Generation III Chrysler Mini-Van BCM Replacement

Other Chrysler products of that Era (1995 - 2000) may have similar BCM configurations


It is difficult to diagnose BCM problems. 10/13/13 - Early this year I had the car towed to a dealer, and they fixed it. But they first installed one rebuilt BCM that didn't work. At least that's what I was told; it may have been a BCM that didn't have all the features my car has. They then installed one that hasn't given me any problems in several months of operation.

But What Does the BCM Do?

From what I've been able to gather, the BCM mainly controls the complicated remote and automatic door lock system, the anti-theft system, the interior lighting with the delay, and some warning tones (key in the switch, for one). Of course, the main problem is the anti-theft function which can go wrong and block the starter and ignition function. Initially I was able to get the BCM to reset by disconnecting and later reconnecting the battery. (BTW: The car will start and run with the instrument panel out of the car.)

Back when this all started, I called a dealer and was told that the car would have to be driven in or towed; that they couldn't diagnose the BCM outside the car. The BCM was already outside the car, so I asked the price for a new or rebuilt one. A rebuilt BCM bought through the dealer was about $400, and I was willing to gamble on that. I had to swap in the old BCM, but got the rebuilt one the next day.

3/21/2013 - When you read down the page, you'll see that I replaced the BCM, but the display cluster started acting up and eventually the system wouldn't power up the starter OR allow the car to start after I managed to bypass the starter relay. I had it towed to a local mechanic, but found that the BCM I had bought from the dealer was still under warrenty, so I had it towed over to them. $200 towing fees for the two tows.

The "Advisor" (dealer service manager) on my case says BCMs have to be reprogrammed by the very expensive dealer computer system before they will work properly. They did not charge for the BCM, but charged $460 for labor, $3.45 for parts, and $30.00 for CSS EPA Fee & Shop Supplies plus $0.28 tax for a total of $493.73. Communicating through an advisor is difficult, but this is the information on the work sheet. BCM internal short, not sending power to starter relay. Replaced BCM and reprogrammed. Car would start, but power locks were inoperative. BCM internal short. Replaced BCM and reprogrammed.

Now the car works as well as it did in May 2012, when I bought it and drove it home from Arkansas.

They didn't want to go back and set the odometer to the actual value. I think they located the registered mileage from last year and added a typical one-year driving mileage to that. Anyway, they set it to 120,000 miles. It was 110,060 when it stopped working last year.

Based on the various bits of information I've received from the dealer, the independent mechanic, and online, I think the replacement BCM just failed. I don't think it actually has to be reprogrammed by a dealer, but you do have to get a BCM that has the features your specific vehicle needs. I don't doubt that the dealer reprogrammed something on mine because the mileage had been reset to 120,000. However, you'll see if you read further, that I replaced the instrument clusted circuit board (temporarily), and it displayed a completely different mileage.

Other folks have had similar problems and have suspected low battery voltage, dirty cable connections, bad solder joints on circuit board cable connectors, and dirty fuse sockets. It can become frustrating.

Symptoms (back in May 2012)

I recently (May 2012) bought a low-mileage (110,000) 1999 Chrysler Town & Country Limited in northwest Arkansas, about 600 miles from where I live. I drove it several days there and then the 600 miles home. The day after I got home I started it and moved it to a different place on my driveway. Later, I started it again and it ran about 3 seconds and died. I did that two more times and then it wouldn't start at all.

I don't typically bother with theft alarms and wasn't that experienced with how they control the electrical system to prevent theft. I finally decided that part of the alarm function was being triggered someway. The only thing I found that would reset the system was to disconnect the battery. Sometimes I could reconnect the battery right away and the system would work. Sometimes I waited for hours or even overnight.

It took me several days of trial and error, web searching, and a lot of worry, but I finally decided to pull the BCM. The pictures below show some of the steps in the process.

WARNING:It is important to disconnect one of the battery cables before working with the electrical system. I usually disconnect the battery ground cable.

First remove the fuse panel access panel at the bottom of the dash above the driver's feet. It's a black plastic panel held to the dash with some plastic twist-lock tabs. Turn by finger or use a coin. A tab fitting in a slot at the firewall holds the back of the panel up. Fuse Panel Cover

The gray plastic panel shown in the photo is held on by five Phillips sheet metal screws. Two of them are behind Parking Brake Release Handle. You may have to pull the handle out a little to get to the screws. The screw on the end is accessible when the door is open. There are two at the bottom of the panel. Two metal spring pins hold the top of the panel. Pull the top of the panel out by hand. The panel will still be connected to the dash by the Emergency Brake Release cable at the left end. Maybe you can work around it with the cable connected, but I disconnected it as shown in the next photo.
Emergency Brake Release Panel

I used some long-nosed pliers to squeeze the plastic tabs on the cable housing and worked it back through the hole in the handle. I could then rotate the cable up at 90 degrees to slip it out through the slot that you can see in the photo.
Brake Release Cable Connection

The next photo shows the end of the cable and the end of the handle where the cable connects.

