My Diesel Manual Chrysler Voyager Passed German Inspection For The Second Time! Then It Immediately Broke Down

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I’ve driven my diesel manual Chrysler Voyager, which resides with my parents in Germany, over 10,000 miles without any issues since I bought the thing for $600 and fixed it up in the summer of 2020. I’ve traveled to Belgium, Sweden, Turkey, and everyplace in between, and the VM Motori 2.5-liter turbodiesel under the hood of that stickshift 1994 Chrysler minivan has trudged on with confidence. My parents, however, have had no such luck. In fact, I just received a text from my dad stating that, for the second time, and just after passing Germany’s rigorous inspection for the second time, the vehicle has broken down while he’s been driving.

“Your alternator is shot,” reads a rather short text from my dad, which includes the photo you see above. My van is going to have to be towed back to their house, and why? Who the hell knows. Do I really think a bad alternator would shut down a vehicle that requires pretty much no electricity to run (it’s an old-school diesel with a mechanical fuel pump)? Well, there is a solenoid that needs 12-volts to allow fuel flow, but the current draw is basically zero. I suppose if the headlights were on and the car were driven long enough, the battery would drain to the point where fuel would shut off, but I remain skeptical.

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More than that, I’m anxious. I want to get on a plane to Germany right now and fix the ailing machine, which just passed inspection after a previous shop dinged it for weak headlights and a leaky CV boot. My brother and I cleaned the boot and replaced its clamps (my mom actually pulled a hose clamp off her washing machine as we wrenched late into the night of my departure back to the U.S.; so clutch), plus we replaced the headlight bulbs. The van still failed. Recently, though, my parents told me that a different shop replaced the bulbs again and gave the vehicle the pass you see above, so my van is now legally on Germany’s roads until August of 2024!

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I don’t know if the van didn’t feel adequately rewarded after its excellent marks (it could use an oil change), but it’s clear that something upset it, because right after passing inspection Project Krassler shit the bed, and now my parents’ view of the van is, I feel, just not representative of what the 32-MPG road-trip beast truly is at its core. This van is great! Sure, it’ll have a few issues here and there given that it has 260,000 miles on the clock, but I bet with half an hour of wrenching I could have the thing back on its feet, even if that means swapping an alternator. The van is fairly easy to wrench on, after all.

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This all comes after a fuel shutoff switch killed the van while my dad was driving the car to work last year. Just a month or two ago, I rewired that switch, and road-tripped the K-car-based van to Frankfurt, Jena, and a few times to Nuernberg for a total of about 750 miles over a span of just a couple of weeks. I never had a problem!

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It seems the mercurial van behaves itself only when I’m behind the wheel. It’s a sign that, at some point, I’m going to have to move to Germany permanently to take care of this geriatric machine, which will by then be old enough to be registered as a historical vehicle (this means I will have to pay fewer taxes and I’ll be able to drive into cities that prohibit diesels). Just hang in there a few more years, Krassler.

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47 Responses

  1. Oh, an electric fuel shutoff solenoid ain’t exactly “basically zero current draw”!! That’s something I learned the hard way when driving my mk2 VW Jetta diesel with an ailing battery & a moribund alternator; whenever the battery charge dropped to about nine or even eight volts the fuel shutoff solenoid would just…shut off. Said solenoid requires some modicum of electricity to stay open. Once you rectify “your” alternator issues the Voyager should run fine, knock on wood! Once I got the alternator & the battery all sorted out my Jetta has been running fine as my daily driver for years now, knock on wood (the mantra of those who drive such old cars…)

  2. I cannot help but place DT’s mom as a mix of all the German moms I met during my year + there.
    “Ach, Dawid okay, ja ve vill get you a hose clamper, but all the stores are closed. Did you check your vaters spare pieces bin? Ja? Okay, perhaps one from the vasher vill vork? No, no I vill take it off ja? You need to go to bed and get a good night’s rest or you will be late for your flight tomorrow.”

    And that is when DT knew he done messed up, being late (or even the potential) for anything is a cardinal sin.

      1. The OEM alternator for that vehicle is a 90 amp unit per references. That should really be enough. I’ve heard of another issue with ’80s ’90s Chryslers though. According to this source, the field control unit (voltage regulator function) is inside the ECU on these year Chrysler products. So the symptoms David is having may actually be signs of early ECU failure. Although there is an external alternator voltage regulator unit that is sold aftermarket for it, I highly doubt that TUF allows that, if it won’t go for a larger alternator itself.

        Maybe he could add a deep discharge secondary battery, and isolate it on a circuit with a different external regulator, to a higher target voltage. If that is permitted.

        1. His dad is in the military and mom is German. I am at fault for the Germanized comments, apologies, just having some fun and reminiscing about some really cool people I haven’t spoken to in 20 years.

    1. I think as long as a sysadmin, mechanic or engineer is present it will function reliably. It’s bogon-sensitive equipment. If David’s father was a military officer, he is likely a potent source of bogons, which would explain the inexplicable breakdowns when an effective bogon absorber like David is not present.

  3. David,

    Just as it would be kink shaming for your parents to discourage your automotive weirdness, it is a similar situation for you to force your weirdness upon your parents.

    At your age you should be making your parents’ live easier, not appointing them caretaker to a vehicle their local government thinks should have been retired a decade ago. You have already produced the content this project had to offer. Give it to the German Caravan whisperer. Give it to a Ukranian refugee assistance organization. Sell it at market value just for the sake of comparison. Just don’t leave your poor parents by the side of the road next to this thing. Unless, of course, this is also your dad’s thing (or mom’s. I suppose moms can have weird worn-out minivan fetishes also).

    For some weird reason, I can completely laugh at you stranded by the side of the road, but I feel guilty when it’s your parents. If we get a statement form your dad saying he knows what he signed up for, it would be much easier for me to enjoy these stories.

    All the Best, and please delete if I’m being a jerk.

  4. Repairing a diesel bus fleet, a stalled bus due to a failed alternator is a daily occurrence.
    Of course, buses have many more electrical loads than your van, but that just means your van would take maybe days instead of hours to stall.
    It should also be noted that diesels can take a lot of power to crank over, so maybe 3 starts and your battery would be getting depleted.
    Your dad is probably on the right track.
    I’m sure once you get this sorted that famed 90s Chrysler reliability will finally start to shine through.

  5. David, don’t listen to those naysayers. I trust in you big plan for world domination of the iron oxide (Fe²O³) market. You’ve got a great toe-hold in the American Rust-belt and parts of Germany. Next up is SoCal USA. Smart.

    p.s., Love the move sub-equatorial to Australia too. Just remember that deserts are like kryptonite to your rust empire. But conquer the Down-Under and there is no stopping you.

  6. I’m writing this with the perspective of being a mechanic for 25 years at this point. I was also stationed in Baumholder Germany and am familiar with their vehicle inspections.
    I read the original article where you purchased the van and then this one.
    In a vehicle that old it’s not uncommon for relays and electrical parts to start going out. Sometimes slowly, like the headlights. Sometimes quickly, like the alternator. Any time I look at purchasing a vehicle with over 120k miles or over 10 years old I know I’m going to need to replace the alternator, vital relays, and probably battery. Those are the most common items that will leave you stranded on the road.

    Even though that fuel shut off relay may not be drawing much, I’m almost 100% sure it’s a normally closed circuit so when all power is lost it kills the engine. It was done likely to help prevent a run away diesel engine.

    If you replaced the headlights with new OEM spec bulbs then the sockets may be to blame. The plastic housing can get brittle and warped out of shape slightly from heat cycling. Pop the bulbs out and shine a light down the socket. If it’s blackened or severely browned and the metal contacts aren’t wanting to sit flush you’ll likely greatly benefit from splicing in new sockets. Here in the US you can get replacement sockets at most parts stores. Not sure if it’s the same part for a European variant though.
    Great job on getting the van inspection passable!

  7. I just had an epiphany! I know in a former life you were a engineer at Jeep. If the other engineers view “reliable” and “zero issues” the same way you do, it would really explain a lot about Jeep reliability (as defined by normal people).

  8. DT, I love you and your insanity, but christ, you have worst fucking taste in vehicles. You’ve been to Pebble Beach now. I mean, I take a total pass on the rich fucks that own the goods, but there’s no excuse now, you have been exposed to the shit, i.e. automotive art. How is this stupid fucking garbo appliance even remotely cool to you? I just don’t get it.

    Hint: life is actually short.

    with love,

    Bo

    1. Life is too damn short to own boring ass cars. That van is interesting as hell, if he brought it here it would strike up a conversation at every gas station. Park it a car show and I bet there are more people checking it out than the dozen c7 vettes or “1 300 made” latest mustangs.

    2. “there’s no excuse now, you have been exposed to the shit, i.e. automotive art. How is this stupid fucking garbo appliance even remotely cool to you? I just don’t get it.”

      Something about an eye, something something beholder.

      “Hint: life is actually short.”

      Good point. Life is way to short to spend working to earn the funds needed to buy automotive “art”, much less the climate controlled inert gas bubble the art spends its time in when not on display nor the rig needed to tow it back and forth, nor the insurance, the maintenance,… Or worse, spend your life working so others – like those folks at Pebble Beach – can buy all the art (and other toys).

      Work just long enough to buy a decent shitbox, then quit your shitty job to actually enjoy said shitbox.

    3. Yo, I (and many others, it seems) came here specifically for the story of this diesel powered masterpiece of mediocrity, and everything it represents. “Life is short” so perhaps if you don’t understand it, check out supercars.net or “Hint:” some other vanilla flavoured publication?

      with love,

      Larry.

  9. Aw man, I probably could’ve taken a 3 hour train east and checked it out a couple days ago. Instead I went 2 hours west to hang with a dude who makes mechanical animals, and now I’m like 15 hours north.

  10. This vehicle already loves you and wants to be with you. Yet you are going to a continent on the other side of the world for a vehicle you’ve only seen pictures of online, because it can take you to a cool party. This does not bode well for your future romantic prospects….

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