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Car Won't Start - Couple Suspects in Mind

A couple weeks ago I bought a perfectly functional 1988 Toyota Cressida. To cut to the chase, fast forward to last Saturday, I decided to run the correct amount of Seafoam through the brake booster line. Worked like a charm! Car ran great, idled smooth, good power delivery, etc.

I did some other maintenance work under the hood the day after (Sunday), including charging the battery. I removed the connections from the car and gave it a good charge, all the way to full. Then I reconnected it to the car and called it a night.

This morning, I was getting ready to head to work, and tried to start my car. When I did, the ignition turned into a solid “click” noise and then the interior lights faded a little but didn’t go out. Even though I was in a hurry, I hooked the battery up to the charger to see if I had left something on over night and lost power. Nope. Full charge. I popped the hood quick to see if the connectors to the car were loose on the battery. The positive one was a little, maybe. That was about it.

I didn’t have time to do much else, because I managed to catch a ride with the wife, luckily. So here’s what I’m thinking. Either I didn’t connect the battery connectors tightly enough (d’oh) or the Seafoam I ran through the brake booster line to the crankcase had fouled my plugs heavily…which would make sense on a 200k mile car.

Can any of you automotive detectives point me in the right direction? Luckily, I was planning on changing my spark plugs anyway, so if it’s that, no big deal. I’m just hoping that I didn’t accidentally bump, disconnect or otherwise ruin something that makes my car start. Thanks in advance!

It sounds like a loose connection. Did you clean the terminals before reconnecting? I do this regularly, any time I disconnect a battery. Corrosion on the terminals can cause this problem. Any auto parts store carries battery terminal brushes, which is a double ended wire brush, one for the battery top post and one for the battery clamp. They are cheap, and do a great job.

It could also be a bad starter. If the car ran great after the seafoam treatment, I doubt that it did anything to keep the engine from turning over. Any residual seafoam would have burned out. If cleaning the terminals and tightening the clamps doesn’t fix it, I’d look at the starter.

A Good Example Of … "If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It! Suspects? … Have You Got A Mirror?

The solid “click” is because of the battery, not the plugs. You either did make a connection worse or killed an old battery by over-charging, kind of like an automotive heart-attack!

Common Sense: I sure hope you’re right. I can handle buying a new battery since that one was an older Wal-Mart battery. All said and done, the battery, when connected, had about 2/5 bars on the charger. When it was done, several hours later, there were 5/5. Hopefully that wasn’t too long to kill the battery. But, like I said, that beats the starter being bad. I’ll clean the terminals, make sure it’s tight and see if a new battery doesn’t fix it.

It’s probably a loose connection. Check everything and clean the terminals.

But I have to ask…why did you charge the battery. If the car is running fine…there should be no reason what-so-ever to charge the battery. I’ve NEVER heard of anyone ever doing this on a perfectly good running vehicle.

Carefully And Safely Jump It From A Good Battery Source And See If That’s It!

follow proper procedures so that one or two cars don’t get blown-up batteries or alternators.

You’ve Never Been “Bored Out Of Your Ever-Loving Mind”, Before?

I’ll just bet once (or maybe twice) you screwed something up that was perfectly good! I think it’s part of being human.

Mike, I’ve gotta tell you, this is classic overmaintenance on my part. I should really get a hobby or something. In all truth, sometimes the car was slow to start or seemed low on juice so I figured maybe this would help. But in retrospect, you guys are right - if it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

sometimes the car was slow to start or seemed low on juice so I figured maybe this would help.

By all means, clean and inspect both the battery and cable terminals, clean them and pay particular attention to the area where the terminals connect to the wire cables. If everything looks good, then your battery is likely kaput. The charger can only sense terminal voltage and charging current. A battery that only has 1/10 of its rated capacity may look good to the charger but cannot supply enough juice to start the car. Some local auto parts stores will perform a load test on your battery for free. Bear in mind that the type of test they do can weed out most bad batteries but is not comprehensive enough to identify certain kinds of fault problems.

I just want to clarify something quick to make sure I’m on the right track here.

When I first put the key in the ignition and turned it forward to start the car, I got lights and accessories in the car as I normally would. Then, after I tried to start it, I got the solid “click” I mentioned. Afterward, the lights on the dash were dim and I also couldn’t even turn on the headlights (I did this to test if there was a charge in the battery). When I popped the hood, the positive terminal was on the correct post, but a bit loose…is that enough to cause the problem I had?

Like I said, the plan is still the same. Check the connection, then try a new battery. Thanks again guys.


Yes! It All Sounds Correct!

Thanks, you guys rock. I’ll check things out after work and post an update in the discussion later tonight.

Double post. Nothing to see here folks.

Batteries have a “surface charge” which give a burst of power for a few seconds; then, dissipates…like yours did.

I said I’d report on my findings later tonight. You guys were right, loose terminal. It was pretty tight but not tight enough. After I took the terminals off, I put some contact point cleaner on and tightly reattached the terminals. Started right up after that. Sometimes it’s the simplest stuff that’s wrong - hey, I’m just glad I didn’t need a new battery! Case closed.

Great job of recovering. Be sure to tell your wife it was something pretty close to rocket science but you worked it through using “common_sense” (only because it sounds better than 'worked it through using MikeInNH")

Case closed.

Not so fast. Why did you need to charge the battery? If you have a good battery and a good charging system, you should never need to charge a battery unless you left the trunk light on over the weekend.