Help! 93 Dakota 318 cranks but won't start! (Ungasfied)

My Dakota isn’t starting and I don’t know why. It cranks hard just fine, and very rarely will do a half-fire on one cylinder while cranking. I’m going the battery is fine due to strong cranking.

Tried jump starting: nothing, but didn’t really expect it to.

Tried pumping accelerator pedal just in case it’s somehow choking/air:fuel ratio. Nothing.

I should note the engine bay is pretty damp since I tried for too long to get my battery out the other day (testing something on my inverter) while it was raining. I’m guessing that the moisture is shorting something somewhere? Anything I can do other than hope it dries out and works?

Short YouTube of dash while cranking. 93 Dakota 318 crank, no start:

Found this video Dodge Dakota Crank No Start Fix: and dude had same problem and fixed it by moving his “A.C. Clutch” relay over into the fuel pump relay spot.

That didn’t work… When I put the original “Fuel Pump Relay” into the slot for the “Starter Relay”, I got no crank so I’m guessing I’m down at least one relay…

Hey Brian .

Take a look at this posting .

This has happen to my dakota .

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Well BrianHWA you will need to do your basics: have spark? work with a substitute fuel tests. Re-read GaryG Ford Ranger trials.

Do the spark test at the most accessible spark plug WIRE. Plug in an old spark plug with the ground electrode cut off. This is so you will be verifying the distributor cap and rotor too. And loading the system for performance.
No spark back tract to the coil out to distributor wire. Ha! If a 90’s GM it would be that wire gone bad! If you have to look-see in that area with a 2nd person watching do make sure that the distributor shaft rotor IS turning while cranking. The one Dodge V-8 that failed me was a worn timing chain that tooth jumped.

If Spark at the plug wire then bleed in some combustible fuel with easy propane out of a bottle. Can be introduced while cranking at the throttle body or in through the PCV to manifold hose. Pops, tried to run then you are verifying a lack of fuel problem.

Same basic diags to begin with on any gasoline fueled IC piston engine.
Verify the basics first. Then go up the direction found lacking to the pinpoint the can get very obscure.


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I’ll add to make sure you have a good spark. I was driving my 92 Dakota and if was like it just shut off. Would crank, no start, puff every now and then. I had some spark when I checked the first and 2nd time but not the third. It turned out to be the coil. Replaced it and everything was fine.

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My checking abilities were limited since I was home alone and had to leave at the time. :confused:

I’ll get some more data soonish when I’m home again.

If you don’t have spark check your crankshaft position sensor

If you don’t have adequate fuel at the fuel rail check your fuel pump relay

truck I may also have a inertia fuel pump disconnect

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I am parked facing up hill, though I’ve parked there many times before. Also, if it’s triggering the inertial disconnect from my tiny “hill”, then nobody would be able to park in Seattle, which is almost entirely more hilly than my ramp of driveway.

Sorry man; Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram DO Not use fuel pump “inertia disconnects”. That is a Ford thing.
Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep//Ram uses an auto shutdown relay instead.
When you do your basic Got Spark? Got fuel? tests IF you have either the auto shut down relay/circuit-function Is OK. energized not causing your problem.
Do not make this so hard trying to hippy-skippy by the basics tests.
Basic tests once learned will work on all systems.

Yeah. Yeah. Being a Dodge with an in-distributor Hall sensor (which is the cam sensor and basic ignition trigger) I could say just throw an new distributor sensor at it. Might, maybe, could be the most likely problem. 20% likely. Now do that just throw parts at it at decreasing 15%( coil to dist wire), then 10%'ers (distributor cap/rotor; fuel pump relay, etc), then 5%'ers (in-tank fuel pump, in-tank fuel level sending unit, in-tank pick up suction filter sock, etc) possibilities and you can be up to 150% having the possibility’s covered and still have your cranks - no-start to running.
You would not have found that burnt up fuseable link in the harness. Found the battery terminal corrosion that crept up inside the insulation at the C/D/J/R two big wires positive cable. Cable side to the strater OK. Equal thickness Power side to everything else then low capacity able to starter relay activate but power starving everything else.
You will have likely picked up a new out of box NFG part (cause you price shopped for the cheapest!)
You will probably have torque twisted, old hardened plastic plug end/retainer latch broken replacing in those parts-throw-at-it’s creating a secondary problem.
But, hey you will have made the parts store happy. No return once installed.

Phone called at night my nurse wife insists the on location Aids quote to her pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar. Basics.
Do your basics.

Slope driveway parked? Brian dump at least 3 gallons of gasoline into the tank before next retry starting. A hard lesson that I learned at a Nissan dealership with a steep rear lot. And later reinfored diaging a GM for a bad fuel pump that at repair approved found that the fuel tank was empty. Opps. That 150+k mile vehicle DID need the tank dropped out; fuel pump modual assembly removed to have a new fuel level sender changed out anyway. And that came this time included already on the new fuel pump assembly. Sigh. I did “back-flag” my diag labor. I from then on gave away a lot of just add 2-3 gallons of no-fuel to injectors diagnosis making the fuel pumps and sending units proof themselves.
Steve Unruh

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Still not home yet, but it does say it has almost 1/2 of a tank and I believe the gauge is fairly accurate so far (only ran 2 tanks through it since buying).

Thanks everybody for all the help!

