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Engine keeps shutting off on me while driving (seems to be common on Chryslers)

(2001 Chrysler Town & Country)
in Park Ridge, IL on June 17, 2010
My van keeps shutting off while driving. Doesn't sputter or anything, it just dies out. Check engine light is not on and I have had it scanned for any codes that may be stored. There are none except for P1684 which means that the battery has been diconnected within the last 50 start ups, which it has.

I've replaced the crankshaft position sensor and the coolant temperature sensor as well as the intake air sensor (some call it the intake air charger). I've also taken the IAC motor out and cleaned it thoroughly and let it dry out completely before reinstalling. Cleaned the throttle plate and the opening of the throttle, as far as I could reach in with a rag and carb cleaner and let it air dry.

Checked the feul pressure and it's good at 63psi. Had a friend bring his scan tool, all sensors checked out fine except the coolant sensor was reading at -198 F on the freeze screen which as stated above was changed and is now reading properly.

THE WIERD STUFF!!!!!! I can be driving along just fine, then all of a sudden the engine dies. This could happen 2 minutes after starting the van after it sat out all night, or it can happen a half hour to an hour after the van has been driven and warmed up to normal operating temp. I try to just coast the car when it dies, put it on neautral and try to start it up, it just cranks but doesn't start. I've noticed that I HAVE to pull over, turn the key to the off position and wait a few seconds and the car will turn on just fine but most of the time when I put it on drive and give it gas, it shuts off again and I have to repeat the process of turning the key to the off position again.

One test we ran was when the car died, I did NOT return the key to the off postion, I left it at the accessory position and checked for spark. It had no spark while trying to turn on the engine. Did the same thing for pulse and it had no pulse either. Feul pressure was fine. Turned the key to the off position, waited a few seconds, turned the key and the engine turned on showing spark and pulse just fine.

ANOTHER WEIRD THING!!!!! A couple of days ago when the van died out on me after maybe 45 minutes of driving, I was able to start the van back up, but as soon as I would put the gear on drive, the engine just shut down. It did this to me several several times in a row and left me stranded for hours. Finally I was able to have the engine running and the gear on drive, but as soon as I gave it a little gas it would shut off. I had to literally drive the van home at 4 to 5mph, I just put it on drive and released the brake pedal and not give it gas.

Has anyone ran into this odd problem before? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

The engine is a 3.8. All fluid levels are fine.

Crank sensor replaced.
Coolant sensor replaced.
Air intake sensor (air charge sensor) replaced.
IAC motor removed and cleaned and reinstalled.
Throttle body cleaned.
Used scan tool, everything looks normal.


