How to Test the Crank Sensor (Dodge 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L -1997-2001)

When the crank sensor fails, your Dodge pickup (van or SUV) will crank but not start.

Thankfully, testing the crankshaft position sensor doesn’t require expensive diagnostic tools... since it can be accurately tested with a multimeter.

In this tutorial I’ll show you how in a step-by-step way so that you can find out if the crank sensor is causing a ’cranks but does not start’ condition.

Here are the contents of this article at a quick glance:

  1. Important Tips and Suggestions.
  2. TEST 1: Verifying the Crank Signal With a Multimeter.
  3. TEST 2: Verifying the Crank Sensor is Getting Power.
  4. TEST 3: Verifying the Crank Sensor is Getting Ground.
  5. Where to Buy the Crank Sensor and Save.
  6. Related Test Articles.

NOTE: This tutorial only covers Dodge 3.9L, 5.2L and 5.9L pick ups, vans and SUVs starting from the 1997 model year. For the 1994-1996 Dodge vehicles, the following crank sensor test tutorial may be of help:

  1. How to Test the Crank Sensor (1994-1996 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L Chrysler).

Important Tips and Suggestions

TIP 1: The crank sensor test I’m gonna’ show you in this tutorial is done while the sensor is in its place on the transmission’s bell housing. No need to remove it to test it.

TIP 2: To perform this test and get a very accurate result you can trust... I'm gonna' ask you to crank the engine by hand. This is super important, because if you use the starter motor to crank the engine- you're not gonna' get an accurate result.

By cranking the engine by hand, I mean turning the engine using a 1/2 ratchet wrench and an appropriate socket on the crank pulley.

TIP 3: One of the most important things to keep in mind, when testing the crank sensor on your 3.9L, 5.2L, or 5.9L Dodge pickup (van, SUV), is that if you have tested for spark and you are getting spark... then the crank sensor is OK. A spark result tells you that the crank sensor is doing it’s job. In a case like this (where you're getting spark)... this test will not help you.

This also means that you should test for spark first.

OK, let’s get testing...

TEST 1: Verifying the Crank Signal With a Multimeter

How to Test the Crank Sensor (Dodge 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L -1997-2001)

The crank sensor is designed to create a 5 volt pulse to let the PCM know the engine is cranking/running and to let it know the crankshaft position.

You and I can see (measure) these 5 volts pulses with a simple multimeter and we’ll do that in this first test section.

Before you start the test, let me tell you that this is an on-car test of the crank sensor... so the crank sensor has to remain connected to its harness connector for this test to work.

This also means that you’ll need to tap into the wire that sends this 5 volt pulse to the PCM with a special tool.

You can do this one of two ways. The first is to back-probe the connector. The other is to use a wire-piercing probe. To see what this tool looks like, take a look at: Wire Piercing Probe Tool Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01).

NOTE: Removing the crank sensor will cause the air gap (between it and the flywheel) to be lost. This means that if you re-install the sensor, it will get beaten up and destroyed by the flywheel. Remove the sensor only if you plan on replacing it since the new sensor will have a paper spacer designed to set the proper air gap (clearance) between the sensor and the flywheel.

These are the test steps:

  1. 1

    Disable the ignition system by disconnecting the ignition coil. This step is important... do not proceed to the next step until you've done this.

  2. 2

    Disable all of the fuel injectors. This step is important also, since this will prevent the PCM from injecting fuel into the engine cylinders (if the crank sensor is OK).

  3. 3

    Locate the crank sensor’s connector.

    Once you've located the crank sensor connector, remove some of the plastic wire loom protector and/or the black electrical tape that shields the three wires of the crank sensor. Remove enough of this electrical tape insulation to gain comfortable access to the three wires it protects.

  4. 4

    Place the multimeter in Volts DC mode and connect the red multimeter lead to the GRY/BLK wire of the crank sensor harness connector.

    This is the wire that connects to terminal number 1 of the crank sensor harness connector identified in the illustration above.

  5. 5

    Connect the BLACK lead of the multimeter to a good ground point on the engine or directly on the battery negative (-) post.

  6. 6

    Turn the Key to the On position (but don't crank the engine), since this will power up the crank sensor and make the test work.

  7. 7

    When the multimeter’s leads are all set up, have a helper (if necessary) turn the crankshaft pulley by hand in a clock-wise direction.

    Your job is to keep your eyes glued on the multimeter’s display. Do not use the starter motor to crank the engine, since this will defeat the accuracy of this test.

  8. 8

    If the crank sensor is good, then your multimeter should show you an On/Off voltage of 5 Volts DC as the crank pulley is turned by hand.

    Off is when your multimeter reads 0 Volts and On is when it reads 5 Volts. The key to seeing this voltage change is to turn the crankshaft pulley slowly and steadily.

OK, let’s interpret the multimeter test results you just obtained...

Alright, let’s interpret the results of your crank sensor test:

CASE 1: The multimeter registered the On/Off 5 Volts DC as the crankshaft pulley was hand-turned: This is good and this result tells you that the crank sensor is working OK at this point in time.

So now you know that your troubleshooting tests have to take a different path... since the crank sensor is not the cause of the no start condition.

CASE 2: The multimeter DID NOT register the On/Off 5 Volts DC as the crankshaft pulley was hand-turned: This tells you that the crank sensor is not producing a crank signal the PCM can use (to create spark and to inject Fuel).

In about 95% of the cases... you can conclude the crank sensor is fried and replace it, and it will solve the no crank condition. But not always.

Therefore, the next step is to check that the crankshaft position sensor is getting power. This comes in the form of 5 Volts and from the PCM (Powertrain Control Module = Fuel Injection Computer), go to: TEST 2.