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Dodge Dakota Electrical Problems

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  • I think I can help with your problem man I have a 94 2wd and they have the same wiring for the headlights and blinkers. Try to check out if there is a wire that is bare or a split wire that is touching to metal or a ground if there is replace that wire and that should fix your problem.
  • nator92nator92 Posts: 3
    Thanks for the offer. You were right, I found a bad wire between the driver side rear tail-light and the plug in connector under the bed. I took the section from my parts truck and now I am back in business. Thank God for these forums, they are great help and support.
  • Hi folks, first time posting. Bought this truck cheap, but now I'm having issue with it discharging, oddly.

    I thought it was the alternator, because when I pulled the alternator the engine died. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have a friend in a yard who got me a replacement alt benchtested to work, same problem.

    I'm thinking a short somewhere in the system.

    This started out as the Check Engine light coming on, then it became where it would run without power, or at least without power showing on the gages, and I got in the habit of parking on an incline, just in case. It seems to still operate, but I am concerned about the amp gauge.

    Suggestions welcome! It's my only driver, thank god I live close enough to work to walk (4 blocks) but I need a vehicle.

    Replies appreciated.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,931
    Well, if you disconnected the alternator and the engine quit, I'd start suspecting a bad battery. If the battery was producing at least10.5 volts or so, the engine should still be running. Actually, if seen engines run on lower voltage battery voltage than that.

    As far as the possibility of an unnatural drain, you need to measure the current flow (in series with the battery) when the ignition is off. Because there are some electrical circuits activated at all times (ie: computer, electronic clock, radio memory, etc.), there will be a slight but measurable current drain when the ignition switch is in the off position. Mopar computers draw about 10 to 20 milliamperes. I can't remember off hand what the clock draws, but anything over 100 milliamps should be suspect.

    Good luck.
    Dusty
  • I think you might be right about the battery. It's only running about 8-9 V, but it's RUNNING. Go figure.

    What I don't understand, though, is why I would get an engine cutoff from disconnecting a running engine from the battery. Isn't the alternator supposed to be able to maintain the engine running, without the loop of the battery? I thought the litmus test for an alternator was to pop the battery cable, and see if it killed the engine?

    /doing it wrong, apparently.

    Advice welcome and DEEPLY APPRECIATED!!!
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    On a modern engine with electronic fuel injection,electric fuel pump,electronic-shifted automatic Xmissin and onboard computer(s) controlling it all... it is an EXTREMELY BAD IDEA to dicsonnect battery while engine is running. The resultant voltage spike could cause irreversable harm to the electrical system. Disconnecting the battery with engine running could cause instant self-destruction of the alternator-control circuits.

    I am formally trained in electronics and could design an automobile electrical system, From that perspective, I can tell you that a known-good battery must be connected because it is an intrinsic part of the overall electrical system. Without a battery in the circuit, the alternator could cause spikes over 20 volts. Dont forget that not only does the ENGINE have a computer .... the automatc Xmission also has its own computer. The entire dashboard is fed with a 'databuss' and is-itself a client computer. The CTM (Central Timer Module) is also a client computer in the electrical system.

    The damage to the onbaord computer(s) may not be redally apparent. You may encounter all kinds of electircal issues in the future.

    Specific to Dodge Dakota, It is a KNOWN FACT that a weak battery can cause all kinds of problems such as erratic idle, odd shifting, intermittant-wiper strangeness...etc.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    To properly troubleshoot a discharging battery - With engine OFF, use ammeter and pull fuses to isolate the problem-circuit. Once you locate the circuit, it is usually trival to isolate the problem and resolve it.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,931
    Bpeebles is correct. Switch in or out of the battery or alternator could produce spikes that can cause damage to some electrical components.

    However, if you disconnected the alternator and the engine couldn't run on the battery, you do not have enough battery current to sustain the engine. The engine should run on a fully charged battery without a charging circuit. In my experience things get iffy around 10.0 volts, but I've seen some run on a battery with as little as 9.5 volts at terminal, at load.

