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92 Chevy Wouldn't Turn Over, Then Did

So, in the middle of nowhere (at a remote wildlife viewing area and 90 miles from the nearest town, population 130) my 1992 Chevy Silverado Pickup wouldn’t re-start after doing perfectly fine on a lengthy road-trip (and doing fine since I bought it in 2005).

The engine just would not turn over. No starter noise, no nothing. The gauges showed a fine charge, the lights worked, etc., but it wouldn’t turn over.

We tried 10 or more times: got out, wiggled battery cables, smacked what we thought was the starter, and then got back in the truck, laughed about how we couldn’t be further from civilization, and then called AAA.

In the middle of the AAA conversation, we tried it again, and it started. We drove to our vacation home 240 miles without turning of the ignition. Got home, turned it off, and then tried to start it again, and it started right up.

So, here are the questions:

What could it be?

What kind of diagnostics should we try?

We have another trip (from vacation place to regular home–160 miles of mountainous terrain) in a couple of days. Should we have someone look at it before then (holidays and all) or should we worry about it only if it happens again.

Of course, we won’t hold you liable for any of your advice, but we are eager for second, third, fourth, and fifth opinions at least.

If your truck has an automatic transmission, it could be the safety switch that prevents the engine from starting if the truck is not in either neutral or park. If it happens again, try moving the selector to neutral and then attempt to start the truck.

Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, it’s an automatic. It was in park, and we did try to move it out of and back into park to see if that did anything, but the gear selector wouldn’t let us move out of park. We did all sorts of stuff (put our seatbelts off and on. Got out locked the door, unlocked it, got back in. The fact that it happened out of the blue with no warning signs did leave us wondering if it was a safety function, but on a 92 truck, those are limited in number, I think.

Hmmm. I wonder if the gear selector or something in the transmission was not linking up correctly. We were parked on fairly level ground. We had also done a fair amount of driving on backroads, rough gravel, mud and snow, used 4WD Low, etc.

It could be a bad ignition switch. Did you try jiggling the switch as you were attempting to crank it over?

I was wondering about the ignition switch. I figured if it was the starter it wouldn’t have started at all, even after 15 times, so it must be something electrical or mechanical in the another part of the ignition system.

It didn’t feel like the switch was frozen or didn’t want to turn, but the turning did nothing. I had an old Datsun where the ignition switch just wouldn’t turn, and it had to be replaced.

When it finally did start (after the 12th or 15th try) I had taken the key out, put it back in, and I applied a bit more pressure with insertion and turning.

Maybe we found the answer?

Last call for other things to check before we head back home. Any other suggestions or worries. As is, sounds like if it happens on the way home, it might be idiosyncratic enough that we have a few more starts in it before it goes completely kapputz.