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Q: Will not start after sitting three days

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We have a 2016 Dodge Dart with a 2.4 liter engine. The car has 1400 miles on it. Starting about two months ago, the car sometimes will not start. I would put the key in the ignition, turn to start and nothing. All the lights on the dashboard come on but it won’t turn over. I found out by accident if you move the shift lever through the gears it will start. This only seems to happen if the car sits for three days. If we use every day it starts right up. The dealer has had it off and on for two plus weeks but it would never happen to him. He changed the cruise control switch in the steering wheel because the cruise was working intermittently. The scan tool shows no error codes. The service manager did witness the problem when he actually came to my house when the car was doing it and his scan tool didn’t show anything. We left off with the service manager, (who has been back and forth with Chrysler) at his only option is to throw parts at it. Thank you for any suggestions you have.

My car has 1400 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: Hello. The car has a defect in the electric...

Hello. The car has a defect in the electrical system, unfortunately, the defect causes the no-start condition only intermittently which does make the diagnostic tricky. Obviously, if the faulty electrical component would just fail outright, the problem could be found easily through the usual circuit tracing. In a sense though, your situation can still be made simple, to the end of getting it resolved: State and Federal law restrict the number of "attempts" that a dealer can make to repair a problem on a car under warranty. These laws are known as "lemon laws". For your state's version of the lemon law, please see this link to state lemon laws. For the Federal Lemon law, see this link.

In a nutshell, what these laws mean is the dealer gets maybe 3 to 6 attempts to fix the problem and then THEY (not you) are out of luck, which means that at the end of the allotted number of repair attempts, the dealer or manufacturer might have to simply replace the vehicle if they are unable, or unwilling, to repair it as is required under the vehicle warranty.

As a practical matter, what you should do now is carefully and thoroughly document, in writing, each and every contact you have had with both the dealer and Chrysler to the end of getting this electrical defect resolved. Compare the number of "attempts" you have made against the amount allowed under your state's Lemon Law. If you have a lot of patience, allow them extra attempts (i.e., beyond the 3 to 6), but once they reach the limit, you can send them a certified letter, return receipt requested, notifying them that you will be allowing one final attempt to fix the vehicle and then you will be invoking the provision's of your state's lemon law. Please note that I am giving you this specific advice as a Mechanic, NOT as an Attorney, who deals continuously with the type of scenario you have written in about. Obviously, I cannot give you legal advice. Consequently, you should take this as general advice from a mechanic who works day-to-day with these issues, to an attorney who will then give you much more specific and hopefully authoritative advice tailored to your particular circumstances.

You should also file a Complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding this defect. Indeed, out of the handful of complaints already filed with NHTSA regarding your specific year, make, and model, two of the complaints in the NHTSA database clearly describe serious electrical system faults. Your reporting (the filing of a complaint) may be critical to getting action for other consumers who may experience similar problems.

Finally, once you get a functioning car (you should; the Lemon Law will get this resolved for you and fairly quickly, too), we will be here to assist you with any maintenance requirements or further questions or concerns that you might have with your new car. Best wishes on this, I'm sure it will be resolved to your satisfaction.

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