Problem with 1989 Plymouth Reliant


My mother has a 1989 Reliant. It has around 67000 original miles (2 old lady owners!). For the last several months it has been intermittently failing to start. It seems to happen mostly in damp weather. The shop has replaced the battery, and plug wires, and I think the distributor cap. It has relatively new plugs (you can tell I’m not car literate). It has about a year old rebuilt starter. It tries to turn over but won’t. But you can go out a few hours later, or a few days later, and it starts. Any ideas? Help!


“tries to turn over but won’t” can be interpreted several ways.

tell us exactly what happens when you try to start it. Can you hear the starter whirling? Is it turning at normal speed or slowly? Does the engine attempt to start, ie cough a few times?


Another part of the high voltage ignition system that bears attention is the coil. The high voltage tower may just need to be cleaned of dirt and oil or it may have developed a carbon track that can only be fixed by replacement.


It goes rr-rr rr-rr rr-rr. When you pause and try repeatedly it just will not start. You can try with or without either depressing the accelerator about halfway before or during cranking. This is a cold weather area. The engine does not cough. I can’t hear the starter but I never have been able to. Thanks for any help!


I think the rr-rr rr-rr rr-rr sound is the starter


Some of these old disposable cars have a computer problem or some other undiscovered problem that keeps the engine from starting. This model has to be cranked until forever arrives and then it will start. It will seem like a surprise when it comes to life. If it never starts and the battery goes dead, then the car is dead, unless you can find the one mechanic who accidently changes the problem part. If the car does not get driven every day in the Winter, your mom should consider a better car. I had a couple of that type of car with the same engine and I just cranked it until it started. In Maine, at minus 40 degrees. An engine heater could help but it is quite a hassle to have to plug and unplug.


IMHO, you’ll be chassing problems…I had one “given” to me. After a year I decided it still wasn’t a good deal…good luck. This idea sounds best.
They will bring you and your mother closer together.

Lee Ioccoca turned Chrysler around with the K car…he managed to fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time…when that fail…he gave them !00k warentees…when that failed, he left. Chrysler has never recovered.


Try a little different starting technique. Crank the engine for just 5 seconds. Stop. Wait a few seconds. Crank, again, for 5 seconds. Again. If this doesn’t help, forget this technique.
You want to be sure that the right weight oil is in the engine. That would be a 0W-XX, or a 5W-XX.