My Car won't start, Any Clue?

I have a 1985 Cutlass Ciera Brougham with the 2.5L four cylinder. It was driving and running great, and then one day it would not start. At first I thought that it might be the battery. I put my jump battery on and still nothing. I checked the battery voltage and it was good. Then I thought that it might be the starter. I crawled under the car and pulled the starter out. I took it to the store where I bought it just a year ago and had it tested, it passed. When the key is turned on all of the lights on the dash light up and the only sound that is heard is the fuel relay clicking on. The starter does not spin, click, hum, engage or make any indication that it is getting power. I put a wrench to the harmonic balancer bolt and I am able to spin the engine freely, so the engine is not seized. When the poles on the starter are jumped via a screwdriver the engine will crank, but will not start. Could a neutral safety switch or ignition switch that has gone bad cause such symptoms?


IMHO it could be either of those or it could be a bad cable or connection going to the starter. Try the jumper cable to by pass the cables to the starter to see if that does anything. If not try starting in neutral instead of park. As far as the switch goes, I’ve had the switch on the bottom of the steering column get slightly out of adjustment so that when you turn the key, the rod would not engage the switch. Loosening the bolts and sliding it up just a tad took care of it. I don’t know how to test the neutral saftey switch or the ignition switch though but maybe someone else will.

The is most likely with the safety switch. Try moving the shift lever around in the Park position while trying to start the car or move the lever to the Neutral position and see if it starts.

I posted something different but edited it because I’m in DUH mode before coffee.
I agree. Most likely an interlock.


Earlier today I got in the car and tried the neutral safety switch theory, sad to say that wasn’t the problem… I then tried the ignition on and jump the posts on the starter trick and the engine started and ran until I shut it off about four minutes later. So, based on this revelation it has to be the ignition switch. Hear is the next bump in the road… Where is this switch located and how do I adjust or otherwise replace? This car has the console shift and a tilt steering wheel. I can get the switch from the part store for less than twenty dollars.

I want to thank each of you that have commented on my question. You have helped to guide me in the troubleshooting of this problem.

Good to hear you got to the bottom of it and it won’t cost you a pile of money.
Thanks for reporting back.

Don’t rule out the neutral safety switch. There are two types of failures for this switch, one of them is that it just gets out of adjustment. Moving the stick around, or moving it to the neutral position instead of park will usually result in a start. But the switch can totally fail. Then it won’t matter how much you move the stick or what position it is in, it won’t start.

But it could still be the ignition switch or the wire anywhere between the ignition switch and the neutral safety switch or between the neutral safety switch and the small post on the starter.

One more thing, check to see if your brake lights are working.

I am not sure if life is good yet, sounds like no, and before you replace the switch clean and check connections for the pos and negative cables from the battery to starter motor and ground connection. A simple test for bad ground, my suspicion, hook a jumper from neg to ground and see what happens.

I’ve got to agree with @barkydog. A bad battery cable or connection probably causes more no start conditions than anything else.

I agree with @keith. Don’t rule out the safety switch just yet, at least until you do a voltage test to confirm things. You stated that other things come on when the ignition is turned on so that seems to indicate the ignition switch is okay.