Way Off Topic: Duralast Engine Sensors?

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eire1274
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My hauler, an '02 Dodge RAM B3500 Maxivan with a former 5.9L V8 petrol engine (bored to 6.2L), decided to freak out on me. Well, we've got 265K miles on it, so it's probably about time.

Turns out, after days of cramming me, 6'3" and 270lbs (1.9M and 122.5Kg), into spaces where my kids can't fit, and testing every circuit, trying to find out why it stalled out and wouldn't start again, it turned out to be the crankshaft position sensor. Which, somehow, wasn't replaced when the engine was bored out and rebuilt.

So, a new one, from a local Chrysler dealership, is $180. They will "reduce the price" if I have them do the work, for a total of parts and labor of $220 (that's $120 for the part, $100 for labor). I'm insulted, because it took me THREE MINUTES with a socket set to remove the old one. Two bolts with lock washers, and a wire attachment. $100. Right.

I've found the MOPAR-branded part on eBay for $30, but the seller is known for selling factory seconds and won't give me a straight answer on whether this is a new and tested part, or something they dug out of the MOPAR warehouse trash bin. So no go.

Then I found a Duralast-branded part at Auto Zone for $45. My problem is that I've used Duralast batteries, and they are OK. I've used Duralast ignition components, and they've been good. I've used Duralast coils, and they are iffy; old type HEI oil-filled coils rock, but the newer acrylic -filled ones pop faster than popcorn. I have never, ever used anything for engine sensors than the brand name outside of my muscle cars, and lets face it, if it's a muscle car it's anything but stock if it gets into my hands.

Has anyone used any sensors from them? I believe they are all made by Wells Corp's Chinese plants, same place the crappy coils come from, and I'm just not sure if I should hand over money on a part that I can't get a refund on if it sucks. They (Duralast, and how Auto Zone handles their warranties) just tend to replace it over and over until you give up.

I'm on a major budget on this van right now, having just dropped $500 into a tune up. I'd like to have it ready for a road trip Monday, but if I can't make up my mind, it's staying in the pad and well take the other cars.

Nick McDermott

Tivon
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It's 50/50 with Duralast parts for me. It's either going to work or not. Probably comes with a warranty at the very least. For $45 it is worth a try and if it does not work then get a refund and wait until a suitable replacement can be bought.

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dustyschaffner
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I agree with Tivon. Dealer parts can be expensive so why even bother most of the time. AutoZone should do you well with the Duralast sensor.

I am a big fan of Dodge myself. They make trucks with real power and real payload handling. I could have told you right off the bat that the crank sensor was bad and saved you the trouble but you didn't ask xD.

eire1274
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Well, Mr. Smarty Pants... replaced the crank sensor and the issue continues.

As a note, however, at least this part is made in the USA. I was chatting with the manager of a local Auto Zone, and he says pretty much any sensor from Duralast is made here, and their coils and wires are made in Mexico. Wells seems to have moved back to being a western hemisphere manufacturer.

I just removed the negative pole from the battery. I hope (pray! God, you listening?) that the ECU is just confused with all of the work that has been done to the motor, so we'll kill it's memory and start off fresh. I'll give it 15 minutes or so, to make sure it's wiped.

Nick McDermott

dustyschaffner
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Let us know if it still won't turn over. Maybe we can figure something else out.
It does crank but just doesn't fire correct? Does it backfire or just doesn't even get a spark?

eire1274
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No go. Driving me nuts.

Motor cranks solidly. It STARTS to kick over but dies. Depressing the accelerator gets a harder attempt to kick but then backfiring through the intake manifold. Fuel pressure is at 43psi (spec needs 35-45) and injectors all read good resistance AND are receiving signal. Every spark plug fires (new NGK Platinum).

Parts changed:

Coil (old was weak, orange spark, lots of carbon deposits)
Wires (all cylinders PLUS coil to distributor, done for safety)
Distributor cap (done for safety)
Rotor (done for safety)
All 8 plugs (including the two joyful guys under the brake manifold, old ones were badly worn)
Crankshaft position sensor (this morning, $45 wasted...)

