Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Mysterious moody starter on a Subaru (Solved!)

Hey everyone, I’m new here! I have been fixing cars for years with my dad and I’ve done many many different repairs on all the old used cars and vans my family has owned, but this problem I am having is baffling me!

I have an old 1986 Subaru Stationwagon. We bought it used at 160k miles on it. Various parts had already been fixed and replaced, and my parents let me take it as my first car to go away to college with. I enjoyed the thing immensly. It had a sun roof, it was an automatic, it had no fluid leaks and it had a turbocharger so it had as much pick up and go as a much smaller car.

BUT! a few months after I got to college I discovered a troubling problem with the starter; randomly when I turned the key I would hear a click from the engine and that was it. Whenever I asked for a jump-start that would solve the problem, but I have tested the voltage when it has happened and a jump wasn’t available and it was perfectly fine! Over the course of trying to fix it, I replaced the starter, the battery and the battery cables. I tested for a voltage leak from the battery and got nothin. I double checked that I had the right size fuses. I guessed maybe there was a short somewhere in the system, but as I said earlier the voltage was fine even when this problem happened! It can be solved by waiting up to two hours and trying again.

I took it to my local mechanic who is the most honest of all the ones I’ve ever met, and many people in town agree with me. But he could not for the life of him figure out what was going on!

Does anyone have any inspiration on this case? Any ideas at all would be greatly appreciated!


Has anyone checked out the ignition switch???

Would a bad ignition switch prevent it from turning over at all, or would that just make it turn over with no spark? Because mine doesn’t turn over at all when this happens, it just clicks.

A bad ignition switch would prevent it from turning over.

Oh wow, that’s the part that connects the key tumbers and cylinder to the starter. Why didn’t I think to look at that? Thank you so much, I’ll get on that right away.