The distributor pickup coil is the heart of the ignition system on the 1991-1995 2.5L Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.
When it fails, the engine is not going to start due to a lack of spark.
The cool thing is that it can be very easily tested with a multimeter. In this tutorial I'll explain the 3 tests you need to perform to find out if its good or bad.
This tutorial will also help you troubleshoot a Code 11: No Crank Reference Signal At PCM.
Contents of this tutorial at a glance:
- What Tools Do I Need To Test The Pickup Coil?
- Circuit Descriptions Of The Pickup Coil.
- Where To Buy The Pickup Coil.
- TEST 1: Testing The Pickup Coil's Signal.
- TEST 2: Making Sure The Pickup Coil Is Getting 8 Volts.
- TEST 3: Making Sure The Pickup Coil Is Getting Ground.
- More 1991-1995 2.5L Dodge Caravan (Plymouth Voyager) Tutorials.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Probando La Bobina Captadora Del Distribuidor (1991-1995 2.5L Caravan y Voyager) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles (since they use the exact same distributor pickup coil):
- 2.5L Dodge Caravan: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.
- 2.5L Plymouth Voyager: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.
WIRING DIAGRAMS: The following wiring diagrams may come in handy:
- Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1993 2.5L Caravan And Voyager).
- Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1994-1995 2.5L Caravan And Voyager).
What Tools Do I Need To Test The Pickup Coil?
You don't need any expensive diagnostic equipment to accurately test the pickup coil on your 1991-1995 2.5L Dodge Caravan (Plymouth Voyager). Here's a list of the things you'll need:
- If you don't have one, check out my recommendation here: Buying A Digital Multimeter For Automotive Diagnostic Testing.
- Wire piercing probe or a back probe.
- You can see an example of this tool and where to buy it here: Wire Piercing Probe.
As you can see, you don't need any expensive diagnostic test equipment to test the distributor pickup coil.
Circuit Descriptions Of The Pickup Coil
As you can see in the photo above, the pickup coil is a 3-wire ignition system component.
The connector on the pickup coil itself has round male terminals. The engine wiring harness connector has round female terminals.
Since it's a Hall Effect sensor, one wire provides it with 8 Volts DC. The other wire provides it with Ground. The third wire is the signal wire.
Below is a brief description of the three wires that connect to the distributor's pickup coil (crankshaft position sensor).
|Pickup Coil Connector|
|1||Black with light blue stripe (BLK/LT BLU)||Sensor Ground|
|2||Orange (ORG)||8 Volts|
|3||Gray with black stripe (GRY/BLK) or gray with violet striped (GRY/VIO)||Crankshaft Position Signal|
The key to successfully diagnose the distributor pickup coil as good or bad, is to know that when the engine starts to turn, it produces an ON/OFF voltage signal.
To be bit more specific, the signal voltage switches between 5 Volts (ON) and 0 Volts (OFF) as long as the engine is turning and the distributor pickup coil is receiving 8 Volts and Ground from the fuel injection computer.
When the distributor pickup coil fails, its signal voltage will stay stuck in one value (5 Volts or 0 Volts) as the engine turns.
Alright, with this info, let's start with our first test.
Where To Buy The Pickup Coil
Checkout the following links and comparison shop the distributor pickup coil:
NOTE: The pickup coil indicated above fits the 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995 2.5L Dodge Caravan And 2.5L Plymouth Voyager.
TEST 1: Testing The Pickup Coil's Signal
The ON/OFF voltage signal that the distributor pickup coil produces can be observed with a multimeter in Volts DC mode.
So for our first test, we're gonna' connect the multimeter to the distributor pickup coil's signal wire.
Depending on the year of your specific 2.5L Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager, the wire that carries the pickup coil's voltage signal to the fuel injection computer will be a gray with black stripe (GRY/BLK) wire or a gray with violet stripe (GRY/VIO) wire.
To be a bit more specific:
On the 1991-1993 2.5L Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, the distributor pickup coil signal wire will be a gray with black stripe (GRY/BLK) wire.
On the 1994-1995 2.5L Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, the distributor pickup coil signal wire will be a gray with violet stripe (GRY/VIO) wire.
In the photo above, the distributor pickup coil's signal wire is labeled with the number 3.
IMPORTANT: The pickup coil must be connected to its engine harness connector for this test to work. To read the pickup coil's signal inside the wire, you'll need to use a back probe on the connector or a wire piercing probe on the wire. You can see an example of a wire piercing probe and where to buy it here: Wire Piercing Probe Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01).
NOTE: It's important that you turn the engine by hand when testing for the pickup coil's signal. Do not use the starter motor.
These are the test steps:
Place your multimeter in Volts DC mode.
Disconnect the ignition coil from its electrical connector. This is an important safety precaution!
Connect the red multimeter test lead to the GRY/VIO (or GRY/BLK) wire of the pickup coil's engine wiring harness connector.
The GRY/VIO (or GRY/BLK) wire is labeled with the number 3 in the photo above.
Connect the black multimeter test lead directly on the battery negative (-) terminal.
Turn the ignition key to the ON position but don't crank the engine. This will power up the pickup coil.
Turn the engine by hand using the 1/2" ratchet wrench and appropriate socket on the crankshaft pulley.
IMPORTANT: For the accuracy of the test, do not use the starter motor.
Your multimeter will read an ON/OFF voltage of 5 Volts and 0 Volts (if the pickup coil is functioning correctly).
ON is when the multimeter reads 5 Volts DC and OFF is when it reads 0 Volts DC.
Let's take a look at what your test results mean:
CASE 1: The multimeter read the indicated ON/OFF DC voltage. This is the correct test result and lets you know that the pickup coil is functioning correctly.
With this test result you can conclude that the distributor pickup coil is not behind the 'no-spark no-start' problem of your 2.5L Dodge Caravan (Plymouth Voyager).
CASE 2: The multimeter DID NOT read the indicated ON/OFF DC voltage. Without a crankshaft position signal, the fuel injection computer will not activate the igntion coil.
Your next step is to make sure that the pickup coil is getting 8 Volts and Ground. For the first test go to: TEST 2: Making Sure The Pickup Coil Is Getting 8 Volts.