Balky Nissan

nissan
altima

#1

My son’s 1996 Altima is having a problem we can’t solve. Randomly it just fails to start. After working through many ideas and having the car examined over a period of months we are still no further toward solving the problem than when we started. It’s not flooding, we don’t think. It has stranded my son many times, but not always. This week, when it failed to start, he raised the hood in an attempt to help the engine cool ( we are in Oklahoma, and it’s been 100+ for weeks here) and as he was standing there he thought he heard a clicking sound as if a switch or relay released. He got in the car and it started right up. He heard the sound again later while sitting in the driver’s seat after it failed to start- a kind of “click” and then the car immediately started. It usually take 10-15 minutes for the car to start after it fails to do so. Any ideas or suggestions?


#2

Get a spark tester and a can of starter fluid from an auto parts store.

The next time it won’t start use these to see if you lack fuel or spark. This will cut the search in half. (The spark tester should come with instructions as should the starter fluid, but you basically just shoot some of that into the intake).

All of that is assuming that by “fails to start” you mean the engine cranks over just fine but won’t fire up.


#3

It seems heat is a factor. I assume you haven’t gotten a lot of rain, recently.
It’s possible the click sound came from the starter solenoid, which should be in the starter, but in the past was an external part, and possibly in your son’s car is external.

D/C systems don’t like heat, since heat adds resistance to current flow, and it’s not as if you have the car plugged into a 110 volt electrical outlet. I would look first for bad (corroded and/or loose) battery and starter connections (which you can usually just clean and tighten), and go from there to think about replacing the starter. Maybe replace the starter cable outright first. If the solenoid is external, replace this $20 or $30 part as well.
I assume you get nothing from the starter at all, no crank, and then after the car cools down, the starter works and the car starts right up.