    If you're measuring around 8.0 volts no load your battery is way under charged. More likely, however, the battery has had it especially if its a factory unit. The batteries in the 2000-2002's were notable for producing weird symptoms.

    I had a friend who's Dakota windshield wipers would make an occasional one-pulse swipe and then stop on the glass without going to their parked position until the ignition switch was switch off, then back on. This problem puzzled he and I and the dealer for 4 months. It was after he told me that he had to reset the clock a few times that I suspected the battery. Then one day it wouldn't take a charge. He limped home thinking he lost the alternator or computer, but after replacing the battery all was well. The wiper problem has never returned.

    If you've got the factory battery in that 2002, it might just be a good idea to replace it anyways.

    Bests,
    Dusty
  • Actually, I have thought of the battery, but the circumstance which causes it to discharge is so... spotty. I have a short drive to a family member's home, about 2 miles, and I can drive that back and forth without issue. It's when it runs for more than 5 minutes I lose battery power, and end up limping to wherever I'm going and just pointing it downhill, not always possible.

    I will probably try bpeebles strategy, too, and isolate out the problem circuit. My more immediate concern was that I had a fresh battery in it, borrowed from a buddy's truck, and I pulled the cable lead for the battery on a NEW alternator, and it still died. I'm frankly open to suggestions on why this might be. Is it because the circuit is broken, and the alternator cannot complete the charge-through of the engine to sustain combustion?

    Not as bright about this engine stuff as I'd like to be.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    twizted said: I pulled the cable lead for the battery on a NEW alternator, and it still died. I'm frankly open to suggestions on why this might be.

    Again - The battery MUST be in the circuit for things to work. Dont forget... the voltage-regulator is IN THE COMPUTER. (not in the alternator like other vehicles)

    Do not concern yourself any longer with what happened when you disconnected the battery with engine running... it was an invalid test. (Lets just hope you did not damage somthing in the electrical system)

    An easy way to test your alternator while is to go to WallyMart and pick up a digital voltmeter which plugs into the ciggerette-lighter socket. It is a pretty slick little tool to have in your toolbox. Anything less than 13 volts with engine running should be considerd suspect.
  • Noted. I'll pick one up when I grab the battery, prolly also from wallyworld.

    And you're right, I should have thought of that, Dodge being the electro-centric system it is, that the issue would not be tested from that, but it's... been a long time since I owned one. Over a dozen years.
  • My 88 Dakota at times will not start. I can drive it someplace, shut it off and it may or may not restart. After a period of time (days or hours) it will start. I had it towed to a mechanic and when it got there it started. They couldn't do anything to make it not start. When I got it home it wouldn't start. Later in the week it started. It turns over fine and runs great when it is running.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    More details please....when it does not start:
    *) does the starter crank the engine?
    *)if so, does the engine fire at all?
    *)Can you smell raw gasoline at the tailpipe?
  • I have a 91 2wd 5sp with the same issue. I have had some one read the check engine light and its telling me that the field circuit in the charging system is open. I have replaced the battery and had the alternator tested many times. it is problem that does not show up all the time. I know when the system has stopped charging because the check engine light comes on and the voltage drops. I have measured the field voltage when the system is and is not working. when it is working I am getting around 12.5 volts and at the battery I get 13.6 to 13.9 volts. when it quits working I have no field voltage to tell the alternator to charge. I have tried wiring up an external voltage regulator and that has not worked because I have no field voltage. I have traced all the wires to and from the fuse box looking for an open some where but can not find it. I do not think it is a voltage regulator I believe it is wiring but all the diagrams i have do not cover my truck correctly or completely so I am having a had time finding the issue. has anyone found a fix for this yet like a bad relay or a switch that goes out or what I am lost.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    You may be missing the point here.... the output of the alternator is REGULATED by adjusting the field-voltage. (a small current in the field circuit can regulate 80+ amps out of the alternator.) There should NEVER be a voltage-regulator on the OUTPUT of the alternator.

