My son was driving home tonight and his lights started to dim, radio turned off and then came back on, dash light dimmed and motor sputtered and nearly died. It has a newer battery and a newer alternator.
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Do you mean it won't crank at all, or cranks but does not start. If the first, turn on headlamps and try to start. Do headlights dim? If not, you may have bad battery connections, bad solenoid, bad neutral safety switch. If lights dim, bad battery, connections, solenoid or starter motor.
back light dead.
so use the dimmer knob. all cars have a dash dimmer that runs all car parking light on, dimmed lamps. all.
so fiddle that.
get the operators guide, (lost) ????
read the pages on dash dimming.
if that dont fix it, check fuses. next.
This sounds like the X-files
"electrical gremlin" that these vans are infamous for. I'd start with the wiring harness connector pins on the back of the instrument cluster. Earlier versions of this van have had copious problems traced back to this issue. Just re-solder the pins on the circuit board (my 98 Voyager has 13 of them) and this may solve the problem. If not, then there is likely some other electrical connection issue somewhere along the wiring harness. Others have traced the problem to the connectors on the heater and A/C controls on the middle dash panel. I suspect similar problems on my own van are likely located in the block connectors under the dash, or possibly old/worn/brittle wires somewhere in the engine compartment. Just spend a few hours tracing wires from your dash and making sure all connections are tested, secure, and functioning. This can be time consuming, but it might be the only way to avoid excessive/prohibitive mechanic rates! (I'll be diving into my own van's wiring tonight - while the weather is still warm)
Check your alt.. alt voltage output should be at least 13.2, sounds like it's not charging and your possibly running off the battery, as for the dash and tail lights, there both on the same system, check the fuse.
If the battery and alternator tested fine. I would have the charging system rechecked when engine is hot and at high rpm's. This way the checks are being done as if you were driving and driving for a long time. Alternators can work fine when cold but weaken when hot or stop working. This problem is not rare but only is seen occassionly. Unless it was checked at an electrical shop the average shop doesn't run these tests for they don't see the problem often enough to automaticly run them at all times. Good luck and let me know how you make out.
Could be a loose or dirty battery connection, poor battery, or alternator. Check all the cables and connections to your starter. Clean your battery posts. Have your alternator and battery checked. It sounds like you are either running off just the battery or just the alternator. One of them is not right.