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Easy One: How Many Wires to connect up my new starter?

2000 Honda Accord, V6.

Last fall everything was so easy to replace my alternator after a 30 yr hiatus from car work. This February it has been quite the opposite, too difficult, to replace my starter. But, it is finally mounted after almost 3 weeks. This long span of time, however, leaves me wondering if it is only two wires that I need connect up to the starter, or three? Why?, because I turned on the ignition and I still only have the click, click, click, etc. sounds when I started this exercise. (I have not yet told my wife because I have enough embarrasement about the 3 week project duration.) Help?

Typically two wires on Hondas. One big cable from the starter to the big lug on the solenoid housing, and one spade connector to the small blade connector on the solenoid housing. There is one other cable, however, but it should have been connected before you got it. It is a large cable from another big lug on the solenoid to the motor.

The ignition switch sends a ‘low’ amp signal to the solenoid through the small wire attached to the blade connector when you turn the key to ‘Start’. The low amp signal makes the solenoid close, which is the click you hear. This does two things. It puts the pinion gear from the starter into the flywheel and it closes the circuit to send ‘high’ amp power from the battery to the starter motor. This circuit doesn’t close if the pinion gear doesn’t fully seat into the flywheel.

If you hear rapid clicking when you turn the key, it means the battery is too low on power to turn the engine. If you hear one click, and the lights do not dim, either the solenoid is bad or the motor is bad. It also could mean there is a problem with the cable sending high amp power to the starter, like corrosion on the cable ends. If this cable uses a secondary lug connection and uses two cables to get power from the battery to the starter, this lug connection may be corroded as well.

I hear rapid clicking, but I doubt it is a low battery like you suggest. It was fully charged three weeks ago. Still, I will have to ckeck the battery.

Also, the starter is flushly mounted up against the engine so even though the two mounting bolts went back in with difficulty (top one is only a tad crooked)(the bottom one was stripped when I initially removed it, but a new bolt went back in well enough with a little grease) the unit feels firmly mounted and flush/straight.

How old is the battery? Three weeks on an old battery will see a lot of discharge. I’d take it in for a load test.

Couple years old. It was a $200 gel pack, or something like that. It was all they had at the NTB Store and I did not want to drive any further at the time.

My mistake might be that I wired the big wire to the lug on the motor NOT the lug on the selenoid. Could this be it?
NO, NO, I went to look…appears okay.

That would make the motor spin constantly. Load test the battery. Trust me.

Try to jump start the car with another car. I’ll bet it fires up.

Tried it. The jumpt start attempt sounded just like before. Rapid click, click, click.


Your symptoms are those of low voltage at the starter. That’s usually caused by a low battery, but it also can be caused by bad connections in the electrical path or by a defective cable. The usual way to handle this is:

  1. If you have a multimeter, check the voltage between the positive battery terminal and the starter, and the negative battery terminal and engine ground while someone is trying to start the car. There will probably be measurable voltages, but if most or all of the battery voltage is being dropped outside the starter, you have a connection/cable problem, not a battery or starter problem.

  2. Without a multimeter:

a. Remove the battery connections. Scrape them to bright metal. Reattach

b. Track the wire attached to the negative battery terminal to wherever it goes. Unbolt it. Scrape to bright metal as best you can. Reattach.

c. Look carefully at the battery cables near the battery. Sometimes battery acid finds it’s way into the cables somehow and eats them – converting the copper wire to white and/or blue salts that are lousy electrical conductors. The cure for that is to replace the cables.

The previous advice about the large power cable from the battery is good. The large cable DOES power the starter MOTOR; but, it doesn’t power the starter SOLENOID (which is making the “click, click, click”).

The starter solenoid is powered by a small wire from the ignition switch. Poor wire connections along the way, from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid, cause the voltage to drop by the time it gets to the starter . The dropped voltage is not enough to energise the starter solenoid; only enough to make it go “click, click, click”.

To find where the poor connections are, from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid, requires following the path of the small wire and checking its voltage at points along that path. Some “mechanics” who don’t know how, or won’t, perform these checks, use the expedient(?) of just changing parts until they get lucky.

I succeeded in getting the car started, but probably need to replace the negative cable from the battery to whereever it goes (it appears to be grounded to a brace near the radiator; also grounded to a spot apparently on the engine).

How I succeeded in getting the car started was to jump start it, but not connecting battery to battery. Instead, positives where connected between batteries, but the nagative on the “dead” car was attached to a bolt on the engine. That worked. Initially I attached the negative to a metal brace near the radiator…that did nothing.

I’ve noticed a lot of car makers run the negative to the chassis first before the engine. This creates all kinds of issues, and I’m sorry I didn’t think of it at first. I would run the ground cable from the battery to the engine block first, then run a cable from the engine to chassis to avoid problems like this in the future. A simple modification that will save you headaches in the future.

HELP! Thought I solved things, but not quite. Okay, I’ve replaced the negative battery cable which runs directly to a nearby brace and again directly from the negative terminal to the engine. So there are two negative wires running, which sounds good. Result…rapid click, click, clicks when I try to start the vehicle. Hmm, remember I successfully started the vehicle with a jump start, positive terminal to positive terminal, negative terminal to “dead” vehicle’s bolt on engine block, which I thought zeroed in on the former negative battery cable. ???

I could replace the positive battery cable, but come on, my language above zeroed in on the former negative battery cable being the problem. HELP!

Are all the connections and battery connections clean, shiny, tight, and not cracked or broken? The problem is obviously getting good current through the battery and the cables to the engine. There’s a bad connection somewhere, and the jumpstart technique you used suggests it is at the battery or battery to chassis. Clean everything to a nice, shiny connection and make sure they are reassembled and tight. BTW, are you absolutely sure the battery is fully charged?

You were right, apparently the battery was weak. I jumped with direct battery to battery connections and it worked fine.