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2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

 
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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 06 May 2016, 08:17 am
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Portland, TX
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Default 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

Hello everyone, first time poster.

I am having issues with a 2003 PT Cruiser, non-turbo. I've done a lot of internet research but can't quite find the solution to the problem so I'm seeking help from this knowledgeable forum.

The problem...the car suddenly dies. At 60 mph, this is no fun, especially going up long bridges with no shoulders. I'll try to describe exactly what is happening and what I have done so far:

-While driving at any speed, the engine will randomly shut off. Yesterday in a 20 mile drive, it died 6 times.
-It won't (or hasn't yet) died while idling in the driveway, and I've let it idle for up to 30 minutes.
-When it dies, it will not restart by turning the key to start but it will readily restart if the ignition is turned off, then turned back on. I've gotten good at shifting it to neutral (automatic), then turning the key off, then starting it, then putting it back in drive.
-It is throwing two codes: P0351 and P0352, both are ignition coil primary circuit. Verified by AutoZone's code reader.

What I've done:
-removed/reconnected coil plug.
-swapped out horn relay for ASD relay.
-wiggled connections to the PCM.
-wiggled the ignition key while it is running.

I hate throwing parts at things not knowing what the cause is. My gut feel is that it is the PCM. If a coil or relay is bad, it's bad. Why would the engine start and run fine simply by shutting it off? I suspect the PCM's coil drivers are simulaneously crapping out or whatever powers the ASD relay is crapping out. I'm tempted to jumper this relay. Anyhow, I'm looking at one of those reconditioned PCM's on eBay. Any assistance would be appreciated.
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Old 06 May 2016, 09:08 am
Fk5 Fk5 is offline
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

When it dies does all the electrical go away too? Does the radio go off? The lights? The dash? My first thought would be the ignition switch. Plenty of people have problems with them and having to turn it off and on seems to point that direction to me. I'm sure others will have better suggestions and test procedures.
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Old 06 May 2016, 09:49 am
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

I would suggest checking for corrosion inside the plug wires at the coil and at the spark plugs.

If the plug wires are okay suggest checking the primary & secondary resistances of the coil. If the coil is bad it can burn out the coil drivers in the PCM.

Other members have found one of the pins in the coil wire connector pushed back making random connection. Physically check the wires going to the coil making sure they are not touching ground or broken.
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Old 06 May 2016, 10:19 am
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

It doesn't lose power, at least to the dash. The oil pressure light comes on (as it should) when the engine dies.

I'll remove the air plenum and take a closer look at the coil and wiring as suggested. I'll also take some coil resistance measurements although I don't know what the spec is so nothing to compare with. I've read coils rarely go bad on the PT's, don't know if that's true. When they do, they should stay bad. I don't understand why the problem temporarily goes away after powering down and then powering back up.
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Old 06 May 2016, 12:19 pm
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

I'm not a mechanic, but it sure sounds electrical to me. I agree with Fk5 about checking the ignition switch. Do you carry a lot of keys on your key ring, by any chance?
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Old 07 May 2016, 07:45 am
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

Just a single key but who knows what previous owners' keychains weighed. Since the radio and dash remain powered when it dies, I don't think it's the ignition switch. Since the codes indicate lack of full current on the primary side of the coils, I don't know how spark plugs, wires etc. would impact that. I did pull one plug and wire, everything looked ok.

Computer modules are great at throwing codes for external devices but they don't seem to be great throwing codes when the module itself is bad. My Gold Wing had the same issue...throwing knock sensor errors and then running rough. Nothing wrong with the knock sensors or associated wiring, just a $600 control module.
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Old 07 May 2016, 12:09 pm
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

I have learned not to skip any possible component that might be causing the problem no matter how remote it might be when diagnosing a problem. You want to eliminate any minor component involved before looking at major components such as the PCM. Others have replaced the PCM and it did not fix the P0351, P0352 issue. We need to find out why the P0351 & P0352 is being triggered.

Its possible if one of the sensors is not working properly the coils may not fire properly which might trip false codes.
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Old 08 May 2016, 08:34 am
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

What a nightmare if some other sensor is acting up and causing false codes while not causing a code itself.

The intermittent thing drives me crazy. Took it for an hour drive the other day and no problems. If the problem would just happen and stay happened, then I could take some measurements. I may resign myself to beginning the parts replacement process, starting with the coil. Taking it into the local repair place running fine and them not finding anything is scary. They'll likely begin the same parts replacement exercise except it will be a lot more expensive.
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Old 08 May 2016, 01:15 pm
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

If you lose power to the ignition coil and fuel injectors it can trigger the P0351 and P0352 codes.

If the ASD relay is not engaging when you lose power to the ignition coil and fuel injectors then the camshaft or crankshaft sensor might not be working properly.
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Old 08 May 2016, 02:02 pm
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Default Re: 2003 PT Cruiser Dies Randomly

I would think it is fuel related. See if you can install a fuel pressure gauge and take notice what the pressure is when it stalls.
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