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Starting problems 1988 Mazda 323

Deliver mail so make many starts and stops throughout the day. I drive a 1988 Mazda 323 manual transmission. Recently, it has had trouble starting in the rain (like it isn’t turning over). When it isn’t going to start, the red lights come on the dash and then fade out to black.

The first time I noticed it, I was running the lights, windshield wipers, radio, rear window defogger and the a/c on and off to clear up the front window. It eventually started. The mechanic replaced the battery.

The next time it wouldn’t start, I had accidentally killed it and was running the lights and windshield wipers and radio. It eventually started. The mechanic replaced the alternator.

The next time it wouldn’t start, I only had the the lights and windshield wiper on. It eventually started. The mechanic replaced the distributor cap and wires.

Now today, it wouldn’t start again but eventually did. I had the lights and windshield wipers and radio on. I turned off the radio before trying to start it the second time and it started.

We are running out of things to replace. Any suggestions? What about the alternator belt being too loose? It doesn’t make any noise.


I would measure parasitic draw

Thanks for the quick reply. We’ll have him check on Monday. It starts fine in the morning and on dry days. It’s just the rainy ones, but then again those are the ones with the big electrical load (wipers, lights, radio). Maybe the radio is the culprit. I’ve always turned it off and managed to get it started.

The only thing that keeps drawing power while the car is off is the digital clock/radio. This car is pretty stripped down.

You have a bad ground between engine and body. This runs the battery down to 12 volts or so and makes it impossible to start on rainy days. The end on the body is usually corroded or loose. Change the negative battery cable while you are having so much fun with the other wire.

Since the alternator and battery have been replaced, those connections are presumably clean and tight. But you could still have corroded connections at the starter motor. Ask your mechanic to measure the voltages at the starter motor during attempted cranking. If the voltages are ok right at the starter motor, and it doesn’t crank that means the starter motor (or its solenoid, or connections to it) is likely the problem.

To eliminate a bad ground as the problem, measure the voltages above between the starter motor terminals and its case.

Suggest as a general starting procedure to turn everything off electrical before cranking the engine, especially the headlights. You want all the power available to go to the starter motor. Best of luck.

This could also be a bad coil.

Thank you all so much!!! We’ll have our mechanic check it out Monday. It’s not supposed to rain between now and then so I should be ok on the route.

If the dash warning lights (red lights) come on but quickly fade out the battery is nearly dead. Has that been a symptom at all the times that it has failed to start?

Yes that’s been a symptom each time. Then I finish driving it the rest of the day, and drive it back to the office (around 10 miles on the interstate), turn it off, finish my work (maybe 5 minutes), come back out and start it and go home. It has always started to go home. We feel like it’s recharging by driving it back to the office.

I had the dash warning light going dim symptom on my Corolla one time, and in that case it was caused by the battery connections not being clean and tight. It can work one day and not the other b/c of temperature effects, thermal contraction of the metals.

Guess what! It wasn’t raining and I had an incident today where it didn’t want to start. The only thing running was the radio…we may have found the culprit! The front passenger’s side speaker doesn’t work well so that might be it. Will have the mechanic check it out Monday.

And ironically enough, the problem appears to be the starter. Mechanic changed that yesterday and it starts really quickly now. Still waiting for a rainy day before I will declare total victory, but it certainly appears that this has fixed the problem. Thanks for all the input.

A marginal starter solenoid contact set (part of the starter motor ass’y) can be affected by temperature and humidity.