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Old 12-01-2010, 10:00 AM   #1
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1998 Wrangler died on interstate

My son-in-law's 1998 Wrangler died on the interstate. He had electrical power - bright headlights, radio, all gauges, etc. - would not start, starter wouldn't crank or even click. He had it towed to his garage and I began checking it out. I cleaned battery terminals and checked connections. we tried to jump it, but still nothing. I pulled the starter and took it to Advance Auto Parts. The starter tested out bad, so we replaced it. The Jeep started and appeared to be fine, but I was skeptical because a bad starter shouldn't have caused it to die on the interstate. My son-in-law drove the Jeep about 8 or 10 miles and the same thing happened. This time I pulled the starter and alternator for testing. They both tested out OK. Another thought I had was the auto shut off relay. It is my understanding that this relay shuts off power to the fuel pump, ignition system, etc. I checked the relays in the fuse panel and the numbers on the relays for the horn, fuel pump, and auto shut off all matched. In order to test the relays, I rotated each relay to the socket for the horn relay. The horn worked each time, so that ruled out a bad relay. The headlights continue to burn brightly, gauges working, etc. but still nothing when you turn the key. Any ideas? Bad ground somewhere? Bad sensor somewhere? Bad ignition switch? What baffles me is why it worked after replacing the starter, but failed again after a few miles.

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Old 12-01-2010, 10:23 AM   #2
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My first thought with those symptoms would be the ignition switch has become intermittent.

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Old 12-06-2010, 01:35 PM   #3
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We tried a new ignition switch as you suggested, but it didn't solve the problem. Again thinking it might be a problem with the starter, I tried shorting across the terminals on the starter and the starter cranks OK. I decided to pull the battery and have it checked when I returned the ignition switch to the store, even though we seemed to have plenty of power. The battery checked out OK. When I was replacing the battery in the Jeep, I noticed that the small 12 or 14 gauge wire on the battery cable had pulled loose from the fusible link terminal beside the fuse panel. I reconnected the wire and the Jeep started right up. We repeated the start up 3 or 4 more times to be sure. We were sure we had solved the problem. This afternoon, the Jeep broke down and had to be towed in for the 3rd time. I am certain that my son-in-law will now disown me. Any more ideas??
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Old 12-06-2010, 02:57 PM   #4
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Have you pulled codes yet?
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Old 12-06-2010, 03:41 PM   #5
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I haven't checked codes because the check engine light hasn't been on. He hit a deer a few months back and had some body work done. I am beginning to think there may be a loose connection somewhere or a bad ground - either from the deer collision or from the body shop re-assembling. Does anyone have a set of wiring diagrams or are there any online? The diagrams in the Haynes manual are usually pretty generic - trying to cover too many models and years.
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:27 PM   #6
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I am having the same problem on my 97 mine is very intermediate I have changed the ignition out and changed the crank sensor I drove it all day today and it was fine went o my wife's work and got her denial and she said it died own her. So I am back to square one
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Old 12-06-2010, 05:30 PM   #7
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Some codes don't set a MIL on some PCM designs. I'd love to know why people ignore established troubleshooting procedures in favor of banging their heads on concrete, hoping and praying for answers.
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:18 PM   #8
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Have you looked at the bottom side of the relay box under the hood?
The top part with the relays unsnaps, then lifts off - carefully. You can see the bottom of the relay sockets. Look for a loose connection, corrosion etc.

Problems in there seem to be fairly common - and can do some really strange stuff! Easy to fix.

While it's in the "no start - no run" condition does the blower motor and radio switch on and off with the key?
If yes, we know power is getting to the switch and to the ACC position. Use a voltmeter to make sure power is also getting to the IGN and S positions too.

Under the dash leading away from the steering column the harness goes into a flat white connector. Check it - I had a customer's big foot apparently step on the harness and pulled a wire out of the connector - I think it made the same symptom - dead, no crank, but everything else worked. Fixing it was easy, finding it wasn't.

Codes - you may find a "pending code" if your scanner is capable of it. Or it may have stored a code briefly, the CEL may have only been on for a few seconds and nobody noticed, but the code could still be there.

Can't hurt to check it.
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Old 12-08-2010, 08:35 AM   #9
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Many thanks to all of you who offered suggestions on this post. I think I have finally solved the problem. I checked codes with my Elm scan tool and laptop as was suggested, but as I thought, came up clean. I then pulled the fuse tray as was suggested and it turned out to be clean. My next step was to check for loose connections in the harness around the steering column as was suggested. Nothing. I then began a thorough search of all wires and connections near the battery, fuse panel, alternator, starter, etc. I located a loose ground wire that we had not spotted before. On the passenger side of the engine block there is a stud that holds the dipstick tube bracket. There are ground wire connections attached to that lug. The heavy gauge wire from the battery attaches there. There is also an eyelet with two 12 gauge wires from a large harness run. One of those wires had pulled loose from the eyelet and was making intermittant connection. I was able to spread and re-crimp the wire to the eyelet. Started right up. Hopefully this has solved the problem. Thanks again to all who responded.

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