Yes BrianHWA first just add at least 3 gallons of gasoline to the tank. Those brand new Nissans fresh of the transport trucks were nose down driven and parked on the steep side of a fill slope. Starting up and doing the engine running pre-delivery inspections would use up just enough of the ~2 gallons of fuel put in at the factory that in this nosed down position they would die and not be able to back-up drive off then.
The fuel gauges still indicated a false 1/8 tank.
All in-tank sensor floats are out on a swing arm. Pivots out from a centally located fuel pump assembly.
Watch most any vehicles indicated fuel level when under 1/4 tank and indicated will widely at braking, acceleration and cornering.
There is a post here on the DOW about multiple members having worn out sensor arm pivots in their High miles Dakotas. And all manufacturers have with time and use problems with the contact finger wear across the sensor pads variable resister giving signal drop-outs. Some manufactures (not Dodge) problems with the actual float absorbing/and or leaking, going heavy.
That GM car I mis-diagnosed as a bad fuel pump did show 1/2 tank fuel indicated. Ouch!

The only way to know for sure you have enough fuel in tank for fuel pick up is to put your KNOWN own fuel in.
You wanted a save-me Hail Mary, there is an easy to do percentage possibility I ran into far, far too many times.
Rule out the obvious easy first then go to the hard obscure.
Mr Waynes linked to wiring harness problem is one of those difficult to find obscure problems.
Earlier that GaryG Rangers have a now know possibly for a broken within the insulation wire on the relay panel relay ground circuit side. Obscure; but it happens.

Remember your Dakota WAS working before. You just have to find what the one factor that has now changed to out of kilter.
Steep sloped parking is abnormal out of kilter.

Brian, I listened again to the vid. Like you say, it cranks very good. I can’t count the number of times people have told me that their car cranks real fast but, won’t quite catch. Your’s tries to catch just a bit. When I first look at a mystery problem, I usually shoot a bit of ether at the intake just to see if the ignition is working. In the case of your truck, I think that it cranks just a bit TOO fast. Back before they discontinued hypalon timing sprockets, it was very common to lose the plastic coating on the aluminum sprocket and jump time. You can usually hear a pulsing as the starter incounters each compression stroke in sequence. I don’t really hear that in yours.
You could check cranking compression if you have a good baseline number. I just changed my chain and sprokets today for a Cloyes tru-roler set. The old chain had less than 100,000 miles but, it was junk.

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In hind sight, it did seem to crank pretty fast and without much resistance, though I think I dismissed that as “well it’s not fueling/firing so it’s not trying to fight any harder-to-compress mist or early/late pops.”

Any way to check if my timing has skipped? Should I be worrying about destroying my engine messing with it?!

You can put a breaker bar on the crank bolt and move it back and forth until you feel the resistance of the cam. That will give you some idea of the amount of slack. IF you didn’t have a floating dsitributor, you could check to see if the ignition timing had made any changes on it’s own. The distributor is indexed to the crank through the timing chain. In the old days, you would just pull the mechanical fuel pump and feel the chain.
If you have a good spark and ether doesn’t make much of a change, it could very well be your timing.

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I’m guessing having the distributor on the back of the engine against the firewall counts as a “floating distributor”?

I’ll try to get it pulled out of the dip (partially gravel covered incline leading down to the septic and propane tanks), and conscript my mom to use the ignition while testing things tomorrow.

Hopefully, that will give yous some basic info of “has or doesn’t have spark” etc.

Brian, the standard WK conversion to woodgas includes running a cable to the distributor so that you can advance the timing when desired. It has no fixed reference because it is floating on the end of the cable. if your’s isn’t yet converted, you could try to check the timing with a light and see if is way retarded.

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Good catch hearing this WilliamB.
Wet enough yet up there Brian? 4+ inches here yesterday and flooding. Be another 4" today.

Loose timing chain tooth skipping will always result in a retarded cam timing. Your ignition distributor is cam driven. So, yes William is correct you can/want to check for this cam out of time at the didtributor.
Hand “barring” over at the crankshaft pulley and looking distrubutor cap off for the rotor tip alignment.
Or, pull all of the spark plugs and do manual compression check to see if you have lost compression across the board.
Or, do a cranking timing light check and see if your cranking ignition timing on cylinder #1 is grossly retarded indicated a jumped back cam timing.
Ha! All of these do require a lot of open hood and even working under and over the engine with your ass hung out in the weather. Sunny weather and in shop work.

Try this to keep dry. With a good scanner you can get live data stream and with Chysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram can look at the cam versus crankshaft sequencing indicated. You look at gross live too great of timing changes.Will be in degrees.
With a simple code reader you will show a codes for “cam/crank angle too great” ". Not an absolute indicator as this code can set with worn loose chain on a still running engine.

Hey! At above 50F it’s a warm rain man. Just like last year, wiped out the need next summer Cascades building snow pacs.

Steve Unruh

I’m a long way from getting my 92 gasified, but I added the floating distributor adjust and cable last summer when I did the timing gear, belly pan, etc Last Friday night I had to nail it to scoot across an intersection. This apparently twisted the distributor. Got bad pinging and it kept dying. Nursed it home in the dark. Since I’m not yet gasified and don’t adjust timing everyday I didn’t figure out til the next day what happened. Set it back and tightened it down until I need the adjustment.

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I finally got my mom to sit in the driver’s seat and turn the key as needed to be able to diagnose the Dakota.

I rolled it back to the flat spot and put the brand new relay in the Fuel Pump slot and it started up after a few coughs.

It’s running really rough, I think too rich, but it’s running. The idle/RPMs keeps pulsating up and down, “hunting” as I believe @SteveUnruh once said of my Chevy, even if I hold the pedal at higher RPMs. I figure running it for a while, getting it warmed up, and evaporating all that moisture under the hood would benefit it regardless.

Sounds like I might have a new knock as well… Could that still be skipped timing somehow? Should I try to drive it?

edit that “knock” might be newly rattling exhaust… Sounds more like that from the outside.

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