I think she's due for a new starter

The customer brought in her 130,000 mile 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis complaining that the starter would click several times as she turned the key again and again, before it would make the the engine crank like crazy. I saw that the positive battery cable was badly corroded, and replaced the aftermarket end with a new aftermarket end. Everything was nice and clean. No difference. I tested the battery for load voltage with my good old Sun VAT-60. It tested good, sufficient voltage after 15 seconds under a 100 amp load. I removed the fuel pump relay so that the car would not stay running for long, and then would not start when the starter did engage. It drew 120 amps while cranking. That’s within spec for a fully warm engine.

I think what she has is a bad solenoid atop the starter, or perhaps a bad spot on the commutator that moves slightly with each click until the brushes are in another position. Then it will turn OK.

I think a new starter is needed. Am I on the right track? I don’t want to crawl under it unless I have to, and she doesn’t have money for me to make a mistake.

Sounds similar to what I had going on with a 1994 Chevy Blazer I used to own. Its starter had what was described as a “cold spot” where, if you were on it, you could turn the key ten times in succession and you’d get only a single click each time. Then suddenly on the 11th try it would fire right up, and you’d not see that “cold spot” again for months. In that case, replacing the starter resolved the problem as it never again happened after that.

Could’t hurt to ensure the positive cable from the battery to the starter is in good working order (aside from the just-replaced terminal of course). But I’d tend to agree that the starter is likely the culprit. I don’t think the solenoid is separately replaceable on these…and have fun getting access to that third bolt on the top. It’s pretty tight.

If the click appears to come from the starter motor then I’d suspect that is the problem also even though the 120 amps current draw is pretty good considering the miles.

These cars should also use a starter relay and a starter interrupt relay which should be located in the fuse box and behind the glove box respectively. Just pointing out that you need to make sure the click is the solenoid and not one of those relays. The solenoid should be louder with a click that is a bit more firm than a relay.

I’d replace the starter. The solenoid on top of the starter is tucked up under the exhaust manifold. You’ll need just the right length extension to remove the upper starter bolt, it’s between the solenoid and block and can’t be seen if I remember correctly.

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