Starter demon


#1

I drive a 1991 Mazda 626 with 195plus thousand miles on the odometer. I am very fond of it, and it has given me no grief – until two months ago when it balked at starting. I turned the key and nothing happened. Not even a faint click. The dash lights didn’t dim, nothing. I was able to roll-start the car and drove it home, parking it on the street, on a slope. I phoned the dealer, who was able to diagnose the problem, over the phone, as a dead battery, but he did agree to let me bring my car into the shop for a closer inspection. On a lark, I tried the starter, and it worked! They tested the battery, and found it to be OK. Not great but OK. At that point the diagnosis changed to a corroded battery terminal clamp. I changed out the clamp and the car started reliably, until two days ago, when it balked at starting in the very same way in the very same stall in the very same parking lot as before, two months to the day later. My best guess is that some tiny demon is hexing my starter system. Can you recommend an exorcist? I thought of whacking the starter motor with a broom stick, but I couldn’t find it.


#2

The fault may still be with the connections.

I may well be wrong but the starter wasn’t the culprit the first time around so I don’t think it is this time either.

Remove/clean thoroughly BOTH ends of the battery cables and replace wrench tight.

Make certain ALL ground connections are clean and tight. This includes the engine to chassis ground strap.

How old is this battery? If more than 4-5 years you may need to replace it.

You may also want think about having a full load test done on the charging system.


#3

I think “no click and lights did not dim” indicates no juice to solenoid rather than bad battery. (But not entirely ruling out weak btty or bad connections from btty to starter) Could be intermittent connections anywhere in wiring from btty thru ignition switch to the solenoid to ground.

OTOH, if the solenoid and its wiring are OK, and if there is something intermittent in, say, the solenoid contacts or the starter commutator/brushes, then whacking the starter with a broomstick (or a mallet) might actually help get it going until you can replace it. (Or is that only for fuel pumps? :>) )


#4

Since the dash lights didn’t dim, but there was no click at all it would indicate either an intermittent ignition switch, or clutch safety switch if the car has a manual transmission or neutral safety switch if it’s an automatic.

You said you “changed out the clamp” on the battery terminal. Was the connection corroded? How about the other clamp? Did you clean the connection when you replaced the clamp, or just put the new clamp on dirty?


#5

My wife’s '87 Mazda had similar problems and it turned out to be low voltage from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid which damaged the starter solenoid. I wrote more about this in the July '07 RockAuto newsletter under “Tech Tip-Starter Solenoid”. Here is the address for the newsletter article: http://www.rockauto.com/Newsletter/archives/July07.html