Car that Requires a Nap Between Drives

I drive a 1997 Plymouth Breeze that was given to me by my husband while we were engaged. The “check engine” light has been on since before we met, and it makes a clicking noise that my husband thinks is the alternator, but it hasn’t had any issues in performance until this winter.

The problem is, if I turn the car off for a short time (getting the mail, filling the tank, etc.) and then try to start it back up, the engine won’t turn over. Sometimes it tries and fails, and sometimes all I hear is the “click” of turning the key. This has happened after both short and long drives, whether or not I have things turned on like the radio, heat, etc.

The strange thing is that the car will start up just fine if it’s given a half hour or more to rest after being turned off. What could be causing this?

Heat. When you shut the car down after it’s been running at full temp, the temperature under the hood rises. The internal heat in the engine is no longer being carried away by the coolant and the blowing air, so it just radiates out the sides of the engine and heats up the compartment. Some components, including starter motor solenoids and relays, can become heat sensitive over time.

A shop will need to look at this. If you have a local shop that you use and know the mechanic of, perhaps you can make arrangements for them to check it while it’s still hot. They can simply chack to see if voltage os getting to the starter motor assembly, and if it is and the solenoid isn’t energizing it’ll be the solenoid. If the solenoid is energizing (I suspect that’s the “click” you hear) but the starter isn;t turning, it’ll likely be the contacts in the assembly that enable the starter motor circuits. They get fried with use and can get intermittant.

Normall when the starter solenoid energizes, it (1) connects the starter motor gear to the flywheel ring gear, and (2) enables the starter motor circuits through mechanically activated “contacts”. I suspect that the contacts are fried. The shop will suggest a new starter motor assembly.

But I emphasize…this is a guess…it may be as simple as a corroded battery cable connection. It needs to be looked at.