I've verified no buildup on the MAF sensor. Spark rhythm indicates proper cam position sensor operation. New plugs have the typical black coating you see from being way rich, which is how we determined the crankshaft position sensor (bad sensor reads high RPM, hence longer signal to injectors).

This thing ran fine, even a 500 mile trip last month for my Grandmother's funeral. No issues. Then one day it was hard to start (had to hit the gas), but once it started it ran fine, but you could smell it was running rich. Next day, same thing, hard to start, and then when we were getting ready to move the crew home, it took five minutes to get it started. Once started, rich, but ran fine (no stalling or acceleration issues). Once it got home, it just wouldn't start at all, and I started replacing parts.

Video below was taken just minutes ago.

http://youtu.be/pWp6Zl0LB18

Nick McDermott

dustyschaffner
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O2 sensor might be a better bet. That can actually take out an engine's ability to run wholesale. 265K miles, I would say it's about time. Progressively worsening fuel/air ratio fits pretty well. Fire and flood is another symptom. (start and stall)

The video did help.

Tivon
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Hmmm.. so no change with the new sensor? The new crankshaft sensor might not be any good. Most cars have black stuff on the plugs. Could be the injectors. Inspect the fuses and the ECM/ECU/PCM or whatever they call it. I know taking a car to the dealer can be intimidating, but maybe they will plug it into the computer and tell you what is wrong with it before anymore parts are replaced.

eire1274
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Ok, my issue is that O2 sensors tend to be a quick death, or a long slow one that on computer controlled vehicles will result in strange codes on the ODBII system (yes, I have a reader/resetter... I work on cars for fun) like too lean or too rich or spark failure (common "too rich" issue... ask any carbureted motor that hit vapor lock). For day 1 perfect operation, day 2 hard to start, day 3 dead, with no more than 25 miles driven on all three days combined... doesn't fit the bill. Plus, typically a dead O sensor will allow a cold start (given that the MAF sensor is the primary for the ECU until the motor warms up a bit) and will die at least 30-45 seconds later, not 4 strokes out of 8 and then dead. It's still trying to calibrate from power off to ignition. And the ECU never throws a code, at all, which blows my mind.

The sensor passed. The old one was failing, I had it tested by the dealership today (which they did for free) as well as the new one, but the guy told me it should still be driveable on the old one, and it obviously isn't. So again I replaced another part that needed to be replaced but it isn't the cause of my issue.

As far as black stuff, Tivon, I can look at a plug and pretty much tell you what it is going through. Grab any Haynes manual and they all have a "look and match" guide on the inside cover that is useful. After years of supercharged carbed motors, I've gotten really good at nabbing a plug and being able to diagnose engine operation based on what it looks like... problem is, on good old analog motors, when you actually had control over motor operation because there wasn't this magic box doing all of the fine tuning. My 3000GT project car that replaced my old Grand Prix (miss it!) has been a HUGE learning nightmare, but thank God I have the full 3000 page 5 volume service manual for it. Heck, Haynes never even made a guide for it!

I've gone over the PCM (I think that's what Chrysler calls it... it's an ECU to me) pin by pin over all of the sockets with my multimeter and can't find anything not firing. However, my multimeter and my eye aren't fast enough to verify if the signals are right...

I'm very very hesitant to take it to the dealer. It's on the far end of town, around 17 miles, and I'll need a flatbed tow truck to get it there, as this van is WAY too big for a pick-up type tower. We're looking at an easy $100 tow right now. And my motor isn't throwing a code, at all (not just on the dash, my reader picks up the invisible maintenance codes too), and with what I've heard about their service reputation up there, it's not going to be a "plug in and there's the problem" situation. They'll want to tear it apart, and it's going to be on the hourly rate. And right now, until I get this most recent contract settled, I can't afford it.

Nick McDermott

eire1274
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Ugh! Cockroach the size of a small dog in my garage! And IT RAN UNDER MY REFRIGERATOR, WHERE I KEEP MY SNACKS!

