Occasional starting problems


My friend drives a 1997 Saturn SC2 with 150,000 miles. It’s an automatic transmission. For the most part, the car runs great, save for one problem.

Occasionally, she’ll park the car (like say, at the grocery store), and when she tries to start it up again, say a half hour later, the lights on the dash will come on, and the radio will come on, but the engine won’t crank. Not even a click or anything. Typically, she’ll call a tow truck, the guy will show up, turn the key, and it’ll start right up. This has happened at least half a dozen times, including just last night in my driveway.

What do you guys think could be causing this? Initially I thought loose battery cables, but since her electrical accessories are consistently coming “on,” that’s obviously not the problem. Now I’m thinking neutral safety switch, but I’m not 100% sure. Thoughts?

The Neutral Safety Switch is a good possibility.
It is easy enough to check this out, by simply moving the shift lever to Neutral, rather than “Park”, when the engine refuses to crank.

If the engine cranks when the shift lever is moved to Neutral, that is a pretty good indication that the NSS is the source of the problem.

If the Neutral Switch is good then have someone check the starter. With that many miles I wouldn’t be surprised if the starter armature didn’t have a worn spot on it. This can give you the intermittent starting problem. Had this same problem on one of our vehicles recently. New starter solved the problem.