There she was, a 1996 Chrysler Town & Country Lxi, sitting all purple and pretty. Joe, the very old (honest) gentlman who'd owned her for the last 8 years said she was a good old horse, always stabled, lots of love and attention. It was from a small town in KS, so the 165K was definitely highway miles, that's for sure.
She drove fine for the 350+ mile trip home, lots of power and didn't miss a beat. I puttered around a bit, took it on a small 200 mile road trip, everything was fine. Then the trouble began. The "Purple People Mover" as my 5 year old daughter likes to call it started giving me fits.
At first it would start fine, drive down the road a ways, and then start to shudder and buck when I tried to add power. The tach would swing wildly, engine miss and the van would threaten to stall unless I let up on the gas. I could get to my destination as long as I babied it and didn't get the RPM's up over 2k. I thought it was probably some water in the fuel line, I live in OK, a very humid area of the country, or maybe some bad gas. I added a couple of bottles of HEET to help dispel that potential problem Anyway, needless to say, that didn't work. It kept progressively getting worse to the point where I couldn't even take it to work just down the street.
So the story starts here. Joe, the man with the van, said the "sensor" had just been replaced last year. Ok, what sensor? He couldn't tell me, he's not a mechanic and is honestly getting up there in his years. It turns out the transmission was rebuilt last year. When the first code came up, (I have an ACTRON scanner) my research here indicated it would most likely be either the Cam Position Sensor, or the Crank Position Sensor. Time to make a trip to NAPA. I bought both, figured I might as well save myself a trip back.
The chances were 50/50, and I thought the Crank PS would be the more difficult of the two in replacing, so I started there. Well, it turns out it'd just been replaced, but once I removed it and saw that, it was too late. I installed the new one, with the cardboard spacer attached and threw the old one back in the box for safe keeping. A short spin around the culd-de-sac confirmed it wasn't the correct sensor so I proceeded to replace the Cam Position Sensor, again the little piece of cardboard was left on to provide the proper clearance.
I thought for sure I'd cleared the problem up. Soooooo, I took it for a spin...it was still rough, but would get a little more horsepower as it missed than prior to mechanical changeouts. Needless to say....I didn't QUITE make it home and employed the help of three generous friends to push it back to the house, one of which is a full ASE certified mechanic.
Friends one and two are both fairly good mechanics and of course friend two is the real deal, but never worked on a 3.8L or T & C before. He hemmed and hawwed for awhile, checked out under the hood, asked questions, had me start it up and attempt to keep it running etc. Both friends noticed the engine compartment was a bit hot for the short distance I'd driven it.
They had some kind of a tool to check the spark coming from the coil and determined the spark was rather weak from all of the points. Friend 2 at that time thinks it's solid state as it only happened when the engine was running and heating up the engine compartment. I'd not had the High Coolant Voltage Circuit (Code P0118) pop up until that next morning when the van would finally start (and drive a short distance).
It runs fine while in park, and will drive a little bit if and only if I run it down the road in the neighborhood right as I start it and the engine/compartment is still cool. I've topped off the coolant, checked the radiator to confirm it is full, replaced the both sensors etc. I've bought a new coil pack if that's the next step. I've not once heard the radiator fan run while the engine heats up, or after I shut it off and I've checked the fuse to make sure it wasn't blown.
Does anyone have a cure? Should I replace the Coil to see if that helps? I don't want to keep throwing good money away. The engine does seem to run very hot, but the gauge says it's pegged right between Hot and Cold! Could a bad thermostat cause this problem?
Please......I'm at my wits end, my wife hates my new minivan (it was supposed to be hers) and I'm running out of options without submitting to the local dealer and the diagnostic fees which come with that. I can't even drive it, it'd have to be towed. It just amazes me that it will run fine while idling, drive down the block fine as long as the engine hasn't warmed up a whole lot and it started out and got progressively worse!
TIA, any input would be MUCH appreciated. I'll get the van up and running tomorrow morning and pull the absolute correct codes once again to see if they keep coming up.
I'm no mechanic...don't take my word for it...but if your tach was swinging wildly and you were getting shudders it sounds like something to do with the transmission...Check the transmission fluid. Does it look dark, discolored or smell burnt?
Honestly those symptoms sound a lot like they have something to do with the transmission, if your engine is revving freely and the transmission isn't "grabbing" then I'd check that out...and let me know what condition the transmission fluid is in.
If the fluid is in a poor state then it would be worth it to have ALL the fluid drained entirely and refilled with ATF+4 and change the filter as well...
No if the tach was going all over it was the crank sensor. As to what is going on here it could be O2 sensors, it could be plugs and wires. Over the net is impossible to tell. You need someone who has the a scan tool with "co-pilot" function. Than everything can be watched. My guess is this won't be a horridly expensive fix. But may cost a bit. The last one I worked on that did this exactly this BTW) it turned out to be the engine control computer. That van is running sweet still. Easy fix but not "cheap".