97 Ford Ranger - Didn't start until I brought down the hammer (literally)

Ok, I have 1997 Ford Ranger, 4cyl, manual transmission, and more miles than I’d like to admit to.

Yesterday, I noticed that one of the vacuum lines was coming dangerously close to hitting the serpentine belt on the front of the engine. The clamp that normally holds the vacuum line in place rusted away a decade ago, so I decided to use some velcro ties to attach the line to the positive battery cable. I didn’t twist or pull on the cable in any way and the vacuum line isn’t applying any force to the cable.

I get in the truck a few hours later, hit the key and I get >click<, but nothing out of the starter. One click when the key is in the start position, nothing more (as opposed to click-click-click).

Not thinking about my repair earlier, I went down to Autozone and had them test the battery - 12.8V and 550CCA, no problem there.

So then, I thought well since the click is coming from the starter relay, maybe that’s where the problem is. I read on another forum that sometimes the starter relay can be resurrected temporarily by hitting it with a hammer. Which I did. And it did work!

Now the truck is starting up normally every time, but I’d like to replace whatever was bad.

My questions to you fine folks:

  1. Did I prove anything by hitting the starter relay with a hammer and then starting the truck?
  2. Should I still be looking at the battery cables?
  3. Should I stop hitting random parts with a hammer and take this truck down to a real mechanic before I do serious damage?

yeah, you have either a bad connection or bad starter relay,IMO

You just proved the fact that you may have a bad starter or starter bendix. When you have the starter removed…take a good look at the flywheel and make sure the teeth are not damaged. If the bendix is bad…replace the starter as well. It probably has more miles on it than you are willing to admit as well. Don’t feel bad though…I carried a broom handle and small hammer around with me in my 1994 Ranger because it had the exact same problem. I used that technique until the weather warmed up and I could replace the starter.

I m sorry, I assumed the starter relay was on the side wall of the engine comprtment, adjacent to the battery, as it is on my old ford truck

You’re right wesw, it is on the side wall. I’m thinking of replacing it since it’s cheap ($15) and accessible. I guess I’m really wondering if I should go ahead and do the cables too, while I’m at it.

Or maybe I’ll go with missileman’s suggestion and just bring the hammer with when I go out.

you can probably just cut back the cables, if you have the length, and make sure you clean the terminals on the battery and the relay with a wire brush or something similar. a little oxidation inhibitor afterwards will help it from happening again soon, if corrosion was the problem. claen all connections and wire ends well, and it might solve your problem. I used to just yank on my relay wires a bit and it would start. when I finally broke down and took it apart to clean the wires properly, I cracked the relay, so I got another too

i used to have a starter i used to have to bang on, but that was the problem missileman suggested

Definitely stop hitting stuff with the hammer :wink: … A mechanic could find what’s all wrong and get you back to reliability without too much expense I expect.

I had a similar problem on my Ford truck, and replacing the starter relay was all I needed to do. If you wanted to do it yourself, what I’d do is a basic clean-up and inspection of the high current pathways. Remove the battery, clean it top/bottom/sides thoroughly, then clean the posts with one of those battery terminal cleaning gadgets. Then while the battery is out of the way, carefully inspect the wiring from the battery to the starter relay, and from the starter relay to the starter motor. Any signs of burned connections, fraying, wiring pulling apart or stands coming loose, replace that portion of the wiring. Next I’d disconnect all those wires (draw a diagram first) and clean the various connections, remember to clean the ones that connect to the battery post too. After doing all that, putting everything back together, and I still had to hit the starter relay with a hammer once in a while, then I’d replace the starter relay.

for some reason, it has been my experience, ford trucks have this problem frequently. George explained it better than I did. I would use some type of oxidation inhibitor to prevent it happening again soon. I have some cutting wax I use for drilling, tapping and screwing in to metal that seems to work well