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Chrysler TIPMs Demystified:  How to Reliably Trace Specific Vehicle Symptoms to TIPM Failure

Chrysler TIPMs Demystified:  How to Reliably Trace Specific Vehicle Symptoms to TIPM Failure

TIPM4TIPM, which stands for “Totally Integrated Power Module” is the Chrysler nomenclature for the fuse and relay box, or electronic power relay center, in Chrysler vehicles produced since the early-to-mid-2000’s.  

By “Chrysler”, we are referring to the umbrella company for all vehicles marketed under any of the nameplate brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM.  Chrysler also built a few vehicles for Volkswagen between 2010 and 2014:   The “Routan” and “Touareg”, also included here, which are essentially a re-skinning of the Chrysler Town & Country / Dodge Journey in those model years.

The TIPM’s primary job is to distribute electrical power to various devices throughout the vehicle when needed:  to door locks, power windows, headlights, taillights, signals, fuel pump, starter, cooling fan, wipers, washers, AC, radio, etc., as well as to power the various electronic processing modules such as the instrument cluster, anti-lock braking system (ABS) module, and the vehicle’s main computer(s) commonly referred to as the ECM, ECU, or PCM.  If a device or feature in your vehicle needs electrical power, it is ultimately coming from the TIPM.

The TIPM’s other main function is to serve as the communications hub through which these various modules signal each other and the TIPM, with their current status, error states, or instructions.  When directed at the TIPM, it is these instructions that signal the TIPM to send or cut off electrical power when and where instructed. 

While the TIPM is instrumental in the process of starting the vehicle, once the engine is running the TIPM plays little to no role in engine runtime performance. 

The main components of TIPMs, and source of failure when vehicle faults lie within the TIPM, are almost always among the following:

FusesFuses – are actually designed with one purpose in life:  To fail.    By design, when an unexpected surge of power suddenly flows through a circuit due to a short or other fault somewhere in the vehicle, the fuse will burn out first, preventing damage to more sensitive downstream electronics; or in severe cases, to prevent vehicle fires.  Often the quickest fix for an apparent electrical problem is to ensure the fuse governing the component in question is properly seated, and/or replaced if there are signs of melting of its internal connective wire (visible through its semi-transparent shell).   example-of-good-fuse-vs-bad-fuseIf a replaced fuse immediately burns out again, this indicates a short somewhere along the electrical path to or from, or within that powered device.  Shorts internal to the TIPM that cause fuses to repeatedly burn out can happen but are usually confined to door locks and are not the most common source of burning fuses.  First eliminate broken/chafed wiring as a source of burning fuses before replacing your TIPM.   Also, keep in mind that fuses are either good or burnt out.  There is no middle ground.  So, if you experience a problem that is intermittent (sometimes works and sometimes does not) then the source of the problem is not likely with the fuse(s).

RelaysRelays – are the electronically-controlled on/off switches, that when activated by a low-voltage signal, open the floodgates to send the needed brute force electrical power wherever the vehicle needs it.   These are what open and close your door locks, turn on and off your fuel pump, or whatever devices are frequently cycled on and off.   Some relays are external, meaning you can access and swap them if necessary, by merely opening the TIPM lid.   Other relays are internal, meaning they are soldered to the internal TIPM circuit board and can only be replaced by a qualified bench technician with specialized soldering skills and tools.   As it happens, it is the soldered-in relays (the “workhorse” relays that experience the most in duty cycles) that fail far more often than the easy-to-replace external relays.     But most important about relays is that they come in one of two main varieties:  mechanical vs solid state.   Mechanical relays are based upon 150 year-old-technology, have internal moving parts, and are much more prone to failure:  Solid state relays are a newer, chip-based technology with no moving parts, and fail far less so.   Knowing which type of relay is in your TIPM can help you make better sense of your symptoms.   More on this later.

ICs “Drivers” and other Integrated Circuits (IC’s) are chips soldered to the TIPM circuit board that process signals, regulate output, or store firmware or vehicle information. IC’s fail far less often than fuses, mechanical switches, or relays. 

 

TracesTraces are the squiggly metallic lines you see on circuit boards that connect the above components together.    Traces often blow from spiking current, shorts, or corrosion.  A break in the trace creates in an interruption in the path of electrical current.    

 

 

chrysler-tipm-connector-exampleConnectors are the parts of the vehicle’s wire harness that plug into the underside of the TIPM.  Certain styles of TIPMs, and their associated wire harness connectors, are more prone to certain connectivity issues or are more subject to corrosion than others.

 

TIPM problems can be hard to diagnose.  This is because a given symptom can often be explained by:  1) a failure of the TIPM to distribute power, 2) the failure of the device receiving power to use that power or operate normally,  3) The wiring between the TIPM and where the power is needed has become damaged, or 4) the instructional signals from another module to the TIPM are impeded due to the other module’s failure or bad signal wiring between the module and the TIPM.

But consumers often experience frustration attempting to self-diagnose TIPM issues because internet searches and forum postings will often lead one to a set of symptoms and remedies that seem somewhat similar but are not quite right.  This is because there is not just one design of TIPM in any given model year, but several.  And, each of these basic designs evolves over time from vehicle to vehicle and from model year to model year.

Take a look at the below chart which shows the most common TIPM designs issued by Chrysler between 2006 and 2015, the vehicle model years in which the vast majority of reported TIPM-related electrical problems have occurred to-date.

In this table, we’ve also included the fuse and relay box for RAM Truck model years 2002 – 2005.  Technically this early generation was not yet a “TIPM” but was rather called an “IPM” (Integrated Power Module, sans the “T” for “Totally”).  This box pre-dates the modern TIPM.  Nevertheless, it is useful to include it here because it experiences failures similar in symptom and frequency as many of its later cousins.

TIPM Chart

 

One can see that in any given model year, Chrysler was utilizing no less than 4 substantially different TIPM designs, each with their own component specifications (i.e. fuse layouts, relays of the “mechanical” vs “solid state” variety, circuit board designs, wire harness connectivity, firmware, and myriad other variables).

Consequently, each of these TIPM designs carries with it a common set of failures or “clusters of failures” that together point toward a bad TIPM; as well as symptoms or clusters of symptoms that point toward the true problem as lying elsewhere in the vehicle.  

So, when diagnosing whether a symptom or set of symptoms is rooted in the TIPM, key is to do so in the context of the design or “style” of TIPM and the vehicle’s model year.    Lessons learned online from other vehicle owners about symptoms and their ultimate cause are most relevant to the extent that the two vehicles share a common TIPM Platform.   If you are reading about the TIPM problems experienced by the owner of a 2009 Dodge RAM 2500 pickup truck, and you have a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, that information will have far less relevance than if you are hearing from the owner of a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee because these two vehicles share a common TIPM design.

Below, we take each of these TIPM styles, or designs, and provide a few rules of thumb as whether your problem likely lies in the TIPM, or if it may lay elsewhere. 

Dodge RAM IPMs/TIPMs 2002 – 2010