Question about 1985 Dodge Ramcharger

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I have a 1985 Dodge 318 Ramcharger that is getting no spark from the coil,the wire were hooked back up correctly(engine overhaul) and we have purchased a rebuilt distributor. This style has a single ballast on firewall and none of the manuals show a good diagram for how all the wires are to be connected. I would love to find a diagram that showed this single ballast and its traced connections to coil,distributor etc.

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  • Dodge Master
  • 17,970 Answers

It sounds like you probably have a dual-pickup plate type distributor and the run side unit is causing your loss of spark problem, or you're losing power through the circuit that feeds your ballast resistor. The act of cranking the engine provides a voltage bypass that supplies straight battery voltage during engine start, so if the normal "run" side of the circuit crashes as you roll off the key, this would also cause engine stalling.

Begin by simply checking for key-on power at the positive (+) side of the ignition coil. It should show something over 8 volts if OK. Lack of power here will send you back to the ballast resitor, where you should check for power on both terminals of the unit (I believe it's a 2-wire ballast) and I'll assume for now that you find the circuit to be OK and we'll move on....

Check the distributor for two separate 2-wire pigtails that exit the housing directly below cap level. You'll be looking for the pigtail that has one male and one female terminal at either side of the joining connector pair... not the one that has a pair of males and pair of female terminals (that's your engine start side).

To test, we'll be using the old Chrysler "scratch" method. Pull the coil wire from the cap and place its terminal end within 1/2" of a good ground source so we can watch for spark output later on. Locate and separate the "run" side pickup plate connector and place the half that comes from the engine harness where you can reach it easily. Then turn the key ON, but don't crank the engine.

Drag or touch the single exposed terminal of the harness side pickup plate connector to a good ground source. Each time the circuit is made to ground, you should see spark produced at the coil wire end, with an absolute storm of spark flying out when the terminal is dragged along (instead of just touched to) a ground source.

If this produces spark output (as it should), it shows that the ECU, coil and wiring are all OK and that the problem is most likely that of a bad pickup plate unit. If at all possible, check resistance through the pickup plate's two terminals to see if continuity exists at all. Normal circuit resistance through the pickup plate windings are about 800 to 1100 ohms. Less resistance or more resistance will probably show up if the pickup plate coil is bad.

A secondary concern will be with the switching mechanism that flips the distributor output from the crank side to the run side as you crank the engine and let off the starter.

Also check the right wiring diagram for 1985 Ramcharger 5.2 liter V-8...

I have a 1985 Dodge - zjlimited_394.gif

I'll try to find Electrical Section for 5.2L V8 repair manual to send the link.

Hope this helps.

Posted on May 27, 2011

  • ZJ Limited
    ZJ Limited May 27, 2011

    I find this diagram, that could help you (click image for zoom)...



  • ZJ Limited
    ZJ Limited May 27, 2011


    ballast carb diagram...




    ballast efi diagram...



    Additionally, here foudn the Chrysler (Jeep 5.2L V8 - 318 engine) Secc-8W-Wiring-Diagrams

    Hope this helps to solve it.

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  • Contributor
  • 59 Answers

This might be a long shot but i had the same problem and it was a relay on the fender near the battery i wiggeled the wires going to the relay and the truck started right up it happed to me 4 times in 3 years

Posted on Oct 31, 2014

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