Update! I changed the cam sensor yesterday to no avail. Was still stalling afterwards. I took the van to the dealer today to get a new programmed key. I also had the PCM reflashed. There was one update available for my van. My van is still stalling, I was hoping after spending the $250 @ the dealer would have solved my problems. I need help cuz I dont want to keep throwing money away.
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22 answers & 11 comments
Popular Answer
on August 31, 2010
Sounds like you have a wiring harness issue. A common place for the engine harness to chafe is around the left front wheel housing and in front of the transmission as this are is constantly torquing with the driveline during accel and decel. Inspect this area carefully. This harness goes to the PCM.
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on January 21, 2011
I had a Dodge Intrepid that had the same symptoms. It turned out to be a short in the wiring harness. This took forever to diagnose! I even replaced the computer because my certified mechanic thought that was the problem (no codes stored). Look at the wires for damage first! Once they found it, it was rather obvious that they were melted and you could see exposed wires. It would have cost me an additional 2k above the $800 that I had already spent trying to figure it out, to repair it. Junked it, KBB was less than total repairs! Good luck!
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on August 31, 2010
Sounds like you have a wiring harness issue. A common place for the engine harness to chafe is around the left front wheel housing and in front of the transmission as this are is constantly torquing with the driveline during accel and decel. Inspect this area carefully. This harness goes to the PCM.
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on January 21, 2011
I had a Dodge Intrepid that had the same symptoms. It turned out to be a short in the wiring harness. This took forever to diagnose! I even replaced the computer because my certified mechanic thought that was the problem (no codes stored). Look at the wires for damage first! Once they found it, it was rather obvious that they were melted and you could see exposed wires. It would have cost me an additional 2k above the $800 that I had already spent trying to figure it out, to repair it. Junked it, KBB was less than total repairs! Good luck!
on September 11, 2011
Had very similar problem with this van. Cam / Crank sensors replaced several times. Turned out to be a defect in the front wiring harness. Drove up a 4500 foot mountain pass starting and stopping several times in a row. About 3 miles from summit, it did fine, but about a mile after the summit, it stopped. Coasted down the entire pass. Upside, 54mpg, lol. Got to bottom of pass, then it ran good for about an hour and 10 min. Stopped, restarted, ran fine for about 10 min, stopped. Took to idiot dealership, they said it was crank sensor this time. Replaced. Got 150 yards from dealer, it stopped again. Told them to check the wiring, and they said, "Oh, it cant be that....".
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on March 29, 2013
It is common for the wiring harnesses to degrade near the exhaust cross-over tube in the 3.3/3.8L engines. Many posts about that. The harness cover is held by Velcro and can be easily opened to inspect. I found all my fuel injector wires degraded, with exposed copper, similar to photos posted by others. I wrapped eash with self-fusing silicone tape. I also found a wire to the ignition coil showing exposed copper. Other problems I had were a flexplate cracked thru all the bolt holes and shifted 20 degrees, which I think is common after many miles. We had heard a strange sheet-metal sound I couldn't pin down for over a year, until got so bad I heard a clunk sometimes when starting. Also, the rear spark plug wires were hard and leaking.

After all those fixes (flex-plate wasn't easy & rebuilt tranny since off), engine ran great until now my wife says it sometimes dies when braking at a certain stop light that faces uphill, which is why I am here searching. So far, leads are bad solder joints in the instrument cluster, a bad key switch, or fuel getting into the charcoal cannister.

Unlike others I don't think Chrysler cars are inherently bad. My 3.8L V-6 engine is fairly similar to the 273 small block in my 65 Dart, still having pushrods and 2 valves/cyl. In those days, nobody expected to go the 194K miles our 02 T&C has without an engine rebuild. Compression still feels great (no blow-by). Modern engine controls make trouble-shooting a little harder (though carburetors aren't easy either), but better fuel control gives much less cylinder wear and much better mileage, so I can't complain. I am an engineer so know to use tools to search for root cause rather than idly speculate or complain. The person complaining about squeaky Chrysler brakes is absurd. They don't even make brakes, they buy parts from the same companies as everyone else and all pads squeak a bit at first.

Re-soldering the instrument cluster connector pins didn't help (they looked fine). I noticed that when the engine died, the red light for "SKIM activated" never lit, so unlikely the anti-theft system was the problem. It died 3 times on the freeway at 65 mph and each time the tachometer needle went straight to 0 mph even though the tranny should have been turning the engine some. This made me suspect the crank position sensor signal, which is the only signal the ECU should require to fire the spark plugs. Previously, I found no spark when it wouldn't start (w/ in-line bulb).