I can handle most anything. Bugs and spiders of all sorts, and the mice we get during the spring and fall (or I should say the cats get and then deliver to me when they have been played out), but this is expected because we border a large wooded park. But during the summer, THE ROACHES COME OUT AT NIGHT, and NOW THERE IS ONE IN MY HOUSE!!!

I just can't take roaches. I don't know why. It's weird, a big man like me running from a 2 inch insect.

So I just emptied like half a gallon of contact insecticide around the hideyholes and all around the door. I'm going to bed.

Ick.

Added: ROFL!!! I can't say cock! Okay, a "male chicken" roach. Boy howdee is this new system picky!

Nick McDermott

Tivon
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Don't worry, those bugs are called American Roaches (not your neighbors) and they live outside around oak and pine trees or anyplace with damp grasses or leaves. The professionals will use granules and powders around the home. I normally just use Bayer Advanced Home Pest Control and I find them dead.

eire1274
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Yeah, we've been in this house for 6 years now. Quiet streets, no crime, private pool across the street (no kidding, my kids swim daily), and I have an 18 hole golf course within a 5 minute walk.

And every year, right about the middle of June, after they have eaten everything in the park, they show up at my house hungry for BRAINS!!! And I turn into a little girl. Ick.

Nick McDermott

dustyschaffner
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Does that van have a catalytic converter?

Manic Mouse
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Nick, you have said that van has 265k miles on it. When did you overbore the engine? Did you put on a new cam timing chain while you were at it? With an engine that old, it isn't unusual for the timing chain to stretch to the point that it can jump a tooth. Also the cam lobes will slowly loose their 'bump' over time. Some worn cam lobes won't stop the engine from running, but would make it more sensitive to cam timing changes due to a stretched or jumped timing chain.

I know it is a pain in the butt to haul all the stuff off the front of the engine (esp in a van) to take a look at it, but it might be worth a look.

Just a thought.

Mark Baker

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eire1274
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dustyschaffner wrote:Does that van have a catalytic converter?

Yes, and it tests out perfectly. EVERYTHING SOLD IN THE US has a catalytic converter.

Manic Mouse wrote:Nick, you have said that van has 265k miles on it. When did you overbore the engine? Did you put on a new cam timing chain while you were at it? With an engine that old, it isn't unusual for the timing chain to stretch to the point that it can jump a tooth. Also the cam lobes will slowly loose their 'bump' over time. Some worn cam lobes won't stop the engine from running, but would make it more sensitive to cam timing changes due to a stretched or jumped timing chain.

The overboring was done during the last rebuild at 210k, and the camshafts were re-ground at the same time. I have a receipt showing the gearing and chain were replaced as well, and I've already checked them out. Unfortunately, the work to the motor was done before I purchased it, so I only have what documentation the previous owner had left with the vehicle.

It turned out to be the computer, a bad solder joint most likely that I can't get at. I have a rebuilt one coming... had to leave the van in the driveway for a bit due to a lack of funds. Kids are really good at taking your money away!

Nick McDermott

Tivon
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How did you figure out it was the computer?

eire1274
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Tried everything (and spent lots of money) first, and then it occurred to me. No code. No code. Something is wrong, but no code. I wonder if it's the computer.

Dealer plugged it in and it didn't pass the self test.

I'm glad I didn't have the van towed to them. The computer there is between $900 and $1000. A rebuilt with proper ROM, $120. Yeah, it took forever, but I didn't break out a credit card to do it. I hate credit.

Nick McDermott

Tivon
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I share the same hate of credit.. When all possible I avoid it, but if I got to repair my car or put that box of noodles on the table I will. The way things are going this year a big chunk of my tax return will be used to pay off credit. :/

eire1274
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I'm just thankful this is my work vehicle... and my taking kids to school vehicle. School is out, and my lovely wife has been so kind to let me use her Jeep (that she stole from me!) to make my house calls. People always as why we have so many cars, and this is why!

Of course, if I would focus, and get the VR-4 put back together, I could be driving in STYLE!

Nick McDermott