'97 Nissan Maxima starter/ignition switch mystery

This is my third dance with the Maxima (post '95) and the car is great save for one minor drawback…when the air temp. warms to over 70 the ignition/starter process fails, no clicks or whirrs just silence when the key is turned forward to start. The starter will eventually engage after repeated attempts, continuously turning the key forward and back to start for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The dealer wants $400+ for a starter and $250+ for an ignition switch and can’t tell me why this happens. I don’t believe they know or care. Any thoughts out there from Maxima owners or mechanics? Google shows me this is a very common problem with no definitive solution (I put 3 starters in a '96).

70 degrees F certainily is within the operating parameters of the starter/automobile, perhaps your link between the temp and the sympton is not correct. When customers came to me with such a link I would shy away from taking their car on because I thought the customer was eccentric and the complaints would be never ending.

The only possibility I can come up with is something inside the car gets heated well above 70F when the car sits with the windows up. Does the same sympton exist if the ambient reaches 70F and the windows are down?

The temp. inside the car is irrelevant. If you’d bothered to google this topic you’d have seen this is very common. Mechanics with attitudes such as yours is why the public doesn’t trust your profession. You are quick to mouth off without even reading the posting completely or researching the topic, in short you don’t have an answer you just like spouting off. Thanks but no thanks.

I assume you have an automatic transmission and if so I would suspect the neutral safety switch may be causing the problem. Try shifting to neutral when this trouble happens again. If that works then the switch is bad or in need of adjustment. You could also try moving the shifter around in the Park position to see if that will help.

If those things don’t help you then need to see if the starter solenoid is getting power from the ignition switch in the Start position. That is the small lead on the solenoid. If power is getting to that point and the solenoid isn’t working then the solenoid is bad. I assume the solenoid is mounted with the starter.

Thanks! It is an auto and I have played around with the positions with inconsistent results. My sense (I sold used cars to get through college) is that both the ignition switch and the starter are involved but that there is a third and possibly primary problem which is involved and while operator error is always a possibility this is a (google) very common problem and my instincts tells me there is a third and definitive component.

You might want to check out the inhibitor relay located in relay box #2. This is what supplies power to the starter solenoid when the ignition switch is turned to start position.


Thank you, this is the first time I’ve heard of the relay. I took the car to a mechanic that owns a 96 Maxima and he put it on an elaborate volt meter device and surmised it was the starter. His theory is that when the ambient temp. rises the starter is prone to failure which would explain why this doesn’t happen in winter but not why it happens with different subsequent (replacement) starters. I’ll have him do as you suggest before we put in the rebuilt starter. Thanks again.

What is your theory about the condition being temperature related? 70 ambient should not affect starter. We do see cars who’s condition is agravated by inside temps (Honda for one) If the problem is so common why can’t you fix it? It is clear to me why the Dealer shows a “doesn’t care” attitude, it is how we motivate certain customers to move on, along with pricing high.

I have a similar problem. Mine is a 96 automatic transmission. Sometimes, none of the dummy lights come on when I turn the key to on position, which means, when I turn the key farther to start, there is no sound at all. I checked out the battery, starter and alternator, so it is none of those. Another interesting thing is that even though none of the dummy lights go on when the key is in “on” position, when the car finally starts later for no particular reason, the clock is showing the correct time.

I am leaning toward the alarm system that came with the car, because sometimes when I open the trunk with a key, the alarm would sound. So, I have to open the trunk by pressing the release button on the driver’s side door.

Is there a fuse or anything else that could affect this? following the comment below, I switched the fuse lebeled wiper with the one labeled starter or something. But the problem persists.

A faulty relay would be a prime suspect for this kind problem. If you shifted to neutral and it still didn’t change then the problem is most likely with the relay that Tester mentioned. I suggest you do a search on how automtive starting systems work. It will help you understand things better.

Thanks for posting this up here.my Nissan Maxima 96" was doing the samething so I found
the Inhibitor Relay Switch I am going to replace it cost $ 23.96 + tax. I will let you know if it works.

But when i disconnected the relay switch and tried to start it it did not do anything
so i no now it’s has to be it.


Were you able to jump the relay and cause the car to crank? You conclude that because the engine wont crank if the relay is removed from the circuit that it must be the part that is failing when the engine fails to crank. This does not prove that the relay is at fault when the car fails to crank.