2001 Dodge Neon dies sporadically

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I am reasonably capable of doing repairs if I know what is wrong but am not an expert by any means regarding auto-repair. I do not have anything in the way of auto diagnostic equipment. I am a computer expert and worked on cars with my Dad 35 years ago. I still do minor repairs, brakes, oil, etc. but this is way beyond my ability to diagnose.

My daughter has a 2001 Dodge Neon. It sporadically just dies while driving. It doesn't ever seem to die if you just let it sit and idle. When it dies the speedometer goes to zero but the radio, lights, and other electrical continues to work. When you try starting it the engine cranks just fine but never catches. If you turn off the ignition and wait awhile it will start and seems to run just fine. When trying to start it sometimes it will start after 2 minutes and sometimes you just keep trying and it takes 15 minutes.

We have taken it to two mechanics and they have had the problem occur but only while driving, so they can't figure out what is going on. They said there were no codes being put out.

It seems to happen when it shifts gears, it is an automatic, but it is real hard to tell if this is a symptom or related to the cause.

Does anyone have any ideas? The car is not reliable enough to use but two different mechanics have just told us "we can't find the problem".

posted by  athey

check the fuel pump and relay and fuel filter at idle the fuel demand is low also check the ignition module could be over heating and killing the ignition one last check the auto shut down relay will kill power to ignition/fuel pump and injectors

posted by  osborste

One of the mechanics said that the one time they got it to fail in the shop the fuel pressure was 48psi. So I think the fuel pump and fuel filter are ok.

How do I check the ignition module for over heading or the auto shut down realy. The later sounds the most likely because when it dies it acts like you it you let the clutch out without giving it any gas after shifting gears. My daughter is pretty sure it only ever dies when it shifts gears.


posted by  athey

the auto shutdown relay you will need to get from the dealer no real way to test except to try it the ignition module and coil you will need an ohm's meter and specs for the resistance dealer may give this info as for the fuel pump the pressure will be up test the flow any restriction will give limited flow at driving speed check at the connection at the injector fuel rail there will be a plastic fuel line connected to a steel line with the injectors you should be able to fill 1 liter jar in no time by cranking engine over at least 10 seconds or less if no the flow is restricted hope this gets you going again

posted by  osborste

if you had a waveform viewer or some other proper diagnostic tools(i guess the shop you took it to doesn't have one either) if the brushes in the motor for your fuel pump and piling up with carbon you can see it on the waveform, you need a low amp clamp and a jumper wire with a fuse, i doubt you will do this but sometimes you can get it to quit while running if you use like a rubber mallet and bang on the bottom of the fuel tank while it's idling, if the car stumbles or stalls then the fuel pump is probably shot, this is not a deffinate test but works sometimes. does it only quit when it's hot?

posted by  BanffAutoSpa_ap

keep it in first gear and drive it 3000 to 5000 rpm.will it keep running?
then shift.if its dying when it shifts,i think your transmission is no good.
or ther is a vaccuum problem .the shutdown relay is in the little black box
under the hood near the front of the fendre.your airconditioning is ok?
the ac compressor could be heating up and stalls the motor when you shift because reduced throttle,extra load,etc will stall the engine.remove the ac connector for the clutch for the a/c .drive it and see if the problem goes away.the 2.0 litre neon engine has the leads for the plugs with the sealed boots on top of the engine .VERY vulnerable to getting water in them.
the obd 2 computer used to diagnose these cars will only send codes for circuits that have sensors on them.make sure you do not have any loose connectors.the engine moves towards the front of the car when you decellerate. you have to check all the main wire harnesses,chrysler had big time problems with the intrepids and wiring .....good luck

posted by  the lobster

Thankyou all for the help.

The problem has been resolved. It turns out that the main wiring hardness somehow got caught was rubbed such that 8 wires had become exposed to each other. They would "randomly" short - more often when going the engine was working hard causing the engine to stop. After sitting the harness would "settle" and the wires would separate enough to "un-short". The wiring harness was removed and the wires spliced and reinsulated. The labor was about $700. Bad but it could have been worse - a new wiring harness is over $2000 just for the harness.

posted by  athey


posted by  the lobster

Do you know where the wires were rubbing, or where on the harness the rubbed wires were?

posted by  stampnw

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