I pulled the whole top engine harness out the bottom (car on ramps) and stripped it open to inspect. Junctions are wrapped in duct-tape stuff, which almost fell apart. The branches are sheathed in either Velcro wrap or split loom, which opens easily. I found 2 nicked wires, but I might have done that. The prior repair of the fuel injector lines (2 yrs ago) was fine, but I removed the silicone tape anyway to inspect. I found that the crank signal doesn't go just to the ECU (per manual I had), but had a branch to a box behind the left bumper that might be an anti-lock brake control. I swapped in the original factory crank sensor and filed it first to sit closer to the trigger wheel. Some wires were stuck together in the main harness, in front of the tranny, but no exposed copper. I pulled all apart. Re-wrapped the harness, using silicone tape on thin runs around the engine, and added foil heat shield near the exhaust cross-over. No more misses or dying yet (2 days), whereas it died several times per day before, so maybe I helped. A few others reported that changing the cam sensor worked. That shouldn't affect spark in this "wasted spark" system, but it does share 8 V power from the ECU with the crank sensor, and anytime you move wires might help.
on September 01, 2010
did you find out what this was having the same problem with my 2003 town and country
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on September 02, 2010
I went and bought a new ignition coil from Auto Zone (about $75) and put it in. It seemed to have done the job cuz the problem went away. I changed it on June 20th. BUT now I am starting to experience the same problem again. Just 2 days ago it started shutting off on me while driving. I am wondering if maybe the igntion coil I bought was defective in some way. Im thinking I might go buy another one and at the same time just change the spark plugs and wires. It needs it anyways, I"ve had the van for almost 2 years and havent done a tune up and who knows when was the last time the previous owner did it.
on September 02, 2010
thats what i started with just changed it today then i seen your post if there is a advanced auto they have the same coil for 35 instead of 75 from autozone well didnt solve the problem for me moving on to try something else

on September 25, 2010
I wish I would have found this site before I purchase my 2010. I drove the care off the lot with only 6 miles. I really didn’t know if I was ready to become a score mom at the age of 29, but my kids and I like to go out and have fun and would like to have space to bring other kids along, so for my 3 kids I become a score mom. I am not really handy with car nor do want to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help so wanted to purchase a new car with a good warranty. I went to the dealership in Orlando Sand lake and john young. The sale was so nice took me to some use cars and try to sell me one. I told him that I didn’t want to have a user and have not clue what the last owner did to it. I told him I wanted a new car some that wont break down on me and if some was to happen to a new car it would be covered under warranty. I am really glad that I went new. ( I shouldn’t have purchase at all ) In Oct /2009. after about 1month of looking at cars I drove my van off the lot with about 6miles, and became a score mom.

I had the car only little over 1 week and had about 100 miles on the car and I started to hear the breaks squeal. I didn’t think that it was my car becuz I had a 2010 Town and Country from Chrysler = shyster) but the car next to me. The next stop it happen again but no car was next to me so I start to tap the breaks and no way it was me. My breaks were and still are squealing. I called the dealer and was like my breaker are squealing. THE DEALER SAID THAT THE BREAK ARE SUPPOSE TO SQUEAL GIVE IT A COUPLE OF DAYS TO BREAK THEM IN. three days later it was worst. THEN I WAS TOLD THAT THEY WILL SQUEAL IN THE RAIN. I don’t know anyone that will buy a car that the break are suppose to squeal. Come on you look at the car next to you like what the hell is wrong with them they need to get the breaks check. If the breaks make noise when they are good what do you suppose to do take the car to the dealer every month to get the break becuz the squeal this month not be the right squeal. I told them that I wanted to have someone look at the breaks. I take the car in and guess what the car with about 200 miles on it had RUSTY BREAKS. They change them out THE CAR MUST HAVE BEEN SITTING TOO LONG.. Really I got a 2010 in 2009 how long is too long. Come on really. That was the least of my problems. Next issue I had with the car was I would start the car and it would turn off I start it again and it would turn I let it sit for a min and turn it on again. Finally I was able to drive of in my new 2010 town and country. I went the dealer and they ask me if I had gas in that car. I don’t think that I would have came to the dealer if I was out of gas and the car wouldn’t start. IT MAYBE THE KEYS SO THEY PROGRAMMED MY KEYS. A day late the car shut off again and again. I take it back and they said the CAR NEEDED AN UPDATE. Now after the update not only does the car shut off after it starts up it shuts off while drive. First it started at about 2-3 mph then it was 10-15 mph now we are at 35-40 mps time after time I take this car back to the dealer stated that there are no codes in the system so they don’t see anything that they could do. The door will open and close like something is stuck in the door. I take in and it needs another UPDATE.. The lock on the driver side doors will not lock you have to press it about 6-10x for it will lock Oh and don’t forget the dealer tell you about the lemon law like it easy. After 3 repair attempts they will buy your car back. The lemon law is just another way to make consume to pay for big company mistake. Only about 10% of the people actual win when they fight the manufacture of the cars. I have even ask for a co pilot so a system can record everything that is happening while it is happening. They tell me it wont fit on the new 2010. Then they said that they will use on that cant leave the dealer something like a co-pilot but not really. Do you think they found any codes after keep my car for over 3days. No but as soon as I drove it home it shut of while driving at about 50mph. Why would anyone what to keep going to the dealer if nothing was wrong with the van. I have to work and kids and school. The sad part about this is that this has been going on since 1996 models base on some of the web posting. I have so much to say about this, but to make longer story short. DO NOT BUY A TOWN AND COUNTRY
Tire light
Door locks
Automatic doors
Start up
Shutting off while driving
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on October 20, 2010
Wish, Wish I would have read this before purchasing mine. It turns off when you turn warning, just turns off..scares me to death. I don't know why?
on September 11, 2011
EXCELLENT advice re: DONT BUY town and country.....or any chrysler product for that matter. I have found their "mechanics", (and I use the term LOOSLEY), lazy, inept, and unhelpful. Nothing is EVER chrysler fault. They just keep sucking your $$$ with one thing after another. Oh, its a cam sensor, you fix that then its the crank sensor, then its something else, ad nauseum.

