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Mazda B2300 Intermittent Starting Problem

I have a 2003 Mazda B2300 pickup that sometimes won’t start. When you turn the key all the way, it won’t do anything, no sounds no nothing. However, if you try it a few more times it will eventually fire up and run normally. Last Friday, I must have tried to turn it on about a dozen times but nothing happened. So I tried the old hammer on the starter motor technique and it fired up immediately. So I thought it must be the starter motor. But since then it’s been turning on normally, except once when I turned the key and it did nothing. The battery is good, I replaced that about 8 months ago, and the battery cables look good. I’m hesitant to throw a new starter in because they run about $180. Could it be something cheaper, like a relay or some other electrical problem? Or could it be the starter and its on its way out? Any and all information would be appreciated.

Ignition switch. Try wiggling the key, or a different key, or pounding on the steering column.

When you say no sounds, no nothing, do you mean the instrument cluster’s indicator lights do not light up, and/or you hear no sounds from under the dashboard like a relay working?

And is it a manual transmission or automatic?

“Fails to crank” symptoms can be due to quite a few things.

  • Battery
  • Battery connections
  • Failing power distribution wiring
  • Failing ground distribution wiring
  • Ignition switch
  • Starter relay (applies to some vehicles in certain configurations)
  • Transmission/clutch safety switch
  • Starter motor, which can fail in three different ways
    • Starter solenoid contacts
    • Starter motor windings
    • Starter motor armature contacts

It’s hard to say from your post which of these it is. But there’s an excellent chance at least one of these is involved. I agree that replacing the starter motor isn’t the best course until more is known. It might pay to have a pro do a diagnoses, then if you want to fix whatever’s broken, you can do that yourself if you like.

Thanks for the information.
It is a manual transmission, so when I try to turn it on the clutch is fully depressed and it is in neutral. To be more clear I don’t hear any sounds in the cab, like a clicking or something, but the instrument cluster lights do turn on. Also, I had somebody listen to the engine with the hood up while I was in the cab, and when I got to the 2nd part of the ignition switch (right before you turn it all the way to on) he said that he could hear a switch, but not a continuous clicking, just a one time noise.
Also, does anyone know where the starter relay is in this vehicle? (2003 mazda b2300 manual transmission truck just to be clear). I know in some newer models it’s up by the fuse box and the battery but it’s definitely not there on this vehicle.
Thanks again.

The click heard when turning the key to “on”, before moving the key to “start”, is probably the engine main relay. That’s a normal sound and means that part is likely working correctly. My Corolla makes the same sound.

I don’t know where the starter relay is on your vehicle, or even if you have a starter relay. About all I can say is that on the Corolla, it is on the main relay panel by the fuses. Near the driver’s side left leg. On the Corolla for my model year (early 90’s), only the manual transmission models sport a starter relay.

BTW, it would be unusual for a passenger compartment starter relay to fail. I’d put that low on the list of priorities to check. It’s the starter solenoid contacts that tend to be a common failure mode, not the starter relay.

Thanks for all the help. It was the starter. Had a new one put in and it’s running fine now.

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Thanks for the feedback. It will help a lot of other people in the future. For what it’s worth…I thought the starter was bad after the broomstick technique worked for you.

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I once had to get somebody’s car started, and it had a bad starter

But I didn’t have any tools on me at the time

So I looked by the side of the road and grabbed a big rock

I gave the starter a good tap and the engine fired up

I told the person if you’ve got half a brain, they’ll drive straight to a shop and don’t shut it off until you get there

Or carry around some big rocks in the trunk. :wink: Reminds me of the time Tommy on the Car Talk show told a caller, one idea is to drill a 2 inch hole in the firewall, then use a broomstick to poke through the hole and give the starter motor a good jolt when it got stubborn … lol …

Mazda used to have the relay on the starter solenoid. Just like a GM starter. I had the problem on an older Mazda and the new starter (reman) was bad too. I brought it back and the next one worked.