97 ford explorer - randomly won't turn over

I have a 1997 Ford Explorer. Starting about 4 months ago I have had intermittent problems with it not wanting to start.
When you turn the key the radio and dome lights etc. come on but it is dead silence from the motor.
First time it happened we ended up replacing the starter solenoid. Next time we discovered that if you “jump” the 2 posts on the solenoid (using well insulated rubber handled pliers) while turning the ignition it will start every time.
Took it to a local, reputable mechanic - he is baffled. They looked at every connection and wire they could think of.
It is not the battery or solenoid, as best we can tell. It does not do it all the time. It will ocur, then it will start fine for 2 weeks then happen 3 times in a row, then not happenf for say another week or two.

Does the truck have an automatic transmission? If so just shift to neutral and see if it starts the next time the problem occurs. If it does then it’s a bad neutral safety switch. If you have a standard shift transmission then have the clutch safety switch checked or replaced. This is a very common problem but it’s often overlooked since it’s intermittent.

Thanks, I’ll try that.

It is an automatic. :wink:

I agree with the neutral switch diagnosis. In case there is any misinterpretation about this switch be advised that Ford also calls them “Range Selector Switches”.

If this turns out not to be the problem then it could be a security system issue. I’m not familiar with the Explorer layou but assume it’s similar to other Fords. A starter interupter relay is used as part of that system and will disable the starter motor if something is out of whack. Hope that helps.

Second on the neutral safety switch. If that doesn’t help, next step might be to try tilting the steering column up and down and try starting–the wiring can chafe with age.

Also, FYI, no need to have someone hold the key to “start” while you’re jumping the solenoid. All you need to do is set the key to “run.” Disclaimer: make CERTAIN the truck is in neutral (and I’d set the e-brake for fun too) because the cranking (and then running) engine will run you over if it’s in gear (auto or manual trans).

I’m assuming you already checked the power from the battery.

Yes, we had checked the battery etc! :wink:
The neutral trick worked like a charm. So it look slike a need a new range selevter switch.