Battery, Starter, or other problem

We recently purchased a 2002 Ford Windstar with only 63,000 miles. Our mechanic did a complete check of the vehicle before we purchased it and found that it needed front brakes and then the regulary scheduled flushes.

One week after purchase the van would turn over but not start. We found out the battery was going out and the dealer replaced it for us under the warranty.

Now, two weeks later when I went to start the van it clicked but nothing else happened. It didn’t even try to start. I called my husband who came to assist me. When he put his key in the ignition it started right up.

Any ideas why it would do this and is this a symptom of a bigger problem yet to come?

Thank you for your help.

And now your key also works with out problem? Don’t link the fix so strongly to the use of a different key.

Check to make sure the alternator is actually charging the battery.

I am thinking along the same lines as Uncle Turbo.
Have the alternator output checked.

Since the battery is new, we can reasonably assume that the connections at the battery are clean. On a 7-year-old car, other connections could be loose or corroded, but it is unlikely.

The first, simplest, and cheapest check is to take an inexpensive volt meter and measure the voltage across the battery terminals.

A fully charged battery will have 12.6 volts when the car is off. If it is less than that, the battery is not being charged by the alternator, or it is failing to accept a charge (unlikely since battery is new).

Battery voltage should dip to around 10 volts when you crank the engine to start it. Lower than that suggests a poorly charged or defective battery, or shorted windings in the starter that are pulling a lot of current but not doing any work.

After the car starts, at fast idle, the charging system should bring the voltage at the battery terminals up to 13.5-14.5 volts. If not, the charging system is not working properly. Looking at your alternator in the catalog, it appears to have an integrated voltage regulator that is not easily replaced, so for practical purposes, there is only one ‘part’ in your charging system.

The bottom line here is that if a car just clicks one time, and then cranks and starts the next, you are probably looking at a new starter. This is a Bosch starter with an electric motor, an electric solenoid, and a gear-down gearbox. Any of those three parts can fail, but the shop will not repair it. They will replace it as a complete unit. It is unusual for this starter or this alternator to fail this new, but anything is possible.

I would replace the battery cables. I have seen 2 sets go bad and cause all kinds of electrical problems. Its a cheap fix.

I doubt the keys have anything to do with this trouble. The real problem may be with a faulty starter solenoid or neutral safety switch. Try moving the shift lever around the next time this happens. If that works then the neutral safety switch may need adjustment or replacement.

Thank you all for your input. We will do some checking on the electrical system this week and let you know what we find out.

We found out what the problem was. There were two keys on my key ring to this van, both of which fit every key hole. However, only one of them has the chip in it that allows you to start the vehicle. Yep, you guessed it, I was using the wrong key. It was late, dark, and I was very tired. That key is no longer on my key ring. Disclaimer: I’m pregnant, chasing after a 23 month old, taking care of my 79 year old dad who is recovering from having his kidney removed (cancer), and taking care of my husband’s 87 year old grandfather.