2002 Subaru Forester L Electrical Nightmare

Hey guys. So I’ve been working on my girlfriend’s 02 forester with a friend. We just swapped an engine in and for the first night we were finishing up, it ran great. The next day we started on it again and the starter pretty much died. the car has 192k miles on it and had a junkyard starter from before i bought the car so i wasn’t too worried about it. Bought a reman’d starter from Advance (hearing from South Main Auto, those tend to be garbage). We hooked it up and noticed the negative battery terminal getting bright red and start to smoke. We quickly yanked it and noticed the bracket on the starter seemed to be grounding out so we removed it and hooked it back up and the battery seemed good again. Now whenever attempting to fire it up there are electrical gremlins out the wazoo. The doors will start rapidly locking and unlocking, the dash lights go pretty ballistic and then we smell a burning smell. I’m assuming somewhere there’s another short (possibly from the starter again) I’m not really sure where to begin searching for the new problem. I don’t really want to try cranking it to the point where we actually see smoke to trace it and cause more problems.

Disconnect all the starter wires and make sure the ends aren’t touching anything, then verify the battery measures around 12.6 volts. Next turn the key to “on” (not start). It won’t start of course, but are there any weird light flashings, anything else weird happening?

Note that when working with the electrical system good idea to disconnect the battery before removing or installing wires.

With this problem also a good idea to verify the engine turns freely by hand, with a ratchet socket on the crank bolt.

I will check that, however the car did not seem like it was wanting to charge. which of course could indicate the wiring problem spread to the alternator or the alternator itself has failed. We’ve been using a jumper pack to start the car.then removing the jumper.

I think I know what happened with the replacement starter since this same kind of thing happened on a Subaru that I was asked to look at. The starter was replaced on the car and connected up, and then when trying to reconnect the battery connections big sparks flew. I found that the main starter motor power connection to the starter solenoid was shorted to ground. This problem occurred when the starter was installed in the vehicle. The person simply over tightened the stud nut on the solenoid for the main cable connection. On the inside of the solenoid there is a square headed bolt that provides the connection for the main power lead to the starter. When the nut on the outside was tightened up they turned the stud bolt head inside the solenoid and the corner of the head made contact to ground. The result was a dead short to ground. Fortunately they disconnected the battery as soon as they saw the big sparks fly and by just turning the stud bolt slightly counter-clockwise the short was cleared and didn’t damage anything else. In your case I am afraid you may have more of a problem. Since the main ground was glowing red you most likely damaged other ground connections between the engine and the chassis of the car. You are most likely going to have to replace those wires.