Starter click -- no crank; time critical


#1

Son just called from Nowheresville. Ford Escort '99 (only about 35K miles) was running fine. He stopped, and the car won’t start. He hears rapid clicking, but thinks the starter is not turning over the engine.



Sounds to me like low battery or poor electrical connections (at btty or at starter or – hope not – inernal to starter): solenoid pulls in; starter load drops voltage at solenoid; solenoid drops out. Jump start did not help (so probably not btty?).



Any other ideas, especially for quick fix? Of course, everything is time critical.


#2

do check to connections. sounds like a loose, corroded connection preventing battery to both charge or start.


#3

Possible bad connection, definitely check there first, but due to the car’s age I’d suspect the starter assembly.


#4

Thanks for confirming my diagnoses. Car is being towed to a repair shop. If it turns out to be anything interesting I’ll post again.

I do hope MB is wrong about the starter itself (only 35K, man). But the other possibilities would mean that the problem is because of my failure to maintain the car. Hurt my wallet or hurt my pride. Ouch.


#5

Original battery?


#6

A few years ago my teen aged son borrowed the car and decided to take it to a self serve car wash. He did not
wash the engine. When finished he just got a clicking sound. Since the car was about 5-6 years old, and the battery was warranted for 4 years, I simply bought a new battery and replaced it. Son drove off happy.


#7

Final report, and a little story if you care to read it.

The neg (ground) cable had corroded through right at the btty terminal. So it’s Shame-On-Art for failing to properly maintain the car. (These things are so reliable nowadays that you tend not to look under the hood. And the car was handed down from Dad just a year ago. Who would have thought that a guy who had the dealer replace wiper blades would have an 8-yr old btty??)

The story – The tow truck came; no on-the-spot repair or diagnosis. Insurance will pay for tow to nearest dealer. Son calls me while riding in tow truck: tow guy says that, rather than use dealer, his shop can work on it over the weekend. My internal alarm goes off – could the tow guy be preying on distressed motorists?? But I let him go. The repair shop spots the corroded cable, pops on a new terminal, gives a jump start, recommends replacing the battery ASAP … and refuses to take any money!!

And yes, it appears to be the original battery. Replaced today. There are still some blue copper salts between the strands of the cable, so I’ll look into replacing the whole thing.

Thanks for the help.