Testing a BAD starter motor on your Dodge Neon (or Stratus or Caravan or any 2.0L, 2.4L equipped Chrysler, Dodge, or Plymouth) is an easy test that you can accomplish using just a multimeter and in this article I’ll show you how to do it, step-by-step.
This article will help you to diagnose a No Crank Condition on your Chrysler vehicle. To see the list of vehicles that this article applies to, check out the box (on the right column of this Web page) that has the heading ‘Applies To:’ and scroll with the prev and next links to see the entire list.
Here are the contents of this tutorial at a quick glance:
You’ll notice that the photos I’m using in this article show the starter motor off from the vehicle and this is just to ease the explanation of the test. When you’re doing the tests described in this article, do not remove the starter motor from you car or mini-van. The starter motor Test, in this article, is an On-Car Test of the starter motor.
If you do need to bench-test the starter motor, you can find the tutorial here:
Although it sucks that you're having a ‘Does Not Crank’ issue with your car (mini-van, etc), the cool thing is that you don't need any expensive tools to test the starter motor. You don't even need to use a Scan Tool.
Tools You’ll Need:
If possible, I recommend having a helper to help you.
The very first thing you need to check is the Battery in your Dodge (or Chrysler or Plymouth or Mitsubishi) is fully charged.
This is important because if the Battery is dead (discharged) your car is not going to Crank and not only that, this could lead to you to think that the starter motor is BAD when it’s not.
So, if the Battery is discharged, charge it up or replace it with a good one, etc. OK, enough yakking... here’s what you’ll need to do:
Turn on your multimeter and place it in Volts DC Mode.
Now, Ground the BLACK multimeter Lead on a clean and rust-free spot on the engine or directly on the Battery Negative Terminal.
Probe the S Terminal of the starter motor Solenoid with the RED multimeter Test Lead. The RED Test Lead needs to be maintained in this position for the duration of the test.
Now, in case you’re scratching your head and wondering what and where is the S Terminal on the starter motor... The Starter Solenoid on your 2.0L or 2.4L Chrysler vehicle has two wires attached to it. One is a large diameter (gauge) wire, and this one comes directly from the Battery Positive Post. The other is a small diameter one, and this one is the S Terminal wire. This is the circuit (wire) that brings the Start Signal from the Ignition Switch, via the Neutral Safety Switch.
Although you and I know the car or mini-van won’t Start, have your helper crank the engine. This will send the Start Signal down to the S Terminal of the starter motor Solenoid (which you’re probing with the RED multimeter Test Lead) if the Ignition Switch and the Neutral Safety Switch are good.
Your multimeter is going to register one of two results:
1.) If the Ignition Switch and the Neutral Safety Switch are doing their jobs, your’ll see 10 to 12 Volts on your multimeter.
2.) If the Ignition Switch or the Neutral Safety Switch is fried, your multimeter will not register any voltage.
OK, let’s make sense of the readings that your Multimeter recorded in the test:
CASE 1: If your Multimeter registered 10 to 12 Volts: This result tells you that the starter motor is receiving the Crank (Start) Signal, which confirms that the Ignition Switch and the Neutral Safety Switch are OK. You can eliminate these two as the cause of the No Crank Condition.
Most folks would stop here and say that the starter motor is BAD and replace it. Around 90% of the time, this would be ‘hitting the nail right on the head’ and replacing the starter motor would solve the No Crank Condition. But to be absolutely sure... I suggest one more test.
This next test is to apply 12 Volts to the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid. This is an easy and fast test and I’ll show you how to do it, Go to STARTER TEST 2.
CASE 2: If your Multimeter DID NOT register 10 to 12 Volts: This multimeter test result let’s you know that 1.) that the starter motor is not the cause of the No Crank Condition and that 2.) either the Ignition Switch or the Neutral Safety Switch are the real cause of the No Crank Condition on your car or mini-van.
Here’s why: Without the Start Signal, which is created by the Ignition Switch and that must pass thru’ the Neutral Safety Switch, the starter motor will not activate to crank the engine. Now, it’s beyond the scope of this article to test either the Ignition Switch or the Neutral Safety Switch, but you have at least eliminated the starter motor itself as BAD.
“As a child, my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.”