1998 olds 88 won't start - negative lines oxidation

Car started fine yesterday. Went down to about 20 last night. New battery last summer. New starter April of 2010.

Car clicked once this morning and no turnover at start. Accessories worked OK. Battery checked OK. Cleaned the battery terminals even though they looked fine. Charged for 15 minutes. Still clicked once and no turnover. Jiggled the neg lines that run to the front fender and charged 15 more mins. Started. Went ahead and disassembled that terminal and cleaned the oxidation off the four wire terminals connected there. Is it possible to get one click and no turnover when those negative lines to the fender are not making good contact? Or, is it most likely something else?

I would really hate to get stranded somewhere this winter.


The negative is as important as the positive my friend…

When it started did the starter motor sound healthy? Did you restart it again? Sound good still? If so you found the issue and you’ll be fine.

You don’t mention the model but I had a 98 Intrigue that sometimes wouldn’t start and other times would stall at experssway speed. The ground cable from the battery is very short and grounds by a 10mm bolt into the inner fender right underneath the battery. I cleaned up that bolt a couple of times and it would br OK for a few month. I finally got a longer battery ground cable and bolted it to the engine block.

Yes - the corrosion will cause that.

You also want to worry about corrosion hidden underneath of the insulation. Perhaps it would be a good idea to just replace the entire ground wire.

A bad body ground will cause all kinds of crazy problems. Check and clean ALL the connections leading from the battery. Replace any suspect cables…

It started fine a couple times yesterday. I figured if the starter was getting enough ground, and the accessories were getting enough ground, the ground is fine. But it looks like not always. We’ll see how it goes today. It’s 20 degrees out there again.

If you have a connection from your battery and a condition like you describe, other things will also not have a proper supply current when you start.
Next time it happens, turn your radio on. If the radio goes out and your car does the ‘click’ thing, you probably have a bad connection somewhere near your battery or a bad ground somewhere.

Also very often, when the supply lines are not connected well, you’ll hear a ‘click-click-click-click’ while starting because the solenoid engages (‘click’), the voltage over the the starter drops because the cruddy wires can’t supply the required current, causing the solenoid to disengage (‘click’), the current draw drops causing the voltage to look normal once again, causing the solenoid to e-engage (‘click’) again. In electrical terms that phenomena is called "relaxation oscillation’. That goes on until you release the key or the battery voltage drops too far down.
It could be that your starter is going bad. They often become intermittent, like what you describe.

If, while you’re starting, the radio stays on, your problem is more likely to be the starter or the solenoid that sits on top of the starter. Hit that starter by putting a piece of 2x4 on it and whacking the 2x4 with a hammer. You want to shock the thing into submission, not bend it up.
If it now starts, the problem is your starter.

The clicking is the starter solenoid trying to make a nice strong physical connection to power the starter motor itself. The solenoid May also move the bendix gear into place as well…some do some don’t…But the moral of the story is that if you don’t have enough current the solenoid will click click click on you…