Buick won't start

1998 Buick Regal LS w/3.8L

My daughters showed up at Uncle A’s burial without a problem. When we went to start the car, it wouldn’t do anything, even make a noise. It made noises when we tried to jump start the car. The noise was a loud, repetitive clacking sound. But the engine did not turn over. Anyone have an idea what it might be? I have a couple, but I already know them. It’s your ideas I’m interested in.

BTW, no jokes about dead cars in the graveyard. We’ve already been there. (Jokes and graveyard).

Dang! That doesn’t leave much room jt.

I’m going to say you have a starter problem.

Perhaps corroded/loose or damaged connectors/connections) from the battery to the stater or may be a bad starter solenoid.
Which, as you likely already know is integral to the starter.

The battery terminals are in good condition. I did not check the starter connector, but the starter is at the top of my list, too. Thanks, RR. BTW, you don’t have to answer it on The Old Wrench. But you can if you want to!

One additional note: You can’t move the transmission lever out of park; we didn’t check it with a jump box (it’s raining today).

The battery on the Buick probably has an internal short and therefore absorbs the power from the car giving the jump and not enough power goes to the starter. I’ve had this happen and the solution is a new battery.

The tow driver checked the battery and said that it had plenty of juice.

One area to check is the positive battery cable connection. This vehicle has the side mount battery terminals, and under the red rubber cover for the postive connection corrosion can form and cause a voltage drop to the vehicles electricals. Remove the battery terminals and peel back the red rubber cover for the positive connection. If a greenish/white powder substance is found under this rubber cover, that’s what’s probably causing the starting problem.


The shop seems to think that this is it. They will replace the battery and see if there is anything else.

The positive terminal is in great condition - it looks like new. The plastic cap snaps over the base and prevents water from getting inside. As I mentioned above, the battery will be replaced to see if that’s it. Another clue is that there doesn’t seem to be any power inside the car - I can’t get the transmission lever out of park, for instance. I guess this means that the ignition switch doesn’t get enough juice to release the safety switch on the transmission.

Simple troubleshooting.

Using a voltmeter measure the battery voltage, AT THE POSTS. Then measure while trying to start the car. Both should be 12 + volts. Less is a bad battery.

Next measure from the positive CABLE to the negative post. Again while trying to start the engine. Less than 12 volts says bad connections.

Next measure from the battery connection at the starter to the negative battery post. Again while trying to start the car. Less than 12 volts says a bad cable.

If none of these tests indicates less than 12 volts the starter or solenoid is bad.