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Old 01-24-2019, 04:46 PM   #1
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Default 1999 Dodge 3500 sudden engine shut down

Hi, I'm hoping someone has a suggestion... sorry, this will be a bit long.

1999 Xplorer on 3500 Dodge chassis 65k miles (25k we have put on).
We have been on vacation and cut it short and returned home because of a random electrical issue.

Initially happened while getting situated in a campsite. Engine idling as I got out to see how we were sitting. Was idling about 2 minutes and suddenly just stopped like the key was turned off (never had a problem with erratic idle before). I tried to re-start and it spun quickly but no fire and I noticed when I turned the key, the fuel gage didn't move and I knew we had over 1/2 tank. Kept trying to start it for about 2-3 minutes and no luck. Then, suddenly I turned the key and the fuel gage registered over 1/2 tank and it started right up - ran normally, started and stopped several times and all was as if it never happened. Shrug shoulders and fix dinner.

Next day van ran normally all day until mid afternoon when we were going up a steep hill on a twisty rural 2 lane 45mph rd. w/no shoulders and several blind corners and it suddenly shut off just like turning the key off. Again the gas gage was not moving and it wouldn't start - but this was lots worse because of the dangerous spot. Right after we came to a stop just after a blind curve and were scrambling to get down and around the corner to warn oncoming traffic, a loaded cement mixer truck came around the corner at 40+mph and locked his brakes, laid on his horn and almost hit us. A nice fellow in a pick-up offered to tow us up the hill to a turn-out where we could get off the road and I gladly accepted his help. Total time since quitting was probably less than 10 minutes until we had the tow strap hooked up. As he was starting to pull, I tried the key one more time and the gas gage was working again and it fired right up - go figure.

So, the good Samaritan got us out of harms way and suggested a local repair shop. Went to the local shop but the fellow was booked up for a week - and, of course it is working fine and no idea when it might act up again.

We cut our trip short and had no more issues on the two day trip home.

Internet research suggests maybe the "auto shutdown relay" could be the problem but others suggest it may be the ECM failing. We have no battery issues, it cranks fast & normal. No sputtering/snorting when it stops - it's just like turning the key off.

We are hoping to get back on the road and finish our month long vacation (I finally retired the 1st of December and this was to be our first open-ended vacation ever). Even though it is running fine and made it home without anymore problems, I am currently really short on confidence in our B right now and my wife is even more unsure.

I don't think this has anything to do with the up fitter - I think it is purely a Dodge chassis issue and am hoping that someone here with a Dodge has some idea what to chase. I know from past experiences that the worst thing to diagnose is an intermittent problem but I sure hope you folks can help.

Thanks,
Dave
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Old 01-24-2019, 05:53 PM   #2
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Last summer, I was camped in my 1995 Dodge PW, 318 cid engine. The morning I was due to leave, the engine would not start, despite cranking well. Eventually it did start, but later would not restart. Unfortunately, the '95 does not have OBD !!. A Dodge dealership subsequently diagnosed a failed ECM (or PCM). Due to the age of the vehicle, they said they could not obtain a new unit, but could have the old one rebuilt - a 2 week process. I won't go into the failed rebuild details, but eventually all seems good again.

Les
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Old 01-24-2019, 08:36 PM   #3
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Hi, we have a 97 dodge b3500, and had similar issues with ours, found a great mechanic, and for us it turned out to be a faulty ignition coil , replaced it and the van started right up, never had a problem since,,,,I actually carry a spare one in the van now, when we travel,,,I hope you can find a good mechanic, and really fix it, but please don't get discouraged by one issue, these vans are built great, and as we get close to being 20 yrs old, there will be issues and repairs, but the beauty is that parts are very easy to find, very affordable, and overall very easy to repair,,things will happen, its just part of the journey,,,take care,,,,
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Old 01-24-2019, 09:05 PM   #4
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Hi, I just wanted to share with you about a great website that has helped me a lot with my dodge van, and its WWW.Dodgeforum.com, theres an area dedicated to just our ram vans, the guys are all very helpfull and positive, maybe you can get some help from there also,,,good luck, and let us know if you find the issue,,,thanks,,,,
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Old 01-24-2019, 11:09 PM   #5
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Quite possibly the fuel pump.
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Old 01-24-2019, 11:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruceper View Post
Quite possibly the fuel pump.
or the wiring/ground associated with it. I'm thinking the gas gauge behavior is an important clue. Check for wiring harness issues along with the connections.

Intermittents can be lotsa "fun".
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Old 01-25-2019, 12:22 AM   #7
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I appreciate the responses, it really helps.

LesM, I'm beginning to think that the ECM may well be the culprit but my first step has been to replace the 'auto shutdown relay'. My reading today tells me that this relay is responsible for shutting down spark and fuel when the key is turned off to prevent running-on, and I saw a utube video where the fellow says the combination of dying suddenly and the fuel gage not working are symptoms of a failure of this relay - $35 at the dealer so easy to try.

Peppster66, I haven't looked at the coil yet but it sure is a possibility. I also wanted to reassure you we are not giving up on the Xplorer - in fact, far from it.... This is one of the newest vehicles I've had (I've never personally worked on anything that didn't have a carburetor before) and I know the value, as well as the agony, of older vehicles quite well. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Bruceper & SteveJ, I agree the fuel pump is definitely a possibility and I agree the fuel gage is a great clue.

The ideas about spark and fuel fit with the description of the auto shutdown relay function but since it hasn't repeated the failure yet since I replaced the relay, this cure is unproven still.

I also found a very highly rated ECM rebuilder that I have the contact info for and if we get stuck somewhere I can arrange for a FedEx overnight if we are desperate. I can't order one now since I have no idea where to have it shipped or where we will be in the next few days (takes 24-48 hrs to ship plus shipping time).

We are planning on resuming our trip tomorrow morning and I will report our success/lack there of later (we aren't very hi-tech but my wife has a laptop so if I can get on a wifi I will, otherwise it may be a few weeks before we get home.


Thanks,
Dave
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Old 01-26-2019, 12:09 PM   #8
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Hi Dave,

Just curious who the highly rated ECM rebuilder is?

Thanks,

Lee
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Old 01-26-2019, 04:56 PM   #9
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Having a 97 PW on Dodge chassis, this thread perked my attention. You might also want to check out:

https://carcomputerexchange.com/dodge/cat_2.html

They claim lifetime warranty on their products. Never used this company, though so I can't speak to anything beyond their existence.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:12 PM   #10
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And I meant to ask: Is there some type of diagnostic reader that can determine if your computer is faulty? Seems like there would be some way that the dealer can check.
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