New starter, loud clunk!

Hey everyone, minivan acting up again. So last starter in fairness was from a junkyard. Did the same thing one morning. Turn key, loud clunk. Bought a brand new Duralast Gold starter, didn’t go cheap. Finished installing, turn key, clunk. Tried jumping, battery appeared low so just brought down to charge under warranty. Top battery 850CCA for the vehicle. While I’m waiting on charge tell me something good! 2000 Ford Windstar SEL 3.8L. I’ve seen flywheel could be a culprit but upon removal of old starter eyeballed flywheel. No major chunks missing off teeth, at least that I could see while up under the car in daylight. Any help is appreciated…

Did you try turning the engine over by hand?



Negative, it was running fine before turning off, no overheating, noise, smoke…

You turn the motor over by hand to see if it WILL turn over proving the engine is not locked up. Doesn’t matter that it was running fine before.

Nevermind, found the problem. It’s a Ford, first and last one I’ll ever buy. My Nissan ran to an easy 400,000. Yeah it moved. If it’s not going to run I’ll just charge for swings down at the local stadium. Trying to stay positive! Ok everyone so far thank you for your suggestions, I mean it!!! P.S. edit! I just recalled that I had to start in neutral with last starter!!! Would a bad TPS be causing this???

A bad TPS sensor, or the wiring to it, will not cause the starter to make a loud clunking sound. The sound you are hearing can be caused by a couple of things. One is the engine is locked up and the starter can’t turn it over. Do not force the starter to stay ON if that is the case. You will burn up the battery cable due to high current flow. The second thing that can cause the issue is the main battery cable to the starter has internal corrosion to the wires at the battery due to battery acid leaching into the cable. That causes high resistance and will block the power needed to run the starter motor when the solenoid turns on and connects the motor to the battery. I suspect that is what is happening in your case. The engine is fine and you need to replace the main cable to the starter. Check the main ground cable also. Battery cable issues are a major source of car troubles. Fortunately they are fairly easy to fix and not real expensive on the pocket book. You should normally have at least 10.5 volts at the starter while cranking the engine over if the cable is good.

When you have to put the shift lever into neutral to start the engine it means there is a problem with the safety switch going to the starter solenoid. Putting it in neutral bypasses the safety switch and the car still can’t move forward when it is started.

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It has been 15 years since I had to replace a battery cable on a customers vehicle so it may be very vehicle specific for those that have failing cables.

During the last 25 years the cables have been integrated into the wiring harness. Some manufactures offered an overlay cable that would bypass the original cable but in most cases it is necessary to engineer an overlay cable.

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When I stated battery cables are a major source of of car troubles I should have been a little more specific. What I was really referring to is battery connection problems, like corroded or loose connections. Internal wire corrosion isn’t real common but as you know, it can happen.

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Anyone know what the difference is between a neutral safety switch and a transmission position sensor? Had a backup for the meantime, getting to parts but want to make sure I get it right. Thanks for the input so far by the way everyone, really appreciate it!!!

A neutral safety switch has different nomenclature besides that NSSW name. Trans position sensor, range selector switch, etc.
I seem to remember some Ford manuals generally call them range selector switches.

Switches are going to have nothing to do with a clunk sound. If you hit the key and there’s a clunk but the engine is not turning over you need to make sure it will turn over. Mustangman is correct that running fine before may not mean anything. Sometimes they give up the ghost the second the turn is turned off.

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I assume starter was off car for short time? Hours? I had a car tore apart for several weeks and starter would not crank. Turned out to be corrosion on cables. Cleaned contacts and it cranked fine.

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