Is it the Battery, Alternator, or Starter?

I have a 94 S10 pickup and I’ve been having the following problem. When I get in it in the morning, I turn the key, the dash lights up, but nothing happens. I turn off the radio and the heater, and sometimes it may turn over. Yesterday I did all that and it still didn’t want to start. The dash lights came on but nothing at all when I turned the ignition. It took me about 5 minutes before it just kicked over like normal. Once it starts, it runs fine, it just getting it started.

Its got over 70000 miles and is a 4 banger. I just don’t know what may be causing the problems. Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

This post has been moved to the new Car Talk Discussion Area, by a Car Talk Lackey. The original poster is Bird30.

Sounds like corroded battery cables. As suggested here many times, clean BOTH ends of ALL battery cables shiny bright. (Think wire brush, emery cloth, …) Also clean the attachment points. If that doesn’t fix it, have the charging system tested. It could be any or all of your items.

While you’re at it, clean the ends of that ground wire between engine and fender/frame/firewall wherever it is found. Seems useless but it helps prevent problems. It couls be any of the problems you asked about too.

The first thing to check with the GM side mount battery terminals is the positive terminal.

Remove both terminals from the battery, and peel back the red rubber cover that protects the two positive cable terminals. It’s under this red rubber cover where corrosion can form and cause a voltage drop to the power distribution center. And this can cause the problem you describe.


If, after checking your battery connections you still have a problem, my bet would be you have a stick starter solenoid. These are commonly included in the starter.

Get a friend to bang on the starter with something like a broom handle while holding the ignition in the start position.

If it spins after tapping on it, sounds like a dead spot on the starter comutator or bad brushes (or perhaps as mentioned the solenoid).

It sort of depends on what you mean by “nothing at all”… REALLY nothing, like not even a “click”? A bad starter / solenoid will at least go click, ditto for a dead battery, usually. The alternator I don’t see being involved. I’m guessing your battery cable connections aren’t tight enough, or are dirty, corroded etc. as mentioned. The radio thing is probably a coincidence, or possibly it’s your ground-connections…