    You could almost think of the alternator as an AMPLIFIER. Small signal in = large signal out. (As long as it is spun by the engine because that is where the power is coming from!)

    With that said, you need to figure out where the voltage-regulator is on your 1995 Dak. On my 2000 Dak, the voltage-regulator is INSIDE the engine-computer. Lets hope you have an external regulator. 8-)

    Once you know where the voltage-regulator is, it should be trival to determine where the problem is.

    HINT: Many problems such as the one you describe will be traced to a poor ground connection. You may do well to simply disconnect the battery and fix EVERY ground connection you can find on your truck. Pay close attention to engine-to-frame, battery-to-frame and computer-ground connections.

    By the word "fix" -- I mean:
    1) Remove any screw/bolt holding it down.
    2) use fine sandpaper, wirebrush, whatever to clean all contact surfaces.
    3) Consider soldering all wires to the ground-connectors.
    4)Make certain connection is clean and snugg
  • Cranks fine.
    Doesn't fire.
    No gasoline odor.
  • You know, I'm going to try that next. Here's a recap of my weekend so far:
    We had talked about replacing the battery, and I did that. Still the same problem, HOWEVER:
    I also, with a fully charged battery, pulled EVERY fuse, inside and out (one in the engine compartment, one under the driver side dash) and checked with a voltmeter if there was a short. NOTHING. Now, I have two batteries I keep fully charged. One to get me where I'm going, and maybe, just maybe, it will not discharge. The other is for the return trip.

    You know, another issue that seems to be a part of it, and maybe I need an outside view, is that it seems to run fine until it heats up, then it has problems. it also doesn't like water, or moisture, and ran like hell when the Ike Rain came through here. I know that's just a distributor thing, and I'll address that when I get the other bugs done. Going to do a new distributor, plugs, wires, Dcap. One thing at a time, unless this could be the issue? It HAS to be somewhere in the power transfer through the engine, but... where? Computer?

    Given the statements you've made above, I think that's the best possible solution, to check every ground, because it increasingly IS starting to sound like a grounding problem.

    I don't have a diagnostic plug on my 95 Dak, but it has the "rev to 2500 RPM, cycle gears, off on off on and count the 'check engine' blinks" internal diagnostic, but I can't find the code that it does. I believe it is the elusive Code 37, which doesn't make sense for the symptoms I'm experiencing. It's either the "Shift indicator light failure, 5-speed" or for 1995 onward "Trans temperature sensor voltage low" which I've been told "This may cause the low (no) voltage indication".

    Frankly, I think I'm going to take your advise, and spend a LONG morning/afternoon pulling grounds and getting them sanded, then soldering them on, for good measure. Any idea where I can find a listing, or even better, a diagram, of all the grounds that are SUPPOSED to be in an 1995 Dakota 2WD 5sp engine, 4 cyl?

    Like to do this Sunday, probably.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    Since you are not smelling any raw gasoline at the tailpipe... I would have to suggest that your FUEL SYSTEM is not injecting fuel. The fuel-pump inside the gastank is KNOWN to cause funky running symptoms when it starts to die. The only real way to test the fuelpump is with a pressure-guage WHILE the problem is happening.

    BTW: If you had told me that you WERE smelling gasoline at the tailpipe... that would have suggested an IGNITION SYSTEM issue.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,081
    To answer your question : "Any idea where I can find a listing, or even better, a diagram, of all the grounds that are SUPPOSED to be in an 1995 Dakota 2WD 5sp engine, 4 cyl? "

    The factory shop manual has detailed drawings showing every ground (chassis) connection on your Dakota. Most of the connections under the hood are easy enough to locate. There is a ground-connection on both sides of the dashboard (near the floor) Lucally, the connections on the interier do not tend to corrode like the ones under the hood.
  • I can hear the short slight hum fuel pump when I first turn the key also when it quits there is no hesitation or stuttering. The engine just makes a clean stop.
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