Talk to your states attorneys general office consumer division re: how to enforce the "lemon law".
on September 10, 2010
I've been having a similar problem with my 2003 Town and Country. It stalls when I put it into drive, before I press the gas pedal and also when I'm at a stop and am ready to give it gas again. My mechanic cleaned the throttle body and it didn't stall for about a week, then it started up again. The second time my mechanic checked it, he couldn't find anything wrong and said not to keep the gas too low in the tank (I brought it in with less than 1/4). So now I keep the gas above 1/2 tank and it still stalls! I don't know what to do at this point...
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on September 12, 2010
on September 14, 2010
it did happen to my car several times but when i replace the throttle position sensor, the problem was gone.
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on February 02, 2011
i have seen this 1nc or twice the problem was in the area of flywheel which controls timing thru notches in relation with crank sensor. though the engine may run fine at times a broken flywheel will shift back and forth therefor causeing the auto shut down relay to stall engine may crank right up or may spin and spin till flywheel makes slight shift causing cam/crank sinc to be recognized and turning relay back on to enable fire and fuel. another is if trns has been replaced a missng dowl will surelly cause all of the bove. hope this will help rconevepart thank u
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on April 25, 2012
as a old school mechanic my roots of strategy had to changeto incorporate the ever changing technology of todays auto industry! my successful experiences on problems not commonly cured by parts replacement specalists has earned me respect in the auto electrical is my findings on a 05 town n country; trouble codes which indicate cam crank reference sshould first be proven out; literally remove the 2 inspection cover bolts (smnll ones) bend the cover away enough to test the (flywheel to crank shaft ) security and intereity; there should be no movement between these. this proceedure is not recognized as a protocol but should be on these (no trail ) trouble vehicles ; because it is basic and detrimental to the input information the pcm needs to accurately controll the power out put potential of the improper timing can will give sluggish performance;radical changes in timing could cause a stall ; and if the pcm doesnt recognize the reason for the change (3 consecutive stalls) it may not flag the syncronization condition. (ghostly) what to do! response from service people who know only (change parts)!. also and no one wants to hear that they need a600.00 dollar repair but if it is done first because a half hour test confirmed it then 300.00 could have been saved in un nessary parts replaced! chrysler ghost problems ( CHECK FLYWHEEL TO CRANK SECURITY)
on December 31, 2010
here is the main own a mopar ... i learned my lesson i owned three (all three were garbage ,one was brand new total crap)...they have hav tons of problens for years , there a ford .......
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on September 11, 2011
Now, now dont hate on Mopar. I had a 1963 Valient, 1969 Road Runner, 1968 Satellite. GREAT cars all! Ran circles around the old Found On Road Dead ones, ;) :P
on September 08, 2010
I know it sounds simple and maybe you have already thought of it but my old van use to cut off ALL the time, espicially if I stopped. After 6 months we realized the battery just wasn't connected very well. Might be worth a shot.
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on November 04, 2010
I had the same symptons on my 3.8 ltr Town & Country. There are multiple sensors going to the PCM. I tried to narrow the problem to ignition or fuel. The PCM controls both. After replacing the Crankshaft position sensor and Camshaft position sensor with no fix, I replaced the PCM. Went online and ordered a "rebuilt" PCM. Didn't want to pay the price for a new one. They required year, mileage, and model to program it to my van. Received, installed, problem fixed!! Van has run perfect ever since. Just had to take the van to the dealer to have the replaced PCM flashed to remove "Check Eng Light"
