of fuel pressure due to the pump, pump relay, crank sensor, etc.

If someone had the unmitigated gall to wire a starter motor with a piece of extension cord there’s no telling what else has been done that has not been discovered yet.

What’s wrong with extension cords. They are made to hold at least 120V and more amps than the starter produces?

A common 16 gauge extension cord can’t handle 100 amps. Without seeing a picture I trust this comment was made in jest.

Chrysler phased out the “neutral safety switch” 20 years ago. The device that indicates gear position is called a (gear) range sensor. A neutral safety switch only senses park and neutral also provides a ground for the reverse lights. The range sensor identifies each gear position and if there is a malfunction a fault can be stored.

Your PCM controls the starter, the gear position shown in the instrument cluster is the gear position that the PCM sees. If you believe there is a problem with the gear position sensor the input can be verified by observing the gear position in the instrument cluster. If the starter motor will not operate check the gear position in the cluster.

You have to be joking Kurt.

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If that spliced-in home extension cord is representative of the way that this car was repaired/maintained by the previous owner(s), the OP may have a few more unpleasant surprises in the offing with this car.
I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but when I hear about that type of bizarre repair, it makes me wonder about the overall condition of the vehicle.

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:grin: yes and no. However…a undersized gauge wire would either burn up or cause the fuse to go out. Since the starter apparently did kick in, it had sufficient amps to do so without burning up the wire or fuse. Extension cords do come in 10 or even 8 gauge.

I’m guessing the extension cord wire was to the “start” terminal on the solenoid, not the main power from the battery.

[ Sounds like the TIPM.