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Starter always on

I have a 1989 mercury tracer. The starter was just replaced and the the car started and ran fine for 3 days. Then when the car was switched on but not running after about 5 minutes, the car started itself, without touching or moving the key. Now whenever it is switched to the on position the starter goes on, and never goes off. The last time I drove it before this, after it ran for about an hour, I think the starter may have gone on, when I was a few minutes from parking it, because it started to make a lot of noise. the next day when I was checking it is when the starter engaged and started the motor with the key on but the car not running.

On a piece of paper write an upside down T. At the top of your T write “ignition switch start position”

Where the lines join write “starter relay”

Right side write “positive battery post”

Left side write “starter solenoid”

thats your simple start circuit wiring diagram.

Turn the key to start votage flows to the starter relay, it closes & sends voltage to the starter solenoid.

Looks like you might have a short in the ignition switch.

The wire from the ignition switch to the starter relay has a rubber boot & just slips on & off.

Or how about a bad solenoid??

Most likely the fender mounted solenoid welded itself in the closed postion and now the starter and starter ring are trashed due to being continuously engaged with the engine running.

Yea if the tracer follows the pattern of the 87 topaz they had a fender switch that could go bad open or closed.

Does the starter turn ‘OFF’ when you shift the transmission into Reverse or Drive (assuming and automatic transmission)? If you turn the key off with the automatic transmission in gear or the clutch pedal up, does the starter stay 'OFF"?

If so you have a problem with the ignition switch. That is the electrical part of the ignition/steering lock./

Hope this hellps.

Thank you folks! I’ll replace the starter relay, if I can figure out which/where it is. I found a few rubber booted things on the fender, I’ll take them to the part store and see which one it is.

I think it is the starter relay, because after I discounted the starter wire from the ignition, the fan is always on (even though the engine is not hot, but about 29 degrees here this morning). The only book I can find on this 89 tracer, and apparently the only one still available, is for 1991 to 1999 tracers/escorts, and its circuit diagram for the starting system has the fan always hot and on if the starter relay is closed/on.

thanks again.

The positive battery cable connects to the starter relay.

Researcher makes a very good point. If it still wants to crank non stop with the new starter relay, shift to drive or reverse. If it stops cranking when you do, the ignition switch is the problem.

This is the fender mounted solenoid

There are 2 large connector studs and 2 small studes on this solenoid. The small connectors are push ons and one is from the ignition switch ‘start’ circuit and the other is for the ignition coil. If there is only one small connector it is the ‘start’ circuit. If the starter is operating while the key is released, pull the wire off the small connector marked ‘S’ and if the starter goes silent the problem is likely in the switch. If the starter continues to crank the engine that solenoid is most likely sticking.

One thing that’s important, this needs to be addressed immediately. This is dangerous as it can cause a car fire. The starter motor draws a lot of power, like 1000 watts. A friend of mine had this problem – ignored it – and she looked out the window from her apartment one day wondering what all the noise was about, and the fire department was there putting out the fire. Her car was totalled, and the cars in front and back of where she parked were both damaged.

I expect this is caused by a bad replacement unit. I installed a non-OEM starter motor in my own car last summer, and it turned out to be a bad rebuild. It slightly burned the wiring in my car in fact before I figured out what was going on. I took it out, and took my old one to a auto-elec shop who fixed it. It was just the starter selonoid contacts needing replacement, $10 total bill. Parts and labor. I put the fixed old one back in. It’s been going strong and reliable since.

If this were my car, I’d take the negative battery lead off until this is fixed.

1989 mercurey tracer
well, I got a starter relay. 5 different places had the same one to sell me. (Of the 9 places I went)
None of them, including the Ford Dealer, could tell me where the starter relay is located.

None of the relays mounted on the driver side fender is it, (Mitchells pictures identify them)
or have the same connector has the one that I have bought, (that the different places had to sell).
I have looked for the location of the starter relay at Mitchell’s on demand, and Chilton online and
all the old mitchell’s and chilton books at the library (and in the only availble not year of the car (91-99) manual.) They say replace when it is bad but do not say where it is.

(I always take the negative lead of the battery off if I am not in or around the car.)

1989 mercury tracer starter relay
the connector pattern of the starter relay that the different shops had was
three male plug ons in a line in a row,
with 2 male plug ons below them,pependicular to them, pointing at the spaces between the 3 male plug ons

1989 mercury tracer starter, starter relay
I replaced a starter relay before on a ford truck, which was like Rod describes, but I don’t see any relay like that on this car

There isn’t a starter relay in the wiring diagram, the starter solenoid is powered by the ignition switch. The starter solenoid is mounted on the starter motor on this car.

Check the black/yellow wire at the ignition switch to see where the power is coming from, you may have a failing (short to power) ignition switch.

Please excuse my confusion. It seems that there were several Tracers and they were totally different animals.

Apparently the OP’s is a model that I am unfamiliar with and none of my shop manuals give me any information on it.

1989 mercury tracer starter relay
Ok. The starter relay, 5 different places had to sell me, that no one, including the ford dealer, could tell me where it is, was the wrong one. I finally found the starter relay inside the car, drivers side, close to the fuse box. (I had been looking for one that looked like the one they sold me, which it doesn’t look like.)
I pulled it out, took it in, and after along search, found one like it.
Put it in, the car started like it was supposed to, (instead of starting in the on position and never going off) and the car has been running good since.

thanks folks