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Dodge Repair/2003 Neon SXT Automatic 2.0: skim problem


QUESTION: Hi Roland,

About 1 month ago the engine light came on, on my 2003 Neon. I have an OBD2 reader and I put it on to see what the code was. The code came up p1681. I erased it and tried to restart it car. The car started but quit after a few seconds. This happened 3 times and then it wouldn't try to start again. I was using the correct Sentry key and this puzzled me. It seemed to me that the car was no longer recognizing the key and had locked out. I have other sentry keys and trying them made no difference. After looking online for the problem and trying many different solutions including disconnecting the battery I had no luck solving the problem. About two weeks later I tried it one last time before I had it towed to the shop to see if they can figure it out. To my surprise it started. However the engine light remains on and the red security light game on. I actually found the car would start with a regular key that didn't have the security chip. Interesting. I have to get the car emission tested and they will not test it with the engine light on. I once again tried the OBD2 reader and I'm back at square one the car will no longer recognize the security key and it is locked up and won't start. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Hi John,
I have the '01 Neon service manual which is likely applicable to your '03.
The 1681 code is called "no instrument cluster CCD/J1850 messages received from the cluster module. But it may not explain the check engine light being "on" as it doesn't have the code M after the number which is for a code which specifically does turn on that light.  What was the "square one" OBD2 reader telling you now?
I haven't found that code in other manuals that I have which give some trouble shooting suggestions so we are limited to mainly checking the immobilizer system basics.
When you first turn the key to run the skim is supposed to turn on the warning light of the cluster for 3 seconds, using the digital data bus wire (the violet/yellow wire on pin 2 of the cluster, coming from pin 2 of the immobilizer module located at the ignition lock cylinder area).
The light should then go off for a second.
Then it could start flashing or remain solid "on". The solid "on" means that the module has detected a SKIM system malfunction. (It can also flash and chime once, or just flash). It seems that the solid 'on' is saying that the skim has detected a system problem.
The Chrysler OBD2 reader (called a DRB) and the body diagnostic manual are then to be used to solve the problem. The codes given by that reader are words, not numbers, so your reader may not be 'sophisticated' sufficiently to tell what to do. I do have the body manual for the '03 Sebring and there are only two diagnostic procedures suggested for the Skim and that involves checking over the wiring and if nothing is found then replace various possible components of the digital SKIM system (e.g. the skim, or the body computer, etc.).
So I would suggest that you verify fuse 11 (10 Amp) in the cabin is OK, and verify that it has 12V on it when the key is in the run position. Then verify the connection between the SKIM and cluster of the violet/yellow wire.
Let me know if you find something interesting.
Thanks for the rating/nomination.

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

QUESTION: Thanks Roland!
OBD2 reads same code P1681.  Fuse 11 is good and has power.  When key is turned on engine light comes on but the skim warning light does not.  After about 10 to 15 seconds engine light flashes on off and skim light comes on. I have checked the ground to the skim and it is good, I have battery voltage at skim also and I have battery voltage at fused ignition switch output with ignition switch on.  What confuses me is why it began to start and run until I retested with OBD2.  I will see if I can follow wiring far enough to get to cluster wiring. Thanks again.

ANSWER: Hi John,
It would be good to verify the violet/yellow connection from the skim to the control panel. To remove the cluster:
disconnect the battery
remove left and right A-pillar covers
remove top cover or instrument panel
remove cluster bezel
remove 4 screws holding cluster housing to base panel
pull the cluster rearward to disconnect it from the base panel
remove the assembly.
Also verify that the socket pin for that wire is connected to the circuit board and if necessary re-heat the solder joint.
I have heard of the system correcting itself in a few days/weeks of non usage. But that is not mentioned in the service manual.

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

QUESTION: Thanks Roland,

I am beginning to think it's the skim however I agree the connection to the cluster needs to be proven first.  Re: "system correcting itself" after time, I had thought that a possibility but was intrigued that it seemed to bypass the skim.  I could literally unplug the skim and the car would start. Interesting.

I'll be interested to know what you find. The powertrain control module is supposed to shut down the engine after 2 seconds when it is told that the skim doesn't see a proper key. But I am not sure if it doesn't send an OK, or if it has to send a no go signal to the pcm. If the latter, then that would explain.

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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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