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Car won't start.....sometimes

1988 Mazda 323. Recently replaced fuel pump and filter. Then ignition switch. Also made a new key. Car won’t start sometimes. The lights come on the dash and the seatbelt buzzer goes off but no turnover sound at all. Then after I try a few times, it will start (mostly)especially with the new key.

Car has 280,000 very tough miles. Mail carrier. Engine leaks oil and needs to be replaced but don’t think that has anything to do with the starting.

I think maybe it’s the distributor (wires? cap?) or cellinoid (sp?). Mechanic says he can’t fix it because it always starts for him. Ignition switch was a shot in the dark and appeared to make it start pretty regularly (til today).

Help? Opinions?

Automatic transmission? If so, try wiggling the gearshift or shifting into NEUTRAL when it acts up.
If the car starts then the neutral safety switch is likely faulty and that is not a major fix at all.


Are you sure you are putting the clutch all the way to the floor? You could put a jumper wire around the clutch switch that disables the starter to see if that cures it but then you could start the car up in gear.( Like you could for 60 years before they mandated another SSD - silly safety device. )

With a manual transmission I would agree with the clutch interlock switch diagnosis.

Agreed. Probably the clutch interlock switch, or possibly the starter. I don’t think the new key had anything to do with the problem or had a hand in solving the problem. This car is too old to have a factory security system that involves the key. An ignition system tuneup will not help a no crank situation. The other possibility is operator error, as in, the clutch isn’t getting pushed in far enough to close the circuit on the interlock switch.

Thank you for your suggestions. Yes, I’m sure I’m putting the clutch all the way to the floor. I’ve never driven anything but manual and I’ve delivered mail with this car for 15 years. In addition, it will also not start for my husband.

The reason we got the new key is because the original key was showing signs of wear and when we took the car to the mechanic, who had no problems starting it, the only difference was that he had a key that was rarely used. We thought perhaps my key was so worn it wasn’t making contact as it should.

I always start the car in gear. Not sure if that is useful info or not. Should I try starting it in neutral when it won’t start next time (which will probably be tomorrow)?

A few months back the clutch pin broke apart and was replaced. When they replaced it, they didn’t adjust it properly and I spent a few days shoving it into gear (not stripping it but there was some resistance). Took it back to them, they adjusted it, works fine now.

I have to work 6 days this week, but next Monday, we’ll be taking it to the shop. Maybe I’ll have him replace clutch interlock switch and see if that works.

We haven’t taken it to the local Mazda dealer for diagnosis. If the clutch interlock switch is the problem, could they hook it up to the computer and find out? Our mechanic doesn’t have access to the data for cars as old as mine.

Thanks for your help, and if you think of anything else, or have any questions that may help, please feel free to ask or suggest. I’ll be gone all day today, but will be back tonight and on the road tomorrow. Sure hope I don’t have to deliver from the back-up car. It’s even older than this one!

There is no need whatsoever to take this car to the dealership. This problem should be very easy to figure out, and if anything, a good independent mechanic will have better luck diagnosing it than a dealership mechanic. They never see cars this old, whereas independents see them fairly regularly. The clutch interlock switch is easy to test and easy to replace. All it takes is a $10 multimeter to test one.

It’s the safety switch on the clutch peddle, it just a little out of adjustment.

Here how I’d test it. Next time it won’t start, leave the key in the crank position and let up on the clutch peddle and press it down hard, do this several times and I’m betting it’ll start to crank and start.

My opinion is subject to change with new facts.

Ok, when we take it to the mechanic next week, we’ll have him test the clutch interlock switch.

Also when it won’t start for me this week, I’ll try leaving the key in the crank position and pressing down the clutch a few times. When it wouldn’t start on Saturday, it did seem to have a little hesitation and then finally started so this is definitely worth a try.

Hope we can get this fixed. I’m trying to make this vehicle last til I can retire (or the PO provides me a vehicle).

Again, thanks for all your help and if you think of anything else, please post and we’ll give it a try.

cub412 did you ever find out what the problem was?..i am having same problems with my car also manual transmission.