Tries to Crank Without the Key

My 1982 Ford Granada cranked slowy and failed to start. Before getting a new battery (it’s already 6 years old), I cleaned the battery terminals and cable clamps from corrosion and re-connected them. The car started with no problem. The second time I turned the key, the car cranked slowly and again it failed to start. This time, I noticed the battery was being drained with the ignition off (the voltage was way too low). I frantically removed the negative battery terminal to prevent a fire and drained battery. When I re-connected the battery terminal, the engine tries to crank with no key in the ignition. Is there a relay or solenoid that froze in a closed position? Or, could it be a faulty ignition switch?

There is a solenoid/starter relay on the left fender, if I remember correctly. You can follow the positive battery cable until you get to a cylindrical relay to which the cable will be connected. The wire coming from that relay is also heavy and will head rearward and down to the starter. There are two smaller wires attached to that relay. They can be slipped off. With those thin wires disconnected see if the starter still tries to turn. If so the relay is stuck. You might be able to jar it open by rapping on it with a screw drive. Otherwise replace it. If the starter does not try to crank, there is wiring problem from the battery through the ignition switch to the relay.

Good luck on this. Those Fords are easy to work on.

I’d just replace it if pulling the small wires proves the solenoid is stuck. Even if rapping on it unsticks it, chances are it will stick again. These solenoid s are not all that expensive.

You didn’t tell us how many miles are on this 1982 car. The solenoid is the first suspect, the ignition switch the second. A distant third is a starter with a completely worn out end cap that lets the armature of the starter ground against the case.

I would replace the starter solenoid. It’s not that expensive and one that sticks will stick again.

Its the solenoid…had one go bad where it would just click sometimes, then one day I get out of the car and when I closed the door the engine started cranking by it self. ( Glad it was an automatic and not a manual in gear ) Manged to get the battery cable off before the battery went dead…Banging on the solenoid did nothing, So I took the starter cable off the solenoid and turned they key on. Took that cable and connected it manually to where the positive of the battery connects to start the car… What happens is the contacts get pitted and stick closed. Easy to change, just disconnect the negative battery cable when doing so…There maybe several wires going to the solenoid , so just draw a diagram of what wire went where in case you get confused…Simple cheap fix under 10.00 if you do it yourself.

Oldtimer: I had a new starter motor installed only 14000 miles ago. The car has 103142 total miles.
Researcher: Attached is a photo. I just want confirmation that this is the solenoid. Thanks!

One test to confirm the starter solenoid is the culprit would be to completely remove the starter solenoid, tape all the wires you remove well so they don’t short out, and see if the problem of draining the battery and the engine attempting to crank with the key in “start” goes away.

Be sure to remove the negative battery lead before doing any wrenching, esp w/this problem. I’d be inclinded to just remove the battery from the engine compartment when doing this work just to be double-safe. And as long as the battery remains connected, make sure the car is in neutral or park, in case the starter motor engages so nobody in front or back of the car gets run over.

BTW, this presents a serious fire hazard. There’s no switch or fuse usually between the battery or the starter solenoid. If the starter solenoid gets stuck in the on condition, the battery power will be connected to the starter at all times. This could cause fire. I had a friend who’s car caught on fire b/c of this exact problem. In her case the solenoid was part of the starter ass’y. Best to remove the battery until this is resolved. Or at least keep the car out of any garages or near anything that can catch fire.

Yes, the picture has the right part.

never mind. need coffee

I researched some readily available replacement solenoids and they all have two terminals that connect to the ignition switch. The one that’s in the car now has only one. Is the other terminal internally connected to ground inside the casing of the solenoid?

One of the terminals feeds the ignition switch crank voltage to the relay winding. This is grounded internally to the case of the solenoid/relaty. The other terminal connects to the battery voltage when the solenoid is closed. In older cars with ballast resistors in the ignition coil circuit, this would bypass the ballast and send full battery voltage to the ignition coil. If you leave it unconnected that should not hurt a thing. You can tell the relay winding terminal by its resistance to the ground lug of the solenoid/relay.

Hope this helps.

Take yours out and bring it in and match it up or just let a parts store find it. There are many kinds.

I replaced the starter solenoid and it solved the cranks-without-key problem. Unfortunately, the condition weakened my 6-year-old battery to the point where it needs replacing (I used my multimeter to determine the alternator is charging it and nothing is draining the battery when the engine is off).
I want to thank all of you for your help.



6 years is pretty good for a battery

I recommend going to Costco, if you’re a member, and if they have the size you need. They’re priced very reasonably, and have a 3 year free replacement period.

If your current solenoid has only one wire, when you buy the new one with 2 posts for wires, there is usually a small instruction sheet enclosed telling you which post it goes on.