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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 1988 3.9 2wd dakota it cranks over good but will not start, I dont think its getting spark. i replaced coil, distributor cap, rotor button, plugs, & wires. not sure really what to do. I did try hooking a test light to positive battery post and checking both sides of coil and both light up. I've also checked with voltage meter both sides and only get like 0.30 volts d/c. Any help is great thanks.
 

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I am not at all familiar with the systems of that vintage, but does it have an ASD relay? If so, check that by swapping it with an identical relay in the box.

After that I think that the first thing that you need to do is actually verify whether you are getting spark or not. They make handy little testers (affordable & available at parts stores) that insert in your spark plug wire (where the spark plug itself inserts) that have a clip built in so you can clip it to a ground. Observe that while someone cranks it. Once you know for SURE whether or not you are or are not getting spark, you can start going from there.

Do you have any type of maintenance manual for that Dak? I don't know if back then they had any kind of ignition module.

Also, double check all your previous work. For example, since you replaced the cap & wires, double check to make sure that they are routed correctly. I am thinking that you changed them because of the no-start issue, but double check anyway.

After you check for spark with a test light, let us know.
 

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. . . I just took a quick look on Rockauto


and under "ignition" for your Dakota they are showing distributor pick up coil (NOT the ignition coil) which is located under the distributor cap and I believe is also known as the cam position sensor & a ballast resistor as well. For the '89, Rock is actually showing an ignition module but NOT for the '88 (which might mean they have none in stock for the '88 OR the '88 was not set up that way; I don't know)
The possibility also exists that your distributor has failed (I had that happen with an older car I once owned).
As I typed earlier, I don't know anything about your model, but if you find out that you actually are not getting spark, those are ignition components.

But verify the no-spark before anything else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I am not at all familiar with the systems of that vintage, but does it have an ASD relay? If so, check that by swapping it with an identical relay in the box.

After that I think that the first thing that you need to do is actually verify whether you are getting spark or not. They make handy little test lights (affordable & available at parts stores) that insert in your spark plug wire (where the spark plug itself inserts) that have a clip built in so you can clip it to a ground. Observe that while someone cranks it.\\Once you know for SURE whether or not you are or are not getting spark, you can start going from there.

Do you have any type of maintenance manual for that Dak? I don't know if back then they had any kind of ignition module.

Also, double check all your previous work. For example, since you replaced the cap & wires, double check to make sure that they are routed correctly. I am thinking that you changed them because of the no-start issue, but double check anyway.

After you check for spark with a test light, let us know.
All that was done as routine maintenance, the truck was running no problem at the time. I don't think its firing, I've tried pouring gas in throttle body and would not start
 

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If I understand your last post, you are saying that you have visually verified a no-spark condition and you have replaced or checked your distributor pickup coil (not your ignition coil) & ballast resistor & verified that your distributor (not the cap, but the distributor itself) is not at fault, and if an '88 does have an ignition module you have verified that it is not in a failure mode.

And on edit, I did a couple of cursory searches and it kind of looks like Dodge did put an ASD relay in them back then (which voltage to the coil would travel through) so I assume you are also saying that you have checked that as well?

Here


is a quick to read article by someone with an '88 who was getting no spark and troubleshot to the ignition coil drive transistor in the ECM.
 

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. . . when you say that you don't THINK it's firing, if it was me, I'd find out for SURE whether it was or wasn't firing. Dumping gas in the TB is one thing and would seem to indicate that it is not firing, but physically watching a spark checker not light up is the way to be positive. And then if it isn't firing at the end of the plug wire, how about from the coil wire? If you don't get spark at the plug wire, but you do have output from the coil, that would seem to put your problem between the coil & the spark plug which could include your distributor pickup coil or the distributor itself.
 

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Check all your grounds on the motor. I had an 87 Dakota sport and one of the ground wires, that was bolted to the intake manifold, broke off. It did the same thing. Turned over fine but no spark.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So I know for sure I'm not getting fire from distributor to plug or coil to distributor. As said in original post I know I'm also not getting proper voltage to coil. Not real sure how to check pick-up coil though
 

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Okay, sorry, I misread your OP as related to the coil.
As far as the distributor pickup coil, I almost consider that a tuneup replacement part,


they don't cost a lot and are easy to change, so that's a part I'd be willing to throw against the wall & see if it sticks. If it doesn't & you keep the old one, now you have a fresh one in & a spare on hand.

But, I know for my '03, there is a check that can be made with a multimeter. It may be applicable to the pickup coil in yours. If you want I can find it & type it out for you.

If you are not getting fire OUT of the ignition coil TO the distributor cap that would seem to indicate the problem is upstream of the coil. I lay no claim whatsoever to being an expert on this subject, so I am unfamiliar with what you were checking with your multimeter to get 0.3 volts. The test I was thinking of would be to put a spark checker on the high tension lead from the coil, but exercise caution with this as the coil puts out a lot of volts.

Regardless, here is how to check primary & secondary resistance of a coil


but if you have a new coil installed and it is not outputting voltage, and the new coil is not defective, I would look upstream. Since mine is an '03, what I know about it may not be applicable to yours,
but 3 things come to my mind:
Did you ever check your ASD relay? On mine, when the key is turned on the PCM energizes the ASD relay & battery voltage goes through that relay to the coil. You can check it by swapping it with an identical one. An ASD relay that was stuck closed would cause a crank but o spark.

As far as the distributor pickup coil, on my '03 the PCM MUST get a signal from that component (also known as the cam position sensor) or the PCM will not send a trigger signal TO the coil. (Crank but no start.) I understand that the PCM on your '88 is way less complex than on later models, so I do not know what the sequence of communication between that sensor & the PCM is on yours. But if it is the same. . . .

Did you ever read that article I posted up above in a previous reply? That guy had a crank but no-spark & it turned out to be his ignition coil drive transistor in his ECM. I am not saying to immediately suspect your ECM, but what I am getting at is to eliminate all else & then think about that. I had that happen on mine and I had no trigger signal from my PCM to my coil; that was the last step of the troubleshooting sequence I used before I sent my PCM out for diagnosis & subsequent repair.

Lastly, do you have any kind of maintenance manual for that year of Dak? I have a FSM and a Haynes for mine . . . Haynes gets maligned around these parts, but they are cheap & should be available & it would help you identify ignition parts & tell you checks you could do on them.
 

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. . . oh, and remember me mentioning the ballast resistor?

I'll copy & paste this:
"Generally, an ignition ballast resistor is placed between the primary source of the ignition coil and coil stud. It reduces the failure risk of the ignition coil.
When the starter motor cranks the engine, the ignition ballast resistor helps to reduce the coil voltage and coil current.
Therefore, low current causes a low-temperature rise. And it results in a long life of the ignition coil.
But the ignition system needs a higher voltage which is equal to the voltage of the power source. So, the jumper wire is connected with an ignition ballast resistor. And while starting the engine, the jumper wire provides the required voltage to the ignition coil."


So from that, I would think that if this was to fail it would cause a crank but no-spark.

From looking at Rockauto, there were two styles that were used on the '88 Dakota:

 

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I have a 1988 3.9 2wd dakota it cranks over good but will not start, I dont think its getting spark. i replaced coil, distributor cap, rotor button, plugs, & wires. not sure really what to do. I did try hooking a test light to positive battery post and checking both sides of coil and both light up. I've also checked with voltage meter both sides and only get like 0.30 volts d/c. Any help is great thanks.
Inside the distributor, are points. Try replacing those or cleaning them with sandpaper.
 

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I have a 1988 3.9 2wd dakota it cranks over good but will not start, I dont think its getting spark. i replaced coil, distributor cap, rotor button, plugs, & wires. not sure really what to do. I did try hooking a test light to positive battery post and checking both sides of coil and both light up. I've also checked with voltage meter both sides and only get like 0.30 volts d/c. Any help is great thanks.
Brain box is what was wrong with my 89 dodge dakota 3.9 and had to buy a new distributor also
 

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Um . . . breaker points in an '88?
I have a 1988 3.9 2wd dakota it cranks over good but will not start, I dont think its getting spark. i replaced coil, distributor cap, rotor button, plugs, & wires. not sure really what to do. I did try hooking a test light to positive battery post and checking both sides of coil and both light up. I've also checked with voltage meter both sides and only get like 0.30 volts d/c. Any help is great thanks.
As stated by someone else, it could be a ground problem. What I have found on these trucks is that there is a ground wire on the left fender and if it is unhooked it will not have spark
 
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