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Dodge Repair/bad rke or electrical short? '01 Neon


QUESTION: i have a 2001 neon with increasingly bad electical problems related solely to the rke. for a few years and very occasionally when i used the keyless to unlock the car the horn would sound and it would lock instead of unlock. aside from that very occasional problem, the keyless system worked perfectly.

about a year ago it started happening more often. also, i would notice that sometimes my trunk would unlock by itself when it was parked overnight. also, the keyless just wouldnt work at all sometimes. for security i disconnected the electric trunk unlock at the trunk latch and just used the emergency pull to open the trunk (ghetto as hell... i know).

today, the keyless barely works ever so i have to lock and unlock it with the key, sometimes when i unlock the car with the key the car acts like the battery is dead until i insert the key in the ignition (at which point the car fully comes back to life, battery fully ok, everything normal), sometimes when i unlock the car with the key and open the door the alarm sounds until i insert the key into the ignition, sometimes when the car is sitting the horn sounds a short beep by itself like its supposed to when the car is locked via the keyfob, and recently the horn stopped working completely but then started working again a couple weeks later.

other than that the car has no electrical problems at all. all lights work perfectly, instrument panel works perfectly, no battery drain issues, nothing.  fyi: i've tried replacing the keyfob batteries, i have not replaced the cars battery recently and when i did, it didnt affect the problem.

i thought it was a bad rke module and stopped at a local shop to ask the mechanics if they could program a new rke or if i had to take it to the dealership. they told me i could just swap the rke and use the method in the owners manual to re-program the old fobs to the new rke (rke's are easily swappable) but...
they said in like 10 years they've never had to replace a rke and that it was probably a short somewhere.

my questions are:

1. what is your opinion, short or deteriorating rke?
2. a new rke will need drbIII reprogramming but what if i buy a used one?  will it need reprogramming too?

thanks in advance man, any help would be greatly appreciated!

I doubt it is a short, more likely an intermittent power supply issue or possibly a door switch contact problem or even the key-in switch at the ignition switch cylinder. I would check the three fuses that power the VTSS which are 14, 16, and 21 in the fuse block in the cabin, and then if you also have the sentry key immobilizer system that is powered by fuse 13 in the box under hood. Check for the contacts being clean, and inspect carefully for a subtle crack in the internal wire of each fuse. The instrument cluster is also involved with firing off the alarm so notice anything unusual about the cluster function in matters of warning light/horn errors.
As I read the manual, the rke does not require programming to the vehicle, but rather that the key fob be properly communicating with the rke. So you would want to get key fobs that match the rke if you replace it. You could check with the dealer parts counter about this aspect but I don't see any instructions about programming fobs.
DRB Programming issues do arise if you change out the sentry key immobilizer module so that the keys are recognized by it.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: hey roland,

thanks for the info!  very detailed!  so just to be clear, the vtss is built into the rke right?  and if all the other suggestions you made check out, would you replace the rke?

if i replace the rke, dont reprogram it and am ok with the fobs not working, is everything else going to work properly?

thanks again man,


Hi Ron,
Of course I can't be certain about a replacement rke solving this, but assuming the fob has a good battery but the unit is not responding well to its requests, then I don't see another explanation for its behavior once you have check the other items that I listed. Try using the fob when you hold it directly in front of it from outside, at the center of the windshield near the top of the dash to see whether its antenna circuit has lost sensitivity, and try moving away from that location to study that possibility.
Thanks for the rating/nomination/kind remarks. Let me know how this gets resolved.

Revision: The manual I have for '04 on a CD shows different diagrams from those I have for '01 on hard copy. The only way to get you the wiring diagrams would be to photocopy and post mail them to you. I could do that for the cost of three postal stamps if you want them.

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Roland Finston


Get a Free Fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

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