Reader Question: Dead Town & Country?

  • January 15, 2024

Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Matt asks: I thought you for sure would be the guy to ask a simple car question. 

I’m not as car savvy as my dad was. He was in the Army Reserves. I have his van , a 2008 Chrysler Town and country. And I know it’s not the best car to have. But my only option for now to get around. 

The van was running yesterday. But today being weather in burbs of Chicago in the zeros , it wouldn’t start this morning. I put a little oil in it and the computer seems maybe frozen. I know Chrysler sucks because of this. The vehicle turns on but van won’t start at all. 

I’m wondering if I wait another day weather is less freezing that it may run or should call for a jump start and take it to the local repair shop if need be?

I used to own a Chrysler car and it worked better than the van. Just put oil in it and it ran liked a truck. I owned a Chevy Silverado. And Chevy seems to be the best to drive and reliability. I have a small budget like under $3,000 and wondered if going to another used mini van or SUV might be the best route for the future as I get older?

My reply: Cold weather can (and often does) make it harder to start a car’s engine, because cold weather reduces the battery’s cranking power. If the battery is weak, it may not even crank. So, the first thing to check is the state of the battery. A multimeter will tell you whether it has 12 volts but it still may be weak; the only way to check that for sure is by load testing it, which you can have done at any auto parts store – for free, usually.

I’m not sure why you’d “put a little oil in it – unless the engine was low on oil. The computer won’t “freeze” – but may not enable the EFI system to function if the voltage is not sufficient.

If the engine car won’t crank, try jump-starting it. I’d do this before taking (towing) it to a shop. If it starts, you do have a weak battery. Driving the car for 30 minutes or so might recharge it – if it’s not a tired battery that can no longer accept/hold charge. The only way you’ll know is to drive the car for awhile and then turn it off – and see whether it will restart. Do this at a place (such as at home or in the parking lot of a car parts store) for the obvious reason.

For $3k, it’s doubtful you’d be able to find a Silverado or any other truck/SUV that’s not very old and that has very high miles and is probably not worth buying unless you are someone who has the knowledge and willingness to do lots of repairs yourself.

I’d continue driving the Town & Country absent any good reason not to. A dead/weak battery doesn’t seem tome to be one!

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