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97 Ford Escort won't start

My boyfriend drives a 97 Escort…

3AM this morning he calls me asking me where to put the coolant in. I advise him to put it in the resevior labeled radiator coolant only. He says okay, hangs up.

Ten minutes later he calls me and says the car won’t start. I ask him what sounds it’s making, and he says “Nothing”…Thank you Captain Obvious.

I tell him I’ll be there in a little bit to rescue him (again) and head to his work. I get ten minutes out and he tells me that a guy he works with gave him a jump and the car started. He drove it around the parking garage for a few minutes, then went and parked it again and shut the engine off. Now it won’t start again.

I get there, he doesn’t have jumper cables, and I can’t find mine. We make the “Midnight Run to Walmart” to get jumper cables then go back to his work.

On the way back, he tells me that when he was putting coolant into the resevoir, it overflowed and went everywhere. This made me think that the coolant dripped down onto the starter and shorted it out or something, but come to find out, this couldn’t have happened because of the placement of the starter behind (beside) the engine.

We try to jump it again from an '06 Altima…Nothing. When the ignition is turned on, we get lights, radio, misc. beeps and fans working for the AC, but still no vroom.

At this point it’s dang near 5AM, I’m tired, frustrated and grouchy…He’s frustrated and grouchy. I want to take a baseball bat to the car, he wants to kick it with his steel toe boots.

Long story short…

When I was taking the jumper cables off the battery, the negative terminal connector pretty much just slipped off the post.

We had to have the car towed back to my apartment.

So, I take the battery over to my local O’Reilly’s (God I love that place!) and had them test the battery. Battery is 100% on their meter. I talk to the guy, we’re mutually thinking it’s the starter.

Then I get to thinking…if the negative connector slipped off so easily when we tried to jump it, and then again when I took the battery out, and the positive one wasn’t hard to take off either, could it possibly be the cables and connectors. Also, the positive terminal as well as the very end of the cable was REALLY corroded.

I want to start with the cable/connector problem first. I was looking at the cables and trying to see if I could take them off and take them into O’Reilly’s to compare and replace, but I can’t figure out where all they lead to, and don’t want to start yanking cables off without being totally sure of where they’re going.

They look to be electrical taped up with other wires, and I don’t want to mess anything up.

Is this a good place to start?? Replace the cables and connectors and see what happens? And is it something I can do myself?

Money’s tight, so I’m hoping I can do this on my own to get him back up and running again to save us ANOTHER tow bill and shop charges.

(I know a little about cars…A heck of a lot more than him-LOL!-I just want to be sure if I can do this on my own, or does it need to go to a shop)

Thanks, and sorry for such a long story!

It is not really hard to change the terminals. But a word to the wise, get him to do most of the work and you tell him what to do.

If you give him the fish, he will never learn to fend for himself. If you teach him to fish, he will learn to feed himself.

True true…
He had the car two weeks and the wipers quit…I had him replace the wiper motor, and he did most of that by himself. (Still didn’t fix the wipers…I believe it’s a switch problem there. Beggars can’t be choosers on a $2K car.)

He’s off work tomorrow, I get home by six…I’ll have him get his hands dirty! LOL!
As far as changing the terminals/cables. The negative cable is connected to a computer chip looking thing, and ends about five inches down on the back of the engine, on the firewall. It connects to a bolt and what looks kinda like a wing-nut before going off further down into the dark recesses of mechanical heaven.
I can’t for the life of me figure out where the positive cable goes though, and that’s the one that probably REALLY needs replacing.

He was griping this morning that his dad never taught him all this stuff. Some dads do, some don’t…Mine MADE me help with any repairs to my old 79 Malibu, which is how I figured out how to do a lot of different stuff.
These days though…I try not to touch the newer stuff. Too many electrical things and computer stuff that I’d rather not mess up.

The positive cable usually goes straight to the starter.

Usually you can porbably just buy the terminals, cut the old terinals off, strip the cable and install the terminal there. But, if you want him to get down and dirty, have him change the positive cable.

Looks like it might be time for…
Life Lessons the Curbcheck way!!
I wish we could start the car and just run it over to O’Reilly’s and have that guy I talked to today take a look at it. Funny…the auto-parts store is two blocks away, but uphill…Too bad I don’t have a truck, I’d go rent a tow dolly and drag it over there (or to a shop for that matter.)

Tighten the terminals on the battery, and try to get it started. Clean them off first with a little baking soda and water. Dunk the terminals in a disposable cup with the solution. It will fizz and fuzz for a minute or so, but that will get them clean enough to make a good contact. Don’t get that stuff in the battery, it will be useless after that.

I think the terminals that are on there now are so warped/loose they won’t tighten anymore, but I will definitely give it a shot. Same thing for the baking soda/water mix.
Might be something to try when I get back from picking him up from work at 2:30 in the morning. Work when it’s cool and try that first. If that gets us through until payday, I’m game. Thanks for your help! If you think of anything else, I can teach him (and me too) let me know!

If you just put new ends on existing cables this will give you good electrical conductivity(providing you can clean everything up good. But these cable ends will become a maintiance item much more intensive than a cable with a terminal that is part of the cable. But on the other hand replacing the complete cable either postive or negative can (Iam not saying will in your case)be a taxing job. There are clips, correct routing paths and terminal ends that are hard to get to,sometimes work must be done from under the car. What i am saying is battery cable replacement can be trouble-some to say the least. You sound like you have a good additude towards the job so dont let me discourage you

It looks to me that the negative cable could be an easy fix…The positive on the other hand…It’s curled up, and doubled up, and then disappears into the guts.

It’s all a matter of having the time to get this done. I am going to try replacing the negative cable/terminal tomorrow after work. He has a job interview on Tuesday that he really needs to go to, and I can’t take any time off work. Maybe I should have gone to tech school even if just to piddle with fixing stuff.