By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Specialist
I had the opportunity recently to work on a 1990 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue that came into the MACS shop with a no-start problem. As strange as it may sound, I actually wanted to work on this car because it’s been such a long time since I’ve seen one of these, and though it’s hard to believe, according to PennDOT this classic vehicle is going to be an antique next year.
I started my diagnostics just like I would any other; turn the key to see what happens. Everything turned on, but the starter would not work, not even the ‘click’ of the solenoid. My first thought was ‘a bad starter’ when I saw the OEM label was still on it, but when I used a heavy jumper wire between B+ and the solenoid, the engine cranked over, telling me the 24-year-old starter was fine. Now I had to trace the solenoid wire back to find the problem. But before I went any further, I went online to get the schematic and make my search a little easier. This showed me that the starter solenoid is controlled by a relay mounted on the left front fender (it’s actually beside the battery in a spot not-too-easy to reach). Probing the connector showed me there was no power reaching the relay from the ignition switch. So, I’m thinking I have to do that “lay upside down on the driver’s seat with my head under the dash” trick to work on one of those old ignition switches mounted towards the bottom of the steering column. Nope! This was the first model New Yorker where Chrysler used a new style ignition switch, located right at the lock cylinder. Whew!
So, into the driver’s seat I went, took apart the steering column covers (which are attached by security Torx screws) and I find what looks like a burned up ignition switch. So, now I think I’ve got this thing fixed. I get a new switch from my local parts house and replace it only to find that the engine still does not start.
So, now what? I trace the wires out and find that there is power at the relay, but it’s not turning on. So, before I get a new relay, I jumper the contacts to make sure the engine cranks, which it does. I took the relay cover off to see what was going on inside, and found a burned up diode. So, as it turns out, there are two problems with this car, at the same time, in the same circuit. A new relay finally gets this car starting again, and back in the hands of its proud owner.
I hope he does what he can to keep this classic going for years to come.
Author’s Note: Those of you who are regular MACS ACtion readers may find this article’s title familiar. Call it homage to my predecessor Paul, and since MACS’ mantra now includes electrical and electronics, it seems appropriate to me. Please let me know your thoughts or comments. Steve@macsw.org
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