A metal panel is revealed when the plastic panel is removed. I think its purpose is to keep the driver's knees from going into the dash during a collision. The cosmetic plastic panel wouldn't do that by itself. Note the big hex-head screws used to hold that thin panel in place. The hood release is mounted on a bracket under the metal panel.
Brake Release details

This photo shows the two metal spring tabs that snap in and hold the top of the panel to the dash structure. The two screw holes are visible at the bottom of the panel.
Brake Release Panel

There are at least seven of those big hex-head screws and one or two of the Phillips-head screws like the ones holding the plastic panel. Knee Guard

There is a stamped steel bracket behind the knee guard, and it seemed to me that it would help to move it out of the way. The hood release is at the left end of the bracket. I DON'T HAVE A PHOTO TO SHOW HOW IT IS CONNECTED. BE SURE YOU TAKE NOTES OR PHOTOS. I remember that it was connected at several odd points with different size screws and maybe in one place a screw held two parts to a third part.

The shiny stamped steel brackets at top and left are the attach points for the knee guard. The white plastic screw anchor at the left is for the screw that holds the left end of the plastic cover. Knee Guard Removed

There are three long bolts to hold the fuse panel to the support under the dash. I didn't record the size. I'm holding the head of one of them in this photo.
Fuse Panel Attach Bolts

The connectors aren't hard to disconnect after the fuse panel bolts are removed. These cables connect to the BCM and then the BCM connects to the fuse panel as will be shown in a later photo. There are four connectors on the front of the fuse panel.

The connector on the left with the blue part is the connector for car analysis computers or for pollution inspection readings. It was connected to that shiny two-eared bracket with a couple of screws. Fuse Panel Connectors

The four connectors on the upper part of the fuse panel are held in place by captive nuts inside those black plastic 'cups.' As the nuts are loosened, the connectors are pulled out. Then when reinstalling, the nuts force the connectors into place. I MADE SURE THAT THE CONNECTORS WERE STARTED PROPERLY BEFORE I APPLIED PRESSURE WITH THE NUTS. Get the nut started, press the connect a little into place, tighten the nut some more, and push some more.

There is a captive nut on the hood release bracket. That's at least one point where it is connected.
Relays and Fuses

This photo shows the front of the fuse panel. You see the four threaded studs that hold the connectors.
The front of the fuse panel

This shows the BCM on the back of the fuse panel.

This is the side view. There are two little hex-head screws on each side. When they are removed, the BCM can be pushed out of the connector to the fuse panel.
Side View

Slide the BCM to disconnect it from the fuse panel.
BCM Seperated from the fuse panel.

These instructions were on the replacement BCM. The instructions seemed a little odd, but I had to do it to get the car to start.

Although I still have a few intermittent problems (perhaps associated with the instrument panel), now the interior lights always come on when I open the door, the "key-in-ignition" warning comes on if I put the key in the ignition with the door open. The odometer and shift position indicator light up when the key switch is switched to the first position, the diagnosis stuff works when the key is switched to the run position, and the car starts and runs. These things only worked part of the time with the old BCM in place and other weird things were happening too. I didn't dare drive far from home for fear of being stranded.

8/23/12 NOTE: I've had the instrument panel out, too. I tried re-soldering the main connector pins at the circuit board. Now I have more intermittent problems.

Even though the odometer and gear position displays don't always light up when I switch the key, the engine usually starts anyway. Only once has it failed to start since I posted this page, although I've been starting it occasionally for several weeks. It failed to start at the third stop on a errand trip and it seemed to be in that "car theft" mode where the engine starts and runs for 3 seconds. I had to disconnect and reconnect the battery to get it going again. I had forgotten to try the remote Unlock button.

I plan to pull the instrument panel again and inspect it carefully. My pencil soldering iron is working again and I'll probably try to touch up those solder joints a little more precisely with it.

Good Luck!

Update on 2/11/13

The problems continued. I even bought a new circuit board for the instrument panel and tried it with uncertain results. I put the original circuit board back in.

After a period of intermittent starting, it reached a point at which the starter would not turn. At that point I decided to take it to a dealer or to a mechanic with a computer diagnostic system, but I wanted to be able to start it and drive it in. I eventually learned how to bypass the start relay and get the starter to turn (see another page on my index), but the engine would not start. I didn't know how to bypass the computer system start function.

I had the vehicle towed to a local mechanic who thought he had a computer that could do the diagnostics and this is what he found: "Computer trouble code test. ... Determine the correct test procedure. No codes stored cannot get into the BCM. ... can see all modules except the BCM and instrument cluster. The BCM does not function.

"Can not read the mileage. The instrument cluster does not work."

I talked to the dealer where I bought the BCM. They said to get the car there and they'd check it (for $107) and if they found that the BCM is bad, they'd give me a new BCM. I'll have to pay for installation and calibration. I've arranged for the minivan to be towed to the dealer this afternoon. (2-11-13)


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Update 2/11/13