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on December 29, 2010
A very common problem on the T&C is a bad solder on the instrument cluster. This is what was wrong with mine. It would stall, the speedometer & gages would quit. I could start it, it would run for a bit and stall again. I would try it three times and then it wouldnt even crank over. First thought it was the starter/alternator/battery, or some combination. After sitting for a day, it started right up and worked fine for a few weeks. Then it happened again, same scenario exactly. I did some research and there are ALOT of threads about the cluster being bad and needing replaced. I got a quote of ~$1000 to replace it!!! I ended up taking the dash apart, removing the cluster and taking the circuit board to a electrical repair shop. The soldered the board for $40, I reinstalled it in about 15 minutes, and the problem is solved. By the way, when I had the instrument cluster out of the van, it would run fine, I just couldnt tell how fast I was going or if I was on 'E'.
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on October 25, 2011
I also believe this issue is the instrument cluster. I paid a bit more than $40 though, but I had the shop remove and repair and put back in the insturment cluster, so most of mine was labor( the total still was only $125)
on February 02, 2011
the problem I had sounds the same conclusion ingnition switch sprayed with WD40 ok
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on May 23, 2013
Take a look at the wiring that runs from under the intake on the back of the engine to the area behind the coil to a plug in the main wiring harness that goes on to the pcm. Often this wiring insulation will flake off and short out right at that connector. You may have to remove the coil to see it. If that is the case you can try to repair it but suggest a new injector/coil part of the wire harness. Hope this helps.
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on August 16, 2014
Oy, Ay Dios Mio, Oh no. Well, Having it spontaneously die on me on right handed turns and then just die in the middle of the road with the tachometer hitting zero I knew it was something electrical.... give me 128 electrodes in someone's brain, but this sounds tedious. I loved my Conquest TSI, but stupidly bought an Eagle Premier which was a lemon (bi-annual CV joint club--time for your new CV joints!!!). I love my Town and Country--I don't want to get rid of her. So I guess I'll have to tap into my inner mechanic and pray for dry weather. All those years watching my dad will have paid off (see one, do one, teach one). Thanks for all your information!!!!
on December 02, 2010
ok,i am no mechanic by any means. LOl but here is my story. I had a 70's for econoline cargo van. it may have had back seats at one time but not sure. anyways it would start up fine. and this was way back 14 or so years ago. so im just telling you the facts that i member. if im not sure if it was doing something i wont even mention it. soooo..... it started up just fine and drove fine, then it seemed when it warmed up it shut off. no start untill it cooled down 5 or so min. i tried everything. and computers were not in my lifestyle then. lol finally after it sat one year and talking to a hundred people my uncle in law has owned one of those his hole life. he lives for them. he said its simple 2 bolts. just go to your auto parts store and tell them you need a black box. yea wtf. well sure enough it worked. now if im wrong, i did say that im no mechanec!!! good luck man.
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on May 15, 2011
Many cars have this problem from leaky gas cap to something in sealed system not working correctly. Hoses on charcoal canister reversed, gas cap not tight, hose with pin hole. I had a 2001 Dakota that the charcoal unit was cracked ever so slight you could not see without removing. A friend (above average mechanic) had a new Nissan and son a troubleshooter at Nissan. When dad finally told the son he said dad tighten your gas cap good and within 10 miles the light will go off (fixed) If I had a dealer that didn't know this type stuff he better get ready to see Internet and letters to the editor. Chrysler not bad if serviced correctly and with proper materials (fluids especially). and I'm a DIY... Electronic troubles try contact spray cleaner then add dielectric grease(disappears with age) to connections and plug back together (may save you a sensor that checks bad w/scanner) and more of same trouble. Computers and equipment use very low voltage and amperage. So a oxidized connection won't pass signals. Note I did not say corroded. Compare to old TV tuners(with gold or silver contacts) the repairman sprayed and turned to clean. The wife polishes her silverware to remove it. And you think you or mechanic's are ready for electric or hybrid cars? Within a 60 mile radius I know 4 that are capable but only one is a mechanic.
