1992 Nissan Sentra - intermittent starting problem

Hi folks -

My husband has a 1992 Nissan Sentra with north of 200,000 miles. He’s the original owner and is meticulous about maintenance. It’s reach end of life, but we’re trying to keep it going as long as possible…

Latest issue is an intermittent starting problem. Recently replaced the battery (which was bad). The shop that dropped the battery in told us the alternator was also bad, but as we weren’t at our regular mechanic but just a battery and tire place, we thanked them, left and took it to our regular mechanic to confirm. He said the alternator was fine, and we went on our merry way.

Some weeks later, it wouldn’t start again - same symptoms as the original bad battery: got lights, a little bit of starter noise, and able to jump start. We figured the alternator was bad after all, so jumped it (weren’t able to jump it in 30º weather, but once it warmed back up to the 60s, jumped easily), took it to our mechanic. He checked the battery and said since it had a full charge, it couldn’t be the alternator. He suspects starter but wasn’t 100% sure.

A little more info - I say in the header that the problem is intermittent, but that’s not the best description - it really seems to act like a weak battery. Starts, starts, starts, starts, won’t start. And continues to not start till it gets a jump.

So my question - could a car with a flaky starter be jump started? Is there anything else that it could be? We love our mechanic, and he’s normally wonderful, but he was slammed the day we stopped by, and I didn’t feel like he was very helpful - he said he’d change the starter if we asked him to, but couldn’t guarantee that would fix the problem. And I’m thinking, isn’t it your job to troubleshoot this?

Any help appreciated - let me know if you need more info.

OK. Could be 2 problems. Dirty or corroded battery power & or ground cables. All grounds to the battery and chassis need to be clean and rust free. Battery cables need to be clean and corrosion free. There may be corrosion under the cable insulation. If this is not it, it could be a warn out starter that needs more power to get turning.

If the starter is hung up then jumping it won’t change that. It’s also the case that if the battery cables are going south then a jump start usually wont’ do anything, and I think you’re just looking at one of those two things.

The next time it won’t start just take something like a block of wood and thump on the starter some. If that gets it to crank, then I’d think about a new starter or reconditioning this one.

But even before that, the battery cables should be removed and cleaned and retightened at both ends, especially the grounds. If the cables are the originals, then my own personal choice would just be to replace them. Problems can hid under the insulation.