Jeep won't start...unless I push it ahead a few feet first


#1

Hello Car Talk community!

I recently had some wires fixed under the hood of my 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, because it wouldn’t start. The mechanic told me that it looked like a squirrel had been making a nest under the hood and had chewed on some wires. I suspect that it may have happened over a long period of time, but I’m not positive of that.

Since then, a couple of times it has not started. I get in, turn the key, and all I hear is a click (not a repeated clicking). However, maybe due to something I remembered from Car Talk, I’ve been able to get it to start by putting it in neutral, pushing it forward a foot or two, and then putting it back in park and turning the key again. When I do that, it starts right up.

I think I’ve heard similar stories on the show before…could anybody point me to one of those? Alternatively, if you happen to know what part of the starter system is most likely at fault, I’d appreciate it if you could let me know.

Thanks in advance.

Cheers


#2

It may be a failing neutral safety switch except for the click that you hear throws in some confusion. Next time the problem occurs just shift to neutral and try to start.


#3

“I’ve been able to get it to start by putting it in neutral, pushing it forward a foot or two, and then putting it back in park and turning the key again. When I do that, it starts right up.”

The part about needing to push the vehicle may be a red herrring.
What if you just moved the shift lever from park to neutral and back to park without moving the vehicle?
If that works, then I would say that your neutral safety switch needs to be adjusted or replaced.


#4

The other possibility is a dead spot in the starter where moving the vehicle bumps it just enough. This would mean a new starter.


#5

All,

Thanks for your answers. I neglected to mention that the second time it wouldn’t start, I did put the shifter into neutral and then tried to start it, with the same result (nothing but a single click).

So, with that additional information, does that confirm the starter as the problem or is there another possibility? Since the wires had been “messed with” recently (by the squirrel and the mechanic) I would’ve thought that it could be something “connection related”.

Also, are there any other things I should try when it happens again to rule out and/or confirm the possibilities?

Thanks in advance.

Cheers


#6

If a squirrel chewed on some wires you need to have your mechanic re-check for more damage and if none is found have him remove the starter and bench test it repeatedly.


#7

Check the battery connections and make sure they’re clean and tight.

Tester


#8

The click you hear is likely from the started solenoid, the solenoid contacts are worn and power is not getting to the starter motor. This usually occurs when the engine is cold. The next time this happens turn the key to the crank position repeatedly, after 5 to 10 clicks the solenoid will become warmer and make contact. The starter will have to be rebuilt or replaced.


#9

Is the click coming from the solenoid or the ignition switch? If it’s just the ignition switch you’re hearing and power isn’t getting to the solenoid it could be bad ignition switch, but moving the vehicle shouldn’t have any effect on a bad switch.

As has already been mentioned check the battery cables/terminals and check the connections at the grounding point and at the starter to be sure they are clean and tight.