Water pump lube leaves antifreeze is why I change and use suggested Mopar. Tranny fluid and filter same way.
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on November 26, 2015
my wife's car is a gran am 1996 recently it started to stop running while driving it then she restarts it and go's again she has'nt had a tune up for along time can this be the problem or what can it be
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on February 24, 2017
My 2003 Dodge Caravan is doing the same thing. This just started. You all talk about the wiring harness, has anyone had experience with vermin eating wires??
A few months ago my van was acting up. Turns out vermin ate 2 of my spark plug wires on the back side of the block.
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on June 25, 2018
I have a 2003 Dodge Caravan 3.3L. My van is doing the same identical thing stopping while driving. I was told it was my fuel pump (replaced), continue to stopped. Crank sensor (replaced), Cam sensor (replaced), all the wires (replaced). MAP sensor (replaced), throttle (replaced). Replaced the battery. Then the most expensive part ever the computer (replaced). Ok, now I'm on my way with plenty of cash spent on parts and labor. Eight months out up and running. All of a sudden after filling up the gas tank and the van running smoothly for a hour my van slowed down and stopped while driving. Had several guys stopped to assist all giving different diagnoses as to what's wrong with it. One guy changed out the fuel pump relay and a/c relay to opposite sides. Car started right up. He said it was the fuel pump relay. So I drove to an Auto Zone to replace the fuel pump relay. Brought the part put it on and car wouldn't start. So once again several guys stopped to help, mind you it's 98 degrees outside with three children and their mother. One guy said you're not getting any fire. Another guy said it sounds like you need a coil pack because it might be overheating. Sitting for a hour in the hot sun car would not start. Went in the Auto Zone because the coil pack could have been the problem. The guy said if I brought the part he would put it on for free. Sound good to me. Low and behold my friend started up the car while I was in the store and the van started right up. We was on the road and had about a hour and a half to get home. My car made it all the way stopping about 150 feet from my house. Fortunately my son lived nearby and he pushed me to the house. Get up this morning and the van won't start. I just don't know what to do seeing I can't afford a car note right now. Can anyone assist just what the problem can be?
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on July 08, 2016
hi I have a 2005 Chrysler town and country and the same thing is happening to me. How and what was re-paired to fix this issue. I also have an issue, when I turn the steering wheel the engine shuts down. Does the instrument gages move back and forth when you attempt to restart the car? Mine does that.
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on March 23, 2018
I have same problem now in my Kia Sportage can you help me out. How you repair your vehicle
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on July 16, 2016
Sounds like O2 sensors
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on August 10, 2016
How a u doing all?i had the same problem with mitutsubishi pajero 3500 ccv6 n Thot it was spark plugs n went replaced but da problem continued however another mechanic told me it's something to do with cleaning something like system but unfortunately I have forgotten da name but wen he got it out n cleaned everything is bak to normal
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