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Start Problems with 2003 Ford Taurus

Tom and Ray,

This has been driving me crazy for the past 3 years. My car has 276,000 miles and runs great with no hesitation. I drive this car 1/2 the year and my 2012 Nissan Altima the rest of the year. I alternate every other month so neither car sits for too long.

My problem is most of the time the 2003 FORD TAURUS starts right up. However, sometimes, about 1 out of 5 times or so of starting, when I turn the key, I get nothing. The dash board lights come on, but the car does not start. So I found that after turning the key back and forth from ON to ACC (with nothing) and then turning the key back and forth (left to right and back) after doing that 6 or 7 times, the car finally starts .

Then it runs fine, starts the next 5 or 6 times with no problem. Then I turn the key to start it again, then nothing. So I turn the key back and forth 6 or 7 times and it starts. I took it to the Ford dealer and they said I need a starter. I went out and bought a starter and had Pep Boys install the starter (total price was around 1/3 the price quoted from FORD dealer). By the way, Pep Boys also said a new starter will fix this.

Then 3 months later, same problem. I took it back to Pep Boys and they said most likely the starter is defective. So I got the starter replaced, and all was great for another 3 months. Then the same problem. So I took it to NTB and NTB said it was also the starter. So I had them install a brand new starter.

All was Ok. My battery is brand new and my alternator is ok, used but OK.

Then 6 months later, the same problem. So a friend of mine tried to fix it. He unplugged the battery over nite, and had my re plug the battery cables to the battery terminals the next morning. And all was fine for 4 months. Then the same problem again. This time it took about 14 or 15 key turns before the car finally started. (Note: after 8 turns of the key back and forth, it resets the key FOB for programming on the Ford Taurus). This guy checked my electrical and cable from the starter to the battery, and he said all was Ok. He then tried to start the car, turned the key, and it started right up.

I don’t mind turning the key back and forth, but if someone is in the car with me with the summer Atlanta heat and humidity, it can be a little uncomfortable, until the car finally starts. Keep in mind, the car always starts eventually. The car has never let me Down. I got the car in 2007 and the car still runs great and the A.C. blows super cold, no funny smells inside the car and the transmission is good. I like this car.

What do you think is the problem? I plan on keeping this car forever. I think it is built Much better than the 2012 Nissan Altima.


@cdaquila-Carolyn this is a duplicate post.

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Common complaint here. The proper method to diagnose this is to measure the two voltages directly at the starter motor (from the terminal to the starter case) during attempted cranking. If they are both above 10.5 volts and the engine doesn’t crank, that means the problem is the starter motor itself. If either voltage measures below 10.5 volts during attempted cranking (when the key is in the “start” position), then you need to figure out why. The starter motor can’t be expected to work if it isn’t getting proper power feed. The problem lies elsewhere.

Rather than guessing, replacing this, replacing that, suggest to ask your shop to start at step 1, do the necessary voltage measurements at the starter motor to determine if the starter is the problem, or else is in the circuitry that controls the starter; e.g. ignition switch, clutch or transmission safety switch, battery, battery connections, etc.

BTW, the Car Talk guys you hear on the radio aren’t likely who are responding to your post here. Here, it’s mostly Car Talk fans interested in cars.

This has driven you crazy for 3 years but you have not taken it to a real mechanic. If you want poor diagnosis and the cheapest and most unreliable parts keep going to national chains. If you want to make you life easier, develop a relationship with a good local mechanic.
Your practice of driving each car for a month and then parking it for a month can be the cause of electrical connectivity problems. Electrical connections corrode quicker when not used.
Your problem could be ground connections, ignition switch, starter or battery cables or connections or even bad starters. Normally I would say you would not get 3 bad starters in a row but I had a friend who bought a lifetime guaranteed starter from Pep Boys. In the 2 more years he owned the car they cheerfully replaced the starter 4 more times! He was much less cheerful about it. He didn’t have a garage and a couple of them failed in bad winter weather in Buffalo.
My father in law took his K car to Pep Boys to have the starter replaced. He got a call from them and they said they had put 3 starters in and none of them were working right. When I took him over there I saw the engine lust bucking and jumping instead of cranking. I asked them if they had checked the flywheel. They told me there was no way to check the flywheel without removing the transmission and besides, they didn’t do flywheels. Of course as soon as the starter was removed and the engine was turned over by hand the cracked flywheel was evident.

As I said in the other post, has anyone ever suggested a bad ignition switch?

Happened to me.

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Correct me if I’m wrong please but doesn’t the Taurus have the smart key system or pass key (don’t know the name of it) This happen to my mom Truck a 1999 Ford Explorer XLT where if the key is not programed properly or the computer that reads the key is thinking this is not the correct key and will not allow you to start the vehicle but will turn on the dash and accessory mode. when you turn the key over 6 or 7 times that programs the key for the car?

Yes, the Taurus has the pass key. And when I turn the key back and forth 8 times, it resets the key fob remote. Keep in mind, that 9 out of 10 times, the car starts right up on the first turn, like normal. So the not starting right away does not happen often, just at the wrong times. And also, when it does happen, after turning the key back and forth several times, the car does eventually always start. The car never does leave me stranded, and it always always starts. Just sometimes it takes more key turns than at other times. Thanks for respsonding.

I have received some great suggestions on this blog. I will start with someone giving me a second opinion on the ignition switch and checking the electrical connections.

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Ah thanks for responding It maybe the combination of both, And yes my mom 99 explorer is still kicking till this day and runs without a problem, I do hope you